Introduction to Strategic Planning Process
Strategic management is a process of the regular and continuous planning, leading and analysis of all the necessary actions that help an organization to meet its goals and objectives.
According to Sharplin, “Strategic Management is defined as the formulation and implementation of plans and carrying out of activities relating to the matters which are of vital, pervasive or contusing importance to the total organization”.
Strategy is a framework of plans or methods that help and organization to achievement of the main objective. It is a course of action that is designed to reach smaller goals thus leading to the main aim of the company. Originally, the word strategy has been derived from the Greek word, ‘strategos’ which means generalship.
Strategic planning is a review and planning process that is undertaken to make thoughtful decisions about an organization’s future in order to ensure its success. Strategy is a framework of plans or methods that help and organization to achievement of the main objective. It is a course of action that is designed to reach smaller goals thus leading to the main aim of the company. Originally, the word strategy has been derived from the Greek word, ‘strategos’ which means generalship.
Strategic planning process involves rightly defining the company’s mission and an assessment of its present position and competitive status. Strategic planning process requires a well-structured plan for how to optimally allocate time, human capital and financial resources. By following a strategic planning process, organizations can improve outcomes for their business and avoid taking on unexpected risks due to lack of foresight and futuristic approach.
There are various approaches and action steps for strategic planning. One of which has been summarized below. It is a joint attempt between Board and staff, which can be achieved by forming a special strategic planning committee of members from the Board and staff and delegating proper balance of authority and responsibility for the effort. Some of it can be done by the committee, while Board and staff planning retreats are likely to be required, during each phase of the planning process. Major steps have been described below:
Deciding on One Common Strategic Planning Process
- Understand what strategic planning process is and how it is done, its importance to the organization, towards providing a common vision, with agreed-upon objectives and strategies, and what steps can be taken to establish and implement a strategic plan;
- Examine all the costs involved in doing strategic planning, in terms of human resources, time and other resources – needed to develop an effective plan; in case of organizational instability or financial crisis or any such situation, it would not be easy or a wise decision to enter into a strategic planning process until the current problems and needs have been properly addressed;
- Agree upon one common procedure and set responsibilities at all levels in the strategic planning process, dedicating proper time for planning meetings with the Board and all staff. The time may range from a few hours to a couple of days, depending on the members and planning.
It’s desirable to set up a committee or task force for strategic planning. The coordinating group or the committee assigned for strategic planning process must consist of Board members, senior & middle managers, a representative of support/technical staff, a member representing stakeholders, and perhaps former leaders of the organization.
- It’s important to allocate ample time to the strategic planning process.
- It is essential to delegate lesser regular day-to-day responsibilities of the staff and Board members who are the key participants in developing the strategic plan.
Evaluate and Assess the Environment
This evaluation covers both an external environment finding and fixing opportunities and threats and an internal environment — analyzing organizational strengths and weaknesses. This process is known as “SWOT Analysis” that stands for: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Consider political, economic, social, and technological factors and their impact on your organization. This includes changing demographics, economic and political trends, and effects of new or changing laws that affect the working of the organization, social values, communications, and other technological factors.
- Think carefully about your immediate target audience or area to know it’s status and demand patterns.
- Determine possible opportunities and challenges related to resources and financing.
- Identify current and potential allies and competitors, including organizations with the target audience or the funding sources.
This includes the following components.
Assess current organizational performance in terms of:
- Inputs – human and financial resources,
- Processes – methods, and strategies that are operating, and
- Outputs – final outcome.
- Identify both favorable and unfavorable success factors affecting the organization. Understand the factors that are necessary for the organization’s continuous success. The Board and staff can give useful information and knowledge to this process.
- Review organizational values and operating principles as these define the organization. There are organizations that follow the written values and principles guiding their decision-making process and related activities.
The committee responsible to assist the environmental scan can contact the company’s external members like suppliers, stakeholders, etc to get an external view and the staff can provide an internal assessment. The result of the environmental scan should be an analysis of organizational strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats. Recorded or documented, the assessment requires close review and discussion by the committee. The meeting for the strategic planning process begins with a presentation of these results of the environmental assessment. In most of the cases, these results are presented to the Board before the planning meetings begin.
Determine the important issues and questions that need to be addressed as part of the strategic planning effort
If there is some discrepancy about issues of the organization, it is possible to move immediately to the main objective and then goals. If there is no agreement on general directions and organizational goals at all, it becomes necessary to find issue priorities and learn critical choices. This might be done in several ways. For example:
- The planning committee should determine the strategic issues from the environmental assessment, with individuals identifying issues and indicating why each of them is strategic, including the pros and cons of addressing and not addressing it.
Whatever method is used, the discussion should reach some level of agreement about issues or choices that need to be taken care of and the decisions made under the strategic planning process.
Define or review the values, social vision, and mission
Make sure there is an agreement on why the organization’s existence, what goals it seeks to achieve, and whom it serves. Begin your strategic planning process by agreeing on:
- Deep-rooted values or core principles that guide the organization and are shared by the Board and staff, not easily changed.
- Vision for the community which is viewed as your reflection of what the community would be like if your values were shared and practiced by all.
- Mission or the purpose of your organization’s existence.
Make a shared vision for the organization
It is important to focus and agree on the organization’s vision to be in three to five years or at the end of the period covered by the strategic plan.
The vision describes the organization and:
- -its mix of programs,
- Resources (human and financial)
- Reputation inside and outside,
- Key accomplishments and development, and
- Relationships with stakeholders, and government;
- Its target area, target population,
- Budget and funding from public and private sources,
- Board and staff, size and composition,
- Program areas, offices, and locations.
The development of a shared vision is best done with both Board and staff involvement and coerciveness.
Develop a series of goals that define the organization addressing its mission
Short steps from the vision to goals – the statement that describes the vision are essentially missions. It is extremely important to divide the vision into a series of major objectives of the organization, as status statements that describe the organization.
Concede the major strategies to attain goals and address main issues identified through SWOT
The major emphasis should be on broad strategies, which should be related to specific goals. The process requires to know the “where you are?”, “where you want to be?” and “how to reach there?” for the organization. The Board provides a blueprint, while the staff or the planning committee does the detailed analysis. Whatever specific approach is used, particular criteria for assessing and selecting among strategies should be given consent. Thereafter, the planning committee must always consider the reasons to properly delegate responsibilities for their implementation.
Design an action plan that marks the goals and identifies objectives and work plans on a yearly basis
After developing the longer-term parts of a strategic plan, it is now time to ensure a specific work plan, to start the implementation. Strategic planning describes that strategies must exhibit present conditions within the organization’s internal environment. Therefore it becomes difficult to develop particularized annual plans except for the first or perhaps the second year covered by the strategic objective. However, yearly action plans are required. Yearly program goals should be time-based and measurable, as it shows the progress made by the organization according to the plans made. This also gives an idea of the strategic planning process is been done and implemented in the right manner or not. The annual plan can be included in the strategic plan.
Developing objectives and annual work plans require the Board’s and staff’s regular input, wherein the staff takes up program-related goals and objectives, and the Board developing goals and objectives related to governance, once the Board has defined organizational goals.
The Board must approve the action plan so that the staff can develop the written plan. The staff’s expertise lies in the implementation of plans and strategies based on policies set by the Board.
Seal the final planned strategy that summarizes the decisions and consequences of the strategic planning process
No set format is required, however, it’s important to be sure to include the outcomes of each major step.
Build-in processes for monitoring and modifying strategies in accordance with the changes in the external environment
Development towards goals and use of strategies should be monitored regularly, with strategies re-evaluated and annual objectives improved on a yearly basis, based on the progress made, obstacles removed, and the continuously changing environment. Before unexpected changes before-hand, such as favorable appointed officials, development in the economy, changes in local financier’s priorities, or changing demand patterns of the target population.
- Define objectives at the beginning of every year.
- Track the progress that has been made.
- Use the plan as a compass, but not an inflexible blueprint for action.
The Board plays a critical role in reviewing progress and changing the strategies when needed; the staff generates the documentation and necessary information for this review, as well as performing timely assessment and making reports to the Board.
The steps above are just one of the approaches to developing and implementing a strategic plan. Strategic planning is a joint Board-staff effort. The main planning sessions work best when assisted by a someone from outside the organization who is knowledgeable about the organization like a former senior member or someone from community-based organizations, someone who is trained in group activities and experienced in strategic planning, directed towards assuring complete discussion of issues but also task-oriented and who can take the process forward. Together these factors serve as a guide to strategic planning.
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