Purpose of Strategic Planning

The purpose of strategic planning is to assist an organization in establishing priorities and to better serve the needs of its constituency. A strategic plan must be flexible and practical and yet serve as a guide to implementing programs, evaluating how these programs are doing, and making adjustments when necessary.
An effective strategic plan must reflect the thoughts, feelings, ideas, and wants of the developers and the organization’s purpose, vision, mission and regulations into an integrated document. Devel- oping a plan requires extensive probing, discussion and examination of the views of the leaders who are responsible for the plan’s preparation. More often than not, however, the development of the plan is less complicated than the implementation of the plan.

Implementation, in essence, pulls a plan apart and diffuses it throughout an organization. Every unit within the organization which is involved must then accept the plan, agree to its direction, and implement specific actions. In order to effectively and efficiently implement a plan, everyone involved in the implementation of the plan must function as a whole or the plan is destined for failure.

Although every strategic planning process is uniquely designed to fit the specific needs of a particular organization, every successful “model” includes most of the following steps: (1) Identifying the Organization’s vision and mission, (2) Environmental Scan, (3) Gap Analysis (4) Benchmarking, (5) Strategic Issues, (6) Strategic Programming, (7) Emergent Strategies, (8) Evaluation of Strategy, and (9) Strategic Thinking.

The organization begins by identifying its vision and mission. Once those are clearly defined, it moves on to a series of analyses—external, internal and gap and benchmarking, which provide a context for developing organization’s strategic issues. Strategic programming follows and the organization develops specific strategies including strategic goals, action plans, and tactics. Emergent strategies evolve, challenging the intended tactics, and altering the realized strategy. Periodically, the organization evaluates its strategies and reviews its strategic plan, considering emergent strategies and evolving changes. It usually takes several years before strategic planning becomes institutionalized and organizations learn to think strategically.

Let’s briefly review steps essential to the success of any strategic planning process.

  1. Vision and Mission — Identification of the organization’s vision and mission is the first step of any strategic planning process. The organization’s mission sets out the organization’s purpose or reason for existence. The vision identifies where the organization’s “ideal” or where it wants to be at some point in the future. This helps set the organization’s focus and what it aims to achieve.
    The importance of a clear vision and mission cannot be over emphasized. None of subsequent steps will matter if the organization is uncertain of where it is headed. As Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up somewhere else.”
  2. Environmental Scan — Once the vision and mission are clearly identified, the organization must analyze its external and internal environment. The environmental scan analyzes information about the organization’s external environment (economic, social, demographic, political, legal, and technological factors), the industry or field in which the organization operates and internal organizational factors.
  3. Gap Analysis — Organizations evaluate the difference between their current position and desired future through gap analysis. As a result, an organization can develop specific strategies and allocate resources to close the gap and achieve its desired state.
  4. Benchmarking — Measuring and comparing the organization’s operations, practices, and performance against others is useful for identifying “best” practices. Through an ongoing systematic benchmarking process, units within the organization find a reference point for setting their own goals and targets.
  5. Strategic Issues — The organization determines its strategic issues based on, and consistent with, its vision and mission and within the framework of environmental and other analyses. Strategic issues are the fundamental issues the organization has to address to accomplish its mission and move towards its desired future.
  6. Strategic Programming — To address strategic issues and develop deliberate strategies for achieving its mission, the organization sets strategic goals, action plans, and tactics during the strategic programming stage.
    Strategic goals are the milestones the campus aims to achieve that evolve from the strategic issues. The SMART goals model is essential to setting meaningful goals. Smart goals are specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time/cost related.
    Action plans define how to get to where the organization wants to go — the steps required to reach its strategic goals.
    Tactics are specific actions used to achieve the strategic goals and implement the strategic plans.
  7. Emergent Strategies — Unpredicted and unintended events frequently occur that differ from the organization’s intended strategies, and the organization must respond. According to the Business Dictionary,
    A set of certain consistent actions that form an unintended pattern that was not initially anticipated or intended in the initial planning phase. For example, although unintended, adopting an emergent strategy might help a business adapt more flexibly to the practicalities of changing market conditions.*
  8. Evaluation of Strategy — Periodic evaluations of strategies, tactics, and action programs are essential to assessing the success of the strategic planning process. It is important to measure performance at least annually, but preferably more frequently, to evaluate the effect of specific actions on long-term results and on the organization’s vision and mission. The organization should measure current performance against previously set expectations, and consider any changes or events that may have impacted the desired course of actions.
  9. Review Of The Strategic Plan — After assessing the progress of the strategic planning process, the organization needs to review the strategic plan, make necessary changes, and adjust its course based on these evaluations. The revised plan must take into consideration emergent strategies, and
    changes affecting the organization’s intended course.
  10. Strategic Thinking — Eventually people in the organization routinely make their decisions within the framework of the organization’s strategic vision and mission. Strategic planning becomes an organizational norm which is deeply embedded within the organization’s decision-making process, and participants learn to think strategically as a part of their daily activities. Strategic thinking involves opening up the organization’s thinking to a range of alternatives and decisions that identify the best fit between the organization, its resources and its environment.


A Look at Strategic Planning Part 2