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How to write a strategic plan
A strategic plan is essential for every business. It tells you and your team where you’re going as a company and how to get there.
But many businesses go through a time-consuming and costly strategic planning exercise, only to find themselves with a plan that is ignored or just glanced at once a year. A common reason is that the plan itself isn’t written properly.
A strategic plan must give you and your team a simple, clear roadmap of what to do next. At its heart should be a prioritized list of your best ideas and specific steps to achieve your company’s goals.
“A strategic plan has to be actionable and easy to understand so your team can execute it and use it as a daily reference,” says Devesh Dwivedi , a Senior Business Advisor with BDC’s Advisory Services, who specializes in counselling businesses on strategic planning.
“The plan shouldn’t be academic or stuck in theory. It has to be boiled down to the basics so it is very clear to everyone what your goals are and what actions are needed from each employee.”
Strategic planning is about finding a short list of the highest-impact projects. It’s a filter.
Senior Business Advisor, BDC Advisory Services
Dwivedi gives this advice for what a strategic plan should contain and how it should be written. After each step, Dwivedi prepares a report to sum up the discussion and key findings. This report is then validated with the CEO and key employees and any input integrated before work starts on the next step.
What is the strategic planning process?
Strategic plans typically include four elements. Dwivedi writes them in this order:
1. Current state section
Dwivedi begins by preparing a section on the company’s current state, which answers the question: “Where are we?”
The current state section is about 15 to 20 pages in length and includes:
- A company overview — past milestones and achievements, current products or services, markets, key competencies, financial analysis, sales performance and trends in recent years, current key performance indicators
- Current organizational structure, vision and mission statements and value chain
- Challenges by department
- A PESTEL analysis chart identifying external or macro factors affecting the business (PESTEL is an acronym for political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal)
- Porter’s Five Forces (tool for analyzing the competition)
- A 7-S Assessment (review of your skills, style, strategy, staff, structure, systems and shared values)
- A BCG Growth Share Matrix (chart devised by Boston Consulting Group to illustrate each strategic business area according to growth rate and market share)
- SWOT analysis (an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats)
An appendix may be added at the end with extra information, such as:
- Risks and barriers to implementation
- One-page summaries of the future and current state sections
2. Future state section
The next section describes the desired future state of the company. This section is typically around 10 to 15 pages long and is based on workshops and interviews that Dwivedi holds with key employees.
The future state section should include these elements:
- Strategic objectives
- Vision statement summarizing the company’s aspirations for the future
- Mission statement and core values and any anticipated changes
- Broad, high-level goals , expressed in long-term statements
- Future business model — this can be described with a business model canvas
- Desired future value proposition
- Aspirational statements that expand on the vision statement
One or more subsections can be included to give additional details on various elements and why they’ve been adopted.
3. Strategic plan section
This section describes how your company will bridge the gap between its current state and the desired future state.
Dwivedi holds a series of strategic planning workshops and interviews with the CEO and key employees to brainstorm ideas on how to achieve the company’s goals. These sessions usually lead to a short list of five to 10 ideas to research further. Based on the company’s capabilities, these should be narrowed down to three to five initiatives that will lead the business to its goals in a sustainable and profitable fashion. Throughout the process, the entrepreneur and their team work closely with the consultant.
“Strategic planning is the art of saying no more than the art of saying yes,” Dwivedi says. “As a business, you can do a million things. The reason the entrepreneur is often running in circles is they don’t know what to work on. They get distracted by a red shiny ball, like a logo or website redesign, or the latest social media platform. Strategic planning is about finding a short list of the highest-impact projects. It’s a filter.”
The section is generally 10 to 15 pages long and includes these elements:
- Corporate directions — a broad overview of what you need to do to achieve your goals
- Strategic priorities — a list of your main projects
- Details on actions needed for each strategy
- Financial projections by market, product and other potential categories
- Action plan — a one-page spreadsheet listing each action, who is responsible for carrying it out and otherwise involved, a timeline for its completion and a key performance indicator to monitor progress
“The action plan is a simplified summary of the whole plan and should be referred to continually by your team to make sure their daily actions add up to the strategic plan,” Dwivedi says.
4. Executive summary
When Dwivedi works with his clients, he normally ends the strategic planning process by writing a one- or two-page executive summary. Although it’s written last, the executive summary is presented first in the final report.
“Think of it as developing a book summary: You can only do it if you have read the entire book,” Dwivedi says.
The executive summary includes the company’s vision and mission statements and a very brief description of these elements:
- The company and its products or services
- Major internal and external challenges
- Financial overview
- Strategic priorities — projects needed to achieve the objectives
- Action plan — specific steps in each project
It can also be useful to include a small subsection or box highlighting key observations or findings about the company and its goals.
Tips for strategic planning
Dwivedi shares a few extra tips about how strategic plans should be written:
- The final strategic plan is presented in reverse order In order to make them more actionable, strategic plans are often presented in reverse order as compared to the order in which each area is discussed in the strategic planning exercise.
In the final plan, the sections appear in this order:
- Executive summary
- Future state plan
- Strategic plan with action plan
- Current state
“The executive summary and future state plan come first in the plan because we want to emphasize the purpose of the whole exercise, which is creating a roadmap to achieve your goals,” Dwivedi says.
“You don’t want to move forward to the future state if the current state isn’t accurate.”
- Be clear and concise The plan should be clear and concise. It’s useful to present it as a PowerPoint document, which offers a visually accessible format in which information is easy to find and see. The optimal length is about 40 to 70 pages . Any shorter and you risk skipping important information; if longer, the plan may get bogged down in excessive detail, making it harder to implement. Making a strategic plan is a complex and time-consuming process, but it is worth it to guide your long-term growth. To learn more about how you can work with Dwivedi or one of our other BDC experts, please consult our strategic planning services .
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How To Write A Strategic Plan That Gets Results + Examples
by Tom Wright, on Feb 28, 2023
Table of Contents
Are you feeling overwhelmed with the thought of writing a strategic plan for your business? Do you want to create a plan that will help you move your team forward with inspired alignment and disciplined execution? You're not alone.
Gone are the days of rigid, 5- or 10-year planning cycles that do not leave room for flexibility and innovation. To stay ahead of the curve, you need a dynamic and execution-ready strategic plan that can guide your business through the ever-evolving landscape.
At Cascade, we understand that writing a strategic plan can be dreadful, especially in today's unpredictable environment. That's why we've developed a simple model that can help you create a clear, actionable plan to achieve your organization's goals. With our tested and proven strategic planning template , you can write a strategic plan that is both adaptable and effective .
Whether you're a seasoned strategy professional or a fresh strategy planner, this guide will walk you through the process step-by-step on how to write a strategic plan. By the end, you'll have a comprehensive, easy-to-follow strategic plan that will help you align your organization on the path to success.
Follow this guide step-by-step or skip to the part you’re most interested in:
- Pre-Planning Phase: Build The Foundation
Cascade Model For Strategic Planning: What You Need To Know
- Key Elements of a Strategic Plan
How To Write A Strategic Plan In 6 Simple Steps
3 strategic plan examples to get you started, how to achieve organizational alignment with your strategic plan.
- Quick Overview of Key Steps In Writing A Strategic Plan
Create An Execution-Ready Strategic Plan With Cascade 🚀
*Editor’s note: This article is part of our ‘How to create a Strategy’ collection. At the end of this article, you’ll find a link to each piece within this collection so you can dig deeper into each element of an effective strategic plan and more related resources to master strategy execution.
Pre-Planning Phase: Build The Foundation
Before we dive into writing a strategic plan, it's essential to know the basics you should cover before the planning phase. The pre-planning phase is where you'll begin to gather the data and strategic insights necessary to create an effective strategic plan.
1. Run a strategic planning workshop
The first step is to run a strategic planning workshop with your team. Get your team in the room, get their data, and gather their insights. By running this workshop, you'll foster collaboration and bring fresh perspectives to the table. And that’s not all.
The process of co-creating and collaborating to put that plan together with stakeholders is one of the most critical factors in strategy execution . According to McKinsey’s research , initiatives in which employees contribute to development are 3.4 times more likely to be successful. They feel like the plan is a result of their efforts, and they feel ownership of it, so they're more likely to execute it.
💡 Tip: Use strategy frameworks to structure your strategy development sessions, such as GAP analysis , SWOT analysis , Porter’s Five Forces , Ansoff matrix , McKinsey 7S model , or GE matrix . You can even apply the risk matrix that will help you align and decide on key strategic priorities.
2. Choose your strategic planning model
Before creating your strategic plan, you need to decide which structure you will use. There are hundreds of ways to structure a strategic plan. You’ve likely heard of famous strategic models such as OKRs and the Balanced Scorecard .
But beyond the well-known ones, there's also a myriad of other strategic planning models ranging from the extremely simple to the absurdly complex.
Many strategic models work reasonably well on paper, but in reality, they don't show you how to write a strategic plan that fits your organization's needs.
Here are some common weaknesses most popular strategic models have:
- They're too complicated. People get lost in terminology rather than focus on execution.
- They don’t scale. They work well for small organizations but fail when you try to extend them across multiple teams.
- They're too rigid. They force people to add layers for the sake of adding layers.
- They're neither tangible nor measurable. They’re great at stating outcomes but lousy at helping you measure success.
- They're not adaptable. As we saw in the last years, the business environment can change quickly. Your model needs to be able to work in your current situation and adapt to changing economic landscapes.
Our goal in this article is to give you a simpler, more effective way to write a strategic plan. This is a tested and proven strategic planning model that has been refined over years of working with +20,000 teams around the world. We call it the Cascade Strategy Model.
This approach has proven to be more effective than any other model we have tried when it comes to executing and implementing the strategy .
It’s easy to use and it works for small businesses, fast-growing startups, as well as multinationals trying to figure out how to write a fail-proof strategic plan.
We’ve created a simple diagram below to illustrate what a strategic plan following the Cascade Model will look like when it's completed:
Rather than a traditional roadmap, imagine your strategy as a flowchart. Each row is a mandatory step before moving on to the next.
We call our paltform Cascade for a reason: strategy must cascade throughout an organization along with values, focus areas, and objectives.
Above all, the Cascade Model is intended to be execution-ready —in other words, it has been proven to deliver success far beyond strategic planning. It adds to a successful strategic management process .Key elements of a Strategic Plan
Key elements of a Strategic Plan
The key elements of a strategic plan include:
- Vision : Where do you want to get to?
- Values : How will you behave on the journey?
- Focus Areas : What are going to be your strategic priorities?
- Strategic objectives : What do you want to achieve?
- Actions and projects : How are you going to achieve the objectives?
- KPIs : How will you measure success?
In this part of the article, we will give you an overview of each element within the Cascade Model. You can follow this step-by-step process in a spreadsheet , or sign up to get instant access to a free Cascade strategic planning template and follow along as we cover the key elements of an effective strategic plan.
Your vision statement is your organization's anchor - it defines where you want to get to and is the executive summary of your organization's purpose. Without it, your strategic plan is like a boat without a rudder, at the mercy of strong winds and currents like Covid and global supply chain disruptions.
A good vision statement can help funnel your strategy towards long-term goals that matter the most to your organization, and everything you write in your plan from this point on will help you get closer to achieving your vision.
Trying to do too much at once is a surefire way to sink your strategic plan. By creating a clear and inspiring vision statement , you can avoid this trap and provide guidance and inspiration for your team. A great vision statement might even help attract talent and investment into your organization.
For example, a bike manufacturing company might have a vision statement like, “To be the premier bike manufacturer in the Pacific Northwest.” This statement clearly articulates the organization's goals and is a powerful motivator for the team.
In short, don't start your strategic plan without a clear vision statement. It will keep your organization focused and help you navigate toward success.
📚 Recommended read: How to Write a Vision Statement (With Examples, Tips, and Formulas)
Values are the enablers of your vision statement —they represent how your organization will behave as you work towards your strategic goals. Unfortunately, many companies throw around meaningless words just for the purpose of PR, leading to a loss of credibility.
To avoid this, make sure to integrate your organization’s core values into everyday operations and interactions. In today's highly-competitive world, it's crucial to remain steadfast in your values and cultivate an organizational culture that's transparent and trustworthy.
Companies with the best company cultures consistently outperform competitors and their average market by up to 115.6%, as reported by Glassdoor .
For example, a bike manufacturing company might have core values like:
These values reflect the organization's desire to become the leading bike manufacturer, while still being accountable to employees, customers, and shareholders.
👉 Here’s how to add vision and values to your strategic plan in Cascade:
After you sign up and invite your team members to collaborate on the plan, navigate to Plans and Teams > Teams page, and add the vision, mission and values. This will help you to ensure that the company’s vision, mission statement, and values are always at top of mind for everyone.
📚When you're ready to start creating some company values, check out our guide, How To Create Company Values .
3. Focus Areas
Your focus areas are the strategic priorities that will keep your team on track and working toward the company’s mission and vision. They represent the high-level areas that you need to focus on to achieve desired business outcomes.
In fact, companies with clearly defined priorities are more likely to achieve their objectives. According to a case study by the Harvard Business Review , teams that focus on a small number of key initiatives are more likely to succeed than those that try to do too much.
That’s also something that we usually recommend to our customers when they set up their strategic plan in Cascade. Rather than spreading your resources too thin over multiple focus areas, prioritize three to five.
Following our manufacturing example above, some good focus areas include:
- Aggressive growth
- Producing the nation's best bikes
- Becoming a modern manufacturer
- Becoming a top place to work
Your focus areas should be tighter in scope than your vision statement, but broader than specific goals, time frames, or metrics.
By defining your focus areas, you'll give your teams a guardrail to work within, which can help inspire innovation and creative problem-solving.
With a clear set of focus areas, your team will be better able to prioritize their work and stay focused on the most important things, which will ultimately lead to better business results.
👉Here’s how you can set focus areas in Cascade:
In Cascade, you can add focus areas while creating or importing an existing strategic plan from a spreadsheet. With Cascade’s Focus Area deep-dive functionality , you will be able to:
- Review the health of your focus areas in one place.
- Get a breakdown by plans, budgets, resources, and people behind each strategic priority.
- See something at-risk? Drill down into each piece of work regardless of how many plans it's a part of.
📚 Recommended read: Strategic Focus Areas: How to create them + Examples
4. Strategic Objectives
The importance of setting clear and specific objectives for your strategic plan cannot be overstated.
Strategic objectives are the specific and measurable outcomes you want to achieve . While they should align with your focus areas, they should be more detailed and have a clear deadline.
According to the 2022 State of High Performing Teams report , there is a strong correlation between goals and success not only at the individual and team level but also at the organizational level. Here’s what they found:
- Employees who are unaware of their company's goals are over three times more likely to work at a company that is experiencing a decline in revenue than employees who are aware of the goals.
- Companies with shrinking revenues are almost twice as likely to have employees with unclear work expectations.
Jumping straight into actions without defining clear objectives is a common mistake that can lead to missed opportunities or misalignment between strategy and execution.
To avoid this pitfall, we recommend you add between three and six objectives to each focus area .
It's here that we need to start being a bit more specific for the first time in your strategic planning process. Let's take a look at an example of a well-written strategic objective:
- Continue top-line growth that outpaces the industry by 31st Dec 2023.
This is too specific to be a focus area. While it's still very high level, it indicates what the company wants to accomplish and includes a clear deadline. Both these aspects are critical to a good strategic objective.
Your strategic objectives are the heart and soul of your plan, and you need to ensure they are well-crafted. So, take the time to create well-planned objectives that will help you achieve your vision and lead your organization to success.
👉Here’s how you can set objectives in Cascade:
Adding objectives in Cascade is intuitive, straightforward, and accessible from almost anywhere in the workspace. With one click, you’ll open the objective sidebar and fill out the details. These can include a timeline, the objective’s owner, collaborators, and how your objective will be measured (success criteria).
📚 Recommended read: What are Strategic Objectives? How to write them + Examples
5. Actions and Projects
Once you’ve defined your strategic objectives, the next step is to identify the specific strategic initiatives or projects that will help you achieve those objectives . They are short-term goals or actionable steps you or your team members will take to accomplish objectives. They should leverage the company’s resources and core competencies.
Effective projects and actions in your strategic plan should:
- Be extremely specific.
- Contain a deadline.
- Have an owner.
- Align with at least one of your strategic objectives.
- Provide clarity on how you or your team will achieve the strategic objective.
Let's take a look at an example of a well-written project continuing with our bike manufacturing company using the strategic objective from above:
Strategic objective: Continue top-line growth that outpaces the industry by 31st Dec 2023.
Project: Expand into the fixed gear market by 31st December 2023.
This is more specific than the objective it links to, and it details what you will do to achieve the objective.
Another common problem area for strategic plans is that they never quite get down to the detail of what you're going to do.
It's easier to state "we need to grow our business," but without concrete projects and initiatives, those plans will sit forever within their PowerPoint templates, never to see the light of day after their initial creation.
Actions and projects are where the rubber meets the road. They connect the organizational strategic goals with the actual capabilities of your people and the resources at their disposal. Defining projects is a vital reality check every strategic plan needs.
👉Here’s how you create actions and projects in Cascade:
From the Objective sidebar, you can choose to add a project or action under your chosen objective. In the following steps, you can assign an owner and timeline to each action or project.
Plus, in Cascade, you can track the progress of each project or action in four different ways. You can do it manually, via milestones, checklists, or automatically by integrating with Jira and 1000+ other available integrations .
📚 Recommended read: How to create effective projects
Measuring progress towards strategic objectives is essential to effective strategic control and business success. That's where Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) come in. KPIs are measurable values that track progress toward achieving key business objectives . They keep you on track and help you stay focused on the goals you set for your organization.
To get the most out of your KPIs, make sure you link them to a specific goal or objective. In this way, you'll avoid creating KPIs that don't contribute to your objectives and distract you from focusing on what matters.
Ideally, you will add both leading and lagging KPIs to each objective so you can get a more balanced view of how well you're progressing. Leading KPIs can indicate future performance while lagging KPIs show how well you’ve done in the past. Both types of KPIs are critical for operational planning and keeping your business on track.
Think of KPIs as a form of signpost in your organization. They provide critical insights that inform business leaders of their organization’s progress toward key business objectives. Plus, they can help you identify opportunities faster and capitalize on flexibility.
👉Here’s how you can set and track KPIs in Cascade:
In Cascade , you can add measures while creating your objectives or add them afterward. Open the Objective sidebar and add your chosen measure.
When you create your Measure, you can choose how to track it. Using Cascade, you can track it manually or automatically. You can automate tracking via 1000+ integrations , including Excel spreadsheets and Google Sheets. In this way, you can save time and ensure that your team has up-to-date information for faster and more confident decision-making.
📚 Recommended read: 10 Popular KPI Software Tools To Connect & Visualize Your Data (2023 Guide)
Corporate Strategic Plan
Following the steps outlined above, you should end up with a strategic plan that looks something like this:
This is a preview of a corporate strategic plan template that is pre-filled with examples. Here you can use the template for free and begin filling it out to align with your organization's needs. Plus, it’s suitable for organizations of all sizes and any industry.
Once you fill in the template, you can also switch to the timeline view. You’ll get a complete overview of how the different parts of your plan are distributed across the roadmap in a Gantt chart view.
This template will help you create a structured approach to the strategic planning process, focus on key strategic priorities, and drive accountability to achieve necessary business outcomes.
👉 Get your free corporate strategic plan template here.
Coca-Cola Strategic Plan
Need a bit of extra inspiration to start writing your organization’s strategic plan? Check out this strategic plan example, inspired by Coca-Cola’s business plan:
This template is pre-filled with Coca-Cola’s examples so you can inspire your strategic success on one of the most iconic brands on the planet.
👉 Grab your free example of a Coca-Cola strategic plan here.
The Ramsay Health Care expansion strategy
Ramsay Health Care is a multinational healthcare provider with a strong presence in Australia, Europe, and Asia.
Almost all of its growth was organic and strategic. The company founded its headquarters in Sydney, Australia, but in the 21st century, it decided to expand globally through a primary strategy of making brownfield investments and acquisitions in key locations.
Ramsay's strategy was simple yet clever. By becoming a majority shareholder of the biggest local players, the company expanded organically in each region by leveraging and expanding their expertise.
Over the last two decades, Ramsay's global network has grown to 460 locations across 10 countries with over $13 billion in annual revenue.
📚 Recommended read: Strategy study: The Ramsay Health Care Growth Study
✨ Bonus resource: We've created a list of the most popular and free strategic plan templates in our library that will help you build a strategic plan based on the Cascade model explained in this article. You can use these templates to create a plan on a corporate, business unit, or team level.
We highlighted before that other strategic models often fail to scale strategic plans and goals scales across multiple teams and organizational levels.
In an ideal world, you want to have a maximum of two layers of detail underneath each of your focus areas. This means you'll have a focus area, followed by a layer of objectives. Underneath the objectives, you'll have a layer of actions, projects, and KPIs.
If you have a single team that’s responsible for the strategy execution, this works well. However, how do you implement a strategy across multiple and cross-functional teams? And why is it important?
According to LSA research of 410 companies across 8 industries, highly aligned companies grow revenue 58% faster and are 72% more profitable. And this is what Cascade can help you achieve.
To achieve achieve organization-wide alignment with your strategic plan and impact the bottom line, there are two ways to approach it in Casade: through contributing objectives or shared objectives .
1. Contributing objectives
This approach involves adding contributing objectives that link to your main strategic objectives, like this:
For each contributing objective, you simply repeat the Objective → Action/Project → KPI structure as follows:
Here's how you can create contributing objectives in Cascade:
Option A: Create contributing objectives within the same plan
This means creating multiple contributing objectives within the same strategic plan that contribute to the main objective.
However, be aware that if you have a lot of layers, your strategic plan can become cluttered, and people might have difficulty understanding how their daily efforts contribute to the strategic plan at the top level.
For example, the people responsible for managing contributing objectives at the bottom of the plan ( functional / operational level ) will lose visibility on how are their objectives linked to the main focus areas and objectives (at a corporate / business level ).
This approach is best suited to smaller organizations that only need to add a few layers of objectives to their plan.
Option B: Create contributing objectives from multiple plans linking to the main objective
This approach creates a network of aligned strategic plans within your organization. Each plan contains a set of focus areas and one single layer of objectives, each with its own set of projects, actions, and KPIs. This concept looks like this:
This example illustrates an objective that is a main objective in the IT strategic plan, but also contributes to the main strategic plan's objective.
For example, let’s say that your main business objective is to improve customer satisfaction by reducing product delivery time by 25% in the next quarter. This objective requires multiple operational teams within your organization to work together to achieve a shared objective.
Each team will create its own objective in its plan to contribute to the main objective:
- Logistics team: Reduce the shipment preparation time by 30%
- IT team: Implement new technology to reduce manual handling in the warehouse
- Production team: Increase production output by hour for 5%
Here’s how this example would look like within Cascade platform:
Although each contributing objective was originally created in its own plan, you can see how each contributing objective relates to the main strategic objective and its status in real-time.
2. Shared objectives
In Cascade, shared objectives are the same objectives shared across different strategic plans.
For example, you can have an objective that is “Achieve sustainable operations”. This objective can be part of the Corporate Strategy Plan, but also part of the Operations Plan , Supply Chain Plan , Production Plan, etc. In short, this objective becomes a shared objective between multiple teams and strategic plan.
This approach helps you to:
- Cascade your business strategy as deep as you want across a near-infinite number of people while maintaining strategic alignment throughout your organization .
- Create transparency and a much higher level of engagement in the strategy throughout your organization since objective owners are able to identify how their shared efforts contribute to the success of the main business objectives.
The more shared objectives you have across your organization, the more your teams will be aligned with the overarching business strategy. This is what we call " alignment health ”.
Here’s how you can see the shared objectives in the alignment map and analyze alignment health within Cascade:
You get a snapshot of how is your corporate strategic plan aligned with sub-plans from different business units or departments and the status of shared objectives. This helps you quickly identify misaligned initiatives and act before it’s too late. Plus, cross-functional teams have better visibility of how their efforts contribute to shared objectives.
So whether you choose contributing objectives or shared objectives, Cascade has the tools and features to help you achieve organization-wide alignment and boost your bottom line.
Quick Overview Of Key Steps In Writing A Strategic Plan
Here’s a quick infographic to help you remember how everything connects and why each element is critical to creating an effective strategic plan:
This simple answer to how to write a strategic plan avoids confusing jargon and has elements that the whole organization can both get behind and understand.
💡Tip: Save this image or bookmark this article for your next strategic planning session.
If you're struggling to write an execution-ready strategic plan, the Cascade model is the solution you've been looking for. With its clear, easy-to-understand terminology, and simple linkages between objectives, projects, and KPIs, you can create a plan that's both scalable and flexible.
But why is a flexible and execution-ready strategic plan so important? It's simple: without a clear and actionable plan, you'll never be able to achieve your business objectives. By using the Cascade Strategic Planning Model, you'll be able to create a plan that's both tangible and measurable, with KPIs that help you track progress towards your goals.
However, the real value of the Cascade framework lies in its flexibility . By creating links between main business objectives and your teams’ objectives, you can easily scale your plan without losing focus. Plus, the model's structure of linked layers means that you can always adjust your strategy in response to new challenges or opportunities and keep everyone on the same page.
So if you want to achieve results with your strategic plan, start using Cascade today. With its unique combination of flexibility and focus, it's the perfect tool for any organization looking to master strategy execution and succeed in today's fast-paced business world.
Want to see Cascade in action? Get started for free or book a 1:1 demo with Cascade’s in-house strategy expert.
This article is part one of our mini-series "How to Write a Strategic Plan". This first article will give you a solid strategy model for your plan and get the strategic thinking going.
Think of it as the foundation for your new strategy. Subsequent parts of the series will show you how to create the content for your strategic plan.
Articles in our How to Write a Strategic Plan series
- How To Write A Strategic Plan: The Cascade Model (This article)
- How to Write a Good Vision Statement
- How To Create Company Values
- Creating Strategic Focus Areas
- How To Write Strategic Objective
- How To Create Effective Projects
- How To Write KPIs + Ultimate Guide To Strategic Planning
More resources on strategic planning and strategy execution:
- 6 Steps to Successful Strategy Execution
- 4-Step Strategy Reporting Process (With Template)
- Annual Planning: Plan Like a Pro In 5 Steps (+ Template)
- 18 Free Strategic Plan Templates (Excel & Cascade) 2023
- The Right Way To Set Team Goals
- 23 Best Strategy Tools For Your Organization in 2023
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The Complete Guide to Writing a Strategic Plan
Smartsheet Contributor Joe Weller
April 12, 2019 (updated July 17, 2021)
Writing a strategic plan can be daunting, as the process includes many steps. In this article, you’ll learn the basics of writing a strategic plan, what to include, common challenges, and more.
Included on this page, you'll find details on what to include in a strategic plan , the importance of an executive summary , how to write a mission statement , how to write a vision statement , and more.
The Basics of Writing a Strategic Plan
The strategic planning process takes time, but the payoff is huge. If done correctly, your strategic plan will engage and align stakeholders around your company’s priorities.
Strategic planning, also called strategy development or analysis and assessment , requires attention to detail and should be performed by someone who can follow through on next steps and regular updates. Strategic plans are not static documents — they change as new circumstances arise, both internally and externally.
Before beginning the strategic planning process, it’s important to make sure you have buy-in from management, a board of directors, or other leaders. Without it, the process cannot succeed.
Next, gather your planning team. The group should include people from various departments at different levels, and the planning process should be an open, free discussion within the group. It’s important for leaders to get input from the group as a whole, but they don’t necessarily need approval from everyone — that will slow down the process.
The plan author is responsible for writing and putting the final plan together and should work with a smaller group of writers to establish and standardize the tone and style of the final document or presentation.
Sometimes, it’s a good idea to hire an external party to help facilitate the strategic planning process.
“It often can be helpful to have a really good facilitator to organize and pursue strategic conversations,” says Professor John M. Bryson, McKnight Presidential Professor of Planning and Public Affairs at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota and author of Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations: A Guide to Strengthening and Sustaining Organizational Achievement .
Byson says the facilitator can be in-house or external, but they need experience. “You need to make sure someone is good, so there needs to be a vetting process,” he says.
One way to gauge a facilitator’s experience is by asking how they conduct conversations. “It’s important for facilitators to lead by asking questions,” Bryson says.
Bryson says that strong facilitators often ask the following questions:
What is the situation we find ourselves in?
What do we do?
How do we do it?
How do we link our purposes to our capabilities?
The facilitators also need to be able to handle conflict and diffuse situations by separating idea generation from judgement. “Conflict is part of strategic planning,” Bryson admits. “[Facilitators] need to hold the conversations open long enough to get enough ideas out there to be able to make wise choices.”
These outside helpers are sometimes more effective than internal facilitators since they are not emotionally invested in the outcome of the process. Thus, they can concentrate on the process and ask difficult questions.
A strategic plan is a dynamic document or presentation that details your company’s present situation, outlines your future plans, and shows you how the company can get there. You can take many approaches to the process and consider differing ideas about what needs to go into it, but some general concepts stand.
“Strategic planning is a prompt or a facilitator for fostering strategic thinking, acting, and learning,” says Bryson. He explains that he often begins planning projects with three questions:
What do you want to do?
How are we going to do it?
What would happen if you did what you want to do?
The answers to these questions make up the meat of the planning document.
A strategic plan is only effective when the writing and thinking is clear, since the intent is to help an organization keep to its mission through programs and capacity, while also building stakeholder engagement.
Question 1: Where Are We Now?
The answer (or answers) to the first question — where are we now? — addresses the foundation of your organization, and it can serve as an outline for the following sections of your strategic plan:
Core values and guiding principles
Identification of competing organizations
Industry analysis (this can include a SWOT or PEST analysis)
Question 2: Where Are We Going?
The answers to this question help you identify your goals for the future of the business and assess whether your current trajectory is the future you want. These aspects of the plan outline a strategy for achieving success and can include the following:
Vision statement about what the company will look like in the future
What is happening (both internally and externally) and what needs to change
The factors necessary for success
Question 3: How Do We Get There?
The answers to this question help you outline the many routes you can take to achieve your vision and match your strengths with opportunities in the market. A Gantt chart can help you map out and keep track of these initiatives.
You should include the following sections:
Specific and measurable goals
An execution plan that identifies who manages and monitors the plan
An evaluation plan that shows how you plan to measure the successes and setbacks that come with implementation
What to Include in a Strategic Plan
Strategic planning terminology is not standardized throughout the industry, and this can lead to confusion. Instead, strategic planning experts use many names for the different sections of a strategic plan.
“The terms are all over the map. It’s really the concept of what the intention of the terms are [that is important],” says Denise McNerney, President and CEO of iBossWell, Inc. , and incoming president of the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP). She recommends coming up with a kind of glossary that defines the terms for your team. “One of the most important elements when you’re starting the strategic planning process is to get some clarity on the nomenclature. It’s just what works for your organization. Every organization is slightly different.”
No matter what terms you use, the general idea of a strategic plan is the same. “It’s like drawing a map for your company. One of the first steps is committing to a process, then determining how you’re going to do it,” McNerney explains.
She uses a basic diagram that she calls the strategic plan architecture . The areas above the red dotted line are the strategic parts of the plan. Below the red dotted line are the implementation pieces.
While the specific terminology varies, basic sections of a strategic plan include the following in roughly this order:
Elevator pitch or company description
Some plans will contain all the above sections, but others will not — what you include depends on your organization’s structure and culture.
“I want to keep it simple, so organizations can be successful in achieving [the strategic plan],” McNerney explains. “Your plan has to be aligned with your culture and your culture needs to be aligned with your plan if you’re going to be successful in implementing it.”
The following checklist will help you keep track of what you have done and what you still need to do.
Download Strategic Plan Sections Checklist
How to Write a Strategic Plan
Once you’ve assembled your team and defined your terms, it’s time to formalize your ideas by writing the strategic plan. The plan may be in the form of a document, a presentation, or another format.
You can use many models and formats to create your strategic plan (read more about them in this article ). However, you will likely need to include some basic sections, regardless of the particular method you choose (even if the order and way you present them vary). In many cases, the sections of a strategic plan build on each other, so you may have to write them in order.
One tip: Try to avoid jargon and generic terms; for example, words like maximize and succeed lose their punch. Additionally, remember that there are many terms for the same object in strategic planning.
The following sections walk you through how to write common sections of a strategic plan.
How to Write an Executive Summary
The key to writing a strong executive summary is being clear and concise. Don’t feel pressured to put anything and everything into this section — executive summaries should only be about one to two pages long and include the main points of the strategic plan.
The idea is to pique the reader’s interest and get them to read the rest of the plan. Because it functions as a review of the entire document, write the executive summary after you complete the rest of your strategic plan.
“If you have a plan that’s really lengthy, you should have a summary,” says Jim Stockmal, President of the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP). He always writes summaries last, after he has all the data and information he needs for the plan. He says it is easier to cut than to create something.
For more information about writing an effective executive summary, a checklist, and free templates, read this article .
If you want a one-page executive summary, this template can help you decide what information to include.
Download One-Page Executive Summary Template
Excel | Word | PDF
How to Write a Company Description
Also called an elevator pitch , the company description is a brief outline of your organization and what it does. It should be short enough that it can be read or heard during the average elevator ride.
The company description should include the history of your company, the major products and services you provide, and any highlights and accomplishments, and it should accomplish the following:
Define what you are as a company.
Describe what the company does.
Identify your ideal client and customer.
Highlight what makes your company unique.
While this may seem basic, the company description changes as your company grows and changes. For example, your ideal customer five years ago might not be the same as the current standard or the one you want in five years.
Share the company description with everyone in your organization. If employees cannot accurately articulate what you do to others, you might miss out on opportunities.
How to Write a Mission Statement
The mission statement explains what your business is trying to achieve. In addition to guiding your entire company, it also helps your employees make decisions that move them toward the company’s overall mission and goals.
“Ideally, [the mission statement is] something that describes what you’re about at the highest level,” McNerney says. “It’s the reason you exist or what you do.”
Strong mission statements can help differentiate your company from your competitors and keep you on track toward your goals. It can also function as a type of tagline for your organization.
Mission statements should do the following:
Define your company’s purpose. Say what you do, who you do it for, and why it is valuable.
Use specific and easy-to-understand language.
Be inspirational while remaining realistic.
Be short and succinct.
This is your chance to define the way your company will make decisions based on goals, culture, and ethics. Mission statements should not be vague or generic, and they should set your business apart from others. If your mission statement could define many companies in your line of work, it is not a good mission statement.
Mission statements don’t have to be only outward-facing for customers or partners. In fact, it is also possible to include what your company does for its employees in your mission statement.
Unlike other parts of your strategic plan that are designed to be reviewed and edited periodically, your company’s mission statement should live as is for a while.
That said, make the effort to edit and refine your mission statement. Take out jargon like world class, best possible, state of the art, maximize, succeed , and so on, and cut vague or unspecific phrasing. Then let your strategic planning committee review it.
How to Write a Vision Statement
Every action your company does contributes to its vision. The vision statement explains what your company wants to achieve in the long term and can help inspire and align your team.
“The vision is the highest-ordered statement of the desired future or state of what you want your business to achieve,” McNerney explains.
A clear vision statement can help all stakeholders understand the meaning and purpose of your company. It should encourage and inspire employees while setting your company’s direction. It also helps you rule out elements that might not align with your vision.
Vision statements should be short (a few sentences). They should also be memorable, specific, and ambitious. But there is a fine line between being ambitious and creating a fantasy. The vision should be clearly attainable if you follow the goals and objectives you outline later in your strategic planning plan.
Because you need to know your company’s goals and objectives to create an accurate vision statement, you might need to wait until you have more information about the company’s direction to write your vision statement.
Below are questions to ask your team as you craft your vision statement:
What impact do we want to have on our community and industry?
How will we interact with others as a company?
What is the culture of the business?
Avoid broad statements that could apply to any company or industry. For example, phrases like “delivering a wonderful experience” could apply to many industries. Write in the present tense, avoid jargon, and be clear and concise.
Vision statements should accomplish the following:
Focus on success.
Look at and project about five to 10 years ahead.
Stay in line with the goals and values of your organization.
Once you write your vision statement, communicate it to everyone in your company. Your team should be able to easily understand and repeat the company’s vision statement. Remember, the statements can change as the environment in and around your company changes.
The Difference Between Mission and Vision Statements
Mission and vision statements are both important, but they serve very different purposes.
Mission statements show why a business exists, while vision statements are meant to inspire and provide direction. Mission statements are about the present, and vision statements are about the future. The mission provides items to act upon, and the vision offers goals to aspire to.
For example, if a vision statement is “No child goes to bed hungry,” the accompanying mission would be to provide food banks within the city limits.
While many organizations have both mission and vision statements, it’s not imperative. “Not everyone has a vision statement,” McNerney says. “Some organizations just have one.”
If you choose to have only one statement, McNerney offers some advice: “Any statement you have, if you have just one, needs to include what [you do], how [you do it], why [you do it], and who you do it for.”
During the planning process, these key statements might change. “Early on in the process, you need to talk about what you are doing and why and how you are doing it. Sometimes you think you know where you want to go, but you’re not really sure,” McNerney says. “You need to have flexibility both on the plan content and in the process.”
How to Write Your Company’s Core Values
Company core values , sometimes called organizational values , help you understand what drives the company to do what it does. In this section, you’ll learn a lot about your company and the people who work with you. It should be relatively easy to write.
“The values are the core of how you operate [and] how you treat your people, both internally and externally. Values describe the behaviors you really want to advance,” McNerney says.
There are both internal and external values looking at your employees and coworkers, as well as customers and outside stakeholders. Pinpointing values will help you figure out the traits of the people you want to hire and promote, as well as the qualities you’re looking for in your customers.
Your values should align with your vision statement and highlight your strengths while mitigating weaknesses. McNerney says many organizations do not really consider or are not honest about their company’s values when working on strategic plans, which can lead to failure.
“Your strategies have to align with your values and vice versa,” she explains.
Many companies’ values sound like meaningless jargon, so take the time to figure out what matters to your company and push beyond generic language.
How to Write about Your Industry
When planning ahead for your business, it’s important to look around. How are matters inside your company? What are your competitors doing? Who are your target customers?
“[If you don’t do a thorough industry analysis], you’re doing your planning with your head in the sand. If you’re not looking at the world around you, you’re missing a whole dimension about what should inform your decision making,” McNerney advises.
Writing about your industry helps you identify new opportunities for growth and shows you how you need to change in order to take advantage of those opportunities. Identify your key competitors, and define what you see as their strengths and weaknesses. Performing this analysis will help you figure out what you do best and how you compare to your competition. Once you know what you do well, you can exploit your strengths to your advantage.
In this section, also include your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. You can choose from many templates to help you write this section.
Next, identify your target customers. Think about what they want and need, as well as how you can provide it. Do your competitors attract your target customers, or do you have a niche that sets you apart?
The industry analysis carries a price, but also provides many benefits. “It takes some time and money to do [a thorough industry analysis], but the lack of that understanding says a lot about the future of your organization. If you don’t know what is going on around you, how can you stay competitive?” explains McNerney.
How to Write Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives
This section is the bulk of your strategic plan. Many people confuse goals and objectives, thinking the terms are interchangeable, but many argue that the two are distinct. You can think of them this way:
Goals : Goals are broad statements about what you want to achieve as a company, and they’re usually qualitative. They function as a description of where you want to go, and they can address both the short and long term.
Objectives : Objectives support goals, and they’re usually quantitative and measurable. They describe how you will measure the progress needed to arrive at the destination you outlined in the goal. More than one objective can support one goal.
For example, if your goal is to achieve success as a strategic planner, your objective would be to write all sections of the strategic plan in one month.
iBossWell, Inc.’s McNerney reiterates that there are not hard and fast definitions for the terms goals and objectives , as well as many other strategic planning concepts. “I wouldn’t attempt to put a definition to the terms. You hear the terms goals and objectives a lot, but they mean different things to different people. What some people call a goal , others call an objective . What some people call an objective , others would call a KPI. ” They key, she explains, is to decide what the terms mean in your organization, explain the definitions to key stakeholders, and stick to those definitions.
How to Write Goals
Goals form the basis of your strategic plan. They set out your priorities and initiatives, and therefore are critical elements and define what your plan will accomplish. Some planning specialists use the term strategic objectives or strategic priorities when referring to goals, but for clarity, this article will use the term goals.
“[Goals] are the higher level that contain several statements about what your priorities are,” McNerney explains. They are often near the top of your plan’s hierarchy.
Each goal should reflect something you uncovered during the analysis phase of your strategic planning process. Goals should be precise and concise statements, not long narratives. For example, your goals might be the following:
Eliminate case backlog.
Lower production costs.
Increase total revenue.
Each goal should have a stated outcome and a deadline. Think of goal writing as a formula: Action + detail of the action + a measurable metric + a deadline = goal. For example, your goal might be: Increase total revenue by 5 percent in three product areas by the third quarter of 2020.
Another way to look at it: Verb (action) + adjective (description) = noun (result). An example goal: Increase website fundraising.
Your goals should strike a balance between being aspirational and tangible. You want to stretch your limits, but not make them too difficult to reach. Your entire organization and stakeholders should be able to remember and understand your goals.
Think about goals with varying lengths. Some should go out five to 10 years, others will be shorter — some significantly so. Some goals might even be quarterly, monthly, or weekly. But be careful to not create too many goals. Focus on the ones that allow you to zero in on what is critical for your company’s success. Remember, several objectives and action steps will likely come from each goal.
How to Write Objectives
Objectives are the turn-by-turn directions of how to achieve your goals. They are set in statement and purpose with no ambiguity about whether you achieve them or not.
Your goals are where you want to go. Next, you have to determine how to get there, via a few different objectives that support each goal. Note that objectives can cover several areas.
“You need implementation elements of the plan to be successful,” McNerney says, adding that some people refer to objectives as tactics , actions , and many other terms.
Objectives often begin with the words increase or decrease because they are quantifiable and measurable. You will know when you achieve an objective. They are action items, often with start and end dates.
Use the goal example from earlier: Increase total revenue by 5 percent in three product areas by the third quarter of 2020. In this example, your objectives could be:
Approach three new possible clients each month.
Promote the three key product areas on the website and in email newsletters.
Think of the acronym SMART when writing objectives: Make them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic/relevant, and time-bound.
Breaking down the process further, some strategic planners use the terms strategies and tactics to label ways to achieve objectives. Using these terms, strategies describe an approach or method you will use to achieve an objective. A tactic is a specific activity or project that achieves the strategy, which, in turn, helps achieve the objective.
How to Write about Capacity, Operations Plans, Marketing Plans, and Financial Plans
After you come up with your goals and objectives, you need to figure out who will do what, how you will market what they do, and how you will pay for what you need to do.
“If you choose to shortchange the process [and not talk about capacity and finances], you need to know what the consequences will be,” explains McNerney. “If you do not consider the additional costs or revenues your plan is going to drive, you may be creating a plan you cannot implement.”
To achieve all the goals outlined in your strategic plan, you need the right people in place. Include a section in your strategic plan where you talk about the capacity of your organization. Do you have the team members to accomplish the objectives you have outlined in order to reach your goals? If not, you may need to hire personnel.
The operations plan maps out your initiatives and shows you who is going to do what, when, and how. This helps transform your goals and objectives into a reality. A summary of it should go into your strategic plan. If you need assistance writing a comprehensive implementation plan for your organization, this article can guide you through the process.
A marketing plan describes how you attract prospects and convert them into customers. You don’t need to include the entire marketing plan in your strategic plan, but you might want to include a summary. For more information about writing marketing plans, this article can help.
Then there are finances. We would all like to accomplish every goal, but sometimes we do not have enough money to do so. A financial plan can help you set your priorities. Check out these templates to help you get started with a financial plan.
How to Write Performance Indicators
In order to know if you are reaching the goals you outline in your strategic plan, you need performance indicators. These indicators will show you what success looks like and ensure accountability. Sadly, strategic plans have a tendency to fail when nobody periodically assesses progress.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) can show you how your business is progressing. KPIs can be both financial and nonfinancial measures that help you chart your progress and take corrective measures if actions are not unfolding as they should. Other terms similar to KPIs include performance measures and performance indicators .
Performance indicators are not always financial, but they must be quantifiable. For example, tracking visitors to a website, customers completing a contact form, or the number of proposals that close with deals are all performance indicators that keep you on track toward achieving your goals.
When writing your performance indicators, pay attention to the following:
Define how often you need to report results.
Every KPI must have some sort of measure.
List a measure and a time period.
Note the data source where you will get your information to measure and track.
ASP’s Stockmal has some questions for you to ask yourself about picking performance indicators.
Are you in control of the performance measure?
Does the performance measure support the strategic outcomes?
Is it feasible?
Is data available?
Who is collecting that data, and how will they do it?
Is the data timely?
Is it cost-effective to collect that data?
ls the goal quantifiable, and can you measure it over time?
Are your targets realistic and time-bound?
Stockmal also says performance indicators cannot focus on only one thing at the detriment of another. “Don’t lose what makes you good,” he says. He adds that focusing on one KPI can hurt other areas of a company’s performance, so reaching a goal can be short-sided.
Some performance indicators can go into your strategic plan, but you might want to set other goals for your organization. A KPI dashboard can help you set up and track your performance and for more information about setting up a KPI dashboard, this article can help.
Communicating Your Strategic Plan
While writing your strategic plan, you should think about how to share it. A plan is no good if it sits on a shelf and nobody reads it.
“After the meetings are over, you have to turn your strategy into action,” says Stefan Hofmeyer, an experienced strategist and co-founder of Global PMI Partners . “Get in front of employees and present the plan [to get everyone involved].” Hofmeyer explains his research has shown that people stay with companies not always because of money, but often because they buy into the organization’s vision and want to play a part in helping it get where it wants to go. “These are the people you want to keep because they are invested,” he says.
Decide who should get a physical copy of the entire plan. This could include management, the board of directors, owners, and more. Do your best to keep it from your competitors. If you distribute it outside of your company, you might want to attach a confidentiality waiver.
You can communicate your plan to stakeholders in the following ways:
Hold a meeting to present the plan in person.
Highlight the plan in a company newsletter.
Include the plan in new employee onboarding.
Post the plan on the employee intranet, along with key highlights and a way to track progress.
If you hold a meeting, make sure you and other key planners are prepared to handle the feedback and discussion that will arise. You should be able to defend your plan and reinforce its key areas. The goal of the plan’s distribution is to make sure everyone understands their role in making the plan successful.
Remind people of your company’s mission, vision, and values to reinforce their importance. You can use posters or other visual methods to post around the office. The more that people feel they play an important part in the organization’s success, they more successful you will be in reaching your goals of your strategic plan.
Challenges in Writing a Strategic Plan
As mentioned, strategic planning is a process and involves a team. As with any team activity, there will be challenges.
Sometimes the consensus can take priority over what is clear. Peer pressure can be a strong force, especially if a boss or other manager is the one making suggestions and people feel pressured to conform. Some people might feel reluctant to give any input because they do not think it matters to the person who ultimately decides what goes into the plan.
Team troubles can also occur when one or more members does not think the plan is important or does not buy into the process. Team leaders need to take care of these troubles before they get out of hand.
Pay attention to your company culture and the readiness you have as a group, and adapt the planning process to fit accordingly. You need to find the balance between the process and the final product.
The planning process takes time. Many organizations do not give themselves enough time to plan properly, and once you finish planning, writing the document or presentation also takes time, as does implementation. Don’t plan so much that you ignore how you are going to put the plan into action. One symptom of this is not aligning the plan to fit the capacity or finances of the company.
Stockmal explains that many organizations often focus too much on the future and reaching their goals that they forget what made them a strong company in the first place. Business architecture is important, which Stockmal says is “building the capabilities the organization needs to fulfill its strategy.” He adds that nothing happens if there is no budget workers to do the work necessary to drive change.
Be careful with the information you gather. Do not take shortcuts in the research phase — that will lead to bad information coming out further in the process. Also, do not ignore negative information you may learn. Overcoming adversity is one way for companies to grow.
Be wary of cutting and pasting either from plans from past years or from other similar organizations. Every company is unique.
And while this may sound obvious, do not ignore what your planning process tells you. Your research might show you should not go in a direction you might want to.
Writing Different Types of Strategic Plans
The strategic planning process will differ based on your organization, but the basic concepts will stay the same. Whether you are a nonprofit, a school, or a for-profit entity, strategic plans will look at where you are and how you will get to where you want to go.
How to Write a Strategic Plan for a Nonprofit
For a nonprofit, the strategic plan’s purpose is mainly how to best advance the mission. It’s imperative to make sure the mission statement accurately fits the organization.
In addition to a SWOT analysis and other sections that go into any strategic plan, a nonprofit needs to keep an eye on changing factors, such as funding. Some funding sources have finite beginnings and endings. Strategic planning is often continuous for nonprofits.
A nonprofit has to make the community care about its cause. In a for-profit organization, the marketing department works to promote the company’s product or services to bring in new revenue. For a nonprofit, however, conveying that message needs to be part of the strategic plan.
Coming up with an evaluation method and KPIs can sometimes be difficult for a nonprofit, since they are often focused on goals other than financial gain. For example, a substance abuse prevention coalition is trying to keep teens from starting to drink or use drugs, and proving the coalition’s methods work is often difficult to quantify.
This template can help you visually outline your strategic plan for your nonprofit.
Download Nonprofit Strategic Plan Template
Excel | Smartsheet
How to Write a Strategic Plan for a School
Writing a strategic plan for a school can be difficult because of the variety of stakeholders involved, including students, teachers, other staff, and parents.
Strategic planning in a school is different from others because there are no markets to explore, products to produce, clients to woo, or adjustable timelines. Schools often have set boundaries, missions, and budgets.
Even with the differences, the same planning process and structure should be in place for schools as it is for other types of organizations.
This template can help your university or school outline your strategic plan.
Download University Strategic Plan Outline – Word
How to Write a 5-Year Strategic Plan
There is no set time period for a strategic plan, but five years can be a sweet spot. In some cases, yearly planning might keep you continually stuck in the planning process, while 10 years might be too far out.
In addition to the basic sections that go into any strategic plan, when forecasting five years into the future, put one- and three-year checkpoints into the plan so you can track progress intermittently.
How to Write a 3-Year Strategic Plan
While five years is often the strategic planning sweet spot, some organizations choose to create three-year plans. Looking too far ahead can be daunting, especially for a new or changing company.
In a three-year plan, the goals and objectives have a shorter timeframe and you need to monitor them more frequently. Build those checkpoints into the plan.
“Most organizations do a three- to five-year plan now because they recognize the technology and the changes in business that are pretty dynamic now,” Stockmal says.
How to Write a Departmental Strategic Plan
The first step in writing a strategic plan for your department is to pay attention to your company’s overall strategic plan. You want to make sure the plans align.
The steps in creating a plan for a department are the same as for an overall strategic plan, but the mission statement, vision, SWOT analysis, goals, objectives, and so on are specific to only the people in your department. Look at each person separately and consider their core competencies, strengths, capabilities, and weaknesses. Assign people who will be responsible for certain tasks and tactics necessary to achieve your goals.
If you have access to a plan from a previous year, see how your department did in meeting its goals. Adjust the new plan accordingly.
When you finish your departmental plan, make sure to submit it to whomever is responsible for your company’s overall plan. Expect to make changes.
How to Write a Strategic Plan for a Project
A strategic plan is for the big picture, not for a particular project for an organization. Instead of a strategic plan, this area would fall under project management.
If you have a failing project and need to turn it around, this article might help.
How to Write a Personal Strategic Plan
Creating a strategic plan isn’t only for businesses. You can also create a strategic plan to help guide both your professional and personal life. The key is to include what is important to you. This process takes time and reflection.
Be prepared for what you discover about yourself. Because you will be looking at your strengths and weaknesses, you might see things you do not like. It is important to be honest with yourself. A SWOT analysis on yourself will give you some honest feedback if you let it.
Begin with looking at your life as it is now. Are you satisfied? What do you want to do more or less? What do you value most in your life? Go deeper than saying family, happiness, and health. This exercise will help you clarify your values.
Once you know what is important to you, come up with a personal mission statement that reflects the values you cherish. As it does within a business, this statement will help guide you in making future decisions. If something does not fit within your personal mission, you shouldn’t do it.
Using the information you discovered during your SWOT and mission statement process, come up with goals that align with your values. The goals can be broad, but don’t forget to include action items and timeframes to help you reach your goals.
As for the evaluation portion, identify how you will keep yourself accountable and on track. You might involve a person to remind you about your plan, calendar reminders, small rewards when you achieve a goal, or another method that works for you.
Below is additional advice for personal strategic plans:
There are things you can control and things you cannot. Keep your focus on what you can act on.
Look at the positive instead of what you will give up. For example, instead of focusing on losing weight, concentrate on being healthier.
Do not overcommit, and do not ignore the little details that help you reach your goals.
No matter what, do not dwell on setbacks and remember to celebrate successes.
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How to Present a Strategy in 6 Slides
The basic business strategy outline that i start with every time..
Strategic thinking is a trait that separates executors from leaders. When your boss asks you to create a strategy, know that you’re being given an opportunity to prove that you’re a leader. A well-crafted presentation is one of the best ways to merchandise your strategic thinking and should…
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Full-time marketer, part-time writer. VP Marketing at Field Effect. American living in Canada.
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How do you present a strategic plan?
A step by step guide to present a strategic plan in a professional format, showing all the important messages.
Time needed: 1 hour.
Presenting a strategic plan in 11 steps:
1. It gives a short and clear description of the target state. 2. It gives a clear indication of the actions required. 3. It can be understood within minutes. 4. It does NOT use jargon.
* A Roadmap with starting state and target state. * Formats for “Strategy on 1 Page”. * Formats showing: Diagnosis, Policy, Action.
Are you short on time?
Use these templates to help with this best practice:.
Strategy Roadmap Template PowerPoint
This Strategy Roadmap Template PowerPoint shows strategic phases, starting state & target state, KPIs, and workstream activities with risk scores. Designed by professionals and used by 1,000s of strategy pros around the world.
Strategy Roadmap Template (Visio)
The Visio Strategy Roadmap Template is the perfect Strategic Communication plan – Business Change, KPI, Initiatives, Timeline – all with a stylish design.
Lean Business Model Canvas PowerPoint with Tips and Guidance
Are you struggling with your Lean Canvas? Use this Lean Business Model Canvas Powerpoint to get help at every stage from professionals.
Business Topics that support this Best Practice
Roadmap templates & slides downloads.
Strategic Planning Tools – Discount Bundle
These strategic planning tools formats have been refined by our professionals through years of experience, so that you can save time and make your planning, reporting, and communication as impressive as possible, rapidly.
A stylish PowerPoint project report which allows you to show your progress against the plan and budget.
Transition Plan Powerpoint
This Transition Plan Powerpoint template is the perfect way to show your plans and important business milestones. Show worksteams, milestones, risk levels & more.
Google Sheets Compatible Roadmap Template (Excel)
This Google Sheets Roadmap Template can be uploaded and used on Google Drive (G Suite) for business, so that you can use our professional roadmap layouts easily.
Leadership and Strategic Guidance
The Agile Release Planning Template Discount Bundle
Are you looking for a way to create and present your Agile Release Planning? This bundle is the perfect solution. You can use Powerpoint and Excel to create an amazing plan that will help you deliver your product with confidence.
3Cs and 4Ps PowerPoint Marketing Cheat Sheets – plus 7Ps, 4Cs and 7Cs
The 3Cs and 4Ps PowerPoint helps you create your product’s “marketing mix” using tried and tested professional input. Cheat sheets and standard diagrams are included so that you can save time and look good quickly.
Template and Guide Aspects that support this Best Practice
STEEPLED Analysis Template with Cheat Sheet and Workshop PPT
STEEPLE Cheat Sheet (2022)
16 x 9 powerpoint roadmap presentation slide templates.
Business Roadmap Template
New Product Definition Template
Powerpoint Innovation Project Transfer Template
PESTLE Cheat Sheet
Strategy On One Page – Powerpoint Template
Roadmap templates with milestone formats.
Excel Transition Plan Template
Resource Plan with Workstream Resource Changes Template
Digital transformation roadmap templates.
Digital Transformation Templates – Discount Bundle
Templates and best practice in this business ecosystem.
Templates, features, FAQs, business processes and HowTo guides for Business Strategy areas.
All Business Best Practice
See all Business Best Practice here .
Created : 2020-10-15 16:01:17 Modified : 2021-12-28 15:08:16
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How to write a surprisingly easy and effective strategic plan.
While it is true that writing a strategic plan is often a tiresome process, with the right knowledge and a clear strategy model, it can be surprisingly easy.
Strategic planning always takes time, but the reward is completely worth it. If written and executed properly, it will realign stakeholders with your company's objectives. New circumstances arise constantly, and strategic plans change as the business climates change. A strategic plan isn't definite – both internal and external changes affect it.
Often called strategy development, strategic planning requires strong attention to detail and an experienced planning team.
Core Elements To Include In Your Strategic Plan
Before learning how to write a strategic plan, you should first learn about the core elements to include in it:
Vision Statement: You shouldn't start working on a strategic plan without a defined Vision Statement. It will help in setting strategy towards achieving the most important objectives of your business.
Company values: Your values represent the way you behave as a company as you work on your goals. Some good values include being compassionate, accountable, innovative, and passionate.
Focus areas: Focus areas are the crucial operations and processes you'll focus on as you work toward achieving your vision.
Strategic objectives: Strategic objectives represent your high-level goals. It's important to define them and align them with your focus areas.
KPIs: KPIs define the ways you will measure your company's progress in achieving business objectives.
Projects: Projects represent the things you do to achieve your business goals. They are very specific and time-sensitive.
Where Are We Now?
The first step of writing a strategic plan is looking at your current position. You need to think about where your company is now and check if your fundamental values are still in place if you want to learn how to write a strategic plan.
The three important elements to observe:
Mission statement: Every business needs a mission statement to describe and define the company's purpose. You may include various things in your mission statement, but it should clearly say what your organization does and why it exists.
Guiding principles: Your guiding principles define what your business stands for and what you believe in as a company. Revise what values and beliefs guide the daily activities and interactions among management and employees.
SWOT: Another essential element for creation is your company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). You need to be aware of each element so you can create a strategy that improves your overall success.
Want additional insight? Read 4 Step Guide to Strategic Planning now to learn more
Where Are We Going?
When wondering how to write a strategy plan, one of the most important questions to ask yourself is, "Where are we going?"
It will help you get a clear vision of where your company is headed in the future and what you want to achieve. The future may be hard to predict, but several elements can help you get an insight into possible outcomes based on various indicators, such as:
Sustainable Competitive Advantage: Every business should work hard on creating a sustainable competitive advantage that will set their company apart from competitors. Think about the best aspects of your business. How is it unique? What can your company do better than any other company?
Vision Statement: A clear vision of what your organization will look like in the future is necessary for creating a good strategy. It will give everyone a path to follow.
How Will We Get There?
Determining how you'll reach your vision is the most important part of a strategic plan, and it's also the one that's most time-consuming. Since there are many ways for you to travel from the point where you are now to your future vision, it takes time to find the right one. Picking a certain route will define how slowly or quickly you reach your final destination, so it's very important to choose wisely.
When brainstorming ways to achieve your vision, you need to consider various elements, such as strategic objectives, strategy, short-term objectives, action plans, scorecards, and plan execution. Each of these elements is vital for the future success of your strategic plan, and each requires attention.
You need to define both long-term and short-term goals clearly and cover every aspect of planning when looking for ways to optimize your operations.
How To Set Priorities In Your Strategic Plan
If you're wondering how you write a strategic plan without knowing the priorities, the answer is – you don't. You must set your strategic priorities first, and that often takes time. There are three areas to look at when setting priorities in your plan:
Current situation: Think about which aspects of your business are doing great, and which aspects need improvement. Recognize what's holding you back from reaching your objectives.
Future perspective: Knowing your current situation isn't enough for creating an optimal strategic plan. Since no one can predict the future precisely, it's best to gather a team and talk about team member's visions of the future of your business.
Value proposition: Your value proposition is a group of the most distinctive reasons why your customers should be interested in your product or service.
We've covered the basics of how to write a strategic plan, but if you want to learn more, contact us today to set up a strategic business plan consultation. Our business advisory services have helped numerous organizations reach their objectives faster and more efficiently.
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More Like this
How to write a strategic plan.
Not to oversimplify how to create a strategic plan, but by placing all the parts of a plan into three areas, you can clearly see how the pieces fit together. The three pieces of the puzzle are:
Where are we now?
Where are we going, how will we get there, get the free guide to build your strategic objectives (with examples).
Each part has certain elements to show you how and where things fit it. Our 4-Phase Guide to Strategic Planning lays out each step of the planning process.
Get the Free Guide for Setting OKRs that Work (with 100 examples!)
As you think about where your organization is now, you want to look at your foundational elements (mission and value) to make sure there has not been a change. More than likely, you will not revise these two areas very often. Then you want to look at your current position or your strategic position. This is where you look at what is happening internally and externally to determine how you need to shift or change. You should review your strategic position regularly through the use of a SWOT. These elements are as follows:
- Mission statement: The mission describes your organization’s purpose — the purpose for which you were founded and why you exist. Some mission statements include the business of the organization. Others explain what products or services they produce or customers they serve. Does your mission statement say what you do? Why does your organization exist?
- Values and/or guiding principles: This clarifies what you stand for and believe in. Values guide the organization in its daily business. What are the core values and beliefs of your company? What values and beliefs guide your daily interactions? What are you and your people really committed to?
- SWOT: SWOT is an acronym that stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. These elements are crucial in assessing your strategic position with your organization. You want to build on your company’s strengths, shore up the weaknesses, capitalize on the opportunities, and recognize the threats.
The elements of the question “Where are we going?” help you answer other questions such as “What will my organization look like in the future?”, “Where are we headed?”, and “What is the future I want to create for my company?” Because the future is hard to predict, you can have fun imagining what it may look like. The following elements help you define the future for your business:
- Sustainable competitive advantage: A sustainable competitive advantage explains what your are best at compared to your competitors. Each company strives to create an advantage that continues to be competitive over time. What can you be best at? What is your uniqueness? What can your organization potentially do better than any other organization?
- Vision statement: Your vision is formulating a picture of what your organization’s future makeup will be and where the organization is headed. What will your organization look like in 5 to 10 years from now?
Knowing how you’ll reach your vision is the meat of your strategic plan, but it’s also the most time consuming. The reason it takes so much time to develop is because there are a number of routes from your current position to your vision. Picking the right one determines how quickly or slowly you get to your final destination.
The parts of your plan that layout your roadmap are listed below:
- Strategic objectives: Strategic objectives are long-term, continuous strategic areas that help you connect your mission to your vision. Holistic objectives encompass four areas: financial, customer, operational, and people. What are the key activities that you need to perform in order to achieve your vision?
- Strategy: Strategy establishes a way to match your organization’s strengths with market opportunities so that your organization comes to mind when your customer has a need. This section explains how you travel to your final destination. Does your strategy match your strengths in a way that provides value to your customers? Does it build an organizational reputation and recognizable industry position?
- Short-term goals/priorities/initiatives: Short-term goals convert your strategic objectives into specific performance targets. You can use goals, priorities, or initiatives interchangeably. Here, I use goals to define short-term action. Effective goals clearly state what you want to accomplish, when you want to accomplish it, how you’re going to do it, and who’s going to be responsible. Each goal should be specific and measurable. What are the 1- to 3-year-goals you’re trying to achieve to reach your vision? What are your specific, measurable, and realistic targets of accomplishment?
- Action items: Action items are plans that set specific actions that lead to implementing your goals. They include start and end dates and appointing a person responsible Are your action items comprehensive enough to achieve your goals?
- Scorecard: A scorecard measures and manages your strategic plan. What are the key performance indicators you need to track to monitor whether you’re achieving your mission? Pick 5 to 10 goal related measures you can use to track the progress of your plan and plug them into your scorecard.
- Execution: In executing the plan, identify issues that surround who manages and monitors the plan and how the plan is communicated and supported. How committed are you to implementing the plan to move your organization forward? Will you commit money, resources, and time to support the plan?
Most CEOs struggle with shifting demands that make keeping their long-term vision connected to weekly priorities chaotic. So we created a framework and software to make adapting strategy, goals, and priorities easy. When your team contributes directly to the big picture, you deliver results consistently.
Take the tour now.
Very useful to me and for my organization as formulation of strategic plans is my job
A good introduction
Very good , your direction make an easy for me to di this things.thanks
I am going to write a strategic plan, but not before I read this!
Very resourceful not only for my exams but for my work as well. Thanks.
Good information, but you might want to check the typos.
Thanx,i can now rearrange and plan my life and carrier.
Excellent and simple answer to plan, and deliver a strategy to my business
The information is so ressourcefull. Am now a real strategic planner. Thanks.
Critical tool for advancing the management of my enterprises towards attaining sustainable ,growth projections.
IS BEEN REALLY HELPFUL THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Eeh! Its Gud information. I will use it for my LIFE strategic PLAN.
Though it was my first time to visit this site, it was very good and opened up mind more especially on what I didn’t know and thus will give it a closure look to build my confident and more knowledge
Thank you Kristin,
This has helped me to design my strategic plan well for my on coming NGO after a struggle with the old version which was not giving me a lead of how to fit in information in their right places.
I agree other than I’m missing the question “What might prevent us from coming there?”
hi fine can yaou help me about nutrition roadmap models
Hi, thank you for the helps. I am not familiar of strategic planning and this article is a good help.
now i know, i will write my strategic plan now. am grateful to the organizers this article.
Very informative. This is a good reference. Thank you.
thank you for sharing.. very clear explanation
Thanks Erica because of strong and brief text about strategy.i am strategic planner in petroleum industries health organization in Iran.
Thanks for three points for stategy .
very Nice..This article Helped me alott. Please keep doing this.Inspiration and guidence is very importatnt for someone to reach to his destination.And i think you are doing a good job. 🙂
Fantastic information, just in line with my outline. Thank you
Good information. However, I think this strategic plan process was designed for private sector more than any other sector!
I need to write a strat for the Africa expansion for a cinema group . Any ideas .
it’s really good and good introduction, thanks
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Strategic planning communication: 6 tips for getting your company on board
Reading time: about 7 min
Posted by: Lucid Content Team
If you make a strategic plan but no one hears about it, will it make an impact? By our estimate, the outlook is not so good. That’s because a plan is only as good as its implementation.
In other words, if you want to be successful, you must learn not only how to create a strategic plan for your business, but also how to communicate that plan effectively.
Easier said than done.
Use the following tips to improve your strategic plan communication and get employee engagement and buy-in from the ground up.
Why it’s important to effectively communicate your strategic vision
Companies invest a lot of time in developing a strategic plan or vision for the business. However, all that time and resources are wasted if you can’t successfully communicate your vision to the broader organization.
Not only is that initial investment wasted, but if you can’t align your company strategically, you’re essentially leaving every team to guess at what work is important, what problems or goals to prioritize, and what their ultimate purpose is.
A sure recipe for misalignment between departments and across the organization.
This misalignment can cause confusion and inefficiency, competition between teams and departments, and burnout and disengagement among employees.
In other words, without a well-communicated strategic plan, the business cannot move forward effectively or efficiently.
How to present a strategic plan
Use the following tips and best practices to communicate your strategic plan effectively and get everyone is on the same page.
Hold an all-hands meeting
Announce your vision first at an organization-wide all-hands meeting. Ideally, you will be communicating your plans time and time again in the coming months through various meetings and formats. But it’s important to communicate your plans to the entire organization first so everyone receives the same messaging.
Telling everyone together will help prevent confusion or misinformation from spreading through the rumor mill and ensure that no one is left out.
It also gives you the opportunity to answer questions and get initial feedback from the collective group. Be sure to leave time during your meeting to take questions and solicit feedback. Addressing those concerns together can reduce the burden on managers to answer difficult questions and ensures everyone is getting the same answers from the same reliable source.
Then, as you continue to roll out communication and implementation across departments, you can move forward more effectively on the initial feedback you received and address more specific questions case by case and team by team.
Explain the “why”
In your efforts to explain what is changing, don’t forget to also explain why. Change isn’t easy. When you unveil a new strategic plan, you are likely to disrupt your employees’ processes and approaches to their work.
For example, let’s say your new plan includes updates in technology or the adoption of new systems. While you may be able to see how those changes will make your employees’ work easier or more efficient in the long run, they are the ones who will have to bear the brunt of learning a new system, changing well-worn processes that “worked just fine” before, and dealing with the growing pains of a learning curve—which could include lower productivity and even upset customers initially.
Show respect for your people by recognizing what you’re actually asking them to do, and clarify why it’s so important to move forward with the new plan.
As you outline the “why” behind these changes, make sure you do two things:
1. Create urgency
Why change now? What is the rush? As you explain the purpose behind the new plans, you need to create urgency for why these changes are coming now. What is driving the need to change?
This will help people both understand why you’re making those changes and help them adopt the same sense of urgency in implementing those plans effectively.
2. Answer what’s in it for “me”
Sometimes high-level strategy can feel irrelevant to the everyday work or processes teams and individuals are doing. As you communicate your plans and vision for the future, make sure you connect the purpose and benefits directly to your employees.
How does the new strategy improve their work experience? What are the benefits to their team or department? For example, if the new strategic vision will lead to happier customers, explain how that translates to easier customer service calls or higher sales quotas.
When people feel that change will be good for them (and not just a nebulous bottom line), they will be more engaged in making those plans successful.
Create a framework for teams to align their work with company strategy
Take the guesswork out of alignment by creating a company-wide framework for implementing the new strategy and keeping everyone’s work aligned. A simple but effective approach is to create goals and projects based on the strategic plan.
For example, Lucid uses OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) , so each team’s projects relate back to the company’s main objectives.
OKRs help you organize your goals around a strategy and track key results at the end of the period you’re measuring. This process helps teams and individuals not only align their priorities and goals but also clarify ownership and accountabilities.
When everyone is operating from the same framework, it makes it easier to implement company strategy broadly and consistently so that everyone is aligned.
Reinforce the strategic plan in future communications
Follow up and follow through to keep the momentum going behind your new strategic plans. Too often, leadership makes the mistake of building up the new strategy on the front end without making that communication consistent throughout the rest of the year and beyond.
Remember: Communicating your strategic plan shouldn’t be a one-time big announcement.
Building adoption and aligning your organization to a new vision or goal takes time. Reinforce your message by making your strategy an integral part of your company meetings, company newsletter, employee reviews, and one-on-one conversations.
Celebrate successes along the way
Implementing a new strategic plan isn’t as simple as checking off a to-do list. There will be questions to answer, problems to solve, and people to win over. This takes time and won’t always be smooth sailing. That’s why it is important to celebrate employee, team, or organizational successes along the way.
Highlight these individual and collective wins in team and company meetings. Recognizing successes while your company transitions to a new strategy will drive engagement and adoption, leading to greater ownership and accountability throughout the organization.
Clarify your message with visuals
Strategic plans usually involve lots of terms, projections, and parts. But these details can quickly get lost in translation if you don’t communicate clearly. Help your audience stay engaged and on board by visualizing key information.
Visuals are a simple but powerful way to support your presentation and clarify your messaging so that everyone understands your vision for the future. Use visuals like flowcharts, graphs, product roadmaps, and organizational models to clarify new processes, roles, and accountabilities.
As teams begin implementing the new strategy, use visuals to improve alignment within and across teams. Lucidchart makes it easy for teams to collaborate and innovate from a single application. Simple collaboration features let team members add feedback or ask clarifying questions around group projects.
Visual collaboration and communication from the top down and within teams will help your company understand and adopt your new vision faster and more successfully.
Start diagramming with Lucidchart today—try it for free!
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Lucidchart is the intelligent diagramming application that empowers teams to clarify complexity, align their insights, and build the future—faster. With this intuitive, cloud-based solution, everyone can work visually and collaborate in real time while building flowcharts, mockups, UML diagrams, and more.
The most popular online Visio alternative , Lucidchart is utilized in over 180 countries by millions of users, from sales managers mapping out target organizations to IT directors visualizing their network infrastructure.
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