Strategic Planning Process

Here is an overview of the strategic planning process we use. 

  1. Getting Ready: Identify specific issues and choices the process should address, clarify roles, create a planning committee, develop an organization profile and identify the information which must be collected to help make sound decisions.
  2. Articulate mission and vision: Reach consensus on why the organization exists, determine it’s primary business, identify it’s values and create an image of what success would look like.
  3. Assess the environment: Gather up to date information on internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats to develop an understanding of critical issues. Use the SWOT Tool to organize your information.
  4. Agree on priorities: Identify the broad approaches (strategies) for addressing critical issues and the results to be sought (long-term and short-term) goals and objectives.
  5. Write the plan: Put the pieces together into one coherent document with MyStrategicPlan.
  6. Implement the plan: Align the plan with day-to-day work including operational or program-specific plans, fiscal and budget cycles, etc.
  7. Make strategy a habit: Regularly evaluate progress and assess decisions made during the process. See below…

**Adapted from Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations, A Practical Guide and Workbook, by Michael Allison and Judy Kaye, Support Center for Nonprofit Management.

Make Strategy a Habit Process

We use the (MP3 Planning) approach to an institutionalized plan.

M3 Planning makes strategy a reality for growth-oriented organizations. These are the proven steps from M3 Planning's "1 day" plan and provides a more "micro" view of the above overview steps to an effective plan:

Step One – Be the best. The result of a well-developed and executed strategic plan is to develop a competitive advantage. Just what is a competitive advantage? Business lingo aside, it is simply the answer to: What can your company potentially do better than any other company? Understanding your competitive advantage is critical. It is the reason you are in business. It is what you do best that draws customers to buy your product/service instead of your competitor’s. Extremely successful companies deliberately make choices to be unique and different in activities that they are really, really good at and they focus all of their energy in these areas. You may decide to incorporate your competitive advantage into your mission and/or vision statements.

Step Two – State your purpose. A mission statement is a statement of the company’s purpose. It is useful for putting the spotlight on what business a company is presently in and the customer needs it is presently endeavoring to serve. It also serves as a guide for day-to-day operations and as the foundation for future decision-making. To write a mission statement, answer the questions: What is our business? What are we trying to accomplish for our customers? What is our company’s reason for existing?

Step Three – Visualize the future. A strategic vision is the image of a company’s future – the direction it is headed, the customer focus it should have, the market position it should try to occupy, the business activities to be pursued, and the capabilities it plans to develop. Forming a strategic vision should delineate what kind of enterprise the company is trying to become and infuse the organization with a sense of purposeful action. Think big! To write a vision statement, answer this question: What will our business look like in 5 to ten years from now?

Step Four – Take an inventory. The SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis helps you look critically at your organization. It is a tool to help produce a good fit between a company’s strengths and its opportunities. Assess your strengths and weaknesses by answering these questions: What do we do best? What do we not do best? What are our company resources – assets, intellectual property, and people? What are our company capabilities (functions)?

Assess your opportunities and threats by answering these questions: What is happening externally that will affect our company? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each competitor? What are the driving forces behind sales trends? What are important and potentially important markets? What is happening in the world that might affect our company?

Step Five – Profile your customers. If you want to move your company from being successful to wildly profitable, you need to meet your customers’ needs and wants better than your competitors do. Develop a customer profile by answering: What are our customers’ needs, motivations, and characteristics? How do we uniquely provide value to our customers? What should we improve to grow our customer base?

Step Six – Write your goals and objectives. Goals and objectives are like stair steps to your mission and vision. Realistic goals and objectives are developed from the SWOT analysis and customer profile. Objectives set the agenda, are broad, and global in nature. Write two to five objectives that give action to your mission/vision and will take a few years to achieve. Then, develop goals to achieve each objective. Goals should be measurable, quantifiable, and support your objectives. Think about achieving them in a one-year timeframe. Effective goals must state how much of what kind of performance by when is to be accomplished and by whom. Make sure both your goals and objectives build on your strengths; shore up your weaknesses; capitalize on your opportunities; and recognize your threats.

Step Seven – Assess your resources. Now that you have completed your goals and objectives, it is time to do a resource assessment. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to all well laid strategic plans is time and money. As with every business, budgets are never big enough to do everything you want to do. Prioritize key goals by asking: Do implementing the goals make financial sense? Do you have the human resources to achieve your plan?

Step Eight – Take action. Tactics set specific actions/action plans that lead to implementing your goals and objectives. Basically write a to-do list for each goal. A quick way to develop your tactics is to answer this question: What roadblocks exist to achieving my goal? Use the answer to develop action items for each goal. Assign responsibilities and deadlines to ensure implementation. A great method to get buy-in from your staff is to assign a goal to each employee. Ask him/her to write the action plan and be responsible for making sure each task is accomplished.

Step Nine – Keep score. In step six, you wrote goals that were measurable. Put these measurements and targets on a scorecard (in Excel), which acts as an instrument panel guiding your company towards achieving your vision. With the scorecard, you can actively track your progress on a monthly basis.

Step Ten – Make strategy a habit. A leader devoted to the successful implementation of the strategy and plan is key. The plan needs to be supported with people, money, time, systems, and above all communication. Communicate the plan to everyone in your organization. Hold a monthly or quarterly strategy meeting to report on the progress toward achieving the goal. Don’t forget to take corrective actions when needed and adapt as the environment changes.

More about the system details:

  • Web-based Strategic Planning Tool: We use a MyStrategicPlan developed web-based tool to automate the development and administration of strategic planning, as well as, implementation which saves clients hundreds of hours. The planning system has been developed as a result of M3 Planning's years of consulting with various clients. MyStrategicPlan was awarded Best New Product of the Year in the 2008 Stevie Awards. MyStrategicPlan received the 2007 and 2008 award for Best Application Service Provider Interactive Application by the Web Marketing Association.
  • Free Strategic Planning Tools:  Through, our alliance partner MyStrategicPlan offers videos, books, articles and webinars to assist entities with their strategic planning.
  • Books: MP3 Planning's Principles are the authors of Strategic Planning For Dummies (Erika Olsen), Wiley Publications and other books.