5 Steps to Creating a Comprehensive Strategic Plan

Crafting a strategic plan is like charting a course for your organization’s future success. It’s a roadmap that guides decision-making, resource allocation, and goal achievement. The strategic planning process involves defining where the business is headed (vision), how it’s going to get there (strategy), and the actions, decisions, and resources (strategic plan) that will make it happen. Regardless of your industry or organization size, having a comprehensive strategic plan in place is essential for long-term growth and sustainability, as it provides clarity, alignment, and prioritization for your organization.

Here are five steps to help you create a strategic plan that sets you up for success:

Step 1: Clarify Your Vision and Mission

Before diving into the nitty-gritty details of your strategic plan, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your organization’s vision – the aspirational future you’re working towards – and your mission – the core purpose that drives your daily activities. Your vision and mission should be concise yet inspiring, serving as the foundation upon which your actionable strategic plan is built. For some organizations, this step can be a quicker exercise if the vision and mission are already clear, or it can be a longer but critical exercise if your organization’s direction needs clarity or alignment.

Step 2: Conduct a Thorough Analysis

A strong strategic plan is grounded in a deep understanding of your internal and external environment. Gathering input from a variety stakeholders, conduct a SWOT analysis to identify your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You may want to ask questions like:

  • Strengths: What is the organization doing well? What is the unique value proposition? What is the employee value proposition? What competitive advantage does the organization have above others in the industry?
  • Weaknesses: What areas of the business could be improved? What is holding your organization back from greater success? What disadvantages does your organization have compared to others in the industry?
  • Opportunities: What new opportunities can your organization capitalize on? What changes in the market or field can your organization benefit from?
  • Threats: What potential obstacles or challenges might your organization face in the near future? What threats may other competitors pose?

With some of our previous clients, we’ve gathered input on questions like these from team members, organization leadership, board members, customers, and suppliers. Doing so provides valuable insights into areas where you excel, areas that need improvement, emerging trends in your industry, and potential challenges on the horizon.

Step 3: Set SMART Goals

We often see clients wanting to begin the strategic process here, with goal setting. While strategic planning certainly involves goal setting, note that the process is more comprehensive as it should take into account the bigger picture vision and mission (step 1), as well as key insights from stakeholders (step 2) to then form goals that will move your organization forward in the right direction.

When drafting these goals (think 1-3 years), we recommend that you use the SMART criteria – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound – to ensure your goals are clear, actionable, and aligned with your strategic priorities. From there, you’ll want to break down larger objectives into smaller, manageable tasks (think by quarter) to keep your team focused and motivated.

Step 4: Develop Strategies and Action Plans

Now that you have your goals in place, it’s time to determine how the team will achieve them. To do so, create an actionable plan with clear timelines, responsibilities, and performance metrics. Be sure to involve key stakeholders in the planning process to foster buy-in and alignment across the organization. Whether you choose to utilize a project management software tool or simply stick to a spreadsheet, find a way to provide clarity and accountability to keep everyone involved on track toward the goals.

Step 5: Implement, Monitor, and Adapt

Execution is where the rubber meets the road. For strategic planning to truly succeed, the process has to be implemented intentionally across the entire organization, keeping a close eye on progress and performance along the way. Establish regular checkpoints to monitor results, assess the effectiveness of your strategies, and make adjustments as needed. Keep in mind that flexibility and agility are essential, so be prepared to pivot when necessary.

We’ve seen implementation success when clients do things like:

  • Involve employees early in the strategic planning process to get their insight and buy-in. For example, hosting focus groups or conducting interviews to hear from people in various roles and across different teams can provide a more thorough SWOT analysis.
  • Host all-employee meetings and messages that roll out the strategic plan, clearly outlining the goals, strategies, and action plan.
  • Provide open Q&A sessions where team members can ask questions about the plan.
  • Develop cross-functional committees or teams of people committed to executing on a specific goal.
    The diversity of thought and collaboration creates better results and greater buy-in.

How do you know when it’s a good time to go through the strategic planning process? There are lots of key moments that would make an opportune time to conduct strategic planning, for example:

  • When your organization experiences a big change
  • When your industry or market have shifted
  • When you have a number of new team members or new people in key leadership positions
  • When your strategy shifted
  • When you’ve made it through survival mode and are looking towards the future

Whenever you do choose to begin the strategic planning process, know that creating a comprehensive strategic plan requires careful thought, analysis, and execution. By following these five steps, you can develop a roadmap that guides your organization towards its goals, navigates challenges, and seizes opportunities for growth. Remember, strategic planning is an ongoing process – review and revise your plan regularly to ensure it remains relevant and responsive to the evolving needs of your organization.

Looking for even more assistance with creative a comprehensive strategic plan for your organization? Reach out to Paradox and we will be happy to help!

Katherine Nobles is a Senior Consultant at Paradox Consulting Partners, a management consulting company and Certified B Corporation that aligns talent strategy with business strategy to create high-performing, great places for all to work. She has nearly 15 years of experience in career, leadership, and organizational development. She has her BA from Virginia Tech and MEd from William & Mary. Follow her at linkedin.com/in/katherinenobles.