Let’s Break It Down: A Step-by-Step Approach to Strategic Planning

In Part One of this series, we introduced the concept of strategic planning. In this article, we will describe the process nonprofit leaders can follow to build a strategic plan from the ground up.

 

Step One: Lay the groundwork by establishing a team and examining the organization’s current situation.

When gathering your team, choose members who represent all organization stakeholders, are in positions to speak and act with authority, and have a vested interest in the organization’s mission. In one of your first plan development meetings, ensure you take a pulse on the current condition of your organization by capturing details on its history, stakeholders, performance, and any prior planning efforts.

 

Step Two: Determine the organization’s mission, vision, and values statements.

An organization’s mission, vision, and values guide its strategic plan. It is critical to determine—or reexamine—these foundational cornerstones during the strategic planning process. Here are the basic differences between the three:

  • Mission: the reason your organization exists
  • Vision: how the world will change as a result of your organization’s work
  • Values: guiding characteristics that are manifested in everything your organization and employees do

 

Step Three: Identify the organization’s strengths, problems, opportunities, and threats through a SPOT analysis.

Traditionally called a SWOT analysis, Brighter Strategies’s approach exchanges the term “weaknesses” for “problems” because we can solve problems! The SPOT analysis groups key pieces of information about an organization into two main categories:

  • Internal factors: the strengths (characteristics of the organization that you brag about) and weaknesses (realities of the organization that you know you have to face)
  • External factors: the opportunities (chances to improve performance in the environment) and threats (elements in the environment that could make the problems greater) presented by the organization’s external environment

 

Step Four: Set strategic organizational goals.

Your organization’s value proposition, which describes how your company delivers value to stakeholders and clients, is the lens through which you will develop your organization’s strategic goals. These goals—also known objectives—are the meat of strategic planning, the action items that are implemented to grow your organization today for tomorrow.

 

Step Five: Determine strategic measures using a balanced scorecard.

The balanced scorecard allows leaders to look at the business from four important perspectives and to focus on a handful of measures that are most critical by assigning them to these perspectives, which include:

  • Client—how customers experience us
  • Internal—what we must excel at
  • Innovation and learning—ways we can continue to improve and create value
  • Financial—how funders view us

 

Step Six: Write and communicate the strategic plan.

Capture in writing and communicate to stakeholders the results of your planning. The following components should be included in this written plan:

  • Executive summary
  • Organization description
  • Mission, vision, and values statements
  • Goals and strategies
  • Appendices (action plans, copies of the SPOT analysis and balanced scorecard, supporting data, and financial reports)

Communicate the written plan to stakeholders through a variety of channels to ensure all employees, customers, Board members, funders, and community members have access to it.

 

Step Seven: Execute the plan.

Use programs, procedures, and budgets to implement your strategic plan.

 

Step Eight: Review the plan.

Regular review is necessary to improve the strategic plan and ensure its successful ongoing execution.

The first six steps of the above process include the plan development phase, which we will focus on in the remainder of this blog series. Once these pieces of the puzzle are in place, steps seven and eight follow seamlessly. The next article will begin to apply this step-by-step strategic planning approach to a real-world client, to bring the process to life. Stay tuned!

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