If your strategic plan reads more like a job description for the organization instead of a declaration of what the enterprise wants to achieve for its members, industry, profession or cause, then the answer is “no.” A strategic plan declares what will constitute success for an organization in terms of how the world will be different in a better way as a result of its efforts. In other words, where the organization wants to go and how it intends to get there. Some organizations have a very compelling vision about what the organization wants to be like in ten plus years, but then the goals and objectives call for specific activities and action steps to be undertaken in the one to two years. This easily devolves into more of a program or business plan. Such operational plans are important, but they are NOT strategic.
For budgeting purposes operational plans need to include all the activities the organization plans to undertake in the next fiscal year. The goals, objectives and strategies of a good long range strategic plan will focus the organization on where they want to go and the strategic initiatives they need to undertake to get there. This means that when financial, staff and volunteer resources are allocated annually, an organization may have to modify operations to accommodate the activities that are deemed to be of higher priority or more strategic in their approach to accomplish the strategic outcomes.
We think the following definitions describe the primary elements of a strategic plan and can help differentiate what’s operational from what’s strategic:
VISION: A clear and compelling catalyst; what the organization seeks to be or become. A vibrant and engaging description of how the world will be different and better.
CORE PURPOSE: The association’s reason for being.
MISSION: A statement of who the members are, what they are trying to accomplish and basically how they intend to accomplish it.
CORE VALUES: The essential and enduring principles that guide an association.
GOALS: Describe the outcomes the organization will achieve for its stakeholders (members, customers, the association itself, etc.). Five year time frame reviewed every year by the board.
OBJECTIVES: Describe what we want to have happen with an issue. What would constitute success in observable or measurable terms? Indicates a direction – increase, expand, decrease, reduce, consolidate, abandon, all, distribute, none. Three to five-year time frame, reviewed every year by the Board.
STRATEGIES: Describe how the association will commit its’ resources to accomplishing the goal. Brings focus to operational allocation of resources. Indicates an activity – redesign, refine, create, identify, revise, develop, improve, enhance, implement, establish. One to three-year time frame reviewed every year by the Board. Serve as a link from long-term planning to annual planning. Set strategic priorities for committees, staff and all other work groups.
Is your organization’s strategic plan really strategic?