A simple definition of strategic planning is: “A systematic determination of goals and the plans to achieve them.” My approach consists of three stages 1) strategic analysis (where are we) 2) determining a strategic direction (where do we want to go) and 3) framing the strategic plan (how do we get there).
1) Strategic analysis and probing is the research work needed so that your plans are grounded in data or experience and merely untested perceptions and guesses. Part of this work is sometimes referred to as “external and internal scans.” An organization’s leadership needs to understand things like: the demographic of the stakeholders (or potential stakeholders) and their expressed needs; the key people in the organization, their skills, values, beliefs and passions; current policies of the organization and related agencies; trends and patterns within the social, economic and political context; who are the competitors or partners that affect the opportunities or risks; what are the current resources (people, knowledge, capital)?
One of the qualities that makes our approach different is that we understand the difference between ordered and unordered systems. Most organizations exist in both ordered and unordered domains. Ordered domains are where cause and effect, (or actions and outcomes) are predictable. Through research, analysis and response, plans can be set in motion that will have predictable outcomes. However, organizations also exist within unordered systems where cause and effects are so complex that outcomes cannot be predicted through analysis and response. Rather, in unordered systems, response (actions, plans) involves innovating through prototypes and continuous adjustments. Most systems involving living relationships (people, culture, and values) are complex. Our company uses conversational technologies (world café, open space, the circle way and appreciative inquiry) to discover emergent actions to prototype. For more on ordered and unordered systems, check out this article.
2) For many organizations, the next step will be to determine a strategic direction, based on what you know from the analysis. The strategic direction may include: a purpose (mission) statement (why do you exist, what difference will you make to society and your stakeholders); a vision statement (where do you want to be at some time in the future); a values statement (what are the values that you promote/exhibit). These insights enable the development of strategic goals, which are the time-fixed outcomes for the future. Jim Collins’ hedgehog principle can be helpful for determining goals that fit within the organization’s scope.
3) The third stage is mapping out the strategic actions. Strategic goals are broken down into a series of activities that when followed will result in the achievement of the goals. Most plans will set out a communication schedule to manage the relationships with people and organizations, a plan for further learning and research, and a breakdown of the milestones that lead toward the established goals.
Working with research partners, Joe Ramsay and Associates can partner with your organization to provide strategic analysis and help the organization’s leadership determine its strategic direction and create a strategic action plan.