The New Strategic Plan

The process of strategic planning continues to change and evolve. The strategic planning procedures adopted by many organizations decades ago are no longer in use. While the basic tenets of strategic planning have remained consistent, organizational processes to enact a strategic plan have changed and continue to evolve. Has your organization adapted to the new strategic planning realities?

The central tenets of strategic planning remain the same – developing newly envisioned organizational goals based on the organization’s core mission, bounded by internal and external realities. At the heart of strategic planning is the organization’s mission, the guiding organizational principles with which everything aligns. The limits of organizational accomplishments exist within and external to the organization. For example, an organization does not have unlimited resources or may have regulatory constraints that limit outcomes. A SWOT analysis is typically used to identify these internal and external realities. Strategic planning is the bridge between the internal and external limitations and the newly envisioned organizational goals. These essential elements exist in the strategic planning processes currently in use today.

There are two changes to the strategic planning process that I have observed as I have worked with businesses and non-profit organizations to develop strategic plans over the years. First, the length of strategic plans is shrinking. Twenty years ago, it was common to focus on a ten to a fifteen-year strategic plan. Today, the businesses and organizations I work with have plans in the three to five-year time frame. The strategic horizon is diminishing as internal and external environmental factors become more prevalent. It is not to say that organizations are any less concerned about long-term viability. Organizations have become more aggressive in responding to and anticipating environmental factors.

Second, how a strategic plan is developed has changed. A decade or so ago, entire organizations came together to work on a strategic plan from start to finish. It was a time and labor-intensive process. Today, I see a more bifurcated process with board members and executive managers focused on developing the organization’s new vision. In contrast, line and staff managers develop the operational details to achieve the new vision. This newfound division of labor in strategic planning goes hand in hand with the diminishing strategic horizon. As the time to the next planning cycle decreases, the time spent on developing a strategic plan must likewise decrease. To gain this efficiency, the organization must execute the strategic plan more quickly than in past plan years, leaving less time dedicated to the strategic planning process.

Are you ready for today’s strategic planning process? Is your organization prepared to develop a new strategic plan? Let’s have a conversation about how we can make strategic planning work for your organization. Connect with me.

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