by Joel Burgess

Strategic planning is used to determine the mission, vision, values, goals, objectives, roles and responsibilities and timelines of any organization. For that organization, strategic planning is a management tool that is used for only one purpose – to help an organization do a better job maximizing results ( Strategic planning aims to focus an organization’s energy, to ensure that members of the organization are working toward the same goals, and to assess and adjust the organization’s direction in response to a changing environment. In short, strategic planning is a disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does, and why it does it, with a focus on the future (Bryson’s Strategic Planning in Public and Nonprofit Organizations).

Some strategic plans are annual; however, some target three years, and many look five to ten years into the future.

Carter McNamara has identified three models for strategic planning:

–  Goals-based strategic planning – starts with focus on the organization’s mission, goals to work toward the mission, strategies to achieve the goals, and action planning.

–  Issues-based strategic planning – starts by examining issues facing the organization, strategies to address those issues, and action plans.

–  Organic strategic planning – starts by articulating the organization’s vision and values and then identifies action plans to achieve the vision while adhering to those values.

Whichever model is used, strategic planning should

  • Serve as a framework for decisions or for securing support/approval
  • Provide a basis for more detailed planning
  • Explain the business to others in order to inform, motivate and involve
  • Assist benchmarking & performance monitoring
  • Stimulate change and become building block for next plan (

The strategic planning process involves preparing best practices to respond to the circumstances of the organization’s environment. Strategic plans must be clear about the organization’s objectives, the organization’s resources, and incorporating the two into being consciously responsive to a dynamic environment. (McNamara)

It is important to note that strategic planning does not attempt to make future decisions (Steiner). Rather it involves anticipating the future environment with present-day decisions.

How to Develop your Strategic Plan

The development of a strategic plan follows the creation and affirmation of the organization’s purpose statement, environmental and program data collection and analysis, and identification of critical issues. Strategic plan formulation is a combination of rational, scientific examinations and educated, intuitive best guesses.

The process entails

  • examining the organization’s critical issues
  • determining how the organization’s strengths and skills can be employed to address the critical issues
  • analyzing opportunities and strengths and looking for ways to synthesize the two
  • exploring and choosing the best approaches for the organization.

During this evaluation ask these key questions: Does the strategy meet/address critical issues? Is this aligned with our mission? Is this approach financially viable? (Alliance Online)

According to Alliance Online, the following five steps should be taken:

1. The Workplan

–  Identify specific issues or choices that the planning process should address

–  Clarify roles

–  Create a planning committee

–  Develop an organizational profile

–  Identify the information that must be collected to help make sound decisions.

2. Articulating the Purpose, Mission , and Vision

A purpose is an end result, a goal which an organization is seeking to accomplish. Purpose is the answer to the question, Why does this organization exist?


Mission is a broader concept than the purpose. Likewise, a mission statement must communicate the essence of an organization. An organization’s ability to articulate its mission indicates its focus and purposefulness. A mission statement includes three major concepts:

–  the purpose,

–  the business (the main method or activity through which the organization tries it fulfill this purpose) an organization engages in to achieve this purpose, and

–  a statement of values guiding the accomplishment of the mission.


The vision is the most global concept. A vision is quite literally a mental image of the successful accomplishment of the mission, and thus the purpose of the organization. Values are the principles or beliefs that guide an organization’s members as they pursue the organization’s purpose

3. Assessing the Current Situation

Situation assessment is obtaining current information about the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, and performance. Examples include funding issues, new program opportunities, changing regulations or changing needs in the client population, etc. (Lockwood).

4. Developing Strategies, Goals, and Objectives

Once the critical issues of the organization have been identified, decisions must be made as to the broad approaches that will be taken (strategies) and the general and specific results that are desired (the goals and objectives).

5. Completing the Written Plan

Obviously this step involves putting all the information down on paper.

Alliance Online Website.

Bryson’s Strategic Planning in Public and Nonprofit Organizations

Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. Lockwood, Gary. Annual Planning: Strategic

Steps That Could Save Your Business. Published by Self-Employed America.

McNamara, Carter, MBA, PhD. Strategic Planning (in nonprofit or for-profit organizations). Center. Copyright © 1994-95, 706 Mission Street , 5th Floor, San Francisco, CA, USA 94103-3113. 415-974-5100.