Four Stages of Strategic Planning

Strategic planning can be an intimidating process for many organizational leaders. The reasons for this vary, but oftentimes it is due to a lack of clear understanding about what is involved in the strategic planning process.

In this post I will briefly identify the four phases of strategic planning, which should help you better understand the process and navigate it more effectively. Part of the intimidation with strategic planning is due to feeling overwhelmed with the whole process; therefore, I believe that breaking it down into stages makes it more manageable and understandable.

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Here are the Four Stages:

1) Formation: Developing the plan. This will require the most effort and coordination, as you will need to bring together a group of people with varying perspectives and ideas to develop and write the plan. Transparency, objectivity, open-mindedness, and unity are essential.

2) Communication: Sharing the plan. After the plan has been developed, it must be communicated clearly, convincingly, and consistently. This is the primary responsibility of the leader, but there must also be a coalition of people within the organization who can communicate the essentials of the plan with others.

3) Implementation: Doing the plan. This stage will require a high level of commitment and action on the part of everyone. Intentional leadership at all levels of the organization is the key to successful implementation.

4) Evaluation: Assessing the plan. You need to establish clear metrics for each of your goals in order to provide an objective measure of your progress. It is recommended that your plan be evaluated at regular six-month intervals and adjusted as needed.

Understanding each of these four stages is essential to creating and implementing an effective strategic plan. Instead of trying to think through and do everything at once, focus on delivering excellence, one stage at a time. Doing so will ensure that you do not cut any corners or settle for mediocrity.

In subsequent posts I will outline and breakdown the key steps that must be undertaken at each stage.

Four stages of strategic planning video:

Why You Need a Strategic Plan

Who What Why When Where Signpost Showing Confusion Brainstorming And ResearchWhether you run a corporation, small business, non-profit, or a church, you need a strategic plan. Why? Because it serves as a guide for the future, keeps team members focused on doing the things that matter most, and enables the organization to be intentional about pursuing its overall vision and mission.

An effective strategic plan serves three core purposes:

1)      It provides direction. If you are going to inspire action and passion in your organization, then as a leader you must determine the direction and priorities of the organization. Nothing is more uninspiring to employees than being part of a company or team that lacks a clear vision for the future. People need to know where the organization is going and what role they play.

2)      It creates alignment. Once you have established direction, the next component of the strategic plan is to align all of the activities within the organization toward the vision and strategic goals. It is very possible that you have a number of very good initiatives and activities taking place at any given time, but it does not mean that those endeavors all serve the purpose and vision of the organization. A good strategic plan organizes and brings everything under one roof to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness. Remember, if everything is important, then nothing is important.

3)      It clarifies the allocation of resources. Lastly, a strategic plan will help you clarify how to allocate resources and achieve the long-term vision and goals of the organization. When you establish clear direction and create alignment, you will then be able to better allocate personnel, time, and financial resources toward the achievement of the organization’s goals and vision. The ultimate result is greater impact.

Organizational leaders engage in the strategic planning process in a number of different ways and for varied time frames. Although the approach to strategic planning is important for ensuring quality and effectiveness, of most importance is actually doing a plan in the first place. Do you currently have a strategic plan? If not, now is a great time to begin the process.

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Also, watch this short video for more insights on strategic planning: