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The Strategic Plan Made Simple

ASK THE COACH® by Tammy Holyfield

The Strategic Plan Made Simple

Dear Coach,

Our organization is going though a strategic planning process. What do they mean by vision, isn’t that the same as goals? Could you explain the process and define the terms?

- Confused planner

Dear Confused Planner,

Strategic planning is a systematic way of planning for the future. It is a process of taking informational inputs, organizing that information and then producing an output = THE PLAN. This process is essential to success because it takes strategies, goals and objectives and charts a course that keeps the organization focused and unified. Strategic planning helps determine where you are going and how to get there. There are various methodologies but the outcome is usually a course of action to achieve a desired result. Its purpose will also direct decision making and disperse resources. The foundations of organizational strategic planning are vision, mission, values, goals, and action or execution of the plan.

Vision and Its Impact

The VISION is the “where” you are going. Its’ purpose is to inspire and direct us toward the future. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” If leaders fail to dream big dreams, then a company may never attain greatness. We only rise to the level of expectations we see.

Vision should resonate with members of the organization to help them feel proud, excited, and part of something much bigger than themselves. It should also stretch the organization's capabilities and image of itself.

"A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and power." --Brian Tracy

An excellent vision is consistent with the organization's values. In short, a vision should challenge and inspire the group to achieve its mission.

John F. Kennedy did not live to see the reality of his vision for NASA, but he set it in motion when he said, "By the end of the decade, we will put a man on the moon."

That night, when the moon came out, we could all look out the window and imagine. And when it came time to appropriate the enormous funds necessary to accomplish this vision, Congress did not hesitate. Why? Because this vision spoke powerfully to values Americans held dear: America as a pioneer and America as world leader.

Mission Minded

Mission is your organization’s fundamental purpose. It’s why you exist as a company. For example, The United Way’s mission is helping build community capacity for a better quality of life worldwide through voluntary giving and action. Coca-Cola states this mission “To Refresh the World, to inspire moments of optimism and to create value and make a difference. In each instance, the company is built around its mission. Having a mission shapes the organization and its culture. Mission is essential to staying the course. Changes in the market and the economy – as well as lucrative business opportunities – can complicate the ability of an organization to stay true to its identity. A solid mission sounds as a battle cry, bringing unity to all levels of an organization.

Visible Values

Values are the beliefs that govern your behavior as an organization. One of the most potent tools for making fulfilling life choices is to explore, define and clarify your core values. Our values are the internal compass that helps guide our decision making. When we make decisions based on our values, we feel peace and contentment.

Values also define how people behave with each other in the company. They are characteristics as to how the company will value customers, suppliers and the internal community. Values are often the most recognizable of the three. Great companies with great values put their money where their mouth is. In other words, steadfast values yield results in the form of good employee benefit packages, positive community involvement and strong corporate cultures. Values are often the most outward sign for both employees and community of what your company is really all about.

Guiding Goals

Goals are the means or road to the vision, the steps to get there.

Goal: the object to which effort or ambition is directed; the destination of a journey. - Oxford English Dictionary

It’s been said that every organization has goals, whether we know what they are or not. An important distinction, however, is that great organizations are very intentional and focused on their goals. Success is in the alignment between the vision, mission, values, goals and actions.

Setting measurable goals can drive your company's competitive advantage... especially if your organization has a number of "stretch goals" it must achieve to insure economic viability or survivability. Without a clear target, you remain in a constant state of instability. While you are going through the motions—all you are doing is running in circles.


Action Plans are the verb of the strategic plan. Action will move you from where you are to where you what to be. Action plans break down complex goals into immediately "do-able" steps. An action plan is simply a list of all the tasks you will need to complete in order to achieve the goal. It is the next step to seeing the vision become a reality. One of the greatest keys to a successful strategic plan is the plan’s execution. Action or execution is the “how” of the planning process. When creating a plan include how you intended to carry out the plan. Planning the action and execution pieces will help you to have a more realistic view.

Strategic planning is an essential to organizational success, but it doesn’t have to be so complex that it gets left out of our day to day. It is not something that is done once a year and the two inch thick document gets tucked away in a desk drawer. If executed with excellence strategic planning becomes a culture that improves communication, clarifies direction, while establishing a common and shared vision for the organization to pursue. Keeping it simple, communicating and translating the plan into daily action. That is where the power lives.

Tammy Holyfield is a professional speaker, leadership expert, author and consultant, on a mission to teach and inspire people to improve their everyday life. For information on organizational solutions contact us today.

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