Keys to a successful Strategic Planning Process

by Steve Popell on January 5, 2011

The time-tested strategic planning process includes the following elements.

  • Vision (3-5 years)
  • Mission (3-5 years)
  • Long-Range Goals (3-5 years)
  • Short-Term Objectives (next 12 months)
  • Task Assignments (to accomplish the Short-Term Objectives)
  • Action Items (What do we do Tuesday?)
  • Follow-up (to compare actual performance with plan)

Some give short shrift to the Vision and Mission as “touchy-feely” and somehow remote from daily operations.  This is a mistake.  In fact, developing a clear Vision and Mission, and communicating the same to all employees, can play a critical role in the company’s future success.

The Vision

Any worthwhile strategic planning process must begin with your Vision for the company at some specific date in the future.  What will be your company’s identity?  When customers, suppliers or professionals hear your company’s name, what image do you want them to conjure up?  What overriding quality do you want front of mind?  In other words: Who is this company?  Here are a few examples of vision statements that speak to this identity question.  Note that none of these statements says anything specific about what the company does for a living or about the customer base.

  1. We make the defense of the U.S. homeland stronger and more flexible.
  2. We help our clients’ teams to function more cohesively and effectively.
  3. We improve the quality of health care in America.
  4. We make transit passengers safer.

When your employees fully understand (intellectually and viscerally) your company’s Vision, they will be able to see how optimum performance in their individual jobs will contribute to the fulfillment of that vision.  This connection is critical for long-term job satisfaction, high achievement and career track progress.

When an outsider sees and understands the Vision, the first question that comes to mind is “How do they do that?”  This is where the Mission comes in.

The Mission Statement

The Mission statement describes your company’s function in concrete terms.   Using the same examples, here is a group of Mission statements that address the question “What does this company do, and for whom?”

  1. We train dogs to assist Customs inspectors to locate drugs and explosives.
  2. We deliver workshops to privately held companies on verbal and written communication, listening skills and teamwork.
  3. We make timely delivery of top-quality components to medical instrumentation OEMs.
  4. We manufacture shatter-proof glass for public transit vehicles.

Marrying the Vision and Mission statements is essential, because it helps to get across to your employees how truly important each of their jobs is in the grand scheme of things.  For example, these dog trainers are obviously in support of the drug and explosive interdiction business.  But, interdiction is a means, not an end.  The end is that we are all safer in this country.

In this example, you want your employee to make the connection that “If I do my job really well, I will be saving lives. I may never know the names or, even, the home towns of those I save, but they will be alive because of me/”  If your strategic planning group crafts meaningful Vision and Mission statements, you will create an environment in which this kind of connection will be a small step, not a leap.

Good luck!


PhotoPopell This article has been contributed by Steven D. Popell. Steve has been a general management consultant since 1970. Steve is a Certified Management Consultant, business valuation expert, and inventor of ExiTrak®– a process designed to assist the privately-held company owner/manager to build an attractive strategic acquisition candidate

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