The Complete Guide to Writing a Strategic Plan
By Joe Weller | April 12, 2019 (updated November 16, 2023)
Writing a strategic plan can be daunting, as the process includes many steps. In this article, you’ll learn the basics of writing a strategic plan, what to include, common challenges, and more.
Included on this page, you'll find details on what to include in a strategic plan , the importance of an executive summary , how to write a mission statement , how to write a vision statement , and more.
The Basics of Writing a Strategic Plan
The strategic planning process takes time, but the payoff is huge. If done correctly, your strategic plan will engage and align stakeholders around your company’s priorities.
Strategic planning, also called strategy development or analysis and assessment , requires attention to detail and should be performed by someone who can follow through on next steps and regular updates. Strategic plans are not static documents — they change as new circumstances arise, both internally and externally.
Before beginning the strategic planning process, it’s important to make sure you have buy-in from management, a board of directors, or other leaders. Without it, the process cannot succeed.
Next, gather your planning team. The group should include people from various departments at different levels, and the planning process should be an open, free discussion within the group. It’s important for leaders to get input from the group as a whole, but they don’t necessarily need approval from everyone — that will slow down the process.
The plan author is responsible for writing and putting the final plan together and should work with a smaller group of writers to establish and standardize the tone and style of the final document or presentation.
Sometimes, it’s a good idea to hire an external party to help facilitate the strategic planning process.
“It often can be helpful to have a really good facilitator to organize and pursue strategic conversations,” says Professor John M. Bryson, McKnight Presidential Professor of Planning and Public Affairs at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota and author of Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations: A Guide to Strengthening and Sustaining Organizational Achievement .
Byson says the facilitator can be in-house or external, but they need experience. “You need to make sure someone is good, so there needs to be a vetting process,” he says.
One way to gauge a facilitator’s experience is by asking how they conduct conversations. “It’s important for facilitators to lead by asking questions,” Bryson says.
Bryson says that strong facilitators often ask the following questions:
What is the situation we find ourselves in?
What do we do?
How do we do it?
How do we link our purposes to our capabilities?
The facilitators also need to be able to handle conflict and diffuse situations by separating idea generation from judgement. “Conflict is part of strategic planning,” Bryson admits. “[Facilitators] need to hold the conversations open long enough to get enough ideas out there to be able to make wise choices.”
These outside helpers are sometimes more effective than internal facilitators since they are not emotionally invested in the outcome of the process. Thus, they can concentrate on the process and ask difficult questions.
A strategic plan is a dynamic document or presentation that details your company’s present situation, outlines your future plans, and shows you how the company can get there. You can take many approaches to the process and consider differing ideas about what needs to go into it, but some general concepts stand.
“Strategic planning is a prompt or a facilitator for fostering strategic thinking, acting, and learning,” says Bryson. He explains that he often begins planning projects with three questions:
What do you want to do?
How are we going to do it?
What would happen if you did what you want to do?
The answers to these questions make up the meat of the planning document.
A strategic plan is only effective when the writing and thinking is clear, since the intent is to help an organization keep to its mission through programs and capacity, while also building stakeholder engagement.
Question 1: Where Are We Now?
The answer (or answers) to the first question — where are we now? — addresses the foundation of your organization, and it can serve as an outline for the following sections of your strategic plan:
Core values and guiding principles
Identification of competing organizations
Industry analysis (this can include a SWOT or PEST analysis)
Question 2: Where Are We Going?
The answers to this question help you identify your goals for the future of the business and assess whether your current trajectory is the future you want. These aspects of the plan outline a strategy for achieving success and can include the following:
Vision statement about what the company will look like in the future
What is happening (both internally and externally) and what needs to change
The factors necessary for success
Question 3: How Do We Get There?
The answers to this question help you outline the many routes you can take to achieve your vision and match your strengths with opportunities in the market. A Gantt chart can help you map out and keep track of these initiatives.
You should include the following sections:
Specific and measurable goals
An execution plan that identifies who manages and monitors the plan
An evaluation plan that shows how you plan to measure the successes and setbacks that come with implementation
What to Include in a Strategic Plan
Strategic planning terminology is not standardized throughout the industry, and this can lead to confusion. Instead, strategic planning experts use many names for the different sections of a strategic plan.
“The terms are all over the map. It’s really the concept of what the intention of the terms are [that is important],” says Denise McNerney, President and CEO of iBossWell, Inc. , and incoming president of the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP). She recommends coming up with a kind of glossary that defines the terms for your team. “One of the most important elements when you’re starting the strategic planning process is to get some clarity on the nomenclature. It’s just what works for your organization. Every organization is slightly different.”
No matter what terms you use, the general idea of a strategic plan is the same. “It’s like drawing a map for your company. One of the first steps is committing to a process, then determining how you’re going to do it,” McNerney explains.
She uses a basic diagram that she calls the strategic plan architecture . The areas above the red dotted line are the strategic parts of the plan. Below the red dotted line are the implementation pieces.
While the specific terminology varies, basic sections of a strategic plan include the following in roughly this order:
Elevator pitch or company description
Some plans will contain all the above sections, but others will not — what you include depends on your organization’s structure and culture.
“I want to keep it simple, so organizations can be successful in achieving [the strategic plan],” McNerney explains. “Your plan has to be aligned with your culture and your culture needs to be aligned with your plan if you’re going to be successful in implementing it.”
The following checklist will help you keep track of what you have done and what you still need to do.
Download Strategic Plan Sections Checklist
How to Write a Strategic Plan
Once you’ve assembled your team and defined your terms, it’s time to formalize your ideas by writing the strategic plan. The plan may be in the form of a document, a presentation, or another format.
You can use many models and formats to create your strategic plan (read more about them in this article ). However, you will likely need to include some basic sections, regardless of the particular method you choose (even if the order and way you present them vary). In many cases, the sections of a strategic plan build on each other, so you may have to write them in order.
One tip: Try to avoid jargon and generic terms; for example, words like maximize and succeed lose their punch. Additionally, remember that there are many terms for the same object in strategic planning.
The following sections walk you through how to write common sections of a strategic plan.
How to Write an Executive Summary
The key to writing a strong executive summary is being clear and concise. Don’t feel pressured to put anything and everything into this section — executive summaries should only be about one to two pages long and include the main points of the strategic plan.
The idea is to pique the reader’s interest and get them to read the rest of the plan. Because it functions as a review of the entire document, write the executive summary after you complete the rest of your strategic plan.
“If you have a plan that’s really lengthy, you should have a summary,” says Jim Stockmal, President of the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP). He always writes summaries last, after he has all the data and information he needs for the plan. He says it is easier to cut than to create something.
For more information about writing an effective executive summary, a checklist, and free templates, read this article .
If you want a one-page executive summary, this template can help you decide what information to include.
Download One-Page Executive Summary Template
Excel | Word | PDF
How to Write a Company Description
Also called an elevator pitch , the company description is a brief outline of your organization and what it does. It should be short enough that it can be read or heard during the average elevator ride.
The company description should include the history of your company, the major products and services you provide, and any highlights and accomplishments, and it should accomplish the following:
Define what you are as a company.
Describe what the company does.
Identify your ideal client and customer.
Highlight what makes your company unique.
While this may seem basic, the company description changes as your company grows and changes. For example, your ideal customer five years ago might not be the same as the current standard or the one you want in five years.
Share the company description with everyone in your organization. If employees cannot accurately articulate what you do to others, you might miss out on opportunities.
How to Write a Mission Statement
The mission statement explains what your business is trying to achieve. In addition to guiding your entire company, it also helps your employees make decisions that move them toward the company’s overall mission and goals.
“Ideally, [the mission statement is] something that describes what you’re about at the highest level,” McNerney says. “It’s the reason you exist or what you do.”
Strong mission statements can help differentiate your company from your competitors and keep you on track toward your goals. It can also function as a type of tagline for your organization.
Mission statements should do the following:
Define your company’s purpose. Say what you do, who you do it for, and why it is valuable.
Use specific and easy-to-understand language.
Be inspirational while remaining realistic.
Be short and succinct.
This is your chance to define the way your company will make decisions based on goals, culture, and ethics. Mission statements should not be vague or generic, and they should set your business apart from others. If your mission statement could define many companies in your line of work, it is not a good mission statement.
Mission statements don’t have to be only outward-facing for customers or partners. In fact, it is also possible to include what your company does for its employees in your mission statement.
Unlike other parts of your strategic plan that are designed to be reviewed and edited periodically, your company’s mission statement should live as is for a while.
That said, make the effort to edit and refine your mission statement. Take out jargon like world class, best possible, state of the art, maximize, succeed , and so on, and cut vague or unspecific phrasing. Then let your strategic planning committee review it.
How to Write a Vision Statement
Every action your company does contributes to its vision. The vision statement explains what your company wants to achieve in the long term and can help inspire and align your team.
“The vision is the highest-ordered statement of the desired future or state of what you want your business to achieve,” McNerney explains.
A clear vision statement can help all stakeholders understand the meaning and purpose of your company. It should encourage and inspire employees while setting your company’s direction. It also helps you rule out elements that might not align with your vision.
Vision statements should be short (a few sentences). They should also be memorable, specific, and ambitious. But there is a fine line between being ambitious and creating a fantasy. The vision should be clearly attainable if you follow the goals and objectives you outline later in your strategic planning plan.
Because you need to know your company’s goals and objectives to create an accurate vision statement, you might need to wait until you have more information about the company’s direction to write your vision statement.
Below are questions to ask your team as you craft your vision statement:
What impact do we want to have on our community and industry?
How will we interact with others as a company?
What is the culture of the business?
Avoid broad statements that could apply to any company or industry. For example, phrases like “delivering a wonderful experience” could apply to many industries. Write in the present tense, avoid jargon, and be clear and concise.
Vision statements should accomplish the following:
Focus on success.
Look at and project about five to 10 years ahead.
Stay in line with the goals and values of your organization.
Once you write your vision statement, communicate it to everyone in your company. Your team should be able to easily understand and repeat the company’s vision statement. Remember, the statements can change as the environment in and around your company changes.
The Difference Between Mission and Vision Statements
Mission and vision statements are both important, but they serve very different purposes.
Mission statements show why a business exists, while vision statements are meant to inspire and provide direction. Mission statements are about the present, and vision statements are about the future. The mission provides items to act upon, and the vision offers goals to aspire to.
For example, if a vision statement is “No child goes to bed hungry,” the accompanying mission would be to provide food banks within the city limits.
While many organizations have both mission and vision statements, it’s not imperative. “Not everyone has a vision statement,” McNerney says. “Some organizations just have one.”
If you choose to have only one statement, McNerney offers some advice: “Any statement you have, if you have just one, needs to include what [you do], how [you do it], why [you do it], and who you do it for.”
During the planning process, these key statements might change. “Early on in the process, you need to talk about what you are doing and why and how you are doing it. Sometimes you think you know where you want to go, but you’re not really sure,” McNerney says. “You need to have flexibility both on the plan content and in the process.”
How to Write Your Company’s Core Values
Company core values , sometimes called organizational values , help you understand what drives the company to do what it does. In this section, you’ll learn a lot about your company and the people who work with you. It should be relatively easy to write.
“The values are the core of how you operate [and] how you treat your people, both internally and externally. Values describe the behaviors you really want to advance,” McNerney says.
There are both internal and external values looking at your employees and coworkers, as well as customers and outside stakeholders. Pinpointing values will help you figure out the traits of the people you want to hire and promote, as well as the qualities you’re looking for in your customers.
Your values should align with your vision statement and highlight your strengths while mitigating weaknesses. McNerney says many organizations do not really consider or are not honest about their company’s values when working on strategic plans, which can lead to failure.
“Your strategies have to align with your values and vice versa,” she explains.
Many companies’ values sound like meaningless jargon, so take the time to figure out what matters to your company and push beyond generic language.
How to Write about Your Industry
When planning ahead for your business, it’s important to look around. How are matters inside your company? What are your competitors doing? Who are your target customers?
“[If you don’t do a thorough industry analysis], you’re doing your planning with your head in the sand. If you’re not looking at the world around you, you’re missing a whole dimension about what should inform your decision making,” McNerney advises.
Writing about your industry helps you identify new opportunities for growth and shows you how you need to change in order to take advantage of those opportunities. Identify your key competitors, and define what you see as their strengths and weaknesses. Performing this analysis will help you figure out what you do best and how you compare to your competition. Once you know what you do well, you can exploit your strengths to your advantage.
In this section, also include your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. You can choose from many templates to help you write this section.
Next, identify your target customers. Think about what they want and need, as well as how you can provide it. Do your competitors attract your target customers, or do you have a niche that sets you apart?
The industry analysis carries a price, but also provides many benefits. “It takes some time and money to do [a thorough industry analysis], but the lack of that understanding says a lot about the future of your organization. If you don’t know what is going on around you, how can you stay competitive?” explains McNerney.
How to Write Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives
This section is the bulk of your strategic plan. Many people confuse goals and objectives, thinking the terms are interchangeable, but many argue that the two are distinct. You can think of them this way:
Goals : Goals are broad statements about what you want to achieve as a company, and they’re usually qualitative. They function as a description of where you want to go, and they can address both the short and long term.
Objectives : Objectives support goals, and they’re usually quantitative and measurable. They describe how you will measure the progress needed to arrive at the destination you outlined in the goal. More than one objective can support one goal.
For example, if your goal is to achieve success as a strategic planner, your objective would be to write all sections of the strategic plan in one month.
iBossWell, Inc.’s McNerney reiterates that there are not hard and fast definitions for the terms goals and objectives , as well as many other strategic planning concepts. “I wouldn’t attempt to put a definition to the terms. You hear the terms goals and objectives a lot, but they mean different things to different people. What some people call a goal , others call an objective . What some people call an objective , others would call a KPI. ” They key, she explains, is to decide what the terms mean in your organization, explain the definitions to key stakeholders, and stick to those definitions.
How to Write Goals
Goals form the basis of your strategic plan. They set out your priorities and initiatives, and therefore are critical elements and define what your plan will accomplish. Some planning specialists use the term strategic objectives or strategic priorities when referring to goals, but for clarity, this article will use the term goals.
“[Goals] are the higher level that contain several statements about what your priorities are,” McNerney explains. They are often near the top of your plan’s hierarchy.
Each goal should reflect something you uncovered during the analysis phase of your strategic planning process. Goals should be precise and concise statements, not long narratives. For example, your goals might be the following:
Eliminate case backlog.
Lower production costs.
Increase total revenue.
Each goal should have a stated outcome and a deadline. Think of goal writing as a formula: Action + detail of the action + a measurable metric + a deadline = goal. For example, your goal might be: Increase total revenue by 5 percent in three product areas by the third quarter of 2020.
Another way to look at it: Verb (action) + adjective (description) = noun (result). An example goal: Increase website fundraising.
Your goals should strike a balance between being aspirational and tangible. You want to stretch your limits, but not make them too difficult to reach. Your entire organization and stakeholders should be able to remember and understand your goals.
Think about goals with varying lengths. Some should go out five to 10 years, others will be shorter — some significantly so. Some goals might even be quarterly, monthly, or weekly. But be careful to not create too many goals. Focus on the ones that allow you to zero in on what is critical for your company’s success. Remember, several objectives and action steps will likely come from each goal.
How to Write Objectives
Objectives are the turn-by-turn directions of how to achieve your goals. They are set in statement and purpose with no ambiguity about whether you achieve them or not.
Your goals are where you want to go. Next, you have to determine how to get there, via a few different objectives that support each goal. Note that objectives can cover several areas.
“You need implementation elements of the plan to be successful,” McNerney says, adding that some people refer to objectives as tactics , actions , and many other terms.
Objectives often begin with the words increase or decrease because they are quantifiable and measurable. You will know when you achieve an objective. They are action items, often with start and end dates.
Use the goal example from earlier: Increase total revenue by 5 percent in three product areas by the third quarter of 2020. In this example, your objectives could be:
Approach three new possible clients each month.
Promote the three key product areas on the website and in email newsletters.
Think of the acronym SMART when writing objectives: Make them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic/relevant, and time-bound.
Breaking down the process further, some strategic planners use the terms strategies and tactics to label ways to achieve objectives. Using these terms, strategies describe an approach or method you will use to achieve an objective. A tactic is a specific activity or project that achieves the strategy, which, in turn, helps achieve the objective.
How to Write about Capacity, Operations Plans, Marketing Plans, and Financial Plans
After you come up with your goals and objectives, you need to figure out who will do what, how you will market what they do, and how you will pay for what you need to do.
“If you choose to shortchange the process [and not talk about capacity and finances], you need to know what the consequences will be,” explains McNerney. “If you do not consider the additional costs or revenues your plan is going to drive, you may be creating a plan you cannot implement.”
To achieve all the goals outlined in your strategic plan, you need the right people in place. Include a section in your strategic plan where you talk about the capacity of your organization. Do you have the team members to accomplish the objectives you have outlined in order to reach your goals? If not, you may need to hire personnel.
The operations plan maps out your initiatives and shows you who is going to do what, when, and how. This helps transform your goals and objectives into a reality. A summary of it should go into your strategic plan. If you need assistance writing a comprehensive implementation plan for your organization, this article can guide you through the process.
A marketing plan describes how you attract prospects and convert them into customers. You don’t need to include the entire marketing plan in your strategic plan, but you might want to include a summary. For more information about writing marketing plans, this article can help.
Then there are finances. We would all like to accomplish every goal, but sometimes we do not have enough money to do so. A financial plan can help you set your priorities. Check out these templates to help you get started with a financial plan.
How to Write Performance Indicators
In order to know if you are reaching the goals you outline in your strategic plan, you need performance indicators. These indicators will show you what success looks like and ensure accountability. Sadly, strategic plans have a tendency to fail when nobody periodically assesses progress.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) can show you how your business is progressing. KPIs can be both financial and nonfinancial measures that help you chart your progress and take corrective measures if actions are not unfolding as they should. Other terms similar to KPIs include performance measures and performance indicators .
Performance indicators are not always financial, but they must be quantifiable. For example, tracking visitors to a website, customers completing a contact form, or the number of proposals that close with deals are all performance indicators that keep you on track toward achieving your goals.
When writing your performance indicators, pay attention to the following:
Define how often you need to report results.
Every KPI must have some sort of measure.
List a measure and a time period.
Note the data source where you will get your information to measure and track.
ASP’s Stockmal has some questions for you to ask yourself about picking performance indicators.
Are you in control of the performance measure?
Does the performance measure support the strategic outcomes?
Is it feasible?
Is data available?
Who is collecting that data, and how will they do it?
Is the data timely?
Is it cost-effective to collect that data?
ls the goal quantifiable, and can you measure it over time?
Are your targets realistic and time-bound?
Stockmal also says performance indicators cannot focus on only one thing at the detriment of another. “Don’t lose what makes you good,” he says. He adds that focusing on one KPI can hurt other areas of a company’s performance, so reaching a goal can be short-sided.
Some performance indicators can go into your strategic plan, but you might want to set other goals for your organization. A KPI dashboard can help you set up and track your performance and for more information about setting up a KPI dashboard, this article can help.
Communicating Your Strategic Plan
While writing your strategic plan, you should think about how to share it. A plan is no good if it sits on a shelf and nobody reads it.
“After the meetings are over, you have to turn your strategy into action,” says Stefan Hofmeyer, an experienced strategist and co-founder of Global PMI Partners . “Get in front of employees and present the plan [to get everyone involved].” Hofmeyer explains his research has shown that people stay with companies not always because of money, but often because they buy into the organization’s vision and want to play a part in helping it get where it wants to go. “These are the people you want to keep because they are invested,” he says.
Decide who should get a physical copy of the entire plan. This could include management, the board of directors, owners, and more. Do your best to keep it from your competitors. If you distribute it outside of your company, you might want to attach a confidentiality waiver.
You can communicate your plan to stakeholders in the following ways:
Hold a meeting to present the plan in person.
Highlight the plan in a company newsletter.
Include the plan in new employee onboarding.
Post the plan on the employee intranet, along with key highlights and a way to track progress.
If you hold a meeting, make sure you and other key planners are prepared to handle the feedback and discussion that will arise. You should be able to defend your plan and reinforce its key areas. The goal of the plan’s distribution is to make sure everyone understands their role in making the plan successful.
Remind people of your company’s mission, vision, and values to reinforce their importance. You can use posters or other visual methods to post around the office. The more that people feel they play an important part in the organization’s success, they more successful you will be in reaching your goals of your strategic plan.
Challenges in Writing a Strategic Plan
As mentioned, strategic planning is a process and involves a team. As with any team activity, there will be challenges.
Sometimes the consensus can take priority over what is clear. Peer pressure can be a strong force, especially if a boss or other manager is the one making suggestions and people feel pressured to conform. Some people might feel reluctant to give any input because they do not think it matters to the person who ultimately decides what goes into the plan.
Team troubles can also occur when one or more members does not think the plan is important or does not buy into the process. Team leaders need to take care of these troubles before they get out of hand.
Pay attention to your company culture and the readiness you have as a group, and adapt the planning process to fit accordingly. You need to find the balance between the process and the final product.
The planning process takes time. Many organizations do not give themselves enough time to plan properly, and once you finish planning, writing the document or presentation also takes time, as does implementation. Don’t plan so much that you ignore how you are going to put the plan into action. One symptom of this is not aligning the plan to fit the capacity or finances of the company.
Stockmal explains that many organizations often focus too much on the future and reaching their goals that they forget what made them a strong company in the first place. Business architecture is important, which Stockmal says is “building the capabilities the organization needs to fulfill its strategy.” He adds that nothing happens if there is no budget workers to do the work necessary to drive change.
Be careful with the information you gather. Do not take shortcuts in the research phase — that will lead to bad information coming out further in the process. Also, do not ignore negative information you may learn. Overcoming adversity is one way for companies to grow.
Be wary of cutting and pasting either from plans from past years or from other similar organizations. Every company is unique.
And while this may sound obvious, do not ignore what your planning process tells you. Your research might show you should not go in a direction you might want to.
Writing Different Types of Strategic Plans
The strategic planning process will differ based on your organization, but the basic concepts will stay the same. Whether you are a nonprofit, a school, or a for-profit entity, strategic plans will look at where you are and how you will get to where you want to go.
How to Write a Strategic Plan for a Nonprofit
For a nonprofit, the strategic plan’s purpose is mainly how to best advance the mission. It’s imperative to make sure the mission statement accurately fits the organization.
In addition to a SWOT analysis and other sections that go into any strategic plan, a nonprofit needs to keep an eye on changing factors, such as funding. Some funding sources have finite beginnings and endings. Strategic planning is often continuous for nonprofits.
A nonprofit has to make the community care about its cause. In a for-profit organization, the marketing department works to promote the company’s product or services to bring in new revenue. For a nonprofit, however, conveying that message needs to be part of the strategic plan.
Coming up with an evaluation method and KPIs can sometimes be difficult for a nonprofit, since they are often focused on goals other than financial gain. For example, a substance abuse prevention coalition is trying to keep teens from starting to drink or use drugs, and proving the coalition’s methods work is often difficult to quantify.
This template can help you visually outline your strategic plan for your nonprofit.
Download Nonprofit Strategic Plan Template
Excel | Smartsheet
How to Write a Strategic Plan for a School
Writing a strategic plan for a school can be difficult because of the variety of stakeholders involved, including students, teachers, other staff, and parents.
Strategic planning in a school is different from others because there are no markets to explore, products to produce, clients to woo, or adjustable timelines. Schools often have set boundaries, missions, and budgets.
Even with the differences, the same planning process and structure should be in place for schools as it is for other types of organizations.
This template can help your university or school outline your strategic plan.
Download University Strategic Plan Outline – Word
How to Write a 5-Year Strategic Plan
There is no set time period for a strategic plan, but five years can be a sweet spot. In some cases, yearly planning might keep you continually stuck in the planning process, while 10 years might be too far out.
In addition to the basic sections that go into any strategic plan, when forecasting five years into the future, put one- and three-year checkpoints into the plan so you can track progress intermittently.
How to Write a 3-Year Strategic Plan
While five years is often the strategic planning sweet spot, some organizations choose to create three-year plans. Looking too far ahead can be daunting, especially for a new or changing company.
In a three-year plan, the goals and objectives have a shorter timeframe and you need to monitor them more frequently. Build those checkpoints into the plan.
“Most organizations do a three- to five-year plan now because they recognize the technology and the changes in business that are pretty dynamic now,” Stockmal says.
How to Write a Departmental Strategic Plan
The first step in writing a strategic plan for your department is to pay attention to your company’s overall strategic plan. You want to make sure the plans align.
The steps in creating a plan for a department are the same as for an overall strategic plan, but the mission statement, vision, SWOT analysis, goals, objectives, and so on are specific to only the people in your department. Look at each person separately and consider their core competencies, strengths, capabilities, and weaknesses. Assign people who will be responsible for certain tasks and tactics necessary to achieve your goals.
If you have access to a plan from a previous year, see how your department did in meeting its goals. Adjust the new plan accordingly.
When you finish your departmental plan, make sure to submit it to whomever is responsible for your company’s overall plan. Expect to make changes.
How to Write a Strategic Plan for a Project
A strategic plan is for the big picture, not for a particular project for an organization. Instead of a strategic plan, this area would fall under project management.
If you have a failing project and need to turn it around, this article might help.
How to Write a Personal Strategic Plan
Creating a strategic plan isn’t only for businesses. You can also create a strategic plan to help guide both your professional and personal life. The key is to include what is important to you. This process takes time and reflection.
Be prepared for what you discover about yourself. Because you will be looking at your strengths and weaknesses, you might see things you do not like. It is important to be honest with yourself. A SWOT analysis on yourself will give you some honest feedback if you let it.
Begin with looking at your life as it is now. Are you satisfied? What do you want to do more or less? What do you value most in your life? Go deeper than saying family, happiness, and health. This exercise will help you clarify your values.
Once you know what is important to you, come up with a personal mission statement that reflects the values you cherish. As it does within a business, this statement will help guide you in making future decisions. If something does not fit within your personal mission, you shouldn’t do it.
Using the information you discovered during your SWOT and mission statement process, come up with goals that align with your values. The goals can be broad, but don’t forget to include action items and timeframes to help you reach your goals.
As for the evaluation portion, identify how you will keep yourself accountable and on track. You might involve a person to remind you about your plan, calendar reminders, small rewards when you achieve a goal, or another method that works for you.
Below is additional advice for personal strategic plans:
There are things you can control and things you cannot. Keep your focus on what you can act on.
Look at the positive instead of what you will give up. For example, instead of focusing on losing weight, concentrate on being healthier.
Do not overcommit, and do not ignore the little details that help you reach your goals.
No matter what, do not dwell on setbacks and remember to celebrate successes.
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Strategic Vision: Explained with Examples
A strategic vision is an aspirational description of what an organization wants to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term. It serves as a guide for understanding what the organization stands for and where it’s going. It provides a roadmap for the organization’s future within a specific timeframe, offering a clear and motivating picture of the company’s future.
A well-formulated strategic vision can align members of the organization around a common long-term direction, inspire engagement and commitment, and help guide decision-making and resource allocation at various levels of the organization.
Key components of a strategic vision typically include:
- Direction: The vision should indicate where the organization is headed. It can include specific goals or simply point towards a general direction of growth and improvement.
- Aspiration: The vision should be ambitious and aspirational, pushing the organization to strive for excellence and overcome challenges.
- Alignment: The vision should align with the organization’s values, culture, and business strategy. It should feel like a natural extension of what the organization already does and believes in.
- Clarity: The vision should be clear and simple to understand, so everyone in the organization can quickly grasp it and relate it to their own work.
- Inspiration: The vision should inspire and motivate people, encouraging them to invest their best efforts in achieving it.
A strategic vision is an important element of overall strategic management. It encompasses all the activities an organization undertakes to align its resources and actions with its mission, values, and vision.
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How to make a strategic vision?
Creating a strategic vision involves a thoughtful and systematic process. While the specifics can vary depending on the organization and its context, a general approach might include these steps:
- Understand your organization: Begin by examining your organization’s current situation. This includes understanding your mission (what you do and why you do it), your values (the principles that guide your actions), and your strategic goals (what you’re aiming to achieve).
- Assess your environment: Analyze the external environment in which your organization operates. This can include your industry, your competitors, and any technological, economic, social, or political trends that could impact your organization. Tools such as SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) or PESTEL analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, Legal) can be helpful here.
- Identify key strategic issues: Based on your understanding of your organization and your environment, identify the key issues your strategic vision will need to address. These might include areas where your organization needs to improve, opportunities you want to take advantage of, or challenges you’ll need to overcome.
- Develop your vision: Combine your understanding of your organization, environment, and strategic issues to create a vision for the future. This should be a clear, inspiring statement describing where you want your organization to be. It should be ambitious but realistic and align with your organization’s values and strategic goals.
- Communicate your vision: Once you’ve developed your strategic vision, you must communicate it to the rest of your organization. This could involve presenting it at a company meeting, including it in your internal communications, or incorporating it into your training programs. The key is to ensure that everyone in the organization understands and is aligned with the vision.
- Implement and monitor your vision: Finally, you’ll need to implement your vision by integrating it into your strategic planning and decision-making processes. You’ll also need to monitor your progress towards your vision, adjusting your strategies based on changes in your environment or organization.
Remember that creating a strategic vision is not a one-time activity. As your organization grows and changes and your environment evolves, you may need to revise your vision to ensure it remains relevant and motivating.
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Types of strategic vision
Strategic visions can take different forms based on their focus and the specific future scenario they portray. Here are some types of strategic visions:
- Quantitative visions: These are visions that focus on achieving certain measurable goals or results. For example, a company might have a vision to increase its market share by a certain percentage or achieve a certain revenue or profitability level.
- Qualitative visions: These are visions that focus on less tangible or measurable aspects, such as improving the company’s reputation, enhancing customer satisfaction, or becoming a leader in innovation. They often focus on the intangible aspects of performance and success.
- Spatial visions: These focus on physical or geographical goals. A company might have the vision to expand its operations to certain locations, to serve a certain geographical market, or to become a global leader in its industry.
- Temporal visions: These visions focus on achieving certain goals within a specific timeframe. For example, a company might aim to become the market leader within five years or to double its size within a decade.
- Values-based visions: These visions are based on the organization’s core values and principles. They focus on how the organization wants to conduct its business and interact with its stakeholders. For instance, a company may envision itself as the most ethical player in the industry or aim to make a significant social impact.
- Scenario-based visions: These are visions that depict a certain future scenario that the organization wants to bring about. For example, a technology company might have a vision of a future where its products are used in every home, or a health organization might envision a world free of a certain disease.
Note that these types aren’t mutually exclusive, and an organization’s strategic vision could combine elements from several of these types. For instance, a company could have a values-based, qualitative vision to be the most respected player in its industry, a scenario-based vision to revolutionize its industry, and a quantitative vision to increase its market share by 20% – all at the same time.
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Examples of strategic vision
Here are some examples of strategic visions from different types of organizations:
- Microsoft: “To help people and businesses worldwide realize their full potential.” This is an example of a qualitative vision, focusing on the impact Microsoft aims to have on individuals and businesses.
- Alibaba: “To make it easy to do business anywhere.” This vision statement is also qualitative, indicating a desire to simplify business operations for everyone, everywhere, signifying a spatial element as well.
- Tesla: “To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.” This is a combination of a scenario-based vision (transitioning the world to electric vehicles) and a temporal vision (being the most compelling car company of the 21st century).
- Amazon: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” This vision is both quantitative (in terms of the range of products offered) and qualitative (customer-centric).
- Google (Alphabet): “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” This vision is a combination of qualitative (making information accessible and useful), spatial (the world’s information), and scenario-based elements (organizing information).
- IKEA: “To create a better everyday life for the many people.” This vision is largely qualitative, focusing on improving daily life for their customers.
Each of these vision statements provides a clear sense of where the company aims to go and the impact it aims to have. They are ambitious and forward-looking, providing a clear and motivating future that guides decision-making and strategy within the organization.
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- What is strategic planning? 5 steps and ...
What is strategic planning? 5 steps and processes
A strategic plan helps you define and share the direction your company will take in the next three to five years. It includes your company’s vision and mission statements, goals, and the actions you’ll take to achieve those goals. In this article we describe how a strategic plan compares to other project and business tools, plus four steps to create a successful strategic plan for your company.
Strategic planning is when business leaders map out their vision for the organization’s growth and how they’re going to get there. Strategic plans inform your organization’s decisions, growth, and goals. So if you work for a small company or startup, you could likely benefit from creating a strategic plan. When you have a clear sense of where your organization is going, you’re able to ensure your teams are working on projects that make the most impact.
The strategic planning process doesn’t just help you identify where you need to go—during the process, you’ll also create a document you can share with employees and stakeholders so they stay informed. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to get started developing a strategic plan.
What is a strategic plan?
A strategic plan is a tool to define your organization’s goals and what actions you will take to achieve them. Typically, a strategic plan will include your company’s vision and mission statements, your long-term goals (as well as short-term, yearly objectives), and an action plan of the steps you’re going to take to move in the right direction.
Your strategic plan document should include:
Your company’s mission statement
Your company’s goals
A plan of action to achieve those goals
Your approach to achieving your goals
The tactics you’ll use to meet your goals
An effective strategic plan can give your organization clarity and focus. This level of clarity isn’t always a given—according to our research, only 16% of knowledge workers say their company is effective at setting and communicating company goals. By investing time into strategy formulation, you can build out a three- to five-year vision for the future of your company. This strategy will then inform your yearly and quarterly company goals.
Do I need a strategic plan?
A strategic plan is one of many tools you can use to plan and hit your goals. It helps map out strategic objectives and growth metrics. Here’s how a strategic plan compares to other project management and business tools.
Strategic plan vs. business plan
A business plan can help you document your strategy as you’re getting started so every team member is on the same page about your core business priorities and goals. This tool can help you document and share your strategy with key investors or stakeholders as you get your business up and running.
You should create a business plan when you’re:
Just starting your business
Significantly restructuring your business
If your business is already established, consider creating a strategic plan instead of a business plan. Even if you’re working at a relatively young company, your strategic plan can build on your business plan to help you move in the right direction. During the strategic planning process, you’ll draw from a lot of the fundamental business elements you built early on to establish your strategy for the next three to five years.
Key takeaway: A business plan works for new businesses or large organizational overhauls. Strategic plans are better for established businesses.
Strategic plan vs. mission and vision statements
Your strategic plan, mission statement, and vision statements are all closely connected. In fact, during the strategic planning process, you will take inspiration from your mission and vision statements in order to build out your strategic plan.
As a result, you should already have your mission and vision statements drafted before you create a strategic plan. Ideally, this is something you created during the business planning phase or shortly after your company started. If you don’t have a mission or vision statement, take some time to create those now. A mission statement states your company’s purpose and it addresses what problem your organization is trying to solve. A vision statement states, in very broad strokes, how you’re going to get there.
A mission statement summarizes your company’s purpose
A vision statement broadly explains how you’ll reach your company’s purpose
A strategic plan should include your mission and vision statements, but it should also be more specific than that. Your mission and vision statements could, theoretically, remain the same throughout your company’s entire lifespan. A strategic plan pulls in inspiration from your mission and vision statements and outlines what actions you’re going to take to move in the right direction.
For example, if your company produces pet safety equipment, here’s how your mission statement, vision statement, and strategic plan might shake out:
Mission statement: “To ensure the safety of the world’s animals.”
Vision statement: “To create pet safety and tracking products that are effortless to use.”
Your strategic plan would outline the steps you’re going to take in the next few years to bring your company closer to your mission and vision. For example, you develop a new pet tracking smart collar or improve the microchipping experience for pet owners.
Key takeaway: A strategic plan draws inspiration from your mission and vision statements.
Strategic plan vs. company objectives
Company objectives are broad goals. You should set these on a yearly or quarterly basis (if your organization moves quickly). These objectives give your team a clear sense of what you intend to accomplish for a set period of time.
Your strategic plan is more forward-thinking than your company goals, and it should cover more than one year of work. Think of it this way: your company objectives will move the needle towards your overall strategy—but your strategic plan should be bigger than company objectives because it spans multiple years.
Key takeaway: Company objectives are broad, evergreen goals, while a strategic plan is a specific plan of action.
Strategic plan vs. business case
A business case is a document to help you pitch a significant investment or initiative for your company. When you create a business case, you’re outlining why this investment is a good idea, and how this large-scale project will positively impact the business.
You might end up building business cases for things on your strategic plan’s roadmap—but your strategic plan should be bigger than that. This tool should encompass multiple years of your roadmap, across your entire company—not just one initiative.
Key takeaway: A business case tackles one initiative or investment, while a strategic plan maps out years of overall growth for your company.
Strategic plan vs. project plan
A strategic plan is a company-wide, multi-year plan of what you want to accomplish in the next three to five years and how you plan to accomplish that. A project plan, on the other hand, outlines how you’re going to accomplish a specific project. This project could be one of many initiatives that contribute to a specific company objective which, in turn, is one of many objectives that contribute to your strategic plan.
A project plan has seven parts:
Stakeholders and roles
Scope and budget
Milestones and deliverables
Timeline and schedule
Key takeaway: You may build project plans to map out parts of your strategic plan.
When should I create a strategic plan?
You should aim to create a strategic plan every three to five years, depending on your organization’s growth speed. That being said, if your organization moves quickly, consider creating one every two to three years instead. Small businesses may need to create strategic plans more often, as their needs change.
Since the point of a strategic plan is to map out your long-term goals and how you’ll get there, you should create a strategic plan when you’ve met most or all of them. You should also create a strategic plan any time you’re going to make a large pivot in your organization’s mission or enter new markets.
What are the 5 steps in strategic planning?
The strategic planning process should be run by a small team of key stakeholders who will be in charge of building your strategic plan.
Your group of strategic planners, sometimes called the management committee, should be a small team of five to 10 key stakeholders and decision-makers for the company. They won’t be the only people involved—but they will be the people driving the work.
Once you’ve established your management committee, you can get to work on the strategic planning process.
Step 1: Determine where you are
Before you can get started with strategy development and define where you’re going, you first need to define where you are. To do this, your management committee should collect a variety of information from additional stakeholders—like employees and customers. In particular, plan to gather:
Relevant industry and market data to inform any market opportunities, as well as any potential upcoming threats in the near future
Customer insights to understand what your customers want from your company—like product improvements or additional services
Employee feedback that needs to be addressed—whether in the product, business practices, or company culture
A SWOT analysis to help you assess both current and future potential for the business (you’ll return to this analysis periodically during the strategic planning process).
To fill out each letter in the SWOT acronym, your management committee will answer a series of questions:
What does your organization currently do well?
What separates you from your competitors?
What are your most valuable internal resources?
What tangible assets do you have?
What is your biggest strength?
What does your organization do poorly?
What do you currently lack (whether that’s a product, resource, or process)?
What do your competitors do better than you?
What, if any, limitations are holding your organization back?
What processes or products need improvement?
What opportunities does your organization have?
How can you leverage your unique company strengths?
Are there any trends that you can take advantage of?
How can you capitalize on marketing or press opportunities?
Is there an emerging need for your product or service?
What emerging competitors should you keep an eye on?
Are there any weaknesses that expose your organization to risk?
Have you or could you experience negative press that could reduce market share?
Is there a chance of changing customer attitudes towards your company?
Step 2: Identify your goals and objectives
This is where the magic happens. To develop your strategy, take into account your current position, which is where you are now. Then, draw inspiration from your original business documents—these are your final destination.
To develop your strategy, you’re essentially pulling out your compass and asking, “Where are we going next?” This can help you figure out exactly which path you need to take.
During this phase of the planning process, take inspiration from important company documents to ensure your strategic plan is moving your company in the right direction like:
Your mission statement, to understand how you can continue moving towards your organization’s core purpose
Your vision statement, to clarify how your strategic plan fits into your long-term vision
Your company values, to guide you towards what matters most towards your company
Your competitive advantages, to understand what unique benefit you offer to the market
Your long-term goals, to track where you want to be in five or 10 years
Your financial forecast and projection, to understand where you expect your financials to be in the next three years, what your expected cash flow is, and what new opportunities you will likely be able to invest in
Step 3: Develop your plan
Now that you understand where you are and where you want to go, it’s time to put pen to paper. Your plan will take your position and strategy into account to define your organization-wide plan for the next three to five years. Keep in mind that even though you’re creating a long-term plan, parts of your strategic plan should be created as the quarters and years go on.
As you build your strategic plan, you should define:
Your company priorities for the next three to five years, based on your SWOT analysis and strategy.
Yearly objectives for the first year. You don’t need to define your objectives for every year of the strategic plan. As the years go on, create new yearly objectives that connect back to your overall strategic goals .
Related key results and KPIs for that first year. Some of these should be set by the management committee, and some should be set by specific teams that are closer to the work. Make sure your key results and KPIs are measurable and actionable.
Budget for the next year or few years. This should be based on your financial forecast as well as your direction. Do you need to spend aggressively to develop your product? Build your team? Make a dent with marketing? Clarify your most important initiatives and how you’ll budget for those.
A high-level project roadmap . A project roadmap is a tool in project management that helps you visualize the timeline of a complex initiative, but you can also create a very high-level project roadmap for your strategic plan. Outline what you expect to be working on in certain quarters or years to make the plan more actionable and understandable.
Step 4: Execute your plan
After all that buildup, it’s time to put your plan into action. New strategy execution involves clear communication across your entire organization to make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and how to measure the plan’s success.
Map your processes with key performance indicators, which will gauge the success of your plan. KPIs will establish which parts of your plan you want achieved in what time frame.
A few tips to make sure your plan will be executed without a hitch:
Align tasks with job descriptions to make sure people are equipped to get their jobs done
Communicate clearly to your entire organization throughout the implementation process
Fully commit to your plan
Step 5: Revise and restructure as needed
At this point, you should have created and implemented your new strategic framework. The final step of the planning process is to monitor and manage your plan.
Share your strategic plan —this isn’t a document to hide away. Make sure your team (especially senior leadership) has access to it so they can understand how their work contributes to company priorities and your overall strategic plan. We recommend sharing your plan in the same tool you use to manage and track work, so you can more easily connect high-level objectives to daily work. If you don’t already, consider using a work management tool .
Update your plan regularly (quarterly and annually). Make sure you’re using your strategic plan to inform your shorter-term goals. Your strategic plan also isn’t set in stone. You’ll likely need to update the plan if your company decides to change directions or make new investments. As new market opportunities and threats come up, you’ll likely want to tweak your strategic plan to ensure you’re building your organization in the best direction possible for the next few years.
Keep in mind that your plan won’t last forever—even if you do update it frequently. A successful strategic plan evolves with your company’s long-term goals. When you’ve achieved most of your strategic goals, or if your strategy has evolved significantly since you first made your plan, it might be time to create a new one.
The benefits of strategic planning
Strategic planning can help with goal-setting by allowing you to explain how your company will move towards your mission and vision statements in the next three to five years. If you think of your company trajectory as a line on a map, a strategic plan can help you better quantify how you’ll get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be in a few years).
When you create and share a clear strategic plan with your team, you can:
Align everyone around a shared purpose
Proactively set objectives to help you get where you want to go
Define long-term goals, and then set shorter-term goals to support them
Assess your current situation and any opportunities—or threats
Help your business be more durable because you’re thinking long-term
Increase motivation and engagement
Sticking to the strategic plan
To turn your company strategy into a plan—and ultimately, impact—make sure you’re proactively connecting company objectives to daily work. When you can clarify this connection, you’re giving your team members the context they need to get their best work done.
With clear priorities, team members can focus on the initiatives that are making the biggest impact for the company—and they’ll likely be more engaged while doing so.
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How to write a strategic plan and what it should include
As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Whether you’re a lumberjack or not, there’s a powerful truth to Lincoln’s wise words. And that’s the importance of planning.
Coming up with a solid strategic plan is a crucial aspect of any business. How can you expect to achieve your objectives if you don’t know what you’re aiming for? And how can you efficiently reach your goals without deciding on the appropriate method first?
You need a plan. More specifically, you need a strategic plan.
Sharpen your axes and get comfortable because we’re going to give you a step-by-step guide on how to write a strategic plan like a total boss.
What is a strategic plan?
A strategic plan is a document that lays out how an organization plans to realize its long-term ambitions. Think of it as your roadmap. It establishes the direction a company is going to take by considering its goals and objectives. But it also includes the specific actions you are going to take to achieve your goal.
A strategic plan should essentially answer three questions:
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to go?
- How will we get there?
There are a lot of terms around strategic plans that sound similar. But it’s important for your team to understand what each of them means and how they are different. Let’s clarify some common terms:
- Strategic plan is your roadmap document.
- Strategic planning is the process of developing your strategic plan.
- Strategic planning meeting is the session or event during which strategic planning takes place.
- Strategic planning frameworks are the tools and methodologies to help your team develop different elements of your strategic plan.
- Strategic planning model is the overarching approach for how you are going to structure your strategic ideas. You should decide on which model you are going to use before you begin the strategic planning process.
Why is a strategic plan important?
Now you know what a strategic plan is. But why do you need one? Here are just some of the reasons developing a strategic plan is so important to your organization
Helps you come up with goals that direct your actions
How can you expect to get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going? A key aspect of the strategic planning process is establishing goals and objectives. These goals will help build momentum within your team and keep them focused on the overarching goal of the business.
Keeps you on track toward achieving your goals
A well-written strategic business plan gives your organization direction. As well as what you want to achieve, strategic plans require you to get specific about how you are going to achieve your goals. Having this plan of action in one consolidated document helps your team stay on track and achieve their goals faster and with more efficiency.
Focus your resources better
Taking the time to write a well-thought-out strategic plan means carefully considering what actions are going to best serve your company. This prevents wasting time, money, and effort on projects that are not going to take your business to where it wants to go.
The clarity that comes from a strategic plan sets you up for successful resource allocation, which is essential for growing your business.
Aligns team members
A robust strategic plan becomes a source of truth for your team. It keeps all team members on the same page regarding the company’s mission and strategy. When confused about why they are doing something or how they fit into the bigger picture, they can refer to the team’s strategic plan.
As well as team members, a strategic plan keeps stakeholders in the know. They should be involved in the development of the strategic plan so that the goals and strategies are aligned with their expectations.
What is included in a strategic plan?
These are the key elements that make up a strategic plan.
The vision statement gives a clear picture of what your organization wants to achieve in the long run. It is an aspirational statement that describes the ideal future state of your business.
Many great vision statements use emotional language to paint a picture of what impact the group hopes to make on the world. For example, IKEA’s vision statement is “To create a better everyday life for the many people.”
While a vision statement looks toward the future, a mission statement considers the present. It should describe the core purpose of the company and why it exists. Your mission statement should provide context for all other goals and actions.
IKEA’s mission statement is “to offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”
Your objectives are what you plan to achieve. They are the specific results that your organization wants to accomplish within a certain time frame. Strategic objectives aim to bridge the gap between your overall vision and the goals needed to achieve it.
Strategic objectives can be financial, growth-related, or customer-related. An example of a strategic objective is “Enter three new foreign markets in the next five years.”
This section of your strategic plan is where you turn the focus from your vision to execution. Your strategy is the blueprint for how to achieve your goals and objectives.
If your objective is to “Enter three new foreign markets in the next five years,” you need to develop a strategy for how you are going to do this. Which markets are you going to target? What products or services are you going to introduce? What are the current market trends? Asking and answering these questions will help you design a specific market entry strategy.
This is where strategic planning frameworks become so useful. For example, the Ansoff Matrix helps you evaluate opportunities for growth. Also known as the product-market expansion grid, the Ansoff Matrix helps you review the potential risks and opportunities of each growth plan option.
By using frameworks like the Ansoff Matrix, you can analyze each strategic option. All the data gathered and your team’s insights on this data will help determine your strategic approach.
After writing a strategic plan and implementing it, you need to track its progress. Metrics are a way for you to measure the success of your actions. If you find that your strategic plan isn’t giving you the results you expected, you can make changes to your strategic approach.
Metrics can be milestones, such as launching a product or completing a certain project. Or your metrics can be quantifiable performance measures, like KPIs.
How to write a strategic plan
Now that you know what a strategic plan should include, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write a strategic plan for your business.
1. Hold a strategic planning meeting
No man is an island, especially in the realm of strategic planning. You want to get your entire team involved in the strategic planning process. To ensure everyone is part of the process, you need to hold a strategic planning meeting . This meeting is about collaboration and openly sharing ideas around your strategic plan.
Start by making an invite list and sending out calendar invites to the people you want to attend the session. This should include people from different departments, executives, and stakeholders.
2. Use a template
To save you time and hassle, use a customizable Strategic Planning Template . Businesses have been writing strategic plans for years and years, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Using a template will also help ensure that you don’t miss out on any important aspects of the strategic planning process.
3. Determine your position
Before you look towards the future about where you want to be, you need to understand where you currently stand. This means looking internally at who you are as a company and conducting market and competitor analysis to fully understand your external environment.
A popular method for taking stock of your company’s current position is a SWOT analysis . This framework helps you map out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your business.
4. Decide where you want to go
Now it’s time to look toward the future and decide on what you are aiming for. This is where you articulate what you want to achieve. Some examples of thought-provoking questions to ask your team include:
- What do we want to accomplish?
- Where do we want to be?
- How many products would we sell?
- How many countries will we be based in?
- Who would our customers be?
This part of writing a strategic plan is where you develop the strategic objectives, goals, and action items. We’re big fans of setting OKRs: Objectives and their related Key Results. This OKR Template will ensure your business goals are structured and clearly defined.
5. Decide how you are going to get there
Now that you know where you’re going, you need to decide how to get there. This phase involves deciding how you’re going to make your goals a reality. And that means coming up with an action plan.
An action plan is a detailed set of lists outlining the steps you are going to take to complete your objectives. Our Action Plan Template promotes clarity and transparency around assigned tasks. As a team, you need to decide who needs to do what and by when. Everyone should be aware of their role in executing the overall strategic plan.
Tips for writing a strategic plan
Keep these tips in mind when writing your strategic plan to make the process more efficient.
Use the right tools
Developing a strategic plan has a lot of moving parts. From running a strategic planning session to capturing your team’s ideas, there’s a lot to stay on top of. But an online collaborative tool like Miro can make the process a whole lot easier.
With Miro, you collaborate with your team from anywhere, at any time. Not to mention safely store all your mindmaps, boards, and diagrams in one consolidated place. To get a real sense of what’s possible, have a look at our list of features .
Be SMART with your goals
Whenever you create goals or objectives, ensure that they are SMART . This means they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. It’s no use coming up with a long list of impressive goals that aren’t realistic or focused.
Don’t be afraid to change your plan
Strategic plans aren’t set in stone. They should be used more as a guideline that is adjusted as needed. Your company will no doubt face new challenges or identify new opportunities as time goes on. So it’s important to revisit your strategic plan and make necessary adjustments based on changes in your organization’s environment and situation.
Strategic plans are usually developed for the next two to five-year period. Some companies reconsider their strategic plan every year, while others hold strategic planning sessions every quarter.
It’s up to you and your team how often you revisit your strategic plan, but the key takeaway is that you should be open to changing your plan.
Get starting writing your strategic plan
We’re not going to lie to you — creating a strategic plan isn’t the easiest process to execute. From capturing your company’s vision to measuring your strategy’s success, there’s a lot to do. But that shouldn’t deter you.
Knowing how to write a strategic plan is a valuable skill to have, no matter what industry you’re in. And tools like Miro are there to make the process a whole lot easier and more efficient.
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How to Write a Vision Statement (With Examples, Tips, and Formulas)
This comprehensive guide will take you through the entire process of writing a well-thought-out and compelling business vision statement.
Here’s what you will discover inside:
- Why is a vision statement important for company goals?
Vision Statement vs Mission Statement: What’s the difference?
- Bad Vision Statements Examples (And What Makes Them Bad)
Helpful Tips for Writing your Vision Statement
- Fail-proof formula: Write your vision statement in 4 simple steps
- Great Vision Statement Examples For Inspiration
- How to effectively communicate the company vision?
What is a Vision Statement?
In short, a vision statement describes the desired future state of a business within a 5-10 year timeframe and guides the direction of the business's efforts. It is essentially the future objectives of a business. The vision statement is also one of the key elements in a highly-effective business strategic plan.
Why is a vision statement important for company goals?
We explained the real purpose of the vision statement in this article , but here’s a quick reminder of what we're trying to achieve with a company vision statement:
- Improve the decision-making process by setting a 'limiter' that helps us to rule out strategic initiatives and opportunities which aren’t aligned with business long-term goals.
- Make a succinct statement about what our organization is trying to achieve to help third parties such as investors or the media better understand us.
- Create a strong North Star that can guide and motivate employees even during difficult times if it is taken seriously.
- Develop an engaging vision statement that’s one of the key elements of thriving company culture.
The bottom line is that a vision statement isn't just a nice-to-have. It should be included in every business plan and strategy discussion, especially during the strategic planning process , to ensure the organization and its departments stay aligned with its vision and don’t get sidetracked.
The most common mistake we see across the internet and with our clients is that most people do not understand the difference between a company's vision and mission.
While we covered this a bit more in-depth in this article , here’s a short recap:
- A vision statement describes a long-term, idealistic state of the FUTURE.
- A mission statement is a roadmap to a specific destination (your VISION) that explains how will you achieve it.
Mistaking one for another can prevent an organization from reaching its full potential.
So, while keeping this in mind, let’s look at some “vision” statements examples and analyze where they fit so you can avoid doing the same mistake when crafting your own vision statement.
Bad Vision Statements Examples (and why)
Here are some real-life examples of vision statements that, in our opinion, could do with a little tweaking. For each, we will explain what could be done better.
"Provide maximum value for our shareholders whilst helping our customers to fulfill their dreams."
If this was your vision statement → Well, let’s hope it isn’t. That’s a classic mission statement example that describes HOW the company will achieve its vision.
"Our company vision is to make every brand more inspiring and the world more intelligent by 2023."
If this was your vision statement → You would want to make it more specific and relatable. Is it realistic that 'every brand' will use the services of this company? How about 'making the world more intelligent.' Can you be more specific on which brands? What does it mean to make the world more intelligent? Not to be too harsh though - there are strong elements here; 'making brands more inspiring' makes a lot of sense and has some depth.
"We aspire to be the most admired and valuable company in the world."
If this was your vision statement → We would suggest you rethink your decision. Can you even make it more empty than it is? Which company doesn’t want to be the most admired and most valuable? Your vision statement should be more specific than that.
"We are committed to achieving new standards of excellence by providing superior human capital management services and maximizing the potential of all stakeholders - clients, candidates, and employees - through the delivery of the most reliable, responsive ..." [and it goes on, but that's probably enough]...
If this was your vision statement → you’d want to make sure it is less tangible and subjective. 'New standards of excellence'. 'Superior human capital management. 'Maximizing the potential'. There are simply far too many buzzwords, intangibles, and vagueness here for this to be either memorable or inspiring.
We are, of course, being rather harsh. But hopefully, the above examples illustrate well some of the pitfalls to avoid when creating your own vision.
Keep in mind that vision creation doesn't begin with sitting behind a desk and writing black on white. Reach out to your stakeholders and team members who will play a role in realizing the company's vision. Organize a workshop, or more if necessary, to brainstorm ideas and gather their feedback.
This toolkit with a template and workbook can help you with brainstorming exercises and navigating the whole process.
As a result, including other stakeholders in the vision-creation process will not only yield ideas but also get buy-in from the beginning since it will be their vision too.
Here are 8 tips to help you write a memorable vision statement:
- Keep it short - max 2 sentences. Your vision statement should be punchy and easy to remember.
- Make it specific to your business and describe a unique outcome that only you can provide.
- Write it in the present tense.
- Do not use words that are open to interpretation. Saying that you will maximize shareholder return in 2022 doesn't mean anything unless you specify what that means.
- Simple is best . There is a tendency for people to overcomplicate things, but you should make your vision clear enough for both people within and outside your organization to understand. Stay away from jargon, metaphors, and business buzzwords.
- It should be ambitious enough to get people excited, but not so ambitious that it seems impossible to achieve.
- A vision statement isn't a one-off thing and should evolve with your business. When brainstorming your vision for the future, stick to a five-year timeframe. It's an ambitious end goal that's far enough ahead to work towards, but not too far for the organization to lose focus and commitment.
- Vision should align with your company's core values. We go deeper into company values in this article, but when you have created your company values, you should review your vision to see if it aligns.
If anything, you should memorize these 4 words before you go into crafting your own vision statement: Short, Specific, Simple , and Ambitious .
Fail-proof formula: Write your vision statement in 4 simple steps
There are literally hundreds of articles out there that give examples of good and bad vision statements. There's also plenty of articles that give a high-level overview of what to consider when creating your own.
However, what we noticed was lacking was a concrete process to go through to help you create one. As such, we've outlined a process that we have used with clients in Cascade that might work for you too.
There are plenty of great vision statements out there that will not conform to the process below. But if you're struggling or just need a place to start, then hopefully this will help.
Step 1: Define what you do as an outcome
Start by being exceptionally clear about what it is your organization actually does. Be careful to remain 'outcome focused' rather than 'output focused'. For example, Microsoft famously had a vision statement to Put a Microsoft powered computer on every desk in the world (slightly paraphrased).
Strictly speaking, what Microsoft 'do' is make computer software, but for the purposes of their Vision, they looked forward to the actual outcome of this process - i.e. computers on desks.
Let's look at some other hypothetical examples:
- A bakery makes bread. But the outcome is consumers enjoying that bread.
- A consulting company gives advice. But the outcome is the success of others based on that advice.
- A government department does...lots of things. But the outcome is better lives for the citizens they serve.
Whilst this process may seem obvious - you would be surprised by how rarely organizations actually go through this process in a formal, written way.
Doing so will take you a long way towards creating your vision statement - BUT it's not enough alone! If it was, all bakeries, for example, would have the same vision statement - which is hardly inspiring!
TIP: If you are not sure where your organization wants to be in the future, you can use different tools, like SWOT or SOAR analysis , that will help you formulate your vision and future-oriented goals.
Step 2: Define what unique twist your organization brings to the above outcome
Very few products or services these days are truly new - most are more like reinventions of something that exists already, but with a different approach, focus or spin.
At some point in your organization's lifespan - someone will have believed that the reason that THIS organization would be successful where others have failed, was because of.........something.
You need to define that something!
Let's take our bakery example. So far, our vision statement looks pretty generic, along the lines of customers enjoying our bread. But why will they enjoy our bread MORE than the bread from the place next door?
Is it because we use centuries-old traditions passed through generations of our family? Because we only use premium grade locally sourced ingredients? Whatever your unique selling point is - let it shine through in your vision statement.
Step 3: Apply some high-level quantification
Ironically, a common problem with a vision statement that isn't as good is that it's too visionary! With no possible end in sight (or a totally unrealistic one) - the initial inspiration derived from a solid vision statement can quickly turn to frustration or even cynicism among employees and customers.
That said - this doesn’t mean you should put numbers or any financial metrics to your vision statement. This will come later in your planning process.
However, you still want to add some high-level quantification to make it achievable.
Sticking with our bakery example, we might want to refine our target audience to 'every customer who walks through the door'. That's fine, or maybe we want to be bolder: 'every customer within walking distance of a store'.
The quantification we apply could also be industry specific. If you're a B2B - are you shooting for small businesses or multinationals, for example?
Step 4: Add relatable, human, 'real world' aspects
OK, your vision statement by this point should be getting pretty close to finished. But one final trick you can apply to help make it even more memorable is to add a real-life aspect.
This will allow people to conjure up a solid mental image to associate with your vision statement.
Let's look at an example - which of the following statements is likely to be more memorable:
a) To have every working person in the world using Microsoft product.
b) A Microsoft-powered computer on every desk.
I would argue that (b) is more memorable because as I read this, I'm actually visualizing a computer (in my case) sitting on a wooden desk in a room.
There's nothing wrong with (a) but it's highly conceptual and thus difficult to transform into a mental picture. Let's look at another example:
"Ensure that every customer who leaves our store, does so smiling."
Here, using the word 'smiling' as opposed to 'happy' is powerful, because it conjures a mental image of a person smiling.
It won't always be possible to bring this level of tangibility to a vision statement - but if it is, I would strongly encourage doing so.
Our tip for creating a good vision statement is to use our formula, which we explain below, in conjunction with the CASCADE vision framework.
Ask yourself the following questions to check if your vision statement checks all boxes of a good vision:
- Is it C lear?
- Is it A mbitious, but not seemingly unattainable?
- Is it S timulating?
- Is it C oncise
- Is it too A bstract?
- D uration: Is it limited to a specific time range?
Does it E ncourage you to take action?
Great Vision Statement Examples for inspiration
First, let’s look at the vision statement on an example of the bakery we used in the previous section.
Following our 4-step process, the final vision statement looks like this:
Producing and selling locally sourced cakes and pies that are so delicious and satisfying , that every customer who leaves our store does so with a smile.
If we deconstruct this into our various steps, we can see each at work as follows:
Step 1 - The output Step 2 - The twist Step 3 - The quantification Step 4 - The human connection
Even if yours doesn't look like this at the end, following the process above will help you to bring structure and purpose to your effort.
Of course - there are other ways to write a well-thought-out and effective vision statement. So let’s look at some other examples of great vision that don’t match our vision statement formula but still make an engaging and memorable company vision:
Vision statement: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
Vision statement: To establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow.
Vision statement: A global force for Learning-through-Play.
We love this one because it’s short, sweet and easy to remember.
Vision statement: To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world's transition to electric vehicles.
Note: If you look closely, you’ll see that their vision statement is a mix of vision and mission statement. Let’s remember the difference between these two: Vision shows your business desired future state, while the company’s mission describes how you will get there.
Cascade tip: If you’re in doubt about what is a vision statement and what is a mission statement, do this simple test with two questions:
- What do they want to achieve? To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century… (vision statement)
- How? … by driving the world's transition to electric vehicles. (mission statement)
Want to see more examples of a great vision statement? Check this article with 17 vision statement examples from top companies, such as Patagonia, Ikea, LinkedIn, and Disney.
How to effectively communicate the company vision?
Let's say you've finally crafted the perfect vision statement that makes everyone in the C-suite proud. Marketing updated the website, ran a PR, and posted across all company social media channels. The new direction is making waves in the company, but as time passes, everyone forgets about it and gets on with their business-as-usual.
If you have a vision but take no action - your organization has no future. In other words, you need to keep the company's vision top of mind 24/7/365 if you want to achieve it. Consistent communication is the key to success.
Keep your vision statement in a place where everyone can see it on a daily basis.
You can start by including your vision in every company-wide meeting. Here at Cascade, we make sure to run the all-hands meeting every week. Here’s what our agenda usually looks like:
- Drive alignment around company vision and overall strategy
- Communicate the strategy priorities
- Share updates and progress toward key business goals
- Celebrate our accomplishment
- Establish two-way communication between employees and executives
Turn your vision into a strategic advantage
We have entered a new normal - an environment where change is the norm. You may have a top-flight board and a great executive team, but the success of your organization depends on your leadership. Your vision for the future needs to be clear and strong so people can understand it and join forces behind it.
In short, unity and a laser-sharp focus are what separate winning businesses from losers these days.
Cascade has your back, offering speedy and agile business transformation to help you align teams behind a shared vision and drive business growth. See Cascade in action to discover how you can turn your vision into reality.
This article was originally part of our ‘How to Write a Strategy’ series:
- How To Write A Strategic Plan: The Cascade Model
- How to Write a Good Vision Statement (This Article)
- How To Create Company Values
- Creating Strategic Focus Areas
- How To Write Strategic Objectives
- How To Create Effective Projects
- How To Write KPIs
Strategic Planning Vs Operational Planning: What’s The Difference?
Strategy Review: How To Run It & What To Include
The 4 Levels Of Strategy: The Difference & How To Apply Them
Risk Mitigation Strategies: Types & Examples (+ Free Template)
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How to Set Strategic Planning Goals
- 29 Oct 2020
In an ever-changing business world, it’s imperative to have strategic goals and a plan to guide organizational efforts. Yet, crafting strategic goals can be a daunting task. How do you decide which goals are vital to your company? Which ones are actionable and measurable? Which goals to prioritize?
To help you answer these questions, here’s a breakdown of what strategic planning is, what characterizes strategic goals, and how to select organizational goals to pursue.
Access your free e-book today.
What Is Strategic Planning?
Strategic planning is the ongoing organizational process of using available knowledge to document a business's intended direction. This process is used to prioritize efforts, effectively allocate resources, align shareholders and employees, and ensure organizational goals are backed by data and sound reasoning.
Research in the Harvard Business Review cautions against getting locked into your strategic plan and forgetting that strategy involves inherent risk and discomfort. A good strategic plan evolves and shifts as opportunities and threats arise.
“Most people think of strategy as an event, but that’s not the way the world works,” says Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen in the online course Disruptive Strategy . “When we run into unanticipated opportunities and threats, we have to respond. Sometimes we respond successfully; sometimes we don’t. But most strategies develop through this process. More often than not, the strategy that leads to success emerges through a process that’s at work 24/7 in almost every industry."
Related: 5 Tips for Formulating a Successful Strategy
Characteristics of Strategic Goals
To craft a strategic plan for your organization, you first need to determine the goals you’re trying to reach. Strategic goals are an organization’s measurable objectives that are indicative of its long-term vision.
Here are four characteristics of strategic goals to keep in mind when setting them for your organization.
The starting point for crafting strategic goals is asking yourself what your company’s purpose and values are . What are you striving for, and why is it important to set these objectives? Let the answers to these questions guide the development of your organization’s strategic goals.
“You don’t have to leave your values at the door when you come to work,” says HBS Professor Rebecca Henderson in the online course Sustainable Business Strategy .
Henderson, whose work focuses on reimagining capitalism for a just and sustainable world, also explains that leading with purpose can drive business performance.
“Adopting a purpose will not hurt your performance if you do it authentically and well,” Henderson says in a lecture streamed via Facebook Live . “If you’re able to link your purpose to the strategic vision of the company in a way that really gets people aligned and facing in the right direction, then you have the possibility of outperforming your competitors.”
Related: 5 Examples of Successful Sustainability Initiatives
2. Long-Term and Forward-Focused
While strategic goals are the long-term objectives of your organization, operational goals are the daily milestones that need to be reached to achieve them. When setting strategic goals, think of your company’s values and long-term vision, and ensure you’re not confusing strategic and operational goals.
For instance, your organization’s goal could be to create a new marketing strategy; however, this is an operational goal in service of a long-term vision. The strategic goal, in this case, could be breaking into a new market segment, to which the creation of a new marketing strategy would contribute.
Keep a forward-focused vision to ensure you’re setting challenging objectives that can have a lasting impact on your organization.
Strong strategic goals are not only long-term and forward-focused—they’re actionable. If there aren’t operational goals that your team can complete to reach the strategic goal, your organization is better off spending time and resources elsewhere.
When formulating strategic goals, think about the operational goals that fall under them. Do they make up an action plan your team can take to achieve your organization’s objective? If so, the goal could be a worthwhile endeavor for your business.
When crafting strategic goals, it’s important to define how progress and success will be measured.
According to the online course Strategy Execution , an effective tool you can use to create measurable goals is a balanced scorecard —a tool to help you track and measure non-financial variables.
“The balanced scorecard combines the traditional financial perspective with additional perspectives that focus on customers, internal business processes, and learning and development,” says HBS Professor Robert Simons in the online course Strategy Execution . “These additional perspectives help businesses measure all the activities essential to creating value.”
The four perspectives are:
- Internal business processes
- Learning and growth
The most important element of a balanced scorecard is its alignment with your business strategy.
“Ask yourself,” Simons says, “‘If I picked up a scorecard and examined the measures on it, could I infer what the business's strategy was? If you've designed measures well, the answer should be yes.”
Related: A Manager’s Guide to Successful Strategy Implementation
Strategic Goal Examples
Whatever your business goals and objectives , they must have all four of the characteristics listed above.
For instance, the goal “become a household name” is valid but vague. Consider the intended timeframe to reach this goal and how you’ll operationally define “a household name.” The method of obtaining data must also be taken into account.
An appropriate revision to the original goal could be: “Increase brand recognition by 80 percent among surveyed Americans by 2030.” By setting a more specific goal, you can better equip your organization to reach it and ensure that employees and shareholders have a clear definition of success and how it will be measured.
If your organization is focused on becoming more sustainable and eco-conscious, you may need to assess your strategic goals. For example, you may have a goal of becoming a carbon neutral company, but without defining a realistic timeline and baseline for this initiative, the probability of failure is much higher.
A stronger goal might be: “Implement a comprehensive carbon neutrality strategy by 2030.” From there, you can determine the operational goals that will make this strategic goal possible.
No matter what goal you choose to pursue, it’s important to avoid those that lack clarity, detail, specific targets or timeframes, or clear parameters for success. Without these specific elements in place, you’ll have a difficult time making your goals actionable and measurable.
Prioritizing Strategic Goals
Once you’ve identified several strategic goals, determine which are worth pursuing. This can be a lengthy process, especially if other decision-makers have differing priorities and opinions.
To set the stage, ensure everyone is aware of the purpose behind each strategic goal. This calls back to Henderson’s point that employees’ alignment on purpose can set your organization up to outperform its competitors.
Calculate Anticipated ROI
Next, calculate the estimated return on investment (ROI) of the operational goals tied to each strategic objective. For example, if the strategic goal is “reach carbon-neutral status by 2030,” you need to break that down into actionable sub-tasks—such as “determine how much CO2 our company produces each year” and “craft a marketing and public relations strategy”—and calculate the expected cost and return for each.
The ROI formula is typically written as:
ROI = (Net Profit / Cost of Investment) x 100
In project management, the formula uses slightly different terms:
ROI = [(Financial Value - Project Cost) / Project Cost] x 100
An estimate can be a valuable piece of information when deciding which goals to pursue. Although not all strategic goals need to yield a high return on investment, it’s in your best interest to calculate each objective's anticipated ROI so you can compare them.
Consider Current Events
Finally, when deciding which strategic goal to prioritize, the importance of the present moment can’t be overlooked. What’s happening in the world that could impact the timeliness of each goal?
For example, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the ever-intensifying climate change crisis have impacted many organizations’ strategic goals in 2020. Often, the goals that are timely and pressing are those that earn priority.
Learn to Plan Strategic Goals
As you set and prioritize strategic goals, remember that your strategy should always be evolving. As circumstances and challenges shift, so must your organizational strategy.
If you lead with purpose, a measurable and actionable vision, and an awareness of current events, you can set strategic goals worth striving for.
Do you want to learn more about strategic planning? Explore our online strategy courses and download our free flowchart to determine which is right for you and your goals.
This post was updated on November 16, 2023. It was originally published on October 29, 2020.
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6 Steps to Make Your Strategic Plan Really Strategic
- Graham Kenny
You don’t need dozens of strategic goals.
Many strategic plans aren’t strategic, or even plans. To fix that, try a six step process: first, identify key stakeholders. Second, identify a specific, very important key stakeholder: your target customer. Third, figure out what these stakeholders want from you. Fourth, figure out what you want from them. Fifth, design your strategy around these requirements. Sixth, focus on continuously improving this plan.
Why is it that when a group of managers gets together for a strategic planning session they often emerge with a document that’s devoid of “strategy”, and often not even a plan ?
- Graham Kenny is CEO of Strategic Factors and author of the best-selling book Strategy Discovery. He is a recognized expert in strategy and performance measurement who helps managers, executives, and boards create successful organizations in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. He has been a professor of management in universities in the U.S., and Canada. You can connect to or follow him on LinkedIn .
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- Section 2. Proclaiming Your Dream: Developing Vision and Mission Statements
Chapter 8 Sections
- Section 1. An Overview of Strategic Planning or "VMOSA" (Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies, and Action Plans)
- Section 3. Creating Objectives
- Section 4. Developing Successful Strategies: Planning to Win
- Section 5. Developing an Action Plan
- Section 6. Obtaining Feedback from Constituents: What Changes are Important and Feasible?
- Section 7. Identifying Action Steps in Bringing About Community and System Change
- Main Section
Creating your organization's vision and mission statements are the first two steps in the VMOSA action planning process. Developing a vision and mission statement is crucial to the success of community initiatives. These statements explain your group's aspirations in a concise manner, help your organization focus on what is really important, and provide a basis for developing other aspects of your strategic plan. This section provides a guide for developing and implementing your organization's vision and mission statements.
What is a vision statement?
Your vision is your dream. It's what your organization believes are the ideal conditions for your community; that is, how things would look if the issue important to you were completely, perfectly addressed. It might be a world without war, or a community in which all people are treated as equals, regardless of gender or racial background.
Whatever your organization's dream is, it may be well articulated by one or more vision statements , which are short phrases or sentences that convey your community's hopes for the future. By developing a vision statement or statements, your organization clarifies the beliefs and governing principles of your organization, first for yourselves, and then for the greater community.
There are certain characteristics that most vision statements have in common. In general, vision statements should be:
- Understood and shared by members of the community
- Broad enough to include a diverse variety of local perspectives
- Inspiring and uplifting to everyone involved in your effort
- Easy to communicate - for example, they are generally short enough to fit on a T-shirt
Here are some examples of vision statements that meet the above criteria:
- A community where all individuals and families achieve their human potential.
- CALCASA envisions a world free from sexual violence.
- A future where tobacco is a thing of the past. ( Truth Initiative )
- A world without Alzheimer’s Disease. ( Alzheimer’s Association )
- The United States is a humane community in which all animals are treated with respect and kindness. ( ASPCA )
- A world where everyone has a decent place to live. ( Habitat for Humanity )
What is a mission statement?
The next step of the action planning process is to ground your vision in practical terms. This is where developing a mission statement comes in. An organization's mission statement describes what the group is going to do and why it's going to do that. An example is "Promoting care and caring at the end of life through coalitions and advocacy."
Mission statements are similar to vision statements, in that they, too, look at the big picture. However, they're more concrete, and they are definitely more "action-oriented" than vision statements. Your vision statement should inspire people to dream; your mission statement should inspire them to action.
The mission statement might refer to a problem, such as an inadequate housing, or a goal, such as providing universal access to health care. And, while they don't go into a lot of detail, they hint - very broadly - at how your organization might fix these problems or reach these goals. Some general guiding principles about mission statements are that they are:
- Concise . While not as short as vision statements, mission statements generally still get their point across in one sentence.
- Outcome-oriented . Mission statements explain the fundamental outcomes your organization is working to achieve.
- Inclusive . While mission statements do make statements about your group's key goals, it's very important that they do so very broadly. Good mission statements are not limiting in the strategies or sectors of the community that may become involved in the project.
The following examples should help you understand what we mean by effective mission statements.
- Promoting community health and development by connecting people, ideas and resources. (Community Tool Box)
- The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault ( CALCASA ) provides leadership, vision and resources to rape crisis centers, individuals and other entities committed to ending sexual violence.
- Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. ( Alzheimer’s Association )
- The mission of the ASPCA , as stated by Henry Bergh in 1866, is "to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States”.
- Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.
Why should you create vision and mission statements?
Why is it important that your organization develops vision and mission statements like those above? First of all, these statements can help your organization focus on what is really important. Although your organization knows what you are trying to do to improve your community, it's easy to lose sight of this when dealing with day-to-day organizational hassles. Your vision and mission statements remind members what is important.
Second, your vision and mission statements give other individuals and organizations a snapshot view of what your group is and what it wants to accomplish. When your vision and mission statements are easily visible (for example, if they are on the letterhead of your stationery), people learn about your organization without having to work hard for the information. Then, those with common interests can take the time necessary to learn more. This efficiency is very helpful when you are recruiting other people and organizations to join your effort.
Finally, vision and mission statements focus members on their common purpose . Not only do the statements themselves serve as a constant reminder of what is important to your organization, the process of developing them allows people to see the organization as "theirs”. Creating these statements builds motivation as members will believe in something more completely if they had a hand in developing it.
Having a clear and compelling vision statement has other advantages, such as:
- Drawing people to common work
- Giving hope for a better future
- Inspiring community members to realize their dreams through positive, effective action
- Providing a basis for developing the other aspects of your action planning process: your mission, objectives, strategies, and action plans
Having a clear and compelling mission statement also has more advantages, such as:
- Converting the broad dreams of your vision into more specific, action-oriented terms
- Explaining your goals to interested parties in a clear and concise manner
- Enhancing your organization's image as being competent and professional, thus reassuring funding sources that their investment was (or would be!) a smart choice
How do you create vision and mission statements?
Now having a better understanding of vision and mission statements, your organization has the tools to develop your unique statements. If your group has already developed vision and mission statements, you might wish to look at them in light of the criteria we discussed above. If members of your organization feel your current statements could be improved, this process can be easily used to modify them. Let’s begin.
Learn what is important to people in your community
As developing your vision and mission statements is the first step in creating your action plan, it is especially important that these first steps are well grounded in community beliefs and values. Awareness of the important issues in your community is critical for the development of a strong, effective, and enduring action group.
Therefore, one of the first steps you should take when developing the vision and mission of your organization is to define the issue(s) that matter most to people in your community. How do you go about doing so?
There are many different ways you can gather this information, including:
Conducting "public forums" or "listening sessions" with members of the community to gather ideas, thoughts, and opinions about how they would like to see the community transformed.
In public forums or listening sessions, people gather from throughout the community to talk about what is important to them. These meetings are usually led by facilitators, who guide a discussion of what people perceive to be the community's strengths and problems, and what people wish the community was like. Someone typically records these meetings, and a transcript of what is said provides a basis for subsequent planning.
Holding focus groups with the people interested in addressing the issue(s), including community leaders, people most affected by the issues, businesses, church leaders, teachers, etc.
Focus groups are similar to public forums and listening sessions, but they are smaller and more intimate. Generally speaking, they are comprised of small groups of people with similar backgrounds, so they will feel comfortable talking openly about what concerns them. For example, the group members are generally about the same age, are of the same ethnic group, or have another common identity and/or experience. Focus groups function like public forums, and also use facilitators and recorders to focus and document discussion.
Your organization may hold focus groups with several different groups of people to get the most holistic view of the issue at hand. For example, if your organization is involved in child health, you might have one focus group with health care providers, another with parents or children, and still another with teachers. Once you have a rough mission statement, you might again hold a focus group for feedback.
Obtaining interviews with people in leadership and service positions, including such individuals as local politicians, school administrators, hospital and social service agency staff, about what problems or needs they believe exist in your community.
Often, these individuals will have both facts and experiences to back up their perspectives. If so, this data can be used later if and when you apply for funding, or when you request community support to address the issues. More information on this topic can be found in Chapter 3, Section 12: Conducting Interviews.
It’s important to realize that these different ways of gathering information from your community are not mutually exclusive. In fact, if you have the resources, it is recommended to do all of the above: to have some time for the community at large to respond, then spend more time in focus groups with the people you believe might contribute greatly to (or be most affected by) some of the issues brought up in the public forum. And finally, some one-on-one time with community leaders can strengthen your knowledge and purpose; remember, there are community members who have been wrestling with the same issues you are now looking at for a long time. Take advantage of that experience so you don’t waste time on something that’s already been done.
Decide what to ask
No matter if you are talking to one person or a crowd, your purpose is the same: to learn what matters in your community. Here's a list of questions you might use to focus your discussions with community members. These questions may be used for individual interviews, focus groups, public forums, or in any other way you choose to gather information.
- What is your dream/vision for our community?
- What would you like to see change?
- What kind of community (or program, policy, school, neighborhood, etc.) do we want to create?
- What do you see as the community's (or school's, neighborhood's, etc.) major issues or problems?
- What do you see as the community's major strengths and assets?
- What do you think should be the purpose of this organization (or effort)?
- Why should these issues be addressed?
- What would success look like?
When your organization is gathering input, the facilitator should encourage everyone to share their most idealistic, hopeful, and positive ideas. Don't worry right now about what's practical and what's not - this can be narrowed down later. Encourage everyone to be bold and participate, and to remember that you are trying to articulate a vision of a better community.
Decide on the general focus of your organization
Once members of your organization have heard what the community has to say, it's time to decide the general focus of your organization or initiative. First of all, what topic is most important to your organization and your community? For example, will you tackle urban development or public health issues? Racism or economic opportunity?
A second question to answer is at what level will your organization work. Will your organization begin only in one school, or in one neighborhood, or in your city? Or will your initiative's focus be broader, working on a state, national, or even international level?
These are questions for which there are no easy answers. Your organization will need to consider lessons learned from the community and decide through thoughtful discussion the best direction for your organization. We suggest you open this discussion up to everyone in your organization to obtain the best results.
However, if your organization is receiving grant money or major funding from a particular agency, the grant maker may specify what the general goal of your group should be. For example, if your group accepts a grant to reduce child hunger, at least part of its mission will be devoted to this purpose. Even in these circumstances, however, the community should determine the ultimate vision and mission that will best advance what matters to local people.
Develop your vision and mission statements
Now that your organization has a clearer understanding of what the group will do and why, you are in a prime position to develop the statements that will capture your ideas.
As you are looking at potential statements, remember to keep them broad and enduring. Vision and mission statements wide in scope allow for a sense of continuity with a community's history, traditions, and broad purposes. Additionally, vision and mission statements that are built to last will guide efforts both today and tomorrow.
First of all, remind members of your organization that it often takes several vision statements to fully capture the dreams of those involved in a community improvement effort. You don't need - or even want - just one "perfect" phrase. Encourage people to suggest all of their ideas and write them down, possibly on poster paper at the front of the room, so people can be further inspired by the ideas of others. As you do this, remind the group of:
- What you have learned from your discussions with community members
- What your organization has decided will be your focus
- What you learned about vision statements at the beginning of this section
If you have a hard time getting started, you might wish to check out some of the vision statements in this section's Examples. You might ask yourself how well they meet the above suggestions.
After you have brainstormed a list of suggestions, your group can discuss critically the different ideas. Oftentimes, some of the vision statements will jump out at you - someone will suggest it, and people will just instantly think, "That's it!"
If it’s more complicated than that, you should ask yourselves the following questions:
- Will it draw people to common work?
- Does it give hope for a better future?
- Will it inspire community members to realize their dreams through positive, effective action?
- Does it provide a basis for developing the other aspects of your action planning process?
A final caution: try not to get caught up in having a certain number of vision statements for your organization. Whether you ultimately end up with two vision statements or ten, what is most important is that the statements together provide a holistic view of your organization’s vision.
The process of writing your mission statement is similar to developing your vision statements. The same brainstorming process can help you develop possibilities for your mission statement. Remember, though, that unlike vision statements, you will want to develop a single mission statement for your work. After brainstorming possible statements, you will want to answer questions for each one:
- Does it describe what your organization will do and why it will do it?
- Is it concise (one sentence)?
- Is it outcome oriented?
- Is it inclusive of the goals and people who may become involved in the organization?
Together, your organization can decide on a statement that best meets these criteria.
Obtain consensus on your vision and mission statements
Once members of your organization have developed your vision and mission statements, your next step might be to learn what other community members think of them before you use the statements regularly.
To do this, you could talk to the same community leaders or focus group members you spoke to originally. First of all, this can help you ensure that they don't find the statements offensive in any way. For example, an initiative that wants to include young men more fully in its teen pregnancy prevention project might have "Young men in Asheville are the best informed" as one of their vision statements. But taken out of context, some people community members might believe this statement means young men are given better information or education than young women, thus offending another group of people.
Second, you will want to ensure that community members agree that the statements together capture the spirit of what they believe and desire. Your organization might find it has omitted something very important by mistake.
Decide how you will use your vision and mission statements
Finally, it's important to remember that while developing the statements is a huge step for your organization worth celebration, there is more work to be done. Next, you have to decide how to use these statements. Otherwise, all of your hard work would lead to nothing. The point is to get the message across.
There are many ways in which your organization may choose to spread its vision and mission statements. To name just a few examples, you might:
- Add them to your letterhead or stationery
- Use them on your website
- Give away T-shirts, or bookmarks, or other small gifts with them
- Add them to your press kit
- Use them when you give interviews
- Display them on the cover of your annual report
...and so on. Again, this is a step that will use all of your creativity.
Developing effective vision and mission statements are two of the most important tasks your organization will tackle because almost everything else you do is affected by these statements. We hope that this section has allowed you to feel more confident in your group's ability to create successful and inspiring vision and mission statements. Remember, think broadly and boldly! Good luck!
Coalition Vision, Mission, and Goals defines SWOT Analysis, coalition vision and mission statements, and goals and strategies.
Barry, B. (1982). Strategic planning workbook for non-profit organizations . St. Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation.
Bryson, J. (1988). Strategic planning for public and nonprofit organizations: A guide to strengthening and sustaining organizational achievement . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Coover, V., et al. (1985). Resource manual for a living revolution: a handbook of skills & tools for social change activists . Philadelphia: New Society Publisher.
Fawcett, S., Paine, A., Francisco, V., Richter, K. P., Lewis, R., Williams, E., Harris, K., Winter, K., in collaboration with Bradley, B. & Copple, J. (1992). Preventing adolescent substance abuse: an action planning guide for community -based initiatives . Lawrence, KS: Work Group on Health Promotion and Community Development, University of Kansas.
Fawcett, S., Paine, A., Francisco, V., Richter, K., Lewis, R., Harris, K., Williams, E., & Fischer, J., in collaboration with Vincent, M., & Johnson, C. (1992). Preventing adolescent pregnancy: an action planning guide for community-based initiatives. Lawrence, KS: Work Group on Health Promotion and Community Development, University of Kansas.
Kansas Health Foundation. VMOSA: An approach to strategic planning. Wichita, KS: Kansas Health Foundation.
Lord, R. (1989). The non-profit problem solver: A management guide . New York, NY: Praeger Publishers.
Olenick, J., & Olenick, R. (1991). A non-profit organization operating manual: planning for survival and growth . New York, NY: Foundation Center.
Stonich, P. (1982). Implementing strategy: making strategy happen . Cambridge: Ballinger Publishing Company.
Unterman, I., & Davis, R. (1984). Strategic management of not-for-profit organizations . New York, NY: CBS Educational and Professional Publishing.
Wolff, T. (1990). Managing a non-profit organization . New York, NY: Prentice Hall Press.
American Planning Association 1776 Massachusetts Ave., N.W. Washington, DC 20036 (202) 872-0611 FAX: (202) 872-0643
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How to write a surprisingly easy and effective strategic plan.
While it is true that writing a strategic plan is often a tiresome process, with the right knowledge and a clear strategy model, it can be surprisingly easy.
Strategic planning always takes time, but the reward is completely worth it. If written and executed properly, it will realign stakeholders with your company's objectives. New circumstances arise constantly, and strategic plans change as the business climates change. A strategic plan isn't definite – both internal and external changes affect it.
Often called strategy development, strategic planning requires strong attention to detail and an experienced planning team.
Core Elements To Include In Your Strategic Plan
Before learning how to write a strategic plan, you should first learn about the core elements to include in it:
Vision Statement: You shouldn't start working on a strategic plan without a defined Vision Statement. It will help in setting strategy towards achieving the most important objectives of your business.
Company values: Your values represent the way you behave as a company as you work on your goals. Some good values include being compassionate, accountable, innovative, and passionate.
Focus areas: Focus areas are the crucial operations and processes you'll focus on as you work toward achieving your vision.
Strategic objectives: Strategic objectives represent your high-level goals. It's important to define them and align them with your focus areas.
KPIs: KPIs define the ways you will measure your company's progress in achieving business objectives.
Projects: Projects represent the things you do to achieve your business goals. They are very specific and time-sensitive.
Where Are We Now?
The first step of writing a strategic plan is looking at your current position. You need to think about where your company is now and check if your fundamental values are still in place if you want to learn how to write a strategic plan.
The three important elements to observe:
Mission statement: Every business needs a mission statement to describe and define the company's purpose. You may include various things in your mission statement, but it should clearly say what your organization does and why it exists.
Guiding principles: Your guiding principles define what your business stands for and what you believe in as a company. Revise what values and beliefs guide the daily activities and interactions among management and employees.
SWOT: Another essential element for creation is your company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). You need to be aware of each element so you can create a strategy that improves your overall success.
Want additional insight? Read 4 Step Guide to Strategic Planning now to learn more
Where Are We Going?
When wondering how to write a strategy plan, one of the most important questions to ask yourself is, "Where are we going?"
It will help you get a clear vision of where your company is headed in the future and what you want to achieve. The future may be hard to predict, but several elements can help you get an insight into possible outcomes based on various indicators, such as:
Sustainable Competitive Advantage: Every business should work hard on creating a sustainable competitive advantage that will set their company apart from competitors. Think about the best aspects of your business. How is it unique? What can your company do better than any other company?
Vision Statement: A clear vision of what your organization will look like in the future is necessary for creating a good strategy. It will give everyone a path to follow.
How Will We Get There?
Determining how you'll reach your vision is the most important part of a strategic plan, and it's also the one that's most time-consuming. Since there are many ways for you to travel from the point where you are now to your future vision, it takes time to find the right one. Picking a certain route will define how slowly or quickly you reach your final destination, so it's very important to choose wisely.
When brainstorming ways to achieve your vision, you need to consider various elements, such as strategic objectives, strategy, short-term objectives, action plans, scorecards, and plan execution. Each of these elements is vital for the future success of your strategic plan, and each requires attention.
You need to define both long-term and short-term goals clearly and cover every aspect of planning when looking for ways to optimize your operations.
How To Set Priorities In Your Strategic Plan
If you're wondering how you write a strategic plan without knowing the priorities, the answer is – you don't. You must set your strategic priorities first, and that often takes time. There are three areas to look at when setting priorities in your plan:
Current situation: Think about which aspects of your business are doing great, and which aspects need improvement. Recognize what's holding you back from reaching your objectives.
Future perspective: Knowing your current situation isn't enough for creating an optimal strategic plan. Since no one can predict the future precisely, it's best to gather a team and talk about team member's visions of the future of your business.
Value proposition: Your value proposition is a group of the most distinctive reasons why your customers should be interested in your product or service.
We've covered the basics of how to write a strategic plan, but if you want to learn more, contact us today to set up a strategic business plan consultation. Our business advisory services have helped numerous organizations reach their objectives faster and more efficiently.
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What is a vision statement.
A Vision Statement defines your desired future state and provides direction for where you are going as an organization. Vision statements are 5-10 years in nature and clearly describe what success looks like and what you’re seeking to achieve.
Vision Statements Clearly Define Your Future
Visioning is all about creating the future. As we always say to our clients, there is no reason to embark on a planning process if there is no desire that the future is different from today.
A strategic plan without a future state is like building a bridge to nowhere. Great leaders communicate [and overcommunicate] about where an organization is going and why. Plain and simple – great leaders unite their people with a vision, destination, or compelling future state.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we totally understand! Creating a vision is no easy walk in the park. It often creates anxiety, but we’re here to help you understand the basics of vision statements, why you’re organization needs a solid vision statement, how to identify and envision your future, and how to write a solid and memorable vision statement .
Vision Statements 101: The Key Differences between a Vision Statement and a Mission Statement
While some may use a vision statement and a mission statement interchangeably, there are some distinct differences between your vision statement and mission statement.
The first key difference is your mission statement describes the enduring reality of your organization today – it explains why your organization exists to provide context for your strategic decisions. Think of mission statements as your reason for existing.
While a company’s mission statement is not subject to a particular timeframe, your vision statement on the other hand, forecasts about 5-10 years in the future. It is a statement that crystalizes what and who you want to become. It is both inspiring and achievable within a specific time period. Think of a vision statement as your clear picture of the future.
Although people may consider that it is only necessary to have one or the other, it is actually ideal to have both as they serve as the foundation for your overall strategy and plan to beat present and potential competitors.
Video Transcript How to Write a Vision Statement
Hi, my name is Erica Olsen.
Welcome to today’s whiteboard session on how to write a vision statement. Vision statements are a critical component to any great strategic plan. And the reason why is because strategic plans are about creating a different future. And that future is articulated in your vision statement.
It needs to be succinct and clear and understandable. But it needs to paint a picture for where you’re going and why. And that’s your critical word to remember is where we often get mission and vision confused. So the way that you keep them distinct is by making sure that your vision statement articulates Where are we going, what does success look like?
In the future, let’s talk about the different types of vision statements, a checklist to make sure yours is great. And then we’ll break down how it comes together and wrap it up with a quick how to do it for yourself.
So there are three different types of vision statements that come in three different flavors, really, the first is quantitative, so a revenue number maybe, or maybe like a number of things. In this case, every kid that’s an expression of a quantitative vision statement.
Competitive is about sounding like beating your competition or better than your competition. I don’t see these very often, so I wouldn’t use that.
The third one is superlative, like, Premier number one the best, also super common. Okay, here’s your checklists, great checklist to make sure that your vision statement truly is a vision statement. Let’s break it down.
Vision statements are at least five years in nature or longer five years is a really good guide. In this case by 2025. Future tense I talked about that already. Make sure we say where I love, we envision that’s super future looking. And then of course, we have the word will in there as well. So future tense verbs. It’s directional. Again, we’re not there today, reaching every kid starts to explain that audacious Same deal. Every Kid in our community, that’s big visions are about big and descriptive. Academically through high school and beyond, it starts to paint a picture, we expanded it by adding some more descriptors here about how the world will look different.
Remember, your vision statement is your North Star. And we want to be able to see that North Star so let’s create a clearer picture. So let’s break this down a little bit further. So you can put yours together, we envision, I like to start vision statements like that, because it gets us in the right frame of mind, you might get rid of it later. But it’s a good place to start. The impact that we’re making in the world, what is different, be clear that you spell that out, and then what the world looks like, you may not always include these in all of your vision statement prints, if you will, but But it’s nice to really kind of describe it and not be constrained by something super, super tight and synthesized.
The tip on these is I like to use these as a starting place to develop strategic objectives. It’s a great way to tie everything together. So how do you create one? Well, you might already have an idea for your vision, in which case get after it, write it down. If you don’t, Google cover story vision, awesome instructions on pulling your team together and getting the creative juices going. So my last tip is leaders focus on the future. You can’t lead if you don’t have a vision.
So hopefully this helps you put yours together. That’s all we have for today. Thanks for tuning in. Happy strategizing.
The benefits of a vision statement
An ideal vision statement can prove beneficial to your strategic plan as it serves as the framework to guide your plan. It defines the desired future state and where you wish to go as an organization. Having a vision statement that is clear, concise, big and bold serves the following purpose:
- It serves as a foundation for your strategic plan
- It provides direction and clarity for your organization
- It aligns your team and makes them aware of the overarching goals for the organization
How do you write a vision statement that creates clarity?
The ideal vision statement is a clear portrait of your loftiest aspiration, inspiring vision, boldest affirmation, and the dream you dare to dream for your organization.
A great analogy for a vision statement is the difference between a Monet and a Norman Rockwell painting. The Monet is beautiful and idealistic, but hazy if left up to interpretation. However, the Rockwell is crisp and crystal-clear and there is no mistaking what the image conveys.
Answer these 4 Questions to Form Your Vision Statement
It’s easier to think about your vision statement as the concise answer to the following fundamental question about your organization’s future. Therefore, we recommend answering these questions before writing your actual vision statement:
What will our organization look like 5–10 years from now?
Where do you envision your organization in the future? How is that different than where you are today? What is the impact?
Get the Free Guide to Create a Clear Vision and Future State
What does success look like.
Try to be clear about what achieving your vision will create for your organization and team. There is no valor in being vague or trying to please everyone.
How will achieving your vision change your business? How will it change the lives of your team? Having clarity about what success looks like will make your vision stronger and more compelling. Remember, you need your team to “buy in” to your direction, so they need to understand what the output looks like long-term.
Pro-Tip: Check out our growth strategy guide to help define where you’ll play and how you’ll win.
What is our aspiration?
Your vision statement should be aspirational and somewhat out of reach (but not so much that the vision becomes daunting). You must strike that perfect balance between something that inspires you and your team to reach further than they’ve ever reached before, and yet is still tangible and achievable.
How will the work that we do impact the people and communities we serve?
Your vision statement should reach further and go deeper than just driving profit. Think about your core values and purpose of why you started your organization in the first place. Build your vision off of your original mission statement to create a vision that is deep, meaningful, and ambitious.
Pro-Tip: The greatest vision statements of today also consider how your vision will change your community. How does it impact your team? How does it affect your geographical community? What does achieving your vision do for the environment?
Later on in the post we will provide a few strong examples of vision statements to model your own after.
How to Write a Vision Statement
After you’ve answered these questions, you can begin to draft your vision statement using OnStrategy’s tried and true vision statement template. We recommend using this format:
- Start with, ‘We envision’… Use this statement because your vision should be representative of what the world will look like when your organization has reached the pinnacle of success.
- Follow that with a verb in future tense: It is critical to be thinking ahead and in action. Visions are in the future, so they should be written in future tense.
- A description of your future state: Clearly stating your organization’s future.
- Description of your desired impact: Stating the impact in the most clear and concise manner is the most important part of your vision statement because it brings your vision to life. It also shows that you are thinking of how your success will affect the lives of your employees, those you serve and the community-at-large.
Here’s a recap on vision statements:
As we covered earlier in the post, a vision statement defines your organization’s future state and provides direction for where you are going as an organization. It is 5-10 years in nature and describes what you’re setting out to achieve in that timeframe.
Vision descriptors are statements that accompany your vision and articulate distinct “mini-visions” that support your overall vision of success. We like to align these descriptors to the different planning perspectives to create a long-term “mini-vision” of success for each portion of a plan. In practice, it looks something like this:
- Financial: Realize $100M in revenue, or 20% year-over-year growth, in the next 5 years.
- Customer: Become a top player in our market positioned as “innovators” in the minds of our customers.
- Operational Excellence: Scale our infrastructure to increase food output by 50%.
- People Expertise: Have an enthusiastic and growing team of 200 individuals who are passionate about changing the food industry.
Again, these sections of your mini-vision may look familiar as they are the same categories you’d find in a balanced scorecard framework.
Having these “mini-vision” statements aligned to your overall vision of success gives you a good starting point for your strategic plan’s long-term strategic objectives. It helps create the alignment of targeted long-term goals to reach your overall vision of success.
As You Think About How to Write a Vision, Here Are a Few Pro Tips to Consider
Here are a few last tips to consider as you write a vision statement:
- Get to 80% and worry about the exact wording later. Word choice can make a team run in circles going back and forth, which wastes an incredible amount of time.
- Stay grounded by assessing your internal and external environment.
- Check your statements to make sure your mission and vision statements explain your core purpose and define where you want to go. Remember, mission statements explain why you exist. Vision statements explain where you are going.
The 5 Traits of an Amazing Vision Statement
So, what makes a great vision? We’ve worked with thousands of clients to develop compelling, forward-thinking vision statements. Here are a few common traits we look for in a clear, forward-driving vision statement :
Trait #1 – A great vision statement is future tense and points to a destination with action.
This might seem simple, but we always recommend stating your vision statement in future tense and using movement verbs. Sure, you need to say where you’re going, but communicating it with action can help your team feel the momentum.
Again, we recommend casting your statement about 5-10 years in your organization’s future. It just makes sense.
Trait #2 – A great vision is bold and inspiring.
Visions are big, broad and bold assertions, with high-reaching thoughts. Be audacious. Use your vision statement to dream about the future you want. Be bold but be intentional.
Trait #3 – A great vision statement is descriptive and and articulates the ‘dent’ you want to make in the world.
Ultimately, a vision is the ideal future state of an organization – a place that you envision as successful as possible given your purpose, current state, and desired impact. Think of painting a comprehensive picture of success from the following dimensions:
- Customer Growth & Retention: What does your customer base look like in 5 years? Why does that matter?
- Operational Excellence & Innovation: How do you picture your organization running faster, stronger, or more efficiently?
- People & Organizational Stability: How will your vision impact your team and organizational stability? How does that change the lives of your team?
- Financial Results & Impact: What does your bottom-line look like in 5 years? Why does that matter?
Pro-Tip: Does the structure above look familiar? That’s because it’s the balanced scorecard framework! Being clear about what your vision looks like in these perspectives makes it easy to bridge between your annual objectives and your long-term destination. We love creating “mini-visions” in these areas to create clarity about where you’re going and how it impacts your organization holistically.
Expand your vision statement by adding some descriptors about how the world will look different when you reach your vision.
Trait #4 – A great vision statement articulates “why.”
It can’t be said enough – everyone wants to know what they are working towards and why. The why is so, so important. It’s also arguably the hardest part of a visioning exercise.
Pro-Tip:Unpack your why by answering the question, “What is the LASTING IMPACT our organization will make for our employees, customers, stakeholders and the communities we serve. WHY does that matter?”
Trait #5 – A great vision statement is harmonious with your mission.
However, the ‘why’ of your vision should already be halfway articulated as it should complement your mission statement. It basically builds off of why your organization exists by expanding on the desired future state your organization will achieve and the impact you will have on everyday life in your community.
Your vision and your company mission, together form your corporate aspirations, and ultimately your strategy.
Vision Statement Examples
Here are a few strong vision statement examples for your own reference. For a deeper dive into examples, see our post on Vision Statement Examples and Template.
- DuPont: To be the world’s most dynamic science company, creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, and healthier life for people everywhere.
- Heinz: To be the world’s premier food company, offering nutritious, superior tasting foods to people everywhere.
- Susan G. Komen for the Cure: A world without breast cancer.
- Novo Nordisk: To be the world’s leading diabetes care company.
- Amazon: Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company, to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
How to Communicate Your Vision Statement
There are many ways to communicate and roll out your vision, but here are 3 helpful tips we recommend:
Co-create your vision with your team during planning
If your organization is starting from scratch on its strategic plan, we highly recommend running a separate process to create your vision of the future. And in a perfect world, your planning team would also use the input from your team to create your organization’s vision. Co-creating your vision with input allows everyone to feel like they have a stake in the future of your organization and helps create consensus and alignment.
Ensure your vision statement is in your one-page strategic plan!
Of course, your vision can’t do much to inspire your team if it isn’t communicated! We love putting it in the one-page strategic plan as an overview and reminder about where you’re going in the future.
Post your vision statement somewhere visible
Place copies of the vision in key places around your organization where you know it will be seen often. You don’t want it to be “out of sight, out of mind.” Having it visible to everyone daily not only makes sure it is remembered but also communicates your focus to it as an organization.
Free Vision Statement Cheat Sheet
There you have it! By following this informational and thorough guide, you’ll be on your way to creating a vision statement that motivates and inspires. Don’t forget to download the free vision statement cheat sheet and check out our other resources!
this is so educative thak you very much
Reading this article has make me think about my own family and were would we be in 3, 5, or 10 years from now? I must develop a vision statement in order to keep progressing =). Great Article
This article is very good. Thank you very mauch for posting it. It has guided me on my Global Corporate strategy project work for MBA at ESAMI
what are drawbacks or disadvantages of a vision statement?
Great stuff, very interesting
The key is what more can we do, and where else can we add value. To our customers, staff, and world. I know from experiences where I have had great buying interactions that they not only help with what I was asking about, they saw what I may need in the future and helped guide my choices correctly.
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Creating a Strategic Vision for Your Company: Why a Strategic Plan Must Start with Strategic Vision
- September 5, 2018
A Strategic Vision Must Come First
What is strategic vision, strategic vision definition, creating a strategic vision for a company, is organizational development a critical part of your strategic vision if so, the strategic planning consultants at clarity can help.
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The Next-Gen K-State Strategic Plan
K-state will become a new kind of land-grant university to serve a changing world and thrive in an uncharted future..
Kansas State University will lead the nation as a next-generation land-grant university – setting the standard for inspiring learning, creativity, discovery and engagement that positively impacts society and transforms lives in Kansas and around the world.
K-State will lead the way as a next-generation land-grant university, guided by an ambitious strategic plan designed to embrace and elevate key differentiators that make our university such a special place for so many while pushing ourselves to think and act boldly — embracing transformation as not just an idea but as an imperative.
Please view key elements of the plan below or read the full or summary strategic plan.
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CHP Strategic Plan
See our Progress
This website has been created as a method to keep everyone abreast of the work that is being done surrounding the new Strategic Plan for the college. Please refer back to this website for ongoing updates. All faculty and staff will be critical to the development and implementation of our new Strategic Plan.
We welcome your questions, comments, suggestions or feedback.
History and Timeline
Initial work reviewed by the CHP Strategic Planning Core Organizing Group
Mission and vision statement comparison.
The CHP Strategic Planning Core Organizing Group sought faculty and staff input and voted on the need to update the CHP Mission and Vision statement to more closely align with the current WSU Mission and Vision statement.
The group proposed three (3) alternate CHP Mission & Vision statements for the faculty/staff to place their final vote.
A college-wide vote was held in November 2022, and a new Mission and Vision was selected.
Attendees of the Initial 2-day Strategic Planning Session
- Dean Gregory Hand
- Associate Dean Voncella McCleary-Jones
- Ms. Laurie Alloway
- Ms. Lisa Belt
- Ms. Lisa Clancy
- Dr. Dean Elledge
- Ms. Barb Gonzalez
- Ms. Brandy Jackson
- Ms. Mandy Konecny
- Ms. Pamela Ammar
- Dr. LaDonna Hale
- Dr. Jamie Harrington
- Dr. BJ Lehecka
- Dr. Doug Parham
- Dr. Debie Pile
- Dr. M’Lisa Shelden
- Ms. Laura Sooby
- Ms. Amy Tully
Members of the CHP’s Strategic Planning Core Organizing Group
Dr. Voncella McCleary-Jones PhD., RN
Professor | Associate Dean for Academic, Faculty & Student Affairs
Director of Business & Finance
Associate Teaching Professor
Ronda Hanneman MPH, PA-C
Program Director, Interim Chair, and Associate Clinical Professor
Graduate Program Director/Assistant Professor
B.J. Lehecka PT, DPT, PhD
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