November 16, 2017 | By

The 5 Step Process of Strategic Planning

Strategic plans help identify what an organization is striving to become and maps out the necessary steps needed to get there. It used to be that strategic plans would go out for ten years, but organizations today typically look 2-3 years down the road—some industries just plan every year.

Developing a strategic plan is a multi-step process and one step builds off of the other. To begin the process the organization needs to have a passion for what they are doing and a clear idea of what they want to achieve.

5 Step Process for Developing a Strategic Plan

Step 1: Write a Vision Statement

A Vision Statement is a statement (typically 2-3 sentences) that gives the reader (and more importantly, the organization) a mental picture of what the organization hopes to become or what the organization hopes to achieve.

It is important to understand where an organization is going before it can develop a strategic plan for how to get there. The value of a vision statement is that is gives leadership and employees a shared goal.

To facilitate a visioning session:

  1. Get the visionaries in a room.
  2. Ask them to close their eyes and describe the mental picture they see when the organization has reached its optimal state.
  3. Document thoughts that describe the picture on a flip chart.
  4. Come to agreement on all that is described.
  5. Take some time to wordsmith or play with the wording until it describes the thoughts accurately.

Example Vision Statement: “ABC Dry Cleaners will be the premier professional laundry of the metropolitan area by providing unmatched customer service and cleaning services that exceed the competition.”

Step 2: Write a Mission Statement

A Mission Statement is an explanation of why an organization exists and the path it will take to achieve its vision. Mission statements are typically shorter than a vision statement but not always and are organization specific. This is a statement that describes what the organization is passionate about and why it exists.

To facilitate the mission statement process:

  1. Have the group look at vision statement and begin the process to brainstorm a mission statement.
  2. Go around the room and have everyone give a brief description (5-7 words) describing their thoughts and document their answers on a flip chart.
  3. Once everyone has put their ideas down, look for similarities and usually a natural statement will flesh itself out.
  4. Reword and refine the statement until everyone agrees that it reflects the mission of the organization.

Example Mission Statement: We exist to “help our customers care for and extend the life of their clothes investment.”

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Step 3: Perform a Gap Analysis

A gap analysis is a process an organization goes through to identify the gaps between its current state and its vision. To do a gap analysis, simply look at where the organization is and compare it to where it hopes to be.

This process typically involves a step of researching data outside the organization as well as taking a good hard look at data within the organization. Examples of gaps an organization might look at would be:

Example of organization’s current state:

  1. Customer Satisfaction scores of 65
  2. Profit margin 1%
  3. 10% of market share
  4. 10% return on poor quality cleanings

Step 4: Write SMART Goals

Write SMART goals for 2-3 years out (some organizations choose to go shorter or longer depending on the organization).

Example Organizational Goals:

  1. By 20xx ABC Dry Cleaner will have a customer satisfaction rate of 85
  2. By 20xx ABC Dry Cleaner will have a profit margin of 5%
  3. By 20xx ABC Dry Cleaner will have a 25% market share
  4. By 20xx ABC Dry Cleaner will have less than 2% return for poor quality cleanings

Now this is where the rubber meets the road. Goals are a wonderful thing to have but unless they are implemented and someone is held accountable through a structured performance management process, they are nothing more than words on a piece of paper.

To give goals some teeth, they need to be taken down to the department and ultimately the employee level. This means identifying who will get it done.

Example Goal Document

Step 5: Monitor Progress

Goals should be monitored at least on a quarterly basis. This can be as simple as asking the responsible person to give a status update on their goals for the quarter. It is very important that this is done because all organizations are so busy today that the day-to-day responsibilities can sometimes get in the way of completing long-term goals.

Once a year the strategic plan and goals should be reviewed and updated to reflect current market conditions and changes to ensure that goals are focused on the current state of the organization.

Many organizations don’t create a strategic plan because the process intimidates them, but any size organization can map out a plan if they solicit the help of a trained facilitator and commit the time and resources to doing it.

Does your organization have a strategy and plan?

This article is by Patricia Lotich from

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