Tips & Tricks: Organizational Strategic Planning

A strategic plan also known as a Road Map in reality is a living document which directs the overall functioning of any Organization.  

Strategic planning is important, but at the same time can be a complex issue especially for new and small organizations. Looking at the NGO sector, one may find that many NGOs do not have well drafted strategic plans and the few NGOs that have the plans are written in a very complex way – not comprehensible by the communities they serve. These are either too lengthy or too complicated to implement and are therefore not put into use.

What better way to describe the importance of planning in our day to day lives. Successful people or entities plan their actions and work tirelessly & endlessly to stick to their plan; while the not so successful people or entities, plan a lot but hardly ever implement the plan to the letter. The key to success is therefore not just having a plan but also executing it to achieve your goals and objectives.

Strategic Plan: What is this document?
Strategic planning is an organizational management activity that is used to set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations, ensure that employees and other stakeholders are working toward common goals, establish agreement around intended outcomes/results, and assess and adjust the organization’s direction in response to a changing environment. It focuses on the future and suggests measures that an organization must take to achieve its goals.  It also helps to establish concurrence around the desired results of the destined objectives by guiding an organization towards its goals as well as review and adjust the overall direction in response to changing circumstances. Lastly, it filters the problems that prevent organizational growth and progress and suggests suitable measures and steps in correcting these issues.

What is the significance of a Strategic Plan to an Organization?
A strategic plan is pivotal for the purpose of promoting the Organization as is important for the following reasons:
It guides the main initiative by clearly stating the mission and vision of the organization;
It guides and informs Organizational journey for its members through the vision;
It guides an Organization to understanding and relate to its strengths and capacities, weaknesses and problems as well as resources enabling it to analyze their strengths and build upon opportunity;
It guides an Organization to know what it needs to do in order to accomplish its set targets;
It guides efficient management of time, financial & resources and human resource becomes;
It guides an Organization to manage their investment and resources, define a budget for a specific time period and proficiently utilize its funds;
It guides Organization members to be accountable for specific work;
It guides an Organization to have both short-term and long-term objectives and can conveniently work towards achieving them;
It guides planning to address changes within the working environment enabling members to become more disciplined;
It guides innovative solutions and better thought-process while working on any initiative; and
It guides competitive advantage by following their strategies.

Principles of Strategic Planning
It is really important for one to understand the basic principles of strategic planning before setting out to initiate the process. To avoid your hard-work and time going futile, it is important to integrate the following principles in the planning process.
Lead from the front:  Strategic planning is central to an Organization and as such, it is prudent for management and secretariat team to be fully participatory and accountable in the process. 
Ownership: The strategic plan will be successful lonely when it is adopted by the staff, therefore keep the staff involved in the process.
Participatory Analysis: It is key to understand what stakeholders expect from your Organization, and therefore one should engage them in the process. 
Simplicity and focus: The planning process should be kept simple and should not unnecessarily be complicated by use of technical tools, jargons etc. The purpose of the plan is to guide and therefore, focus should be on formulating a simple yet practical plan that guides the Organization in reaching the desired objectives.

Stages in Strategic Planning
Ideally, strategic planning is done for a three to five year timeline; however it is also done for a shorter period, when the organization or its environment is dynamic. Typically, there are five stages in strategic planning as cited below;
Situational Analysis: The very first step is to determine the current state of business by having a complete understanding of the internal and external audits and internal and external environment of an organization. In short, this stage guides a SWOT analysis process to examine all the factors affecting the organization.
Projecting the state of an organization: Post analyzing the overall image and standing of organization, strategic planners then move to defining the probable achievements or future state of their organization. They develop a vision (future concepts) and mission statement (which can be about its products, customers, markets, etc.) by focusing on the main priorities of the organization.
Setting goals and objectives of an organization: Next is to identify common goals and objectives of their business, which are determined from the mission and vision statement.
Enforcement: This stage involves execution of the overall planning and determining accountability, that is, shouldering responsibility to the right person for specific processes.
Impact Assessment & Shared Learning: At this stage, reviews are carried out on the performance of the plan and ensure that it is fetching desirable results. 

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