When you don't know where you are going, how will you know when you are lost? That is the question that a strategic plan helps address. Strategic Planning essentially means deciding in advance what your company will be doing in the future. However, this cannot be done without first having an understanding of the company's current status, where the company wishes to go and how they will get there. Two articles were analyzed and a comparison will be conducted. The articles reviewed were 'Ten Key s to Successful Strategic Planning' written by Richard Mittenthal and 'Fundamentals of Strategic Planning' published by the Ohio Literacy Resource Center. Key points in each will be referenced, how the information can be applied to the workplace, how it can be applied to the team project and lastly elaborate on the value of the information.
According to Mittenthal in the article 'Ten Keys to Successful Strategic Planning' states that strategic planning is a tool for transforming and revitalizing a corporation. A strategic plan is not the same thing as an operational plan, a business plan or a case statement. "A strategic plan is a tool that provides guidance in fulfilling a mission with maximum efficiency and impact" (Mittenthal, p2). The article goes on to state that a successful plan is also a usable plan. It must be relevant and informational. There are ten key elements discussed in this article for a successful plan.
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The first is to have a clear and comprehensive grasp of external opportunities and challenges. Change is inevitable and a plan must consider the external factors. The external environment, such as technology advancements and the expectations related to new technology, community demographics and methods for delivering service and programs, all has to be considered and revisited routinely to ensure plan accuracy. The second key point is to have a realistic and comprehensive assessment of the organizations strengths and limitations. A comprehensive assessment should have objective and subjective data from a multitude of sources including but limited to board members, staff, community leaders, customers, financiers, and partners. The third point is to have an inclusive approach. Most of the same parties who provide the comprehensive assessment information should have a role in the planning effort. The views of those affected by the plan or those who play a role in its implementation should be incorporated to ensure a successful plan. The fourth point is to have an empowered planning committee. The core work of a strategic plan will be conducted by a rather small group of with decision making authority to ensure that the planning process moves along. The fifth key point is that there must be senior leadership involvement. Buy-in of senior management is crucial to the success of any strategic plan. The sixth element is the sharing of responsibility by board and staff members. The planning effort should draw on both professional staff and board members, because each in their own right offers a different and important skill set and perspective. The seventh point is learning from best practices. A solution that has worked for an organization in the past can be adapted and potentially be reusable for another business or corporation. The eighth key point is to have clear priorities and an implementation plan. Prioritization of the strategic objectives is essential to a successful plan. Once a firm understanding of the companies vision is mission are defined then the priorities can be set. The ninth point is patience. Keeping things on course is important, however, revisiting and rethinking priorities can be a continuous process, that's why patience is so important. The tenth and final key point according to this article is there must be a commitment to change. Organizations must be prepared to change as often as necessary to keep up with the ever changing market conditions, client needs and funding criteria (Mittenthal).
In summary a strategic plan can provide an invaluable blueprint for growth and revitalization particularly when the board and staff are committed to its implementation. It is a great tool for understanding where a business stands, where it wants to go and charts a path on how to get there.
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The article titled 'Fundamentals of Strategic Planning' similarly references that a strategic plan is not the same thing as a long-range planning and that a strategic plan must take into account both internal and external issues that impact and shape an organization. This article stresses the ideal plan must ensure that the goals and objectives fit the mission and purpose of the organization. It must also reference strategies for taking advantage of opportunities and reduce external threats to the business. Additionally, it must identify the corporation's internal strengths and weaknesses in order to build on the strengths and reduce the impacts of the weaknesses. An ideal plan also focuses on critical issues the corporation must address. It also must contain a plan for achieving the goals and objectives and a strategy for implementing the plan. Lastly, it should identify contingency options for coping with varying scenarios.
This article also discusses the reasons for a corporation to engage in strategic planning. Some of the reasons are to clarify direction, identify a common vision, solve problems, and/or achieve goals. According to this article the first step in strategic planning is to perform an environmental scan. This scan is where you find out information about the organization internal strengths and weaknesses and how external threats and trends might impact the corporation's mission in the next few years. This scan helps identify the critical issues that must be addresses in the planning process. The quality of the plan will depend on the quality of the information gathered during the environmental scan. The next step in the process is to perform an internal analysis and determine the vision of the future. Then hold brainstorming sessions with various players such as board members, staff, volunteers, program users and community leaders to evaluate the data gathered. Determine the strategic priorities that the plan will address and start applying goals and objectives to each. When the plan is finished, develop a strategy for its implementation. As stated in the first article a strong commitment from management, staff and the board is required to make strategic planning successful.
The key reasons for having a strategic plan are to learn what your company's current status is, where your company is going, and how your company will get to where it is going. When gathering information ask the questions; what is the industry's future, who are the competitors, what the current market position is and what direction makes the most sense. It is important to understand the business and its competition.
Be inclusive, strategic planning should be a participatory undertaking by board members, staff, volunteers, clients among. There must be a real commitment from senior management for strategic planning to be successful. A strategic plan should include a vision, mission, and organizational values or goals, a means to measure progress against the plan.
Some of the problems with strategic planning are omitting measurable goals, stopping once a preliminary plan is created, lack of an implementation strategy and finally not using the plan after it is created. A plan must be usable and all members within an organization must feel like what they do contributes towards an overall objective and goal that ultimately funnels up to a strategic priority.
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I have a better understanding of what strategic planning is and I now realize that the goals and objectives that I am held accountable for map to various strategic priorities within the division I work. I also now see how my team or unit so to speak could benefit from our own mini strategic plan. No matter how small or large a company, organization or unit is, if done properly, all could benefit from a strategic plan. The team unit I work in could take the provided objectives and goals for the division, then define a vision and mission within our unit that would eventually map to an objection within our department which ultimately maps to a strategic priority in the division. It almost makes me wish that our goals were written in this way instead of the broad way they are written now with layers and layers of goals under each tier of management, none of which seem specific to what it is my team does.
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For the team project we have chose to write a strategic plan for the Plumpton Park Zoo in Cecil County. First we will start out with the current status of the Zoo, then where we would like to see the Zoo go in the future and then lastly what it will take to get it there. We will need a vision (what we aspire to be) and a mission (what we do) and then the organizational values will need to be created. Then the fun begins with the strategic analysis or environmental scan. Our research should include what may have contributed to its demise when it out of business a couple of last years ago. A review of strengths and weaknesses both internal and external will need to be evaluated. We will want to consider existing conditions including the capacity of the zoo, the animals, and needs that the zoo might have. Market trends, customer trends and a gap analysis will need to be performed. Once the analysis is complete we will need to narrow down the list of priorities to address with our strategic plan. We will then develop goals and objectives to establish a clear and concise plan for each of the units at the zoo and identify metrics for accountability.
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When you look at a strategic plan as a tool to advance the vision and mission of your company through future actions it seems fairly simple. However, what is important to one aspect of the business may not be what is important for your business. Most companies in the long-run what similar things - to be the best at something. As mentioned in the articles the creation of a strategic plan should be participative. I think a lot of times companies lack the level of participation necessary to obtain a complete buy-in by the staff. Also referenced in the articles without proper support the plan becomes a shelf document.
The staff or worker bees as I refer to them want to feel that the work they do contributes to the overall advancement of the strategic priorities. Sometimes I look at my objectives and think what can I do to contribute to advancing that goal, but it is so hard sometimes since the goals that funnel down do not seem to get revised in a way to make it easier for a staff person to understand how what they do can make a difference. I know from previous experience that the goals handed down sometimes do not make sense. I feel if the company were to abide by the steps and best practices for communicating and implementing a strategic plan, we the staff would have a much easier time buying into it and feeling that what we do in some way is advancing the strategic plan of the Department and ultimately the Corporation.
I have found the information on the strategic planning process very enlightening. Now when I hear terms like strategic direction and priorities I know what they ultimately tie back to. With the knowledge gained I now have a better idea of how my work contributes to the ultimate success of the company. I may have to start looking around for the various unit plans that I am contributing to and try to get my hands on the Departments strategic plan.