strategic planning process

5 steps of the strategic planning process

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Strategic planning process steps

Every business should have a strategic plan—but the number of businesses that try to operate without a defined plan (or at least a clearly communicated one) might surprise you. Research from OnStrategy shows that 86% of executive teams spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy, and 95% of a typical workforce doesn’t understand its organization’s strategy.

Because so many businesses lack in these regards, you can get ahead of the game by using strategic planning. In this article, we will explain what the strategic planning process looks like and the steps involved.

Strategic planning process

What is the strategic planning process?

In the simplest terms, the strategic planning process is the method that organizations use to develop plans to achieve overall, long-term goals.

This process differs from the project planning  process, which is used to scope and assign tasks for individual projects, or strategy mapping , which helps you determine your mission, vision, and goals.

The strategic planning process is broad—it helps you create a roadmap for which strategic objectives you should put effort into achieving and which initiatives would be less helpful to the business. 

Before you begin the strategic planning process, it is important to review some steps to set you and your organization up for success.

1. Determine your strategic position

This preparation phase sets the foundation for all work going forward. You need to know where you are to determine where you need to go and how you will get there.

Involve the right stakeholders from the start, considering both internal and external sources. Identify key strategic issues by talking with executives at your company, pulling in customer insights, and collecting industry and market data. This will give you a clear picture of your position in the market and customer insight.

It can also be helpful to review—or create if you don’t have them already—your company’s mission and vision statements to give yourself and your team a clear image of what success looks like for your business. In addition, review your company’s core values to remind yourself about how your company plans to achieve these objectives.

To get started, use industry and market data, including customer insights and current/future demands, to identify the issues that need to be addressed. Document your organization's internal strengths and weaknesses, along with external opportunities (ways your organization can grow in order to fill needs that the market does not currently fill) and threats (your competition). 

As a framework for your initial analysis, use a SWOT diagram. With input from executives, customers, and external market data, you can quickly categorize your findings as Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) to clarify your current position.

SWOT analysis example

An alternative to a SWOT is PEST analysis. Standing for Political, Economic, Socio-cultural, and Technological, PEST is a strategic tool used to clarify threats and opportunities for your business. 

PEST Analysis

As you synthesize this information, your unique strategic position in the market will become clear, and you can start solidifying a few key strategic objectives. Often, these objectives are set with a three- to five-year horizon in mind.

strategic planning

2. Prioritize your objectives

Once you have identified your current position in the market, it is time to determine objectives that will help you achieve your goals. Your objectives should align with your company mission and vision.

Prioritize your objectives by asking important questions such as:

Objectives should be distinct and measurable to help you reach your long-term strategic goals and initiatives outlined in step one. Potential objectives can be updating website content, improving email open rates, and generating new leads in the pipeline.

3. Develop a plan

Now it's time to create a strategic plan to reach your goals successfully. This step requires determining the tactics necessary to attain your objectives and designating a timeline and clearly communicating responsibilities. 

Strategy mapping is an effective tool to visualize your entire plan. Working from the top-down, strategy maps make it simple to view business processes and identify gaps for improvement.

strategy map example

Truly strategic choices usually involve a trade-off in opportunity cost. For example, your company may decide not to put as much funding behind customer support, so that it can put more funding into creating an intuitive user experience.

Be prepared to use your values, mission statement, and established priorities to say “no” to initiatives that won’t enhance your long-term strategic position.  

4. Execute and manage the plan

Once you have the plan, you’re ready to implement it. First, communicate the plan to the organization by sharing relevant documentation. Then, the actual work begins.

Turn your broader strategy into a concrete plan by mapping your processes. Use key performance indicator (KPI) dashboards to communicate team responsibilities clearly. This granular approach illustrates the completion process and ownership for each step of the way. 

Set up regular reviews with individual contributors and their managers and determine check-in points to ensure you’re on track.

5. Review and revise the plan

The final stage of the plan—to review and revise—gives you an opportunity to reevaluate your priorities and course-correct based on past successes or failures.

On a quarterly basis, determine which KPIs your team has met and how you can continue to meet them, adapting your plan as necessary. On an annual basis, it’s important to reevaluate your priorities and strategic position to ensure that you stay on track for success in the long run.

Track your progress using balanced scorecards to comprehensively understand of your business's performance and execute strategic goals. 

balanced scorecard template

Over time you may find that your mission and vision need to change — an annual evaluation is a good time to consider those changes, prepare a new plan, and implement again. 

strategic planning

Master the strategic planning process steps

As you continue to implement the strategic planning process, repeating each step regularly, you will start to make measurable progress toward achieving your company’s vision.

Instead of constantly putting out fires, reacting to the competition, or focusing on the latest hot-button initiative, you’ll be able to maintain a long-term perspective and make decisions that will keep you on the path to success for years to come.

strategic planning

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65 strategic goals for your company (with examples)

Julia Martins contributor headshot

Strategic goals are a critical part of your strategic plan. In order to achieve your long-term goals, you need a clear sense of where you want to go—and an easy way to share those goals with your team. In this article, we take a look at the difference between strategic goals and other goal setting methodologies, then offer 65 example metrics and strategic goals you can use to get started. 

Goal-setting is a critical part of your business strategy. You want to make sure your team is cohesively moving in the right direction—and goals are a great way to do that. 

But in order for goals to be effective, they need to be measurable. The important thing isn’t just to create goals, but to create strategic goals that help you accomplish your overall company mission. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through when to set strategic goals—vs. other types of goals—and how to do so. 

What is a strategic goal? 

Because strategic goals are closely connected to strategic planning, they tend to be three to five year goals. But the most important part of setting a strategic goal is to identify where you want to go, and what goals you need to achieve to get there. 

How strategic goals compare to other business processes

There are a lot of different strategy and goal setting frameworks you can use. Here’s how strategic goals differ from other types of goals. 

Strategic goals vs. strategic planning

Strategic planning is the process of defining the direction your company wants to go in the next three to five years. A strategic plan includes longer term goals, strategic goals, and shorter-term goals that describe how you’ll achieve your strategic goals. The strategic planning process is typically run by decision-makers and stakeholders. 

Part of defining your strategic plan is coming up with strategic goals. Your strategic plan should also include customer insights, a SWOT analysis , your company values , your organization’s competitive advantages, specific goals on a quarterly or yearly timeline, and a high-level project roadmap if you have one.

Strategic goals vs. strategic management

Strategic management is the organization and execution of business resources in order to achieve your company goals. These usually help you implement your overall organizational strategy. 

Strategic goals, on the other hand, are generally three to five year objectives that tie closely to your strategic plan. 

Think of strategic goals as the specific things you want to achieve in three to five years. These strategic goals are part of your strategic plan, which provides more context and direction for why your company wants to move in that direction. Your strategic plan fuels your strategic management process, which is how you’ll actually achieve those goals. 

Strategic goals vs. strategic objectives

The difference between strategic goals and strategic objectives is somewhat subjective. In general, objectives tend to be more specific than goals—some people argue that objectives are always quantitative, while goals can be either qualitative or quantitative. 

Whether you use the terminology strategic goals vs. objectives , it’s critical to make sure your goals are specific, measurable, and actionable. 

Strategic goals vs. big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs)

Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) are long-term goals that typically take between 10 and 25 years to complete. These are industry-defining goals, like Microsoft’s famous goal to put "a computer on every desk and in every home." 

Not every organization has—or needs—BHAGs. Depending on your business strategy, a vision statement might be enough. Whether or not you set BHAGs, strategic goals are shorter-term goals that help you accomplish these bigger, ambitious goals. 

Strategic goals vs. OKRs 

OKRs , which stands for Objectives and Key Results, is a goal setting methodology developed by Andy Grove that follows a simple but flexible framework: 

I will [objective] as measured by [key result] .

OKRs can span multiple years, but most commonly these are one to two year objectives that help your company accomplish your larger strategic plan. In a typical OKR structure, your OKRs feed into your broader strategic goals. 

Strategic goals vs. KPIs

KPIs, or key performance indicators , are qualitative measures of how you’re progressing. Like OKRs, KPIs tend to be shorter in time frame than strategic goals. This is partially due to the fact that KPIs are nearly always quantitative. Achieving several long-term KPIs helps you achieve your broader three to five year strategic goals. 

Strategic goals vs. business goals

Business goals are predetermined targets that organizations plan to achieve in a specific amount of time. Technically, strategic goals—along with BHAGs, OKRs, and KPIs—are a type of business goal. 

65 example strategic metrics and goals

If you’ve never written a strategic goal before, it’s helpful to check out common goals. Though your strategic goals are unique to your strategic plan, use these examples as templates to create measurable, actionable goals with clear success metrics. 

Set strategic goals that are:

Simply phrased

Easy to track

For more tips on what constitutes a good goal, read our article on how to write SMART goals . 

Keep in mind that these goals should be achievable in three to five years. For shorter goals, consider setting OKRs or KPIs instead. For longer goals, check out vision statements and BHAGs . 

Strategic goals: finance

Financial strategic goals typically center around a few different important financial metrics, including:

1. Increasing revenue

2. Attaining or maintaining profitability

3. Growing shareholder value

4. Diversifying your revenue streams

5. Becoming a financially sustainable company

6. Reducing production costs

7. Increasing profit margin

8. Setting revenue targets for new products

9. Reducing department-specific budgets

10. Influencing the percentage of local vs. international sales

Examples of financial strategic goals

These examples do not represent Asana’s goals, and are merely included here for educational purposes. 

11. Increase total revenue by $10M in the next three years.

12. Reduce cost by 12% to become a profitable company by 2024.

13. Grow a specific product’s revenue to 30% of overall business revenue within the next five years.

14. Reduce marketing budget by 10% in the next three years.

15. Update our sales profile so 50% of our sales are international by 2026.

Strategic goals: customer-focused

Strategic goals that focus on your customers can help you break into a new market or further develop a trustworthy brand. These metrics can include:

16. Reducing customer churn

17. Measurably increasing customer satisfaction

18. Increasing the number of new customers

19. Increasing customer retention

20. Offering great customer value

21. Boosting customer outreach

22. Increasing customer conversion rates

23. Breaking into new customer segments

24. Increasing the number of returning customers

25. Decreasing the percentage of returned products

Examples of strategic goals focused on customer metrics

26. Increase net promoter score (NPS) by three points in the next year, and 10 points in the next five years.

27. Capture 23% market share by 2025.

28. Provide the best customer experience in the market—measured based on reaction time, customer sentiment, and brand tracking. 

29. Increase customer retention by 3% every year.

30. Reduce the percentage of returned products to 2% by 2023.

Strategic goals: growth

On an organizational level, growth refers to how your company expands and develops. Growth metrics include:

31. Increasing market share

32. Breaking into new markets

33. Developing new products, features, or services

34. Increasing operational reliability and/or compliance

35. Increasing company velocity

36. Opening new locations

37. Building your brand on social media

38. Increasing website traffic

39. Acquiring a new company

Examples of strategic goals about growth

40. Open 12 new locations within the next four years. 

41. Increase market share to 8% by 2026.

42. Reach 5M followers on social media (including Instagram and Twitter).

43. Increase web traffic to 300K visitors per year by 2024.

44. Start three new product streams by 2027.

Strategic goals: internal

You can also set strategic goals focusing on your internal company goals. Example employee-centric metrics can include:

45. Increasing employee retention

46. Adding new team members

47. Building a healthy organizational culture

48. Implementing a performance review cycle

49. Standardizing titles and/or levels

50. Improving cross-functional productivity

51. Spinning up a project management office (PMO) to standardize processes

52. Attracting the best talent

53. Building high-performing teams

54. Investing in personal and professional development

55. Reducing burnout and impostor syndrome

56. Building employee-focused training programs

57. Reducing employee turnover

58. Improving workplace safety

59. Building better facilities management

Examples of internal strategic goals 

60. Add 20 new team members within the next four years. 

61. Increase overall engagement scores by 7% based on yearly surveys.

62. Increase new hire referrals to 5,000 team members per year by 2026.

63. Develop and circulate new company values by 2023.

64. Implement a biannual performance review cycle within the next three years.  

65. Attain maximum workplace safety score rating within the next three years. 

Achieve your goals with goal tracking technology

Once you develop your goals, you need a clear way to track, measure, and communicate those goals. Too often, teams set great goals and then don’t know how to track those goals over time. 

Instead of letting your goals collect dust in a slide deck or spreadsheet somewhere, use goal tracking technology to connect your strategic goals to your team’s daily work. With Asana , you can track long-term goals, as well as the shorter-term objectives that feed into those goals. 

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Department Action Plan

A quick-hit summary of progress against goals and action items. Great for use at strategy reviews.

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Individual Action Plan

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Team Member Performance Review

Use this action plan as a performance review sheet for periodic staff reviews.

Non-Profit Sample Strategic Plans

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Church One-Click Strategic Plan

A comprehensive report from mission through action items & includes SWOT, scorecard, roadmap & budget.

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Church Roadmap

A summary of high-level goals broken out by year according to the dates established during goal.


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Strategic Plan Template

Use this free Strategic Plan Template for Word to manage your projects better.

When a company wants to map out its long-term business objectives and how it’ll get there, they use a strategic plan. Our free strategic plan template captures all topics that any company needs to define, so everything is aligned with the overall mission and vision of the company. More than that, the free strategic plan template guides you through the actions, resources and costs that will help you get there.

What Is a Strategic Plan?

A strategic plan is a document that company leaders use to capture the company’s future vision, goals and objectives. Unlike a business plan that focuses on short-term goals of serval months to several years, a strategic plan looks at the mid-to-long-term goals such as 3-5 years but is often longer than that.

ProjectManager's free strategic plan template

The strategic plan should be easily shared as it provides a map for the whole company to follow in order to meet its goals. The strategic plan isn’t only shared, but it’s thoroughly understood by company employees, customers, business partners and investors.

Strategic planning and the strategic plan that comes from this process isn’t a one-time occurrence. Teams should conduct strategic planning regularly to quickly respond to changes in the business, industry, legal and regulatory conditions. As conditions shift, so should the response plans.

Why You Need a Strategic Plan Template

A strategic plan template is a great tool in that it’s already laid out for you. Everything you need to define is outlined and saves you the time and effort of creating a new document. Templates are great for creating an archive of consistent documentation, especially as historical data can influence your current strategic plan.

In more general terms, all businesses need a target or direction to work towards. Strategic plans are like the roadmap that gets you there and defines the landscape. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know when you get there. That’s true from the highest executive to the newest employee as well as customers, investors and so on.

Strategic plans also help you track your goals across departments. Each department can then set its own goals to help the business achieve its larger goals. These various initiatives can be monitored and tracked with key performance indicators (KPIs). This can be extended to business units, teams and even individuals so everyone is working towards the same goals.

A strategic plan template is only a static document. To implement that plan you need project management software. ProjectManager has online roadmaps that allow you to manage all the projects that feed into your company’s overall mission. You can track your tasks, budgets, resources, processes and more, so you know you’re always progressing. Of course, you can build a strategic plan with milestones in the software, too. Try ProjectManager today for free.

Roadmap with a strategic plan

Who Should Use This Strategic Plan Template?

The free strategic plan template can be filled in by any number of people depending on the business. Usually, though, this responsibility falls on the shoulders of the owner or top business managers.

However, sometimes specialists are employed or the whole company becomes involved in the strategic planning process. In fact, more voices provide a wider perspective. One person should oversee refining those different perspectives in order to rein in the possible chaos of too many chefs in the kitchen.

Once the strategic plan is finalized, it should be shared among the company. The strategic plan template acts as a guide to keep the long-term goal in sight and how to get there. For some businesses, the customer should also be aware of the strategic plan. Other companies will want to share the strategic plan with investors.

How to Use This Strategic Plan Template

When you download our free strategic plan template for Word, you’ll find it’s broken up into sections. The free template is completely customizable so you can add or subtract as many sections as you need to flesh out your strategic plan. What we provide you with is the backbone of any thorough strategic plan, which is as follows.

1. Executive Summary

To start, you want to summarize what will follow. That’s all the executive summary is; a short introduction to the important information that’ll be fleshed out in the strategic plan. It gives an overview to investors and stakeholders.

2. Vision Statement

A vision statement is a statement that declares the mid-to-long-term goals of the company. Think of it as the target you want to hit with your strategic plan. What this statement should do is project your company into the future and in so doing help to define the plan and execution of getting you there.

3. Mission Statement

The mission statement is a short description of the purpose of the company. It should be no longer than one to three sentences at most and explain what the company does, who it serves and how it’s different from its competitors. But more than a dry definition, it should be inspirational, offering direction and focus for employees and giving customers a clear picture of what they can expect from the company.

4. SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A SWOT analysis is used to assess those four aspects of the company. This is how a company can capture its current performance and build a strategy to achieve its future goals. But beyond internal factors or charting the company, make sure to explore external factors as well. This provides a fuller picture of how a company can carve a route to reach its objectives.

5. Business Goals

Business goals should define the target that a company is aiming for in the future. By doing this, a company has a way to measure its success, communicate these goals to its employees and ensure the company is going in the right direction.

6. Marketing Plan

The marketing plan outlines a company’s advertising strategy. It can be used to generate leads and reach a target audience, outreach and PR campaigns. Also included is how the company will measure the effectiveness of the initiatives.

7. Operations Plan

The operation plan is an outline of the strategic plan’s goals and how the company plans to meet them. It’s an action plan that shows team members what they’re responsible for in achieving the goals of the strategic plan.

8. Financial Projections

When making financial projections for a company’s strategic plans they should include a forecast of the income statement, the balance sheet and the cash flow statement. These financial projects like the strategic plan are mid-to-long term.

Identify the team members with the skills and experience who will be responsible for executing the operational plan set forth in the company’s strategic plan.

Other Templates to Help with Your Strategic Plan

The free strategic plan document template for Word is a helpful tool to outline a company’s mid-to-long-term objectives. We have dozens of other free templates for Word and Excel that can help you manage every phase of a project, from planning to closure. Here are just a few of the free templates that we offer for download that are related to strategic planning.

Executive Summary Template

If you need help with the executive summary portion of the free strategic plan template, this free executive summary template is a great asset. It breaks down the points you’ll want to capture for an effective executive summary and is a valuable tool to complete that section of the strategic plan.

Marketing Campaign Template

The marketing plan is another section of the strategic plan that can be fully fleshed out with the free marketing campaign template. It outlines all the steps you need to introduce your product or service to market. It has fields to collect the goals of the campaign, identify the target audience and much more.

SWOT Analysis Template 

We’ve included a small SWOT analysis table in the free strategic plan template, but you might want more space to capture this important data. If so, use our free SWOT analysis template for Word, which you can then attach to the strategic plan template. This colorful template helps you see where you are and offer guidance to get you where you want to be.

ProjectManager Is a Robust Planning Tool

Free templates are a great way to gather information and develop a strategic plan, but they’re not as good at managing that plan once you implement it. You need more robust tools, not static documents or spreadsheets. ProjectManager is online project management software that connects teams and helps them plan, manage and track their progress in real time.

Track Progress with Real-Time Dashboards

You’ve put the strategic plan in the Gantt chart and can now see the roadmap in a visual timeline. But to make sure you keep to that schedule you need to have a way to monitor progress and performance. Our real-time dashboards track metrics such as time, cost and more all in real time so you can respond quickly to changes that threaten your goals. Unlike other lightweight tools, there’s no configuration or set. It’s ready when you are.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

Work How You Want with Multiple Project Views

Gantt charts are great for managers, but they’re not the ones who are will execute the strategic plan. It’s a group effort that involves every department in the company from marketing and sales to IT and manufacturing, and they all use different tools. That’s why we offer multiple project views that share the same real-time data whether you’re using a list view, the visual workflow of a kanban or a calendar to capture important dates. Everyone is working from a single source of truth.

Calendar for tracking strategic plans

Related Content

Strategic planning is a big subject and we’ve only scratched the surface. If you want to learn more, you’re in luck. ProjectManager isn’t only a great tool to create and manage your strategic plan, it’s also the online hub for all things project management. We have free blogs each week, tutorial videos, eBooks, white pages and, of course, free templates. Here are a few links to follow and read more about strategic plans.

ProjectManager Helps You Reach Your Strategic Goals

ProjectManager is award-winning software that helps you plan, manage and track your strategic plans. Our collaborative platform connects everyone across departments and time zones. With features that help you manage risk, tasks and resources you’re more likely to adjust to changes in the market and hit your target. See why teams in organizations as varied as NASA, Siemens and Nestle use our tool to deliver success. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

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Strategic Planning Process

Strategic planning is a process that helps out organizations achieve their desired future state. Strategic planning aims to create a roadmap to help the organization reach its goals. 

What is the strategic planning process?

Strategic planning is a process to help organizations create a roadmap to reach their desired future state. The strategic planning process aims to set overall goals and objectives, identify strategies for achieving them, and then ensure that those strategies are effectively implemented.

Strategic planning process steps

1. identify the organization’s current position and future goals.

Strategic planning will start by analyzing the company’s current situation and goals.

2. Analyze the external environment to identify potential opportunities and threats

3. develop strategies that will enable the organization to reach its desired future state, 4. create an implementation plan for carrying out those strategies, 5. monitor progress and make changes as needed.

The strategic planning process should be viewed as something other than a one-time event. Instead, it needs to be an ongoing process to ensure success. 

Models used in the strategic planning process

How to use strategic planning effectively, examples of successful strategies.

These strategies were developed through careful analysis, consideration of various external and internal factors, and input from stakeholders.

The importance of evaluation in the strategic planning process

Related articles.

How to hold a strategic planning meeting: A simple, step-by-step guide for facilitators

November 22, 2021

If you’re running or facilitating a strategic planning meeting, there are many factors to consider.

It’s much more than just bringing everyone together to have an open discussion — and it doesn’t just happen on its own, either.

There are several steps you can take to ensure that your strategic planning meeting runs smoothly, but it all starts with preparation.

Today, we’ll explore a few ideas to help you hold a successful session, starting with the basics.

strategic planning process sample

Try Miro’s Strategic Planning Template

Table of contents

21 min read

What is strategic planning?

Best practices for running a successful strategic planning session

How to run a strategic planning meeting in 7 steps

Sample agenda for a strategic planning meeting

It all comes down to solid preparation and visuals.

Strategic planning is the process of analyzing a current situation within your organization and making sure it’s aligned with your specific objectives. If it isn’t, you and your team must develop a plan to “correct the path.”

So, why is strategic planning important?

In short, strategic planning helps you get from where you are today to the future you want. It’s a way of breaking down big, daunting goals into manageable steps that address your current situation and guide your work.

Visual representation of the strategic planning process

Here’s where strategic planning meetings come into play.

Meetings are the cornerstone of the strategic planning process.

These meetings are typically held by facilitators , but anyone can lead a strategic planning meeting.

We’ll provide you with specific instructions to hold a successful meeting a bit later, but first, let’s answer a crucial question.

What is the purpose of a strategic plan meeting?

Broadly speaking, a facilitator will use meetings to either:

These meetings aim to provide clarity in decision-making.

This is not a typical meeting where participants spend time reporting out. Strategy planning is all about brainstorming and collaboration .

This way, you can develop solutions to tangible problems in your organization and set the tone and strategic direction for your team.

Who needs to be included?

The best way to ensure that you get all of the most relevant voices in the room is to create an invite list.

Include people from each relevant department, if possible.

This way, you can cover a more complete spectrum of your company’s operations and activities.

You’ll want to include upper management, but don’t stop there.

Bring in members of the sales department, investor relations, human resources, and any other relevant departments or stakeholders.

You might also consider inviting people from outside of the organization who can provide a fresh perspective.

This is particularly useful for organizations that are doing business in a new market or have started offering new products.

Now that you understand the importance of effective strategic planning meetings, the question becomes, how do you actually hold one?

Let’s cover a few of the best practices:

Strategic planning best practices

Build buy-in before the meeting starts

First, you’ll want to build buy-in with everyone involved.

Keep what you’re doing top-of-mind, whether that’s through casual conversations or company-wide memos.

In addition, make sure to have a clear agenda prepared, so everyone knows what they can expect out of the meeting. Start by defining the goal, then detail how you’ll get there.

Also, get all the materials you need together in advance.

That may look like coordinating with IT to make sure everyone has access to company software, sending out pertinent documents in advance, or mapping out who will be speaking at the meeting.

Make sure to communicate your expectations clearly so that everyone knows what is expected of them and why.

You’ll want to spend time in your planning stages to keep the tone positive, while at the same time being realistic about what’s possible.

Ultimately, your goal should be to align the team around a shared vision and mission so that you can move forward with a shared perspective.

Now, how can you communicate this agenda?

We suggest you use a centralized space where everyone can see your agenda.

For example, you can use Miro’s Agenda template to create and share your agenda with participants.

strategic planning process sample

You can also use the template to keep notes during the meeting and add refinements later.

This way, everyone can see what’s been discussed and the next steps for moving forward.

Remember; this should be a collaborative effort, so consider asking for ideas from everyone about what they’d like to see covered.

Just don’t forget to actually take those ideas into consideration.

Develop a transparent strategic planning process

During the strategic process, you’re inviting employees to have meaningful discussions around the company’s vision statement, strategic goals, and strategic objectives.

It’s important to have a roadmap in place for how you will facilitate the process so that employees know what to expect.

Your meeting should be an open, engaging discussion with transparent dialog. During the meeting, everyone should get a turn to talk.

Make sure you have a clear process that allows everyone to participate and feel heard, no matter what their role is.

In the planning stage of a meeting, it’s important to have as much input as possible.

You can involve everyone by holding a virtual brainstorming session with this brainstorming template . Once you create a board, you can invite people to collaborate in real-time.

Miro's brainwriting template screenshot

This template helps you create a more engaging and collaborative session while allowing every person on the team to contribute their thoughts.

Create an agenda and stick to it

We all know what happens when an agenda is not set or adhered to.

Creating an agenda for your meeting helps you and your participants stay on track. This agenda should include topics, questions, milestones, and people.

Milestones are the larger topics that will be broken down into smaller questions, and these questions should flow to the ultimate goal of narrowing down your strategic priorities.

You can create milestones by putting together a list of discussion questions that will help your participants get on topic and help you check in with the group.

Your agenda might include an opening discussion, a brainstorming session on ideas, and a closing review of next steps.

When developing your agenda:

Make it interactive

As much as possible, you’ll want to make this a collaborative effort, so it’s important to get everyone involved.

For example, you might want to break the group down into smaller sub-teams to brainstorm opportunities for new product features.

You could also task each group with creating a list of opportunities for particular departments within your company.

The point is that you’ll want to encourage open and honest dialog about challenges your company is facing and, where possible, break down any barriers that might stand in the way of progress.

Make sure to collaboratively create strategy documents, provide regular updates on progress, and discuss strategic issues in real-time.

Miro's collaboration features in action

This way, you can work side-by-side to improve your performance, no matter where in the world your team members happen to be.

To get the most out of each session, you should prepare thoroughly — from the agenda to who you’ll involve and how.

Whether you’re holding a remote, hybrid, or in-person meeting, this process will help you out.

1. Define a clear outcome for the meeting

A strategic planning meeting can go totally off-the-rails if it’s held without a defined objective. That’s why the very first step is to define a clear, tangible goal for the meeting.

For example, your objective might be to better align social media with your marketing strategies .

In this case, your meeting might include a discussion on the purpose of social media, its role in the planning process, and how to better align your social media campaign with your organizational goals.

If your goal is to develop a new product , your meeting might look different.

Consider discussing who the target audience would be and how you can get in front of them. You could also discuss how the product should be positioned in the marketplace and what strategies you’ll use to get it there.

You can also set specific strategic planning meeting themes as part of your objectives, such as business growth or innovation.

The point is to be as specific as possible with your goal. That way, it’s easier for everyone to stay on task and make the right decisions.

2. Break the ice

A strategic planning meeting can be a big undertaking, so it’s important to break the ice by engaging participants in some friendly conversation.

You may want to ask participants what they think of the company’s latest direction or engage them in a fun icebreaker activity.

You can also ask them what they think of the new business strategy and how they would implement it.

Or you could ask participants to complete an activity that allows them to interact with one another and develop a better understanding of each other’s unique skills.

For instance, you could assign participants to form teams, then ask them to create a project plan to solve an issue the company might be experiencing.

You can also break the ice by having participants introduce themselves.

If you’re holding a remote or hybrid meeting, you could have participants discuss what they think in a private online chat room, or you could use an instant messaging program for the same purpose.

Make sure they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas with each other before starting the main agenda.

The bottom line?

The more connected the group is prior to the meeting, the more effective the meeting will be.

3. Set clear expectations

Once you know what you want out of the meeting, the next step is to communicate any expectations of participants, such as things they should prepare in advance of the meeting.

Here are some useful guidelines to keep in mind when you’re setting expectations:

4. Set ground rules for behavior

Before the meeting starts, make sure everyone knows the rules.

Values, culture, and norms

This is especially important when working with external stakeholders.

For example, you might say something like:

“The goal of this meeting is to develop the strategic plan for the next quarter. We want to minimize distractions, so please don’t check your phone during the meeting.”

Another good idea is to let participants know how they’ll be evaluated. For example, if you’re trying to make progress on a project, you might say something like:

“Let’s try and reach a consensus on the first three points. If we can do that, we’ll consider the meeting a success.”

If you’re dealing with a remote or hybrid team, you should take the time to define online behavior standards. For instance, you could say something like:

“If you have a question, please type it in the chat window. Using outside chat programs is not permitted during the meeting.”

This way, you’ll have everyone invested in the outcome.

5. Identify potential challenges

Before the meeting starts, it’s always good to identify potential areas of conflict that might derail the process.

For example, what would happen if someone had to leave halfway through? Will the meeting continue without them, or will you reconvene once they’re back?

You should also consider how to handle difficult participants. Can you remove a difficult participant from the meeting before they hijack all of your time?

What happens if a disagreement comes up and it’s not resolved?

You should prepare for all these things in advance and have a plan ready if they do happen. For example, consider using a countdown timer for specific agenda items or presentations, so that time is allocated fairly.

Interactive whiteboard with linked agenda and countdown timer shown

If you identify potential challenges early on, you can keep an eye out for them as the meeting proceeds.

6. Encourage full participation

Remember that you’re asking people to spend time — and sometimes travel — to participate in your meeting.

It’s essential that everyone feels like they have the opportunity to participate. The best way to do this is by mentioning at the beginning of the meeting that you’d like everyone’s input throughout.

Make sure to keep an eye out for people who aren’t speaking up. If it seems like they may have something to contribute, ask them for their thoughts on the topic.

Also, make sure everyone knows that participation is critical. If you need to take a vote on something, remind people what the vote is about and why it matters.

Finally, make sure you’re speaking in terms that everyone in the room can understand. If there are people who are new to the organization, spend a moment explaining any acronyms you use.

This will allow everyone to feel like they can give their input with ease, leading to a more successful meeting.

7. Use visuals and brainstorming tools to communicate ideas

Having everyone on the same page is critical, even if they can’t be in the same room.

Here’s where visuals and collaboration platforms come in handy.

Using collaborative tools, like our brainstorming templates helps you organize work and removes some of the stress of coming up with ideas on the spot.

It also encourages people to provide input and makes them feel like they have a stake in the outcome.

For instance, you can use Miro’s Reverse Brainstorming template to come up with innovative ideas and display them in real-time. You can save the meeting content on the board too, so you can send it to participants after the meeting.

Miro's Reverse Brainstorming template screenshot

This can be especially useful if you have multiple participants in different locations involved at the same time. They may not be able to physically attend the meeting, but they can still provide valuable input.

Also, we provide you with a fully customizable strategic plan template .

Miro's strategic plan template screenshot

You can adapt this template to fit your exact business needs and standardize your meetings with ease.

You need to make sure your strategic planning meeting agenda is detailed and thorough enough to keep you on task.

Start with an overview of what you’ll be discussing, then move into individual department updates. This is where you highlight progress against targets.

Finally, spend some time outlining your organizational goals moving forward and, of course, always leave time for questions.

To help you better understand what a strategy planning session might look like in the real world, here’s a sample agenda:

The best way to ensure your meeting runs smoothly and effectively is to prepare it with anticipation. By creating a clear agenda, you’re able to get the most out of your session.

Also, the use of visuals and brainstorming tools helps you collaborate with your team and communicate your critical points more effectively.

You can hold your planning meetings in a more visual way by creating a board and sharing with your team.

Also, you can use the strategic planning meeting template to get started with fewer headaches.

Want an action-oriented framework to help your team continuously improve?

Try the strategic planning template.

strategic planning process sample

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The 15 most popular strategic planning templates on our site, don’t waste time putting together your own strategic planning template. adopt one of these and make it your own..

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RJ Messineo


The basis of strategic planning is simple: Your organization is at point A. You need to get to point B in three to five years. What are you going to do to make that happen?

Creating this vision is straightforward (and usually pretty fun). But actually managing the strategic plan that executes this vision isn’t always simple...or fun. In fact, looking at your strategic plan on a regular basis throughout the year and actually taking the steps to achieve the plan described above is something that tangles up many organizations. I’ve been in this business over 20 years and one of my first tips would be to start with a solid strategic plan template instead of trying to start from scratch.

What is a strategic plan template?

It’s a premade tool you can use to flesh out the various elements of your strategy—a technique that allows you to follow the example of others, without having to recreate each component from scratch.

One important thing to remember: Using templates doesn’t mean using someone else’s strategy. Rather, it means building your own strategic plan using the template as a jumping-off point.

But trust us—trying to put together a strategic plan, strategy map, or Balanced Scorecard sans template is a whole lot harder. Why do that when you can leverage other people’s experience, and then focus on making a strategy of your own?

Below are our 15 most popular strategic plan templates. And by popular, we mean these resources have been downloaded a total of 350,000 times. Each was created with a different audience in mind, so take a look at the descriptions below to determine which ones are best for your organization.

The 15 Most-Used Strategic Plan Templates On Our Site

1. strategy execution toolkit.

Downloaded 67,800 times.

Does the following sound like your situation?

Your strategic planning process could be described as anything from a bit of a circus to an absolute nightmare. Your purpose statement is outdated, your goals are disjointed, and your leadership team is in different stages of frustration or dismay. You’re ready for change but aren’t exactly sure how to get started.

If you can relate to that scenario, then this strategic plan template is about to become your best friend. It’s a detailed, 41-page process manual that guides you through the steps of pulling together your Balanced Scorecard. In the end, you’ll have a filled-out strategy map template and see a light at the end of the strategic planning tunnel.

Download Now

Strategy template with present, future and objective

2. Balanced Scorecard Template [Excel]

Downloaded 48,300 times.

If you’re familiar with the ClearPoint blog, you’ve no doubt read about using Excel for reporting or as a Balanced Scorecard template. While it’s essentially free, simple enough to use, and familiar to most people, there are challenges involved ranging from data entry errors to collaboration difficulties if you choose Excel for your reporting.

That said, if you’re just getting started with the Balanced Scorecard, compiling your data in Excel may be a logical first step before migrating to more robust scorecarding software. Sound like your situation? Sweet. Then this no-nonsense, single-page Excel scorecard will be right up your alley.

It allows you to visualize how your measures and objectives are connected (and how/if they’re in line with your strategy), and track your KPI targets to make sure you’ll meet your goals.

Balanced Scorecard Excel template with objectives and measures

3. Financial KPI Library Downloaded 40,500 times.

We’ll give you one guess as to which type of metrics are the most commonly used. If you said “financial,” you’d be right.

As the old saying goes, numbers never lie and this couldn’t be more true than with financial KPIs. These indicators are important for every type of organization because they reveal clear, indisputable truths about progress. You can see if you’re reaching or missing your goals, and why. Plus, you have the means to compare your success to competitors and determine if you’re above or below the bar that’s been set for your industry.

Which specific financial KPIs should you monitor? Well, that can be tricky and it really depends on the goals and priorities of your organization. To give you somewhere to start, we gathered a huge list of financial indicators you can choose from—all of them will help you operate more strategically instead of relying on guesstimates.

This KPI library includes 68 important financial KPIs and descriptions of each, which you can download in a user-friendly Excel format.

4. HR KPI Library

Downloaded 37,800 times.

HR metrics provide a different perspective on your performance than financial metrics, but they’re just as useful: HR metrics help organizations make the important people-related decisions—around hiring, turnover, culture, employee performance, etc.—that have a direct effect on organizational performance. Having the ability to hire and retain the right talent is often regarded as one of the greatest predictors of organizational success. Additionally, HR metrics are useful for keeping staff focused on activities that support the department’s—and the company’s—overall goals.

The HR metrics you choose should be tied to your business goals, so you won’t want to use anywhere near the 48 HR KPIs in this resource! Determine the critical few KPIs that are in line with your strategy—perhaps one for every major HR goal and people management issue or opportunity—so you can focus on following through.

5. Customer KPI Library

Downloaded 25,800 times.

It won’t surprise you that another KPI library is our fifth most popular strategic plan template. These KPI lists are go-to resources when you need straightforward, specific advice you can implement immediately.

The Customer KPI Library is no different. Virtually all organizations have customers, clients, citizens, or consumers they need to keep happy, which requires understanding their needs and behaviors. Monitoring and measuring the right indicators will help you dial in to shifting customer demands, so you can exceed expectations and address any negative perceptions before they snowball.

This resource includes 53 valuable customer KPIs, with definitions, in an accessible Excel format.

6. Strategic Planning Templates

There’s no single right way to chart a path to achieving your goals; in fact, there are plenty! All strategic planning models are designed for the same purpose, they just have different ways of getting you there. In this download, we compiled templates for eight of the most popular strategic planning frameworks into one Excel document. You don't need to (and shouldn't) use all of them, but check them out and choose the template that works best for your organization.

Templates included:

7. 5 For-Profit Strategy Maps

Downloaded 23,900 times.

Jeopardy! juggernaut Ken Jennings once said, “Even before you understand them, your brain is drawn to maps.” He’s right—we are drawn to them (nearly 24,000 times, in this case!). Whether they’re depicting elevations and landscapes or goals and strategies, maps are intriguing and memorable because they convey a lot of information with simple graphics.

For companies, maps are incredibly valuable tools to organize, explain, and communicate strategies. A Balanced Scorecard is one of the most common formats for strategy maps and an effective way to stay focused on your goals. Sometimes seeing is believing, so we pulled together five examples of strategy maps from real-life, for-profit companies in four different industries. Check them out to get ideas for your own organization.

Sample scorecard with categories and objectives

8. Healthcare KPI Library

Downloaded 20,900 times.

Not many businesses can say that the quality of their products or services could literally mean the difference between life and death, but for healthcare organizations, it’s the truth. On top of that, change is a constant in healthcare—there’s always a new regulation just around the corner. For both these reasons, performance monitoring is a must.

A healthcare KPI helps you understand how your organization is performing across a multitude of areas, from patient care and operations to finances and community relations. A good KPI should be well defined, quantifiable, and crucial to achieving your strategic goals. This resource includes more than 100 sample healthcare metrics as examples—choose the ones that are relevant to your organization’s needs, or use them as inspiration for measuring progress toward your own unique objectives.

9. Healthcare Strategy Maps

Downloaded 11,900 times.

For-profits aren’t the only ones that benefit from using strategy maps—medical and healthcare organizations can, too. The trick is to create a map that isn’t overly complicated, yet still manages to clearly convey the key “landmarks” that will define your future success.

It can be hard to know what that looks like in practice, so we gathered a few Balanced Scorecard strategy map examples from the healthcare field and included them in this download. The information presented in this offering pertains specifically to the various types of healthcare systems and institutions.

Hospital strategic plan template - ClearPoint

10. Measure & Goal Evaluation Toolkit

Downloaded 15,400 times.

Next question: Are you able to objectively evaluate your measures and goals?

In other words, can you keep emotion out of your evaluations? Do you know if you’re really executing well on your strategy from the data you’re gathering?

If you’re even a bit hesitant on this, try this toolkit . You’ll learn about establishing RAG statuses, automating the evaluation process, and helping leadership make better choices. (Note that having goals and measures is a prerequisite for this toolkit to be helpful.)

Goal template with measures

11. The All-Inclusive Strategy Reporting Guide

Downloaded 11,300 times.

Creating a solid internal reporting process is no easy task. But it’s also incredibly important to outline how reporting should be done in your organization, ranging from scorecard management to meeting preparation. Without proper reporting, you won’t be able to track progress, pinpoint problems, or achieve goals.

Not sure how to tackle this big job? Check out this all-inclusive guide, which includes best practices on strategic reporting and policy. It explains the strategic planning process and gives tips on how to create a successful reporting guide. You’ll have all the information you need to create a reporting process that works.

12. Nonprofit Strategy Maps

Downloaded 9,900 times.

To advance their mission, nonprofits and charitable organizations should also engage in strategic planning. Like for-profit companies, strategy maps for nonprofits serve as a communication tool that engages internal teams and even community members, helping to rally everyone behind the shared mission. This download includes a few strategy map best practices, as well as a number of useful examples for social and public-sector organizations.

13. Project Management Field Guide

Downloaded 7,400 times.

Most of the work being done at organizations today is project-based, which is why the demand for project managers has risen rapidly in recent years. (It’s also the reason why good project management matters.) But before you worry about things like budgets and timelines, it’s crucial to take a step back and make sure you’re managing the right projects—the ones that align with your strategy and will actually help you achieve your organization’s goals.

If your organization is trying to learn more about strategic project management, use this download as your “getting started” guide. It will help you think through your approach to projects, including how to define and prioritize them, and make sure they link back to your strategy. This ebook is chock full of pro tips and helpful examples that will take your project management skills to the next level.

14. Gantt Chart Template [Excel]

Downloaded 5,900 times.

Gantt charts help you visually lay out the length and progress of a particular project all in one place. They’re very helpful in project management—and this Excel template makes it a cinch to create one!

This template is a great way to get your team on the same page for what is on track and off track, and it will help you facilitate a discussion about what to do for next steps. You’ll get some instructions and directions for the template, details on initiatives and supporting milestones, and a graph that auto-populates to show progress toward your goals.

Gantt chart Excel template with initiatives and milestones

15. How To Lead Effective Strategy Review Meetings

Downloaded 7,200 times.

Too many meetings are all talk and no action. A lot of great ideas may be floated around, but they just disappear when everyone leaves the room. Strategy review meetings are notorious for this “disappearing act” because many of the topics are high-level and visionary, which can be challenging to break down into specific execution steps.

The ability to make strategy review meetings useful is a skill—a skill you can easily learn if you think your reviews are going off the rails too often. There are several key elements to focus on and they are all included in this 40-page book, aptly titled “How To Lead Effective Strategy Review Meetings.” You’ll read about the best structure for strategy meetings, tips for creating action items, and pitfalls to avoid.

Before you start filling out your shiny new strategic planning templates, let’s just lay this out flat:

Don’t fill out one of these strategic plan templates, make it your own...and then forget about it.

I know what you’re thinking; you’re not going to fall into that trap.

But even if that’s not your intention, it will take time and considerable effort to keep your new template in use across the organization. One way to ensure it is actually helpful to you (and not just a nice thumbnail on your desktop) is to get buy-in from your senior leadership team. This could take time but once you have an advocate in that group, you’ll help create more buy-in across the organization. In no time you’ll be the hero of strategic planning in your company.

The 15 Most Popular Strategic Planning Templates On Our Site

Balanced Scorecard — 8 min read

The Balanced Scorecard: What Is It? (Definition + Examples)

The Balanced Scorecard: What Is It? (Definition + Examples)

Balanced scorecard — 18 min read.

20 Strategic Planning Models To Consider

20 Strategic Planning Models To Consider

Balanced scorecard — 13 min read, how to effectively communicate your strategic plan to employees.

By Andreas Hofmann

SOC-2 Certified

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Home » What Is Strategic Planning? (Process and Examples)

What Is Strategic Planning? (Process and Examples)

July 1, 2022 max 7min read.

Strategic Planning

This Article Covers :-

What Is Strategic Planning?

What are the elements of strategic planning, why is strategic planning important, what are the examples of strategic planning, definition of strategic planning.

Strategic planning refers to developing specific business plans, putting them into action, and analyzing the results regarding a company’s overarching long-term goals or objectives.

Strategic planning is another buzzword that businesses and startups revolve around. However, most of them are only stuck on strategic thinking.

There’s a difference between strategic thinking and strategic planning . The latter gets things done.

But what is strategic planning, and what does it involve? 

Strategic planning is the process of developing a defined business strategy that helps your company’s direction. 

It involves prioritization , efficient resource capacity planning , the optimization of operations, and the assurance that all employees and stakeholders align towards the same goals. 

It reaffirms a company’s direction and how it will measure its success. 

What Are the Types of Strategic Planning?

There are three main types of strategic planning:

Annual planning

Annual planning is a process that takes place over one year. It involves setting goals and objectives for the year and developing strategies to achieve those goals. 

Annual planning is best suited for stable businesses with a predictable sales cycle.

Rolling planning

Rolling planning involves setting goals and objectives on a rolling basis and developing strategies to achieve those goals. 

Rolling planning is best suited for businesses in a growth phase or an unpredictable sales cycle.

Crisis planning

Crisis planning is a process in response to a specific crisis. 

It involves developing a plan to address the crisis and implementing that plan. 

In addition to these, there are specific strategic planning models that you can adopt while approaching your strategic plan. 

Some of the strategic planning models are as follows: 

SWOT Analysis

The SWOT analysis is a rising model that companies frequently employ at the start of the strategic planning process. 

It highlights the internal and external factors that help or hinder the achievement of a corporate goal.

Strengths – Factors of the company that can assist in achieving the goal.

Weaknesses – Factors of the business that may obstruct the achievement of the goal

Opportunities – External variables that could assist in achieving the goal.

Threats – External variables that may obstruct the achievement of the goal.

SWOT analysis might assist you in figuring out what you’re good at and where you could improve. 

Take a look at our SWOT analysis guide .

PESTLE Analysis

PESTLE divides the business environment into four categories:

Political – Changes in taxation, trading agreements, or grant support for enterprises are examples of political factors.

Economic – Interest rates, inflation, and changes in consumer demand are all economic factors.

Social – Factors such as altering lifestyle patterns or demographic trends

Technological – Emerging technology or equipment that boosts productivity are examples of technological advancements.

Legal – Changes in employment law or the way your industry is controlled are examples of legal changes.

Environmental – Customers, regulators, and employees’ expectations of sustainable development evolve.

Now that you know how to approach your strategic planning process, look at the elements of strategic planning.

There are four essential elements of strategic planning that you must pay attention to. They are as follows:

Your Mission

Strategic planning begins with a mission statement that gives a business a feeling of direction and purpose. 

An organization’s mission statement describes who it is, what it does, and where it wants to go. Mission statements are usually broad but specific. 

A company in the education field, for example, might aim to be the market leader in online virtual instructional tools and services.

Selecting goals is an integral part of strategic planning. Most teams use SMART goals or other objectively quantifiable goals.  

Measurable goals are vital because they allow business leaders to assess how well the company meets its objectives and achieves its overall mission.

You can begin your SMART goal-setting journey by reading our guide on it.

Alignment is a crucial yet often neglected element of strategic planning. Here are some things to keep in mind: 

Alignment matrix tool in Chisel's Team Radar pillar

You can always get started with your internal team alignment and make your way up. At Chisel , we use the Team Radar feature to grasp which page each team is on. 

The strategic planning process is essential for several reasons. 

It helps you take a step back, assess your business or organization’s current situation, and identify areas that need improvement. 

Furthermore, it gives you a roadmap to follow as you work to achieve your goals.

Good strategic planning will keep you focused and help ensure that you make decisions aligned with your overall goals.

If you’re unsure where to start, there are many product and business strategy templates and tools we discuss in our blogs . 

What Are the Steps in the Strategic Planning Process?

You can carry out strategic planning through the following steps:


The first step in strategic planning is identifying a company’s present strategic position. 

This is where stakeholders examine the organization and its environment using the existing strategic plan, including the mission statement and long-term strategic goals.


The strategic planners then develop targets and objectives that align with the organization’s mission and goals to help the company achieve them.  

There could be a lot of potential goals; thus, prioritizing the most important, relevant, and immediate ones is crucial.

You may employ any prioritization matrix or establish OKRs in this step.


This is the crux of strategic planning, in which stakeholders work together to develop the stages or strategies required to achieve a specified strategic goal. 

This may entail developing short-term tactical business strategies that align with the overall strategy. 

Stakeholders participating in the development use tools like a mind-map to visualize and alter the plan.


It’s time to put the strategic plan into action after being prepared. 

To set roles, make investments, alter policies and processes, and develop measurement and reporting, you must communicate well across the business. 

Strategic management and regular strategic reviews are usually part of the implementation process to ensure that objectives stay on track.

As company conditions change and new possibilities arise, you should regularly evaluate and update your strategic planning to alter priorities and reconsider goals. 

Quarterly evaluations of KPIs are possible, as are annual revisions to the strategic plan. 

Stakeholders can review performance against goals using balanced scorecards and other tools.

Now you know the fundamental steps involved in the strategic planning process. However, you can take it one step forward by instilling some best practices.

What Are the Best Practices for Strategic Planning?

A few best practices for strategic planning can help businesses get the most out of this process.

Team Alignment

The first best practice for strategic planning is ensuring that the entire team is involved. 

From the CEO to the entry-level employees, everyone should have a say in the company’s goals and how you can achieve them. This ensures everyone is on the same page and working towards the same objectives.

Using product roadmap software’s that align all teams and stakeholders in one place can come in handy.

Chisel's Team Participation tool

Periodic Review

Another best practice for strategic planning is reviewing and adjusting the plan as needed. 

The business landscape is constantly competitive , so it’s essential to ensure that the strategic plan is still relevant and achievable. 

Adjusting the plan as needed will help keep the business on track and ensure that the goals are still realistic.

Transparent Communication

Finally, one of the most essential best practices for strategic planning is communicating the plan to everyone in the company. 

Employees need to know the goals and how they can help achieve them. By communicating the plan clearly, businesses can ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives.

By following these best practices for strategic planning, businesses can ensure that they get the most out of this essential process.

Some of the most popular companies globally are known for their strategic planning. 

Nike, for example, has a well-defined strategic plan that has helped them become one of the most successful companies in the world. 

Another great example is Google, which has a clear strategic plan that has helped them become a global powerhouse. 

Regarding social media giants, Facebook is one of the top dogs. With over 2.23 billion monthly active users, the platform boasts incredible reach.

Given its size and scope, it’s no surprise that Facebook takes a very strategic approach to its planning. The company has a whole team dedicated to strategic planning and execution.

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Strategic committee usually leads the strategic planning. This committee may include stakeholders, corporate executives, product owners and managers , and other strategic consultants.

Goals and objectives are two critical components of strategic planning. Goals are the broad, long-term aspirations that an organization hopes to achieve. Objectives are the specific, measurable steps an organization will take to achieve its goals.

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Essential Guide to the Strategic Planning Process

Smartsheet Contributor Joe Weller

April 3, 2019 (updated August 23, 2021)

In this article, you’ll learn the basics of the strategic planning process and how a strategic plan guides you to achieving your organizational goals. Plus, find expert insight on getting the most out of your strategic planning.

Included on this page, you'll discover the importance of strategic planning , the steps of the strategic planning process , and the basic sections to include in your strategic plan .

What Is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning is an organizational activity that aims to achieve a group’s goals. The process helps define a company’s objectives and investigates both internal and external happenings that might influence the organizational path. Strategic planning also helps identify adjustments that you might need to make to reach your goal. Strategic planning became popular in the 1960s because it helped companies set priorities and goals, strengthen operations, and establish agreement among managers about outcomes and results.

Strategic planning can occur over multiple years, and the process can vary in length, as can the final plan itself. Ideally, strategic planning should result in a document, a presentation, or a report that sets out a blueprint for the company’s progress.

By setting priorities, companies help ensure employees are working toward common and defined goals. It also aids in defining the direction an enterprise is heading, efficiently using resources to achieve the organization’s goals and objectives. Based on the plan, managers can make decisions or allocate the resources necessary to pursue the strategy and minimize risks.

Strategic planning strengthens operations by getting input from people with differing opinions and building a consensus about the company’s direction. Along with focusing energy and resources, the strategic planning process allows people to develop a sense of ownership in the product they create.

John Bryson

“Strategic planning is not really one thing. It is really a set of concepts, procedures, tools, techniques, and practices that have to be adapted to specific contexts and purposes,” 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 . “Strategic planning is a prompt to foster strategic thinking, acting, and learning, and they all matter and they are all connected.”

What Strategic Planning Is Not

Strategic planning is not a to-do list for the short or long term — it is the basis of a business, its direction, and how it will get there.

“You have to think very strategically about strategic planning. It is more than just following steps,” Bryson explains. “You have to understand strategic planning is not some kind of magic solution to fixing issues. Don’t have unrealistic expectations.”

Strategic planning is also different from a business plan that focuses on a specific product, service, or program and short-term goals. Rather, strategic planning means looking at the big picture.

While they are related, it is important not to confuse strategic planning with strategic thinking, which is more about imagining and innovating in a way that helps a company. In contrast, strategic planning supports those thoughts and helps you figure out how to make them a reality.

Another part of strategic planning is tactical planning , which involves looking at short-term efforts to achieve longer-term goals.

Lastly, marketing plans are not the same as strategic plans. A marketing plan is more about introducing and delivering a service or product to the public instead of how to grow a business. For more about marketing plans and processes, read this article .

Strategic plans include information about finances, but they are different from financial planning , which involves different processes and people. Financial planning templates can help with that process.

Why Is Strategic Planning Important?

In today’s technological age, strategic plans provide businesses with a path forward. Strategic plans help companies thrive, not just survive — they provide a clear focus, which makes an organization more efficient and effective, thereby increasing productivity.

Stefan Hofmeyer

“You are not going to go very far if you don’t have a strategic plan. You need to be able to show where you are going,” says Stefan Hofmeyer, an experienced strategist and co-founder of Global PMI Partners . He lives in the startup-rich environment of northern California and says he often sees startups fail to get seed money because they do not have a strong plan for what they want to do and how they want to do it.

Getting team members on the same page (in both creating a strategic plan and executing the plan itself) can be beneficial for a company. Planners can find satisfaction in the process and unite around a common vision. In addition, you can build strong teams and bridge gaps between staff and management.

“You have to reach agreement about good ideas,” Bryson says. “A really good strategy has to meet a lot of criteria. It has to be technically workable, administratively feasible, politically acceptable, and legally, morally, and ethically defensible, and that is a pretty tough list.”

By discussing a company’s issues during the planning process, individuals can voice their opinions and provide information necessary to move the organization ahead — a form of problem solving as a group.

Strategic plans also provide a mechanism to measure success and progress toward goals, which keeps employees on the same page and helps them focus on the tasks at hand.

When Is the Time to Do Strategic Planning?

There is no perfect time to perform strategic planning. It depends entirely on the organization and the external environment that surrounds it. However, here are some suggestions about when to plan:

If your industry is changing rapidly

When an organization is launching

At the start of a new year or funding period

In preparation for a major new initiative

If regulations and laws in your industry are or will be changing

“It’s not like you do all of the thinking and planning, and then implement,” Bryson says. “A mistake people make is [believing] the thinking has to precede the acting and the learning.”

Even if you do not re-create the entire planning process often, it is important to periodically check your plan and make sure it is still working. If not, update it.

What Is the Strategic Planning Process?

Strategic planning is a process, and not an easy one. A key is to make sure you allow enough time to complete the process without rushing, but not take so much time that you lose momentum and focus. The process itself can be more important than the final document due to the information that comes out of the discussions with management, as well as lower-level workers.

Jim Stockmal

“There is not one favorite or perfect planning process,” says Jim Stockmal, president of the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP). He explains that new techniques come out constantly, and consultants and experienced planners have their favorites. In an effort to standardize the practice and terms used in strategic planning, ASP has created two certification programs .

Level 1 is the Strategic Planning Professional (SPP) certification. It is designed for early- or mid-career planners who work in strategic planning. Level 2, the Strategic Management Professional (SMP) certification, is geared toward seasoned professionals or those who train others. Stockmal explains that ASP designed the certification programs to add structure to the otherwise amorphous profession.

The strategic planning process varies by the size of the organization and can be formal or informal, but there are constraints. For example, teams of all sizes and goals should build in many points along the way for feedback from key leaders — this helps the process stay on track.

Some elements of the process might have specific start and end points, while others are continuous. For example, there might not be one “aha” moment that suddenly makes things clear. Instead, a series of small moves could slowly shift the organization in the right direction.

“Don’t make it overly complex. Bring all of the stakeholders together for input and feedback,” Stockmal advises. “Always be doing a continuous environmental scan, and don’t be afraid to engage with stakeholders.”

Additionally, knowing your company culture is important. “You need to make it work for your organization,” he says.

There are many different ways to approach the strategic planning process. Below are three popular approaches:

Goals-Based Planning: This approach begins by looking at an organization’s mission and goals. From there, you work toward that mission, implement strategies necessary to achieve those goals, and assign roles and deadlines for reaching certain milestones.

Issues-Based Planning: In this approach, start by looking at issues the company is facing, then decide how to address them and what actions to take.

Organic Planning: This approach is more fluid and begins with defining mission and values, then outlining plans to achieve that vision while sticking to the values.

“The approach to strategic planning needs to be contingent upon the organization, its history, what it’s capable of doing, etc.,” Bryson explains. “There’s such a mistake to think there’s one approach.”

For more information on strategic planning, read about how to write a strategic plan and the different types of models you can use.

Who Participates in the Strategic Planning Process?

For work as crucial as strategic planning, it is necessary to get the right team together and include them from the beginning of the process. Try to include as many stakeholders as you can.

Below are suggestions on who to include:

Senior leadership

Strategic planners


People who will be responsible for implementing the plan

People to identify gaps in the plan

Members of the board of directors

“There can be magic to strategic planning, but it’s not in any specific framework or anybody’s 10-step process,” Bryson explains. “The magic is getting key people together, getting them to focus on what’s important, and [getting] them to do something about it. That’s where the magic is.”

Hofmeyer recommends finding people within an organization who are not necessarily current leaders, but may be in the future. “Sometimes they just become obvious. Usually they show themselves to you, you don’t need to look for them. They’re motivated to participate,” he says. These future leaders are the ones who speak up at meetings or on other occasions, who put themselves out there even though it is not part of their job description.

At the beginning of the process, establish guidelines about who will be involved and what will be expected of them. Everyone involved must be willing to cooperate and collaborate. If there is a question about whether or not to include anyone, it is usually better to bring on extra people than to leave someone out, only to discover later they should have been a part of the process all along. Not everyone will be involved the entire time; people will come and go during different phases.

Often, an outside facilitator or consultant can be an asset to a strategic planning committee. It is sometimes difficult for managers and other employees to sit back and discuss what they need to accomplish as a company and how they need to do it without considering other factors. As objective observers, outside help can often offer insight that may escape insiders.

Hofmeyer says sometimes bosses have blinders on that keep them from seeing what is happening around them, which allows them to ignore potential conflicts. “People often have their own agendas of where they want to go, and if they are not aligned, it is difficult to build a strategic plan. An outsider perspective can really take you out of your bubble and tell you things you don’t necessarily want to hear [but should]. We get into a rhythm, and it’s really hard to step out of that, so bringing in outside people can help bring in new views and aspects of your business.”

An outside consultant can also help naysayers take the process more seriously because they know the company is investing money in the efforts, Hofmeyer adds.

No matter who is involved in the planning process, make sure at least one person serves as an administrator and documents all planning committee actions.

What Is in a Strategic Plan?

A strategic plan communicates goals and what it takes to achieve them. The plan sometimes begins with a high-level view, then becomes more specific. Since strategic plans are more guidebooks than rulebooks, they don’t have to be bureaucratic and rigid. There is no perfect plan; however, it needs to be realistic.

There are many sections in a strategic plan, and the length of the final document or presentation will vary. The names people use for the sections differ, but the general ideas behind them are similar: Simply make sure you and your team agree on the terms you will use and what each means.

One-Page Strategic Planning Template

“I’m a big fan of getting a strategy onto one sheet of paper. It’s a strategic plan in a nutshell, and it provides a clear line of sight,” Stockmal advises.

You can use the template below to consolidate all your strategic ideas into a succinct, one-page strategic plan. Doing so provides you with a high-level overview of your strategic initiatives that you can place on your website, distribute to stakeholders, and refer to internally. More extensive details about implementation, capacity, and other concerns can go into an expanded document.

One Page Strategic Planning Template

Download One-Page Strategic Planning Template Excel | Word | Smartsheet

The most important part of the strategic plan is the executive summary, which contains the highlights of the plan. Although it appears at the beginning of the plan, it should be written last, after you have done all your research.

Of writing the executive summary, Stockmal says, “I find it much easier to extract and cut and edit than to do it first.”

For help with creating executive summaries, see these templates .

Other parts of a strategic plan can include the following:

Description: A description of the company or organization.

Vision Statement: A bold or inspirational statement about where you want your company to be in the future.

Mission Statement: In this section, describe what you do today, your audience, and your approach as you work toward your vision.

Core Values: In this section, list the beliefs and behaviors that will enable you to achieve your mission and, eventually, your vision.

Goals: Provide a few statements of how you will achieve your vision over the long term.

Objectives: Each long-term goal should have a few one-year objectives that advance the plan. Make objectives SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, and time-based) to get the most out of them.

Budget and Operating Plans: Highlight resources you will need and how you will implement them.

Monitoring and Evaluation: In this section, describe how you will check your progress and determine when you achieve your goals.

One of the first steps in creating a strategic plan is to perform both an internal and external analysis of the company’s environment. Internally, look at your company’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the personal values of those who will implement your plan (managers, executives, board members). Externally, examine threats and opportunities within the industry and any broad societal expectations that might exist.

You can perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to sum up where you are currently and what you should focus on to help you achieve your future goals. Strengths shows you what you do well, weaknesses point out obstacles that could keep you from achieving your objectives, opportunities highlight where you can grow, and threats pinpoint external factors that could be obstacles in your way.

You can find more information about performing a SWOT analysis and free templates in this article . Another analysis technique, STEEPLE (social, technological, economic, environmental, political, legal, and ethical), often accompanies a SWOT analysis.

Basics of Strategic Planning

How you navigate the strategic planning process will vary. Several tools and techniques are available, and your choice depends on your company’s leadership, culture, environment, and size, as well as the expertise of the planners.

All include similar sections in the final plan, but the ways of driving those results differ. Some tools are goals-based, while others are issues- or scenario-based. Some rely on a more organic or rigid process.

Hofmeyer summarizes what goes into strategic planning:

Understand the stakeholders and involve them from the beginning.

Agree on a vision.

Hold successful meetings and sessions.

Summarize and present the plan to stakeholders.

Identify and check metrics.

Make periodic adjustments.

Items That Go into Strategic Planning

Strategic planning contains inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes. Inputs and activities are elements that are internal to the company, while outputs and outcomes are external.

Remember, there are many different names for the sections of strategic plans. The key is to agree what terms you will use and define them for everyone involved.

Inputs are important because it is impossible to know where you are going until you know what is around you where you are now.

Companies need to gather data from a variety of sources to get a clear look at the competitive environment and the opportunities and risks within that environment. You can think of it like a competitive intelligence program.

Data should come from the following sources:

Interviews with executives

A review of documents about the competition or market that are publicly available

Primary research by visiting or observing competitors

Studies of your industry

The values of key stakeholders

This information often goes into writing an organization’s vision and mission statements.

Activities are the meetings and other communications that need to happen during the strategic planning process to help everyone understand the competition that surrounds the organization.

It is important both to understand the competitive environment and your company’s response to it. This is where everyone looks at and responds to the data gathered from the inputs.

The strategic planning process produces outputs. Outputs can be as basic as the strategic planning document itself. The documentation and communications that describe your organization’s strategy, as well as financial statements and budgets, can also be outputs.

The implementation of the strategic plan produces outcomes (distinct from outputs). The outcomes determine the success or failure of the strategic plan by measuring how close they are to the goals and vision you outline in your plan.

It is important to understand there will be unplanned and unintended outcomes, too. How you learn from and adapt to these changes influence the success of the strategic plan.

During the planning process, decide how you will measure both the successes and failures of different parts of the strategic plan.

Sharing, Evaluating, and Monitoring the Progress of a Strategic Plan

After companies go through a lengthy strategic planning process, it is important that the plan does not sit and collect dust. Share, evaluate, and monitor the plan to assess how you are doing and make any necessary updates.

“[Some] leaders think that once they have their strategy, it’s up to someone else to execute it. That’s a mistake I see,” Stockmal says.

The process begins with distributing and communicating the plan. Decide who will get a copy of the plan and how those people will tell others about it. Will you have a meeting to kick off the implementation? How will you specify who will do what and when? Clearly communicate the roles people will have.

“Before you communicate the plan [to everyone], you need to have the commitment of stakeholders,” Hofmeyer recommends. Have the stakeholders be a part of announcing the plan to everyone — this keeps them accountable because workers will associate them with the strategy. “That applies pressure to the stakeholders to actually do the work.”

Once the team begins implementation, it’s necessary to have benchmarks to help measure your successes against the plan’s objectives. Sometimes, having smaller action plans within the larger plan can help keep the work on track.

During the planning process, you should have decided how you will measure success. Now, figure out how and when you will document progress. Keep an eye out for gaps between the vision and its implementation — a big gap could be a sign that you are deviating from the plan.

Tools are available to assist with tracking performance of strategic plans, including several types of software. “For some organizations, a spreadsheet is enough, but you are going to manually enter the data, so someone needs to be responsible for that,” Stockmal recommends.

Remember: strategic plans are not written in stone. Some deviation will be necessary, and when it happens, it’s important to understand why it occurred and how the change might impact the company's vision and goals.

Deviation from the plan does not mean failure, reminds Hofmeyer. Instead, understanding what transpired is the key. “Things happen, [and] you should always be on the lookout for that. I’m a firm believer in continuous improvement,” he says. Explain to stakeholders why a change is taking place. “There’s always a sense of re-evaluation, but do it methodically.”

Build in a schedule to review and amend the plan as necessary; this can help keep companies on track.

What Is Strategic Management?

Strategic planning is part of strategic management, and it involves the activities that make the strategic plan a reality. Essentially, strategic management is getting from the starting point to the goal effectively and efficiently using the ongoing activities and processes that a company takes on in order to keep in line with its mission, vision, and strategic plan.

“[Strategic management] closes the gap between the plan and executing the strategy,” Stockmal of ASP says. Strategic management is part of a larger planning process that includes budgeting, forecasting, capital allocation, and more.

There is no right or wrong way to do strategic management — only guidelines. The basic phases are preparing for strategic planning, creating the strategic plan, and implementing that plan.

No matter how you manage your plan, it’s key to allow the strategic plan to evolve and grow as necessary, due to both the internal and external factors.

“We get caught up in all of the day-to-day issues,” Stockmal explains, adding that people do not often leave enough time for implementing the plan and making progress. That’s what strategic management implores: doing things that are in the plan and not letting the plan sit on a shelf.

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Learn What Makes a Good Example of a Strategic Plan


blog , Strategic Planning , Strategic Planning Tools , Structure

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What Makes a Good Example of a Strategic Plan?

Many companies are looking for help, searching for an example of a strategic plan as a yardstick they can use to compare their own plans. But strategic plans can come in many forms, shapes, and sizes; they are not a “one size fits all” document.  There are simple strategic plans that include goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics, as well as complex plan structures that include multiple levels and layers. How developed your plan needs to be depends on several factors, including the level of accountability you are trying to create, the time frame for implementing the plan, and the culture of your organization. In this post, you’ll see an example of a strategic plan that is most common among businesses today.

Strategic Plan Example: Basic Structure

At a minimum, strategic and operational plans contain three levels that serve specific functions. These are listed in inverse order as they appear in a plan, to demonstrate the linkage from bottom up:

Strategic Plan Example: Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics

Objective 1: Increase client satisfaction from 82.0% to 90.0% by December 31st.

Strategic Plan Example: Strategic Themes and Goals

Although objectives, strategies, and tactics are core elements in any example of a strategic plan, they are not the only elements. Many plans are more robust and include additional levels in the hierarchy. These levels are usually referred to as strategic themes and goals, and they come before objectives. As such, a fully developed plan would look like the example of a strategic plan below:


Strategic Plan Template

This five level strategic plan template will help you create a plan that’s built around best practices for optimized execution.

Free Strategic Plan Template

Strategic Plan Example: A Complete Plan

Strategic Theme : Satisfaction

Goal : To be considered a trusted partner by our clients

Objective 1:  Increase client satisfaction from 82.0% to 90.0% by December 31st.

Keep in mind that there are many acceptable formats for strategic plans and you should use the approach that is right for you. Some companies prefer the one-page approach and others don’t adhere to specific approaches other than perhaps implementing a basic structure like the ones above. Either way, remember that creating a strategic plan is only the beginning; the hard part is executing it .

The best way to ensure your plan gets executed is to get everything in view, get everyone engaged, and work with a team that will give you every possible advantage. When you’ve got your plan crafted and ready to execute, take these next steps .

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Strategic Planning for Nonprofits

A strategic planning process identifies strategies that will best enable a nonprofit to advance its mission. Ideally, as staff and board engage in the process, they commit to measurable goals, approve priorities for implementation, and also make a plan to revisit the strategy on an ongoing basis as the internal and external environments change.

Many nonprofits start the process by identifying the nonprofit’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats, in what is commonly called a “SWOT” analysis. Looking at external factors (community needs or the economic outlook, for example) as well as internal capacity is important.

Looking ahead and planning for the future actually should be continuous: as various factors change, the nonprofit may need to adjust its plans. While the process of bringing everyone together to plan for the future is energizing, once the process is in the rearview mirror, don’t let the plan gather dust on the shelf. If no one refers to the plan after it is completed, then it’s hardly serving as a “strategic” guide! Revisit the plan periodically, making adjustments and adapting the plan as circumstances change.

Some have argued for throwing out the “plan” completely, or reducing it to a very short, concise document, easily digestible by staff and board. Articulating an organization's "theory of change" is another way to think about what success will look like, how to get there, and what resources will be needed. There are hundreds of consultants and volumes of written materials just on strategic planning, and many others that help nonprofits develop a theory of change. We've selected just a few for you below.

Your  state association of nonprofits  may also offer educational programs and workshops throughout the year to assist your nonprofit with proactive planning. Plus,  staying current  with trends and policy issues that affect nonprofit operations is key to being prepared to adapt to a changing environment.

Practice Pointers

A good way to keep your nonprofit’s board engaged is to tie the nonprofit's strategic initiatives to the agenda for board meetings, and to include a short discussion about some aspect of the nonprofit’s strategic direction in every board meeting agenda. 

Strategy is one of the board's most important roles. BoardSource offers  an array of resources  to help boards engage fruitfully in strategic planning.

More About Planning

Additional Resources

Disclaimer: Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is neither intended to be nor should be construed as legal, accounting, tax, investment, or financial advice. Please consult a professional (attorney, accountant, tax advisor) for the latest and most accurate information. The National Council of Nonprofits makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein.

strategic planning process sample

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning (also referred to as business planning) is a process nonprofits use to make critical trade-offs to best achieve their goals. While these processes have varying degrees of formality and take different forms, they are clearly distinct from routine management activities and are intended to guide and inform key decisions toward specific organizational aims throughout the year.

How it's used

Organizations use strategic planning to provide a structured process to define success for an organization, determine the operational and programmatic steps to get there, and align resources and staff to achieve the goal within a given time frame. Strategic planning typically involves examining an organization's intended impact and theory of change , and rigorous analysis of the organization's internal capabilities, full program costs, external environment, and donor and beneficiary trends to identify opportunities with the greatest potential for impact.

Strategic planning processes often result in a written document that can be used as an internal reference and a road map for accountability and decision making, a resource for new staff, and a tool for measuring success. Written strategic plans can also be used for external purposes, such as attracting funders and partners, and communicating about the organization to beneficiaries and other constituents.


Strategic planning requires organizations to get clear on their mission and goals, current operations, and pathway to success. There are four critical steps, although the process is often iterative:

Related topics

Additional resources

Strategic and Business Planning for Nonprofits This wide-ranging list of resources for strategic and business planning is curated by the National Council of Nonprofits.

Business Planning for Nonprofits: What It Is and Why It Matters This comprehensive article outlines critical steps in the strategic planning process, illuminating processes with examples.

Business Planning for Nonprofits: The Organizational and Leadership Benefits This article demonstrates three potential benefits of business planning—aligning staff and board members around a strategy, developing a leadership team's capacity for strategic thinking, and identifying the capabilities and positions needed to advance the organization—as demonstrated by the experience of MY TURN, Inc.

Examples and case studies

YES Prep: Preparing Low-Income Students for High School, College, and Beyond Incorporating video, text and sample documents, this case study explores the nuts-and-bolts details of how YES Prep Public Schools, a charter organization based in Houston, Texas, succeeds in preparing low-income students not only to graduate from high school, but also to enter college ready to meet the challenges of a post-secondary education.

The Steppingstone Foundation: Managing Growth This magazine article examines how a Boston educational-services nonprofit used strategic planning to create a path for growth.

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Related Articles

Donor relationship management, decision-making tools, design thinking.

How to write a strategic plan

4-minute read

A strategic plan is essential for every business. It tells you and your team where you’re going as a company and how to get there.

But many businesses go through a time-consuming and costly strategic planning exercise, only to find themselves with a plan that is ignored or just glanced at once a year. A common reason is that the plan itself isn’t written properly.

A strategic plan must give you and your team a simple, clear roadmap of what to do next. At its heart should be a prioritized list of your best ideas and specific steps to achieve your company’s goals.

“A strategic plan has to be actionable and easy to understand so your team can execute it and use it as a daily reference,” says Devesh Dwivedi , a Senior Business Advisor with BDC’s Advisory Services, who specializes in counselling businesses on strategic planning.

“The plan shouldn’t be academic or stuck in theory. It has to be boiled down to the basics so it is very clear to everyone what your goals are and what actions are needed from each employee.”

Strategic planning is about finding a short list of the highest-impact projects. It’s a filter.

Devesh Dwivedi

Senior Business Advisor, BDC Advisory Services

Dwivedi gives this advice for what a strategic plan should contain and how it should be written. After each step, Dwivedi prepares a report to sum up the discussion and key findings. This report is then validated with the CEO and key employees and any input integrated before work starts on the next step.

What is the strategic planning process?  

Strategic plans typically include four elements. Dwivedi writes them in this order:

1. Current state section

Dwivedi begins by preparing a section on the company’s current state, which answers the question: “Where are we?”

The current state section is about 15 to 20 pages in length and includes:

An appendix may be added at the end with extra information, such as:

2. Future state section

The next section describes the desired future state of the company. This section is typically around 10 to 15 pages long and is based on workshops and interviews that Dwivedi holds with key employees.

The future state section should include these elements:

One or more subsections can be included to give additional details on various elements and why they’ve been adopted.

3. Strategic plan section

This section describes how your company will bridge the gap between its current state and the desired future state.

Dwivedi holds a series of strategic planning workshops and interviews with the CEO and key employees to brainstorm ideas on how to achieve the company’s goals. These sessions usually lead to a short list of five to 10 ideas to research further. Based on the company’s capabilities, these should be narrowed down to three to five initiatives that will lead the business to its goals in a sustainable and profitable fashion. Throughout the process, the entrepreneur and their team work closely with the consultant.

“Strategic planning is the art of saying no more than the art of saying yes,” Dwivedi says. “As a business, you can do a million things. The reason the entrepreneur is often running in circles is they don’t know what to work on. They get distracted by a red shiny ball, like a logo or website redesign, or the latest social media platform. Strategic planning is about finding a short list of the highest-impact projects. It’s a filter.”

The section is generally 10 to 15 pages long and includes these elements:

“The action plan is a simplified summary of the whole plan and should be referred to continually by your team to make sure their daily actions add up to the strategic plan,” Dwivedi says.

4. Executive summary

When Dwivedi works with his clients, he normally ends the strategic planning process by writing a one- or two-page executive summary. Although it’s written last, the executive summary is presented first in the final report.

“Think of it as developing a book summary: You can only do it if you have read the entire book,” Dwivedi says.

The executive summary includes the company’s vision and mission statements and a very brief description of these elements:

It can also be useful to include a small subsection or box highlighting key observations or findings about the company and its goals.

Tips for strategic planning

Dwivedi shares a few extra tips about how strategic plans should be written:

In the final plan, the sections appear in this order:

“The executive summary and future state plan come first in the plan because we want to emphasize the purpose of the whole exercise, which is creating a roadmap to achieve your goals,” Dwivedi says.

“You don’t want to move forward to the future state if the current state isn’t accurate.”


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