The strategic planning process is a leadership and governance tool designed to improve the effectiveness of an organization. Success is achieved by creating a game plan that enables the organization to focus its energy, to coordinate the efforts of its members so that they are working toward the same goals, and to regularly assess the environment within which the organization operates. Strategic planning makes it possible for an organization to think purposefully in order to shape the future rather than merely react to it. Strategic planning is, in essence a disciplined approach to decide what an organization is, what it does, and why it does it, with a focus on the future. 

Basic Elements

Although the terminology utilized varies from one planning process to another, there are typically six basic elements to all strategic plans: 

Core Values

What we believe has worth. Core Values are typically a list of words that describe key characteristics, ideas and concepts that the leaders of the organization place value in with respect to the organization. What do they want the program to do, to be, and to produce? 


Where we want to go. Vision is a statement that provides all members of the organization with a shared sense of where the organization is headed. A vision is guided by dreams, not constraints. It paints a picture of what the organization hopes will happen if all its dreams are realized. 


Why we exist. The Mission defines the fundamental purpose, philosophy and values of the organization. The Mission provides the basis for judging the success of the organization. Attention to Mission helps the organization adhere to its primary purpose and helps during periods of conflict by serving as a touchstone for key decisions. The Mission describes what the organization does to achieve the Vision. 


What we need to do. Goals are strategically oriented summaries of what the organization intends to achieve within the next 1-2 years in order to realize its vision and fulfill its mission. Goals describe what an organization needs to do to close the gap between the current reality and the Vision. 


How we will do it. Objectives support the goals and provide more details – they answer the question: Who will do what by when? What will be done in the next 6-12 months to achieve the strategic goals?

Action Steps

Provide the details. Action Steps outline the day-to-day and month-to-month activities necessary to achieve objective. A basic action plan must list the task, the responsible person(s), and the date the task will be completed.

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