Writing and communicating a strategic plan
Read time: 4 minutes
It may seem like a daunting task, but good writing is basically clear thinking. And writing your strategic plan first involves sifting through your content, deciding what's pertinent and developing a good outline.
Here are a few general tips:
- The author of the plan should work with a small number of people when writing it. Getting a consensus from a committee for wording is difficult, so it's better to have fewer people assigned to this task.
- You can seek outside help, but the writing job should basically remain within your company. A consultant could give you suggestions on content, clarity and tone.
- Get something on paper as quickly as possible and don't worry about every detail for the first draft. You'll want a good working copy.
- Present your first draft to your board of directors (if appropriate) or senior management to get their initial approval. You want to make sure that they feel they are involved early on in the process.
- Be sure you get input from employees for the action planning process but you needn't distribute it to everybody for approval. This will only slow the process down.
Draft a plan
No two businesses are alike so there's no real standard for developing a strategic plan. However, you can expect to include the following content:
You want the reader to quickly grasp the mission of your company, its values, issues and goals and key strategies to reach goals. This should be very high level and not provide too much detail. You might consider doing this last.
Typically, this page includes approval signatures from the board of directors or senior management. This page reinforces their commitment to the strategic plan.
Outline your company's history, products and services and accomplishments.
Mission, vision and value statements
Your mission should describe what your company is doing. Your vision outlines what you see your firm doing down the road. Your values provide the reader a sense of key priorities in your organization, for example, teamwork, integrity and customer focus.
This section provides your reader with an overview of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It's a good idea to present the material as an internal analysis and an external environment analysis. Be sure that you clearly identify issues that you want to tackle.
Strategies and tactics
List your overall strategies, such as gaining market share and the specific tactics that will help you get there.
Your action plan outlines responsibilities and timelines.
Budget and operating plans
Present your budget plan which details resources and funding needed to achieve your strategic goals. Your operating plan describes goals and activities over the coming fiscal year.
Monitoring and evaluation
Detail criteria for monitoring and evaluation. Be sure you assign responsibilities and a systematic process for measuring progress.
Communication of the plan
Describe how you will communicate the plan to key stakeholders.
Communicating your strategic plan
Getting your plan to the right stakeholders at the right time is crucial to success. First, determine who should be getting the plan and take precautions about where you send it, i.e., you don't want it in the hands of competitors. Keep in mind that you may wish to withhold certain information depending on the target audience. For example, employees might not require detailed appendices. As a rule of thumb, these stakeholders should be on your distribution list:
- Your board of directors should receive a copy.
- Provide a copy to employees to help secure their buy-in; they have to know exactly what's expected of them.
Here are a few useful pointers about developing your strategic plan communications:
- Hold an employee meeting or forum to present your strategic plan; face-to-face communications are always more effective.
- Highlight certain sections of your plan in your company newsletter to reinforce messages to employees.
- Make sure you allow for employee feedback on your plan and encourage discussion.
- Be sure to include important portions of your plan in orientation material for new employees. i.e., operational objectives.
- Use your strategic plan to help you develop your marketing tools, but ensure outside agencies sign a waver of confidentiality.
- Make sure the look of your plan and printed or web communications are consistent and reflect your company's image.