Nearly every organization relies on a strategic plan. It's a multiyear road map focusing energy on gaining achievements.

Without a plan, day-to-day administrative tasks become priority. Significant goals are seldom reached. Mission creep may occur without focus on mission and vision.

So how do you develop an effective strategic plan? It begins with having the right terminology and methodology.

Planning team

The process for developing a plan includes convening a group of innovative, visionary and strategic thinkers. Because the activity occurs infrequently (about every three years), there is a need discuss the terminology and process.

The ideal number of people is fewer than 20. A larger group is difficult to maintain attention and slows the process, but a small group may limit input. The aim is a group size that allows for meaningful conversations.

If there is a desire to involve more people, do it with advance surveys and focus groups.

Idea generation

Attendees are likely to offer "new ideas." They want to leave their imprint on the plan. Remind everyone that it is just as important to delete or improve programs rather than adding new ones.

The challenge of new ideas is how they "fit." For instance, are they suggestions, goals, strategies or tactics?

Be mindful of the statement, "I don't know how this fits, but I'm going to throw it on the table." A contributor may not have considered aspects such as resources, performance measures and alignment.


Familiarization with the planning terminology is the starting point.

Begin the meeting by defining terms and context. For example, how does a strategy affect a goal? What's the linkage between vision and mission statements?

This terminology applies to strategic planning globally:

  • Vision: Inspirational statement about the future, often focused externally on results that improve society or the community.
  • Mission: Communicates the reason for existence, identifying the stakeholders, relevance and outcomes. Brief is better.
  • Values: Organizational principles that guide decision making, often serving as a filter for discussion.
  • Goals: The core competencies or pillars of the organization to which resources will be allocated. Generally, just three to six for laser focus. Align committees with goals.
  • Strategies: Fresh and continuing approaches, programs and priorities to achieve the goals.
  • Tactics: The more precise steps to advance the strategies, generally the role of committees.
  • Metrics and KPIs: Performance indicators set to monitor progress. Include timelines, deadlines and assignments. Track on a matrix or spreadsheet. Report as scorecard or dashboard.

After terminology is understood, approach the process methodically. Start with an affirmation of the vision and mission, moving to the more specific elements such as strategies and metrics.

Model plan

This sample plan demonstrates the fit and flow of the elements. It places vision first, recognizing it is an aspirational outcome for the community. Next comes the mission identifying the organization, its members and services. From there follow values, goals and strategies,

This plan will guide successive boards and answer the frequent member question, "What do you do for me?"

The strategic plan must be succinct — easy to communicate and reference at board meetings. It should be of interest to members and stakeholders. This public plan is supported by a longer document that aligns committees, promotes accountability and sets deadlines.

Here is a breakdown of the strategic plan for the Mammoth Lakes Board of Realtors in California.