Strategic Planning

Every organization needs to encourage strategic planning. Conventional wisdom says “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Here is a process that works.

1) Start by deciding the time period you mean by “the future.” This can vary with the industry. For most, a three to five year period is used.

During my career, I was the guy who had the privilege of regularly going back to my organization’s leadership team and reminding them that they had chosen three to five years. When that time had expired, I would say “Welcome to the future. How’d that go for you? We need to do it again!”

Also, recognize that something completely disruptive can come along. That should compel the organization to revisit the strategy.

2) Identity of the organization; what does it CURRENTly do (Mission). “Mission is the purpose for which the organization exists.” Mission is about the present.

3) What does the organization want to do in the FUTURE (Vision)? “Vision is a look forward. What will your organization look like, feel like, or be viewed as by outsiders.”

4) What are the VALUES of the organization? Values are the filters through which decisions are run.  Values are cultural norms. Values should not be the “me too” statements that a lot of companies use, like Quality, Ethics, Honesty, etc.

Whatever is claimed. Define what you mean. Don’t just use one word.

5) What forces are being applied to the organization (ENVIRONMENT)? Gather influences from the external environment.  The external environment includes the Remote, Industry, and Operating environment. Sometimes a SIPOC (Supplier, Input, Process, Output, Customer) analysis is beneficial.

6) What CHALLENGES do those forces present to the organization? “Which of the facts that you have uncovered (in ‘Assess the Environment’) represents the greatest challenge to the organization?”  It’s interesting to note that the demographic of the workforce is changing. What challenge does that (or anything else) present to the organization (i.e. the need for Knowledge Transfer)?

7) What is the PRIORITY of the challenges? “Usually prioritized as Gradual Influence, Significant Impact, Extreme Impact, or Live or Die. A target diagram is frequently used to illustrate this prioritization. Clearly, the most important challenges to deal with are ones prioritized as “Live or Die.” That means that you have to deal with it or turn off the lights.

8) What CAPABILITIES does the organization have and need to deal with those challenges? All the capabilities of the organization should be considered. That includes technical, human, facilities, etc.

This gap analysis should be an indicator of the need for internal upgrades or improvements.

9) What are the best, worst, and mostly likely SCENARIOS that we envision? Tell stories and illustrate what the future could look like. How good could it be? How bad? What’s most likely?

10) Based on the scenarios, what is the STRATEGY needed? “The purpose of strategy is to define how the organization will create value – value to customers and shareholders, and to define the key internal changes that must occur to achieve this value.” “Strategy is a way of thinking about the organization and its future.” Strategy is a path chosen to move the organization from the present to the future.

11) What is the business IMPACT of the chosen strategy? What will the strategy do to “move the needle” on important business performance measures? What is the Return on Investment?

12) COMMUNICATE the strategy. Everyone in the organization needs to know the strategy. They need to get a firm grasp on what they need to do to help make it happen and be successful.

13) MEASURE the effect of implementing the strategy. Take corrective action as required. This goes all the way down to aligned goals and objectives at all levels of the organization.


Stephen P. (Steve) Czerniak

About the author:  Mr. Czerniak retired after a successful career that culminated in fifteen years of experience as an internal consultant and “change agent.”  He is currently an Executive-in-Residence at the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator and a volunteer at the Troy Historic Village and Historical Society.


Reference:  Change Management:  Creating the Dynamic Organization through Whole System Architecture © 1997 Miller/Howard Consulting Group, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, Lawrence M. Miller & Helene F. Uhlfelder, Ph. D.

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