Setting Strategic Direction

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Setting Strategic Direction

Planners carefully come to conclusions about what the organisation must do as a result of the major issues and opportunities facing the organisation. These conclusions include what overall accomplishments (or strategic goals) the organisation should achieve, and the overall methods (or strategies) to achieve the accomplishments. Goals should be designed and worded as much as possible to be specific, measurable, acceptable to those working to achieve the goals, realistic, timely, extending the capabilities of those working to achieve the goals, and rewarding to them, as well. (An acronym for these criteria is “SMARTER”.)Image result for Strategic Direction
At some point in the strategic planning process (sometimes in the activity of setting the strategic direction), planners usually identify or update what might be called the strategic “philosophy”. This includes identifying or updating the organisation’s mission, vision and/or values statements. Mission statements are brief written descriptions of the purpose of the organisation. Mission statements vary in nature from very brief to quite comprehensive, and including having a specific purpose statement that is part of the overall mission statement. Many people consider the values statement and vision statement to be part of the mission statement. New businesses (for-profit or nonprofit) often work with a state agency to formally register their new business, for example, as a corporation, association, etc. This registration usually includes declaring a mission statement in their charter (or constitution, articles of incorporation, etc.).
It seems that vision and values statements are increasingly used. Vision statements are usually a compelling description of how the organisation will or should operate at some point in the future and of how customers or clients are benefitting from the organisation’s products and services. Values statements list the overall priorities in how the organisation will operate. Some people focus the values statement on moral values. Moral values are values that suggest overall priorities in how people ought to act in the world, for example, integrity, honesty, respect, etc. Other people include operational values which suggest overall priorities for the organisation, for example, to expand market share, increase efficiency, etc. (Some people would claim that these operational values are really strategic goals. Don’t get hung up on wording for now.)

Action Planning

Action planning is carefully laying out how the strategic goals will be accomplished. Action planning often includes specifying objectives, or specific results, with each strategic goal. Therefore, reaching a strategic goal typically involves accomplishing a set of objectives along the way – in that sense, an objective is still a goal, but on a smaller scale.
Often, each objective is associated with a tactic, which is one of the methods needed to reach an objective. Therefore, implementing a strategy typically involves implementing a set of tactics along the way – in that sense, a tactic is still a strategy, but on a smaller scale.
Action planning also includes specifying responsibilities and timelines with each objective, or who needs to do what and by when. It should also include methods to monitor and evaluate the plan, which includes knowing how the organisation will know who has done what and by when.
It’s common to develop an annual plan (sometimes called the operational plan or management plan), which includes the strategic goals, strategies, objectives, responsibilities and timelines that should be done in the coming year. Often, organisations will develop plans for each major function, division department, etc., and call these work plans.
Usually, budgets are included in the strategic and annual plan, and with work plans. Budgets specify the money needed for the resources that are necessary to implement the annual plan. Budgets also depict how the money will be spent, for example, for human resources, equipment, materials, etc.
Note: there are several different kinds of budgets. Operating budgets are usually budgets associated with major activities over the coming year. Project budgets are associated with major projects, for example, constructing a building, developing a new program or product line, etc. Cash budgets depict where cash will be spent over some near term, for example, over the next three months (this is very useful in order to know if you can afford bills that must be paid soon). Capital budgets are associated with operating some major asset, for example, a building, automobiles, furniture, computers, etc.