How to Write a Strategic Plan (Step-by-Step)

  • By: Josh Palmer
  • May 25, 2023
Strategic Plan
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Strategy is the key to success, and a strategic plan guides an organization to achieve its goals.

Every business, regardless of its size, needs a strategic plan as part of its corporate governance strategy. This is because a strategic plan steers a business’s governing board, staff, and other internal stakeholders in the right direction.

However, for a strategic plan to be effective, it must be written properly. A sound strategic plan should provide your entire team with a clear roadmap of business operations. It must be easy to understand and actionable, so your team can execute it effectively.

Read on to learn how to write a strategic plan and how board management software assists with the strategic planning process.

What is a Strategic Plan?

A strategic plan outlines an organization’s vision and goals for the future and provides a framework for achieving them. In other words, it states an organization’s intentions and direction. As such, a strategic plan allows your organization to focus on what is essential to achieve its goals, prioritize tasks, and manage resources. 

For a strategic plan to be effective, everyone in an organization should contribute to it—from junior-level employees to C-Suite executives and board committees, such as executive boards and marketing boards. 

An ineffective strategic plan can result in your organization losing out on valuable time and wasting critical resources.

Elements of an Effective Strategic Plan

The structure of a strategic plan can vary from organization to organization, but the common elements include: 

  • Executive Summary: The executive summary is a brief summation of the plan. It typically includes an organization’s strategic objective, mission statement, and vision statement. 
  • Scope/Situational Review: The situational review summarizes the organization’s state of affairs in recent years and provides a SWOT analysis. The scope highlights how the business will operate going forward, according to the strategic plan. 
  • Business Context: This section describes the organization’s environment by providing an overview of external factors, such as the economy, industry trends, or political tension, that affect a business within a specific period or over time. It may also describe internal factors affecting the business, such as changes in management structure and employee turnover rates. 
  • Strategic Initiatives: This outlines an organization’s strategic objectives and the tactics used to achieve them. As a best practice, each strategic initiative should identify who within the organization is responsible for it.

How to Write a Strategic Plan

Follow these steps to write a strategic plan: 

1. Identify Strategic Position and Goals 

You first need to identify what your strategic position and goals are. This information guides your strategic plan.

Work with leaders and key decision-makers to determine and understand your organization’s position in its industry and what you hope to attain. Include this information in your strategic goals, ensuring you outline the tactics for achieving each goal. 

2. Prioritize and Actionize Planning Steps

Prioritize each of the identified goals in order of importance. You can do this by identifying the issue that can impact your organization the most or assigning priorities based on factors such as risks and cost savings. 

For each priority item, define two possible courses of action for addressing the issue (one low-risk/low-reward vs. one high-risk/high-reward). This way, you’ll have multiple options for each step along the path of attaining strategic goals. 

3. Collaborate with Internal Stakeholders 

As mentioned earlier, everyone in your organization should be involved in creating a strategic plan. After conducting your research, take all your findings to internal team members and ask for their input. Create and use focus groups representing various departments in your organization to speed up the process. 

4. Activate Strategic Plan 

Upon writing the plan, roll it out throughout your organization. Share it widely and ensure everyone responsible for tasks within it is aware of any deadlines. Track the progress of the plan to determine its effectiveness. 

5. Update Strategic Plan 

Upon reviewing the plan’s progress after a predetermined duration, gather your internal stakeholders again and discuss ways of updating the plan to make it more effective. 

Strategic Plan vs. Tactical Plan

A strategic plan outlines the broad, long-term goals an organization hopes to achieve. On the other hand, a tactical plan lays out the short-term steps and actions that need to be taken to achieve the goals described in a strategic plan. In short, a strategic plan offers a general idea of how to attain a goal, while a tactical plan outlines the steps for achieving that goal.

Strategic Plan vs. Operational Plan

A strategic plan allows your organization to focus on what is essential to achieve its goals, prioritize tasks, and manage resources. In contrast, an operational plan allows you to create the day-to-day frameworks to carry out your business objectives. An annual operational plan draws upon an organization’s strategic plan and maps out specific goals for each department within the organization to accomplish in a given year. 

Strategic Plan vs. Business Plan

A strategic plan assesses an organization’s current environment (internal and external), establishes future goals and objectives, and outlines the strategies for reaching each of those goals. A business plan describes the foundation of an organization, its owners, the industry in which it operates, its capabilities, how it generates revenue, and its financial projections. 

Put another way, a strategic plan outlines how you want to change your organization to grow or be ready for the future, while a business plan describes the current state of your business or a specific new project. 

Strategic Plan and the Board of Directors

Strategic plans are a crucial component for driving success. But for these plans to be effective, they need to be created and implemented properly. 

Leveraging board management software like OnBoard streamlines the strategic planning process. The software helps track meetings, plan agendas, and assign tasks with ease. It also provides secure storage for your strategic plan and other crucial documents.

In addition, OnBoard helps with creating a governance, risk, and compliance framework, as well as day-to-day operations. It offers intuitive analytics to make more informed decisions and unified communication, so boards and leaders can communicate next steps.

Ready to improve your board’s effectiveness? Check out our Board Management Software Buyer’s Guide to get started. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • What is the Role of the Strategic Plan?

    The role of the strategic plan is to outline your organization's overall goals and develop tactics for achieving those goals. 

  • Why is the Strategic Plan Important?

    It creates a roadmap for a business to follow and course-correct if need be. In short, it gives all teams in an organization a sense of direction, thereby driving success.

  • How Many Steps are in the Strategic Plan Process?

    There are typically five steps in the strategic plan process: identification of strategic position and goals, prioritization of planning steps, collaboration with internal stakeholders, implementation, and evaluation and updating of the plan. For the plan to be effective, you need to follow all these steps. 

Ready to upgrade your board’s effectiveness with OnBoard the board intelligence platform? Schedule a demo or request a free trial

About The Author

Josh Palmer
Josh Palmer
Josh Palmer serves as OnBoard's Head of Content. An experienced content creator, his previous roles have spanned numerous industries including B2C and B2B home improvement, healthcare, and software-as-a-service (SaaS). An Indianapolis native and graduate of Indiana University, Palmer currently resides in Fishers, Ind.