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The six elements of effective strategic planning.

6 Elements of Effective Strategic Planning

While the business operations framework is a continuous cycle in which each stage informs the next, developing a strategic plan is the best place to start.

During the strategic planning process, an organization performs three steps:

  • Builds or modifies the foundational strategic vision and mission
  • Commits to goals that drive overall health
  • Develops a long-term plan to achieve the goals

A strong strategic plan positions the organization for success and clearly defines it at every level.

A common mistake we see businesses make is starting tactical initiative execution without first communicating and aligning on the goal. Skipping these important steps can leave your organization without direction.

Read ahead to learn more about the six vital elements of strategic planning: vision , mission , objectives , strategy , approach , and tactics . 

Rainbow Strategic Planning Pyramid with elements representing vision, objectives, strategy, approach, and tactics

1.     Define your vision

An organization’s vision statement is an aspirational description of what it wants to achieve in the future..

A vision statement serves as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action — a definition of where you want your organization to be in the long term. It sets the tone and provides a North Star on the horizon.

One example of a company with a strong vision statement is Warby Parker, the online prescription glasses retailer founded in 2010 that is now worth an estimated $3 billion.

Warby Parker’s vision statement has two parts: “We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket. We also believe that everyone has a right to see.”

With just three sentences, the vision statement tells you exactly what the company aims to achieve. Namely, to make the process for buying prescription glasses and sunglasses fun and straightforward (unlike the traditional method). The vision also aims for customers to have fashionable frames, but at a lower cost than existing options.

The last sentence of the vision statement adds in a purpose statement (aka why the company exists): “We also believe that everyone has a right to see.” Since the beginning, Warby Parker has touted its “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program that donates glasses to people who can’t otherwise afford them. According to the CEO, this purpose is what motivates employees to join and stay with the company. Not all leaders include a social impact focus in their company’s vision and purpose statement, but it’s becoming increasingly popular with the growing buying power of Millennial and Gen Z consumers.

A powerful vision statement helps company employees focus their work in the right direction — and a strong vision statement will do the same for your organization.

2.     Create your mission

While your vision is an organization-wide goal, your mission how you plan to achieve the vision..

Without a mission, your organization lacks the why and how. If everyone in your organization has their own interpretation of the vision, it can lead to conflicting strategies and initiatives.

For Warby Parker, there are many possible routes to achieve the company vision that states “buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket.”

The company’s mission statement is: “By circumventing traditional channels, designing glasses in-house, and engaging with customers directly, we’re able to provide higher-quality, better-looking prescription eyewear at a fraction of the going price.”

After the founding team realized early on that one large company dominated the eyewear industry with inflated prices, they decided to find a way to lower prices and increase quality, while also turning a profit. The resulting actions included bringing many traditionally outsourced services in-house, such as design and consumer marketing/sales.

3.     Set your objectives

Objectives are specific results that a person or system aims to achieve within a time frame..

Defining success early lets you know if you are on the path to achieve your mission and vision. Clearly articulating your objectives creates goal posts by which your organization can measure its overall health and the impact of strategic initiatives.

In general, good objectives should be clear, measurable and be supported by multiple strategic initiatives across the organization.

While Warby Parker isn’t a public company and is not legally required to release annual financial statements, the organization does voluntary release an annual impact report. The report provides a window into the company’s strategic objectives with the inclusion of priority issues relevant to both stakeholders and the company. For the most recent 2019 report , the top issues cited are the Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program, customer experience, innovation, product safety, and responsible sourcing.

For the Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program, Warby Parker’s relevant objective might be aimed at growing the program, while the innovation priority may be tied to the objective of innovating to meet the strategic vision and mission. The issue of responsible sourcing could lead to an objective of using all recycled packaging or becoming carbon neutral. While the listed issues are presented through an impact lens, they also have a financial purpose.

4.    Develop your strategy

Your strategy is a long-term plan that enables you to achieve your organization’s objectives..

An effective strategy brings together vision and execution. Strategies are much more specific than an organization’s vision, mission, and objectives. They are typically only shared within an organization and ideally built around an organization’s needs and market context. Strategies should map long-term plans to objectives and actionable steps, foster innovative thinking, as well as anticipate and mitigate potential pitfalls.

Strategic plans often look out 3-5 years, and there may be a separate plan for each individual objective within the organization. In the Warby Parker annual impact report, we have insight into the strategy for each of the objectives identified above. We’ll highlight potential strategies for two areas: the Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program and innovation.

By the end of 2019 Warby Parker had distributed seven million pairs of glasses to 23 countries through the Buy a Pair, Give a Pair Program and will be likely focus on expanding those numbers in 2021 and beyond. According to the impact report, 2.5 billion people around the world lack access to affordable glasses to learn and work. In order to make a positive impact, Warby Parker needed to develop strategies to continue chipping away at that need, as well as meet company objectives, mission and vision. An example strategy for this program could be expanding the US-based Pupils Project, which gives school children access to free vision services and glasses. In the 2019-2020 school year, Warby Parker expanded the program from New York City and Baltimore to Philadelphia, providing vision services to an estimated 25,000 students in the School District of Philadelphia.

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In addition, Warby Parker has traditionally been focused on eyewear and reimagining the customer experience for glasses wearers, so naturally the company’s leadership identified an innovation opportunity to add daily contact lenses in November 2019, which was likely the result of a multi-year strategic plan. Like Warby Parker’s eyeglasses process, the company allows a trial period for contact wearers, who can request 6 days of contacts in their prescription before committing to a full 90-day supply.

5.     Outline your approach

An approach provides a methodology for executing your strategy..

The approach is a framework for answering key questions that will later determine tactics. Plus, it guides an organization on how to execute the strategic plan.

Within our Warby Parker example, each strategic plan included an approach that guided the leadership team in their analysis and plan execution. While we won’t cover each decision the company made in 2019, we’d like to focus on two big ones: the Pupils Project expansion and the launch of the contact lens brand Scout.

When it came to expanding the Pupils Project, the Warby Parker leadership team needed an approach for addressing each key decision for the program. There were likely more decisions than we can cover in one whitepaper, but will focus on two: whether to partner with existing non-profits or create its own program and how to make the greatest impact with the funds available.

Leading up to the decision points, like whether to expand the Pupils Program to Philadelphia, the leadership’s approach probably included a consideration of whether to develop the program infrastructure and manage it internally or partner with existing non-profits. The approach also likely included a cost-benefit analysis of that question, evaluating the financial ROI and social impact of each option. The company ultimately choose to work with two local Philadelphia nonprofits.

Another key decision requiring a strong approach within the Pupils Program was how to have the greatest impact with the funds available. The company needed an approach that would help them answer and inform key decisions. Those decisions could have included an analysis of whether to contribute the glasses directly or make a cash equivalent donation to the nonprofits, how to identify schools for the project (for example considering the greatest overall need or the number of glasses Warby Parker can provide), as well as who should manage the logistics of the screenings and eyeglasses deliveries.

On the innovation side, Warby Parker needed a quality approach to ensure the contact lens brand launch (called Scout) was aligned with the existing mission, vision, objectives and strategies. In order to create a contact lens that was high quality, affordable, and with lower waste packaging, the company needed a multi-pronged approach. Two crucial areas of planning for the Scout contact lenses were undoubtedly the design of the product and choosing the right manufacturer.

Because contact lenses were completely new to the company, Warby Parker needed to either design them in house or hire an outside design team that would meet the high standards the leadership outlined in the 2019 impact report , “On top of creating a great shopping experience for our customers, we have high expectations for what a daily contact lens should be—high quality, moist, breathable, comfortable, innovative, and affordable. It’s a lot to ask of one product, but we were relentless in our search for a contact lens that checked all of those boxes.”

While the company does not say in the report which route it chose for design, the leadership likely did a cost benefit analysis of designing it in-house vs. working with an outside design company or freelance designers. The key considerations were likely the cost to design, the strategic importance of certain attributes (like breathability, moisture content, shape), the cost to manufacture, and the sustainability considerations.

In terms of the approach to find the right manufacturer, Warby Parker needed to find a partner that met the company’s quality, cost, and environmental standards. The sustainability standards included finding packaging with significant less waste and incorporating recycled materials from the manufacturing process. The company’s approach to finding a manufacturer probably included research and a ranking of multiple companies with the above criteria in mind, then doing a comparison across the top choices and additional due diligence before choosing a partner.

Through these examples, you can see how an approach ladders up to strategies, outcomes and eventually the company’s mission.

6.    Get down to tactics

Tactics are focused initiatives, projects, or programs that allow organizations to execute a strategic plan..

Tactics are the key to execution. They are the actions you take to make it all happen.

Within each decision Warby Parker made, the company used different tactics to move it from an idea to actual product or program. While each decision could have dozens of tactics, we’ve highlighted one or two examples for each.

For the Pupils Project at Warby Parker, the decision for how to have the largest impact possible required several tactics or initiatives to make that happen. The company choose to have the nonprofit partners run the screenings while Warby Parker provided the glasses and had the students choose their styles from 40 options in a truck show. One necessary tactic was bringing together the design and logistics teams to narrow down the style options that would be appealing to kids, cost effective, and easy to produce in large numbers.

Another important tactic was likely determining how to produce and deliver the glasses to the students, whether the glasses should deliver to their homes or the schools, and how to ensure the glasses fit correctly after they arrived. The Pupils Project’s overall goal is for children to have glasses to enable their ability to learn, and in order to do that, they need to actually use the glasses for the long-term, so it’s important to have styles that appeal to children, as well as well-fitting frames.

Appraise your process: uncover your strengths with our free go-to-market  assessment 

In terms of tactics for the Scout contact lens launch, once the company made the decision on a design team, the project leaders determined tactics to make the contacts idea a reality. The designers had specific research guidelines to find material and construction that fit the criteria of “high quality, moist, breathable, comfortable, innovative, and affordable.” The final product is made with a material that resists drying and constructed using new technology to increase eye comfort during wear.

The company design team also created flat pack packaging that is more hygienic, uses less raw materials, and takes up less space compared to traditional contact lens packaging. Even the placement of the contact (upside down) was intentional to reduce the chance of contamination from dirt or bacteria when the wearer puts them in their eye. Each of these items were likely framed as tactics and initiatives used to create the Scout lenses. Each was directly related to Warby Parker’s approach to the decision, the overall strategy, and aligned with the larger mission and vision.

On the surface, each tactic might not seem connected, but as you dig deeper, you’ll find that effective tactics should always tie back to the strategy, objectives, mission, and vision of the company.

Graphic of the four steps of business operations: strategic planning, operations, design, initiative execution and business intelligence, with an emphasis on strategic planning

This is the second in a 5-part blog series defining Spur Reply’s unique perspective on the often overlooked, but incredibly valuable world of business operations. 

Part 1: Overall business operations

Part 2: this blog focuses on strategic planning, part 3: operations design, part 4: initiative execution, part 5: business intelligence.


Dan Overgaag

Related articles.


The 5 Key Elements of Strategic Planning

Download our free Strategic Planning Template Download this template

All great strategies have goals, actions, and metrics. No matter the strategy’s scope and complexity or even the company’s size, great strategies include these elements. So, successful strategic planning accounts for all three.

\When a strategic planning process incorporates these elements, strategies become simple and guide decisions. If you want to kick start your strategy development, use this strategic planning template that thousands of organizations apply at the start of their strategy formulation.

Effective strategic planning elements overview:

  • Defining your Vision
  • Crafting your Values
  • Determining desired Outcomes
  • Declaring explicit Accountability
  • Establishing leading KPIs

Free Download Download our Strategic Planning Template Download this template

4 critical components of a strategic plan:

  • Where do I want to take my business? The destination
  • Where are we right now? The starting point
  • How will we get there? The journey
  • How will I know if I'm succeeding? The checkpoints

Everyone reading the strategic plan should be able to answer these questions. This includes employees, business partners, investors, or other stakeholders.

5 key elements of strategic planning infographic

5 Key Elements of Strategic Planning

1. defining your vision.

Start by defining your organization’s vision (its destination). In the words of Thibault Mesqui, Managing Director at Heineken in the state of strategy report , "make your strategy based on a vision". 

This is an expression of the unique Point Of View you bring to the market. Make it simple, different, inspiring, and positive.

People who read your vision should be able to understand exactly what you stand for. Take a look at our guide on how to write a good vision statement to help you in the process.

Your vision will help you to:

  • Bring alignment to your organization. People will unify their efforts towards a common goal, driving increased efficiency.
  • Create strategies that are cohesive and focused.
  • Inspire employees, investors, and other stakeholders to invest emotionally and commercially in your business.

Knowing your vision isn’t enough. Create a vision statement to articulate it and explicitly define it.

Mission statement vs Vision statement

You may also want to create a mission statement. A mission statement differs from a vision statement . A vision statement defines where you want to be in the future. A mission statement defines broadly how you will get there (part of your journey).

Many organizations are moving away from separate vision and mission statements due to the confusion surrounding their differences. Instead, you might want to try converting your mission statement into a series of focus areas.

For example, Patagonia's vision statement is:

"To share our love for the outdoors and create a diverse range of products for all facets of outdoor life."

And their focus areas are:

  • "Best product"
  • "Reduce environmental harm"
  • "Encourage discussion on the environmental crisis”

Their focus areas essentially describe how they will achieve their vision and act as the bedrock for most of their strategic goals and KPIs.

2. Crafting your core Values

Values really don't get the credit they deserve. People often see them as a throw-away and vacuous - more aimed at marketing the organization than guiding its true internal behaviors. But a well-crafted set of values can be the difference between success and failure in the execution of your strategic plan.

Follow this guide to craft your company’s values , so they help you to:

  • Assess your current state (the starting point) as an honest reflection of what you do well and are proud of doing.
  • Make better decisions by ruling out courses of action that are not appropriate for your company
  • Recruit better people who share your beliefs and passions

The values that go into your strategic plan shape your culture and are not aimed at customers.

Instead, they are a frank self-assessment of how your organization’s people behave as they deliver against your vision and Focus Areas.

They should reflect the values of your very best people and the values that have helped you to succeed the most in your journey to date.

If your strategy clashes with your company’s culture or values, it will fail. Identifying your core values is a critical component towards defining your starting point and your journey.

3. Defining desired Outcomes

A strategic plan leads nowhere without a set of clearly defined outcomes. Visions, missions, and focus areas are a great starting point - but no one will take your plan seriously unless you can clearly articulate what steps you are going to take to get there - and what success looks like for each of those steps.

Not all of your outcomes will be immediately quantifiable - and that's ok (your KPIs below will help you in those cases). But when you define your outcomes, make sure they look like this:

Action + Detail + Metric + Unit + Deadline

For example:

Expand our international operations into 3 new markets by 21st December 2022

Starting with a verb forces you to be specific about what you’re trying to do. If you can include a metric and a unit – do so.

It will keep you focused and honest when tracking your progress. Having a deadline works in much the same way.

Our guide on how to create strategic objectives walks you through the process of creating achievable and executable outcomes.

4. Declaring explicit Accountability

This is such a small detail, but it is also one of the key elements of a strategic plan that so many organizations fail to implement.

A lack of accountability will absolutely destroy your strategy execution . Lacking or confusing accountability results in:

  • Outcomes not being delivered because no one knew who was in charge
  • Conflicting interpretations of what the business should be working on
  • Increased “finger pointing” and hearsay when things don't go to plan
  • No one taking any satisfaction or pride in the outcomes delivered by their team

Define accountability in the initial strategic plan as part of defining your journey. Ideally, the people responsible for a particular segment of your plan should also have been critical contributors to the plan itself.

Contribution drives engagement. Engagement enforces self-accountability. Accountability enables execution.

For each of your outcomes, simply state ONE single person who will have primary accountability for that outcome. Avoid defining yourself accountable for every single outcome.

It's fine for the owner to invite other people to work on the outcome (either by cascading the goal or inviting collaborators), but it needs to be clear that the PRIMARY accountability sits with the one individual initially assigned to the outcome and no one else.

5. Establishing leading KPIs

Creating KPIs is probably the hardest of all the key elements of a strategic plan. But without KPIs, you won't know until it's too late whether or not you're succeeding towards your vision.

Note that KPIs are not the metrics you set to create your outcomes from step 3. Rather, KPIs should relate to how well you're delivering against the components of your mission or focus areas.

Let's take a look at some examples:

Patagonia's first Focus Area was “Best product.” A KPI for this focus area could be their Net Promoter Score - i.e., how many customers would recommend Patagonia's products and services to others.

Patagonia's second Focus Area was “Reduce Environmental Harm.” They could have a KPI for maintaining their carbon footprint at 0 (i.e., being carbon neutral).

Patagonia's third Focus Area was “Encourage discussion on the environmental crisis.” Probably the hardest to set an effective KPI. They could measure the number of mentions of the company on social media that also reference the environmental crisis.

Don't let establishing leading KPIs become harder than it needs to be. Follow this easy 4 step formula on how to write KPIs to be effective. Make sure that your KPIs accurately reflect what success looks like for each Focus Area and that you can accurately measure the KPI regularly.

Selecting the right KPIs is, therefore, one of the key elements of a strategic plan.

Crucial elements for a strategy's success

Companies that incorporate all five elements in their strategic planning process build easier-to-execute strategies.

People understand them and make consistent decisions throughout the organization. Pair them with regular reviewing organizational habits and you have highly adaptive companies that go beyond reacting to market changes. They anticipate and lead them. 

Check out the features of the world's #1 strategic planning software! ‍

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MindManager Blog

6 Elements of strategic planning for business

October 5, 2022 by MindManager Blog

Developing effective strategic plans is what helps companies thrive in today’s competitive business environment. However, despite the time spent brainstorming, discussing, and planning strategically, around two-thirds of business executives feel that their planning processes did not yield effective strategies.

The failure of strategic planning for businesses is often attributed to the unpredictability of a competitive market. For example, new trends and big events can negatively affect your strategic plan—but only if you do not anticipate and navigate such changes.

Along those lines, it is important to recognize that strategic planning is not a one-time event. It is comprised of ongoing processes and effective planning strategies that must be capable of evolving in response to emerging challenges and opportunities.

In this article, we will review the elements of strategic planning and using visual tools to document strategic plans. We will also discuss the benefits of strategic planning for any business, as well as how MindManager® makes it easy to implement strategic planning for startups, entrepreneurs, project managers, and more.

What are the elements used in strategic planning?

Strategic planning frameworks first became popular in the 1950s . Since then, hundreds of planning models have been developed, such as OSGM (Objectives, Goals, Strategies, Measures), Balanced Scorecard , and the 7S Model .

No two strategic planning frameworks are identical. However, they all share the following 6 elements :

  • Vision statement. A vision statement describes what your business will look like in the future. By making everyone aware of your long-term goals, they can conduct their work with consideration for the broader organizational strategy .
  • Mission statement. A mission statement defines the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of what your organization does. It often identifies elements such as your key offerings, target audiences, and what differentiates your company from the competition. Mission statements also describe how you intend to achieve your vision .
  • Goals and objectives. A goal is a broad statement of what your organization plans to achieve. Objectives define the actions, methods, or paths used to achieve the goal. You need both goals and objectives to support your overall vision statement.
  • SWOT analysis. A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is used to assess your position in the market. It helps business leaders determine potential challenges and successful strategies for achieving organizational goals.
  • Action plan. An action plan contains the tactics for reaching the short- and long-term goals and objectives of the strategic plan. Action plans include important information for each goal or objective, including timeframes, responsible parties, and required resources.
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are measurable, objective metrics that enable business leaders to track performance in relation to company goals. They are directly related to your strategic objectives and guide the decision-making process.

Understanding the elements of strategic planning benefits organizations and their various teams and departments. A strategic plan brings a sense of purpose and significance to day-to-day work activities, increasing the likelihood of achieving your organization’s goals and objectives.

Using visual tools for strategic planning

Developing a strategic plan can be as simple as creating a word document, but this approach might not make the most impact. Studies suggest that approximately 65% of people are visual learners , which is why strategic planning elements are best captured and communicated with visual tools.

Visual learning occurs when a person sees information in order to understand it. Diagrams, flowcharts, timelines, and maps are all examples of visual productivity tools that help individuals process and retain information.

Companies use visual tools to create customized maps and charts to guide strategic planning efforts. Visualizing your strategic plan helps you brainstorm and organize ideas, identify resources and timelines, assess challenges and opportunities, and more.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the mapping and visualization tools available in MindManager.

SWOT Analysis

Analyzing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats helps you develop strategic goals. You can use a SWOT analysis template to assess these four segments and how they relate to one another. With everything displayed in a clear visual format , it’s easy to expand ideas and identify opportunities for growth or change.

By visualizing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in a SWOT matrix, you can identify connections that drive business performance. For example, do your strengths support identified opportunities? Would eliminating weaknesses limit potential threats?

explain elements of a good strategic plan

A SWOT analysis helps you analyze data and prioritize actions to achieve your objectives and goals.   

While the simplicity of a SWOT matrix offers plenty of value as a stand-alone tool, there is more than one way to visually represent SWOT analyses. Another option is a SWOT analysis business case , which breaks down the four sections into primary topics in a flowchart. Each section is connected to additional subtopics to ensure that you address all relevant strategic planning elements.

explain elements of a good strategic plan

A SWOT analysis business case lists various factors that relate to your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  

A DESTEP analysis diagram helps business leaders, product managers, project managers, and other professionals break down the complexity of strategic planning elements. These diagrams are often used in coordination with SWOT analysis to respond to and strategize for external opportunities and threats.

DESTEP analysis charts are used to evaluate external influences that can impact your organization. Remember, strategic planning is an ongoing process that must account for unexpected changes that you cannot control.

explain elements of a good strategic plan

Identifying and investigating each of the DESTEP forces helps you develop more effective business forecasts.  

A PEST analysis gives you a big-picture view of how political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological factors can affect your organization. It is like a DESTEP analysis but the factors included in the analysis differ.

In a PEST analysis:

  • Political factors are aspects of governmental policy that could impact the economy, regulatory requirements, and more.
  • Economic factors such as inflation and economic growth influence people’s willingness to spend money on various products and services.
  • Social factors affect your target audience and include considerations such as culture, lifestyle, and trends.

Technological factors influence how businesses get things done, and what can be impacted byconsiderations such as automation and new, more advanced technical tools.

explain elements of a good strategic plan

Strategy map

A strategy map helps you brainstorm, organize, and prioritize objectives as you map out your path to success. These visualization tools highlights your primary goals, the steps needed to achieve them, and their connections to other tasks and objectives.

Strategy maps are single-page diagrams , streamlining one’s understanding of how various processes come together to meet the organization’s strategic objectives . They can be used in almost all business activities , such as developing new products, planning marketing campaigns, or standardizing processes throughout your company.

explain elements of a good strategic plan

Using shapes and arrows, strategy maps visualize the cause-and-effect relationships among strategic objectives.  

Strategic planning

One of the best ways to visualize the elements of strategic planning is to use a customizable strategic planning template . In MindManager, these templates contain five primary topics: preparation, current state, future vision, strategy, and plan management. Each primary topic further expands into subtopics, ensuring that nothing is forgotten as the strategic plan is built out.

A strategic planning diagram represents the culmination of the efforts taken to streamline and improve business processes. Various strategic planning elements are included in the diagram, such as:

  • The vision statement, which is part of the ‘Where are we going?’ topic.
  • The mission statement, which is part of the ‘Where are we now?’ topic.
  • The SWOT analysis and PEST/DESTEP analysis, which are parts of the ‘Where are we now?’ topic.
  • The objectives and goals, which are part of the ‘How will we get there?’ topic.
  • The action plan and KPIs, which are part of the ‘How will we manage the plan?’ topic.

explain elements of a good strategic plan

Strategic planning diagrams support the ongoing process of using available information to track progress based on strategic goals.  

MindManager’s collection of visual productivity tools encompass a wide variety of ready-to-use strategic planning templates. These bring clarity and structure to strategic plans for startup businesses, established organizations, or product and project management teams alike.

explain elements of a good strategic plan

Available for Windows, Mac, Chromebook, and capable of integrating with Microsoft Teams, MindManager keeps teams working synchronously and asynchronously across platforms to enhance real-time collaboration .    

Enhance strategic planning for products, projects, and processes. Try MindManager free for 30 days.  

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explain elements of a good strategic plan

Why choose MindManager?

MindManager® helps individuals, teams, and enterprises bring greater clarity and structure to plans, projects, and processes. It provides visual productivity tools and mind mapping software to help take you and your organization to where you want to be.

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Components of a strategic plan

Key components of a strategic plan

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It’s no secret that many businesses fail within their first 10 years. Poor planning is often cited as a top reason for that failure. To improve your chances of thriving as a business, you need a well-designed plan that includes the elements of a strategic plan that have proven to be successful for other businesses.

Your strategic plan should be the result of extensive research of the current market, industry trends, and competitor analysis. It can help you establish your company vision and mission and determine where your organization needs to go and what you need to do to get there.

Why is strategic planning important?

If you build it, they will come.

That’s a nice line from a movie, but it rarely leads to real life success in the business world. Having an idea and opening a shop doesn’t mean that crowds will line up outside your door clamoring to buy your product. 

A well-designed strategic plan communicates a clear idea of what you want to do with your business. This clarity will have a positive impact across your organization including helping your employees understand how to perform their jobs and, even more importantly, why their jobs matter to the success of the business as a whole. 

Strategic planning is essential to understanding where your business fits in a particular market, and how your product or service adds value to that market. It helps you stay focused on your target audience and determine what needs your products can satisfy. 

Understanding the strategic planning process

The strategic planning process is simply the method your company uses to determine how you will achieve your goals and grow your business. The process helps you to determine which strategic goals you should focus on to move your business forward. 

How you go about working through the process will depend on the size of your business, how much time you have, and your personal preferences. No matter how you approach strategic planning, your process should include the following steps:

  • Determine your strategic position— Perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) or a PEST (Political, Economic, Sociological, and Technological) analysis to get a better idea of where your company currently is so you can figure out where it needs to go. 
  • Prioritize your objectives— Determine which objectives you should pursue that align with your vision and mission and that will help you reach your goals.
  • Develop a plan— Identify what you need to do to achieve your goals. Include a timeline and clearly communicate roles and responsibilities. 
  • Execute and manage the plan— Executing on a plan is what transforms ideas into meaningful action. Implement your plan and monitor your progress.
  • Review and revise— Strategic planning isn’t a one-time thing. If you want to stay ahead, you always want to be looking for ways to improve and streamline processes. Review your plan so you can reevaluate priorities and make course corrections as necessary to stay on track. 

Key elements of strategic planning

Your strategic plan is a living document that you will need to review and update from time to time. Whether you are creating a plan for the first time or revising an existing one, there are a number of elements that you include in your plan. 

explain elements of a good strategic plan

Here are some of the basic elements of a strategic plan to get you started:

Create a vision statement

This is an aspirational description of what you want to do with your organization. It’s probably the goal that inspired the creation of your business in the first place. 

The vision is meant to give your business direction by describing the long-term goal that the company wants to achieve. In other words, it’s what you want your business to be recognized for or associated with in the future. 

Your vision statement should be short and simple. You don’t need to use a lot of business jargon or big words to state where you would like your company to go. For example, look at Google’s vision statement: “To provide access to the world’s information in one click.”

This vision statement is concise, easy to read, and simple to understand. And there is no denying that the company has been successful. 

Write your mission statement

The mission statement describes why the business exists. The mission statement is used to back up your vision and explains the company’s purpose in simple terms. It can define the company culture, its values and ethics, and agenda.

A mission statement should be easy to understand so that employees can stay focused on what they need to do to reach stated goals. For example, Google’s mission statement uses simple language to back up it’s vision: “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

This mission statement clearly indicates that providing access to information is not enough. The information needs to be organized so it is more useful to users and it needs to be accessible to the entire world. 

Your mission statement helps your employees understand their roles and why they are assigned specific tasks. Without a mission statement, your employees are left to interpret the “why” of the company’s vision, which could lead to conflicting strategies and ideas for future development. 

Set objectives

A business objective is the specific result that your company is aiming to achieve. While a goal describes a broad outcome, a business objective is a measurable step that needs to be taken to reach that goal.

For example, one of your goals might be to keep employees productive. Your objectives to reach that goal might include employee training, equipment maintenance, and purchasing new equipment to ensure that you have the resources needed to get the job done.

Objectives are typically set for long-term goals that may take several years to achieve.

Develop strategies

Your strategies define your long-term plan or plans that you will follow so you can achieve your prioritized objectives. Your strategies might also describe the projects, programs, and specific steps your company and employees will take to execute your objectives. 

It’s possible that you will need a separate strategy for each objective, depending on scope and complexity. Strategies are specific and usually only shared within an organization. After all, you don’t want to give away your game plan to the competition.

Here are some other key components of a strategic plan that you might want to include:

  • Measurements : Define how you will track your company’s output and progress.
  • Funding streams : Include a financial analysis that looks at past performance and projected performance. This will give you and investors an overview of your company's current and potential financial health.
  • Core values : A set of principles that define how a company interacts with employees, customers, and stakeholders.

explain elements of a good strategic plan

Now it’s your turn! Conduct your own strategic planning session using Lucidspark.

Lucidspark, a cloud-based virtual whiteboard, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This cutting-edge digital canvas brings teams together to brainstorm, collaborate, and consolidate collective thinking into actionable next steps—all in real time. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidspark.com.

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In this post, we’ll explain the key components of an adaptive strategy, its relation to Agile methodology, and how adaptive strategies can help prepare businesses to keep up with technological advancements.

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What is Strategic Planning? The Key Components, Process & Role Leaders Play in Ensuring a Strategy's Success

What is Strategic Planning? The Key Components, Process & Role Leaders Play in Ensuring a Strategy's Success by SkylineG

Strategic planning is a process that is essential for companies to ensure successful and sustainable growth.

An intelligent and actionable strategic plan is a vital part of competing within the marketplace. It directs businesses to take meaningful action to help them reach their organization's goals by mapping out a clear direction, creating measurable goals, and allocating resources to pursue these specific objectives.

What is Strategic Planning?

A strategic plan is an essential process and strategy execution document for any company looking to make the most of its resources and reach long-term organizational goals.

This vital and continually evolving document outlines a clear direction, sets objectives that must be achieved, and provides an actionable roadmap for success; it also helps organizations stand out from competitors by allowing them to differentiate themselves in the marketplace with their unique approach.

A well-crafted strategic plan will help companies stay focused on their mission while making decisions based on core values guiding them toward achieving desired results by ensuring everyone is moving in the same direction.

explain elements of a good strategic plan

What are the Key Components of a Strategic Plan?

Several key components make up a well-developed strategic plan. These key components include:

A Mission Statement

An organization's mission statement states the company's purpose and the reasons why it exists. Although you might be already clear on the mission, reiterating your mission statement and connection to the plan acts as a foundation for the strategic plan and your strategy.

A Vision Statement

The company vision is the bigger objective that the company aspires to achieve. This may be as broad as making the world a better place through your product or service or ridding bathrooms of mildew. Whatever your vision, it should be connected to your strategic plan

Aligning the company mission and vision statements is the first crucial step to strategic planning.

SWOT Analysis

An overall evaluation of the company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Knowing these points will help you leverage your resources, shore up gaps, and realistically plan your path and the potential risks. Your SWOT analysis will help ensure that your strategic plan is based upon reality and play an important part in your strategic management process.

Goals & Objectives

Goals and objectives need specific, measurable, achievable, and time-bound targets the company wants to achieve. Ensure your goals are achievable, measurable, and can be clearly communicated as part of your strategic planning. High-level company objectives should cascade and align with the objectives of various divisions and teams. The Strategic plans of each division and team should map directly to broader company goals and methods.

The specific courses of action that the company will take to achieve its measurable goals and specific strategic issues.

Action Plans

Detailed project plans outlining the specific steps that will be taken to implement the strategies.

Resource Allocation

The allocation of financial, human, and other resources to implement the action plans.

Evaluation and Control

Evaluation and control are based on measures and systems to monitor the company's progress toward achieving its organization's goals, objectives, and financial plan and to make adjustments as necessary.

explain elements of a good strategic plan

Who is Responsible for Creating a Strategic Plan?

In general, creating a strategic plan is the responsibility of the company's top management team - the CEO, CFO, other executives, etc.

However, though the top management will do the strategic thinking, it’s essential for key members throughout the entire organization to be involved in the strategic planning process as different departments, employees, and human resources will have valuable insights and perspectives to contribute to the strategy formation. Also, when various constituents are a part of and the planning process a sense of ownership and commitment to the strategic plan's success is reinforced.

It’s also common for companies to seek input from external stakeholders, customers, suppliers, and industry experts as part of the strategic planning process. As part of your planning process make sure to identify any critical stakeholders outside of your company.

What Makes the Strategic Planning Process Effective?

Below are some key factors that contribute to the overall effectiveness of a successful strategic plan and the strategic planning process. Understanding these points will help make your strategic planning process more effective:

The plan needs to be clear & concise, with specific strategic goals & objectives that are easy for everyone to understand. Senior leadership plays a critical role in ensuring that each objective is clear and how objectives will be achieved is understood.

The strategic plan needs to take the company's resources & capabilities into account, and the goals need to be realistic & achievable based on the market data.

The plan needs to be flexible enough to allow for adjustments to be made in response to changes in the external environment after deployment.

The plan must be aligned with the company's mission, vision & values and should support the organization's overall direction in terms of business plan and annual budgets.

Easily Communicated

The plan needs to be communicated effectively to all stakeholders & investors, including employees & customers.

The plan needs clear & actionable steps and a timeline for implementation. It must be followed consistently to ensure progress toward business goals like increasing sales and maximizing profit.

The plan needs to measure & evaluate progress, collect feedback, and be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure continuous progress toward company goals and that the plan remains relevant and practical and targets logical key performance indicators.

An effective strategic plan identifies potential factors that might derail the plan and, at a minimum, provides high-level alternatives should the plan become derailed.

explain elements of a good strategic plan

When Do Strategic Plans Fail?

Listed below are a few potential reasons why strategic planning might fail. Understanding why strategic plans fail will help create more effective strategic planning outcomes:

Lacks Clarity

Plans need to be clear and specific. If not, it may be difficult to understand and challenging to implement. When a strategic plan is ambitious it is tough for people to feel connected and motivated to take action.

Lack of Realistic Options and Objectives

Plans need to be realistic. If the plan cannot really be achieved, it'll be difficult to implement and lead to frustration, disappointment, and potential failure.

Lack of Flexibility

The plan needs to be flexible; if it's not is not flexible and doesn’t allow for adjustments in response to changes in the environment (internal and external) or from evaluation or measurement, it may become irrelevant or ineffective.

Lack of Alignment

The plan needs to be aligned with the company's mission, vision, and values; if not consistent with the organization's overall direction, it can quickly become out of sync with its underlying purpose and be ineffective in helping to reach desired goals.

Lack of Understanding

The plan needs to be communicated effectively to all key stakeholders and take feedback from all stakeholders; otherwise, it may be misunderstood or, worse - ignored or seen as not valuable.

Lack Actionable Steps

The strategic plan needs to be implemented swiftly and consistently; if the action steps are not clear or too hard to implement, they may not be implemented effectively.

Lack of Measurable Outcomes

The strategic plan needs to be reviewed and updated regularly, and its performance evaluated after implementation; otherwise, it may become ineffective or outdated, therefore ineffective at achieving desired outcomes.

External Factors

Changes in the external environment can have a huge effect. Changes like shifts in the economy or customer preferences, if not accounted for, can seriously impact the effectiveness of a once brilliant strategic plan.

However, as in life and business, things change, and every business must be able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. This is why an effective plan includes contingencies.

explain elements of a good strategic plan

What is a Company Leader's Role in Ensuring the Strategic Plan is Implemented Successfully?

Strategic management.

Company leaders are responsible for ensuring that the strategic plan is implemented successfully.

Some specific ways business leaders can ensure the plan is implemented properly are:

Clearly Communicate the Plan

Business leaders need to communicate the strategic plan effectively to all key stakeholders, including employees, customers, and investors. Any questions need to be answered and clarified, so everyone is aligned. The strategic plan should be shared in a way that you (the leader) demonstrate ownership and enthusiasm and can share with your team how each role is vital to achieving the plan's objectives.

Providing Resources

Leaders need to ensure that resources, such as funding, personnel, and technology, are available to everyone needed in order to implement the plan successfully.

Setting Expectations

Leaders need to set clear expectations for implementing the plan and hold the designated employees accountable for meeting those expectations. Clear and achievable timelines need to be established and committed to by each stakeholder.

Leading by Example

Leaders need to model the behaviors and values outlined in the plan and encourage others to do the same.

Providing Support

Leaders need to provide support and guidance to employees as they work through problems toward achieving the strategic goals and objectives of the plan.

Monitoring Progress

Leaders need to monitor the progress towards achieving the goals and objectives outlined in the plan and make adjustments in the operational plans as they see fit, as needed.

Celebrating Successes

Leaders need to recognize and celebrate wins along the way to help keep morale high and encourage continued progress toward the ultimate goals.

explain elements of a good strategic plan

What's the Role of Each Individual Employee in Implementing & Supporting the Strategic Plans Success?

Employees are the driving force and critical in implementing and supporting the strategic plan's success. Your employees will be the eyes and ears of how the strategic plan works. This is why it is vital for leaders to create a business environment where there is open communication and all types of information can be shared and reviewed in relation to its impact on the long-term strategy. Leaders must foster an open environment where questions can be asked and bad and good news shared. Leaders can help employees play their part by ensuring employees are supported and are clear on their ability to do the following:

Understand the Plan

Employees need to understand the strategic plan, how it aligns with the company's mission, the steps to take, and most importantly, the goals.

Aligning Work and Job Goals with the Plan

Leaders, managers, and employees need to align their work with the strategic plan and prioritize tasks that support achieving the plan's goals & strategic objectives.

Manage Implementation

Employees must consistently follow through on their assigned tasks and responsibilities to implement the plans, steps, and processes.

Provide Feedback

During the initial review of the organization's current status, employees must provide feedback and suggestions to improve the plan. During its implementation, employees need to provide feedback based on performance and potentially adjust the plan if needed for better performance and goals.

Communicate Laterally and Up

Employees need to communicate with coworkers to ensure everyone is working towards the same goals & objectives and, most importantly, employees need to communicate to their manager on how their contribution is proceeding.

Seek Support and Guidance

Employees need to seek support and guidance from leaders if they need help implementing any steps of the plan or achieving goals.

explain elements of a good strategic plan

Do Some Companies Believe that Strategic Planning is a Waste of Time?

Sure. It's possible some companies may view strategic planning as a waste of time. This could be due to a variety of reasons: resources required upfront, lack of understanding of the benefits of strategic planning, a lack of buy-in from senior management, or a lack of resources to dedicate to the process.

However, for massively successful companies, strategic planning is recognized as an invaluable tool to help organizations achieve their long-term goals and be outstanding in a competitive marketplace.

Strategic planning can also help companies be more agile and adapt to changes in the external environment. For these reasons, it's generally recommended that companies engage in strategic planning and review results on a regular basis.

What Makes a Great Strategy?

What makes a great competitive strategy? Several characteristics are often considered to be key elements of great strategy execution:

A great strategy is clear & easy to understand, with specific goals & strategic objectives that are well-defined.

A great strategy is a focused strategy. A great strategy is focused on a specific area of the business and doesn't try to do too many things at once.

A great strategy is aligned with the company's overall mission, vision for the future, and values, supporting the organization's overall direction.


A great strategy is flexible and allows for adjustments to be made in response to results and changes in the external environment.

A great strategy is realistic & achievable, taking into account the company's resources & capabilities and what can actually get done.


The great strategy sets the company apart from its competitors in the marketplace and helps it to differentiate itself from competitors to customers.

A great strategy can be executed effectively, with clear action steps, a timeline for implementation, and who is responsible for each action step.

Evaluation & Feedback

The great strategy includes measures for evaluating progress and collecting feedback, and it needs to be reviewed regularly & potentially updated to ensure it remains relevant & effective.

When is a Great Strategy Not Enough to Ensure Company Success?

While a great strategy can certainly be a key factor in a company's success, it's not the only factor needed to be successful. There are a number of other internal and external factors that can impact a company's success, including:

Even the best strategy will not be a successful strategy if executed poorly.

A company needs resources, period. Resources like funding, personnel, and technology, are essential to implement strategy effectively.

Changes in external factors are equally important as the internal environment. For example, economic shifts or customer preferences can impact a company's success.


A company's success can also be impacted by its competitors' actions and even competitors' reactions to strategy implementation.

Market Demand

A company's success will depend partly on the market demand for its products or services. Demand should absolutely be a part of the strategy formulation.

A company's success will highly depend on the quality of its products or services and its ability for its products to meet customer needs.

The senior leadership of a company can play a key role in its success, or failure, as they set the vision & direction of the organization.

How Does Company Leadership Play a Critical Part in a Company's Strategic Success?

Without involved leadership, a strategic plan will more than likely fail. A company's leadership plays a critical role in strategic success in several ways:

Setting the Direction

A company's leadership is responsible for setting the organization's vision and direction and creating a strategic management plan that aligns with that direction.

A company's Leadership is responsible for ensuring that the necessary resources, such as funding, personnel, and technology, are available to implement the strategic plan.

Communicating the Plan

A company's leadership communicates the strategic management plan effectively and consistently to all stakeholders, including employees, customers, and investors.

A company's leadership needs to model the behaviors and values aligned with the plan and encourage others to do the same.

A company's leadership needs to provide support & guidance to employees as they work towards achieving the goals and objectives of the strategic plan. This will help in employee retention and strategic success.

A company's leadership needs to monitor progress toward achieving the goals & objectives of the plan and make necessary adjustments as needed.

A company's leadership needs to recognize and celebrate successes along the way to help keep team morale high and encourage continued progress to achieve goals.

How Can Companies Prepare & Support their Leaders to Implement & Ensure Strategic Planning Success?

There are many ways in which companies can prepare and support their leaders to implement and ensure the success of their strategic planning initiative.

Provide Proper Training

Companies need to provide training & strategy development opportunities to help their leaders acquire the knowledge and skills they need to implement & support the strategic vision effectively.

Encourage Open Communication

Companies need to foster an environment of open, clear communication and encourage leaders to seek input & feedback from their teams within the strategic framework - even when the strategy map is not positive.

Align Leadership with Company Values

Companies must ensure that their leadership's values align with the company's values and culture and that their leaders are committed to the mission and vision of the organization.

Encourage Collaboration

Companies need to encourage collaboration & cross-functional teamwork as a part of project management to ensure that all departments work towards the same goals & objectives.

Provide Resources

As part of the strategic planning process, companies need to ensure their leadership has the necessary resources, such as funding, personnel, & technology, to implement the strategic plan effectively for the entire duration.

Establish Clear Expectations

Companies must set clear expectations for how strategic planning should be activated and implemented and hold leadership accountable for meeting expectations as per the strategic plan document.

Monitor Progress

Company leaders need to monitor the progress toward achieving the goals and objectives of the strategic plan and provide their support and guidance as needed. Strategic planning is essential for business success, and the key to achieving successful results lies in the hands of leadership. For leaders to ensure a strategy's success, they must become strategic planners and the details of the business's strategic plan must be organized and understood by each person responsible.

Leaders and managers need to communicate the strategic plan through consistent discussions that foster collaborative decision-making. Responsibilities for the planning process and success also extend beyond the leader and onto each individual employee to help realize the steps of an effective strategic plan. Companies must set clear strategic objectives that align with their mission and strategic goals while preparing business leaders to carry out those plans. When done correctly, with careful attention paid to all levels of the organization, successful strategic planning can lead a company in the right direction toward long-term sustainability and future opportunities.

Having a clear strategic plan is one of those obvious items that every company should have in place yet many companies don't.

Although the effort of investing the time and resources into creating a strategic planning template can be demanding, the value and impact of your investment can return a healthy multiple.

Once your mission and vision statements and strategic plan are in place they become a touchstone to focus your business, align teams, and what makes your way of navigating your market and competition unique.

We hope that this resource provides a road map and helps facilitate the development of your strategic plan if you don't have one yet. For those that do have strategic plans, we hope this resource helps act as a checklist to fortify the strategy development you've already created.

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The essential elements of a strategic plan: explained

Jake Ballinger

Jake Ballinger is an experienced SEO and content manager with deep expertise in FP&A and finance topics. He speaks 9 languages and lives in NYC.

The essential elements of a strategic plan: explained

We've said it before and we'll say it again:

Now more than ever before, companies must plan and plan again.

But how do you direct those plans?

Easy. You create a strategic plan.

But what are the elements of a strategic plan?

That's what we'll go over in this article.

Keep reading.

Jake Ballinger

FP&A Writer, Cube Software

What is strategic planning?

Three benefits of strategic planning.

The essential elements of a strategic plan

Steps in the strategic planning process

See cube in action.

Get out of the data entry weeds and into the strategy.

Sign up for The Finance Fix

Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter from serial CFO and CEO of Cube, Christina Ross.

Strategic planning is the process used to allocate resources, set goals, and identify risks and opportunities.

Strategic planners look at the company's current environment—such as competitors, customers, and the industry—to map out how best to pull in resources, create value for stakeholders, and survive in a competitive marketplace. 

Companies can create long-term plans that help them make decisions and structure operations through this process.

Strategic planning helps companies stay ahead of competitors by foreseeing challenges or opportunities before they occur and setting sound business objectives to serve the company’s mission.

How is strategic planning different from operational planning

The three spheres of financial planning and analysis (FP&A)—strategic, operational, and financial—all work together to provide a roadmap for the business. That said, they’re not interchangeable. Each type of planning covers a different aspect of the work and employs different tactics and skills.

Financial planning forecasts an organization's future finances, including income, expenses, and cash flow. It focuses on financial analysis of current and historical data to decide on long-term investments and budgeting. It’s the bedrock of all other planning , detailing the resources used to conduct business activities.

Operational planning focuses on short-term objectives for your current operations — setting budgets, creating schedules, and assigning tasks. It outlines the operational tactics the company will use to achieve the goals outlined in the strategic plan. 

Strategic planning is a future-facing tactic. Strategic plans consider what the company’s long-term goals are and how to best achieve them by maximizing opportunities and minimizing risks. 

Strategic planning looks at the bigger picture and considers how the company's external environment affects its goal attainment.

Strategic planning thinks in the long-term, with plans spanning one, five, or even 10 years out.

While the strategic plan can change based on outside factors, those changes always occur in service of the company’s vision.

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Broad strategy is the framework on which all business activities are built.

If you know what you need to do in a high-level, strategic sense, it’s easier to outline the actions that lead to good outcomes.

Here’s how strategic planning helps companies move their objectives forward: 

Helps assess goals

Strategic planning helps a company analyze its position in the market and identify the best long-term goals to pursue.

It allows companies to align their plans with current industry trends to stay ahead of the competition.

It also enables companies to make informed decisions when examining the financial impact of various tactics and strategies. 

Strategic planning also gives leaders the tools to anticipate changes in the market and adjust their plans accordingly to ensure that they remain successful in the long run.

This plays an integral role in creating more effective strategies.

Informs operational planning

Businesses use operational planning to ensure smooth and efficient daily operations.

Team leaders set priorities, assign resources, manage staff, and monitor performance to ensure all tasks are completed according to the organization's goals and objectives.

Strategic planning creates a broader understanding of progress, from which teams can understand expectations, define roles and activities, and guide teams to optimize workflow resources. 

Produces better long-term results

A clear strategic roadmap makes it more likely to achieve goals and create consistent growth. It enables agile decisions tailored to the specific needs and objectives of the company.

With greater insight into how resources should be allocated, companies can identify growth areas and increase revenue without sacrificing long-term sustainability. 

The essential elements of a strategic plan 

Your unique business plan relies on data and input from many sources. The specific actions you take on that data determine your outcomes.

Though individual, every planning process should feature some key strategic planning elements, including: 

  • Mission statement
  • Company vision statement
  • Company goals

Let's get into each.

What is a mission statement?

A company mission statement describes the big picture of what your company aspires to. It’s used to guide decision-making, planning, and goal-setting.

The best mission statements summarize your purpose in a quick, concise sentence telling others what to expect from your company.

It frames your employees’ approach to work and unifies them behind the company cause.

What is a vision statement? 

Vision statements are clear, concise, and (ideally) inspiring declarations that outline your company's core values.

They communicate why the organization exists and what it intends to achieve.

A well-crafted strategic vision statement provides a sense of purpose and direction, motivating employees, stakeholders, and customers toward a common destiny.

Vision statements are a useful tool for establishing strong company culture.

Company goals and objectives

If a business is on a journey, goals are the waypoints and destinations they try to reach. Organizational goals are the tangible outcomes of your mission, vision, and day-to-day efforts. They align with specific steps needed for success.

Goals keep teams on track and ensure everyone works toward a common future for the organization. They provide clarity about priorities and direction to inform decision-making. 

Strategic planning isn’t a single exercise. The best strategies evolve to fit changing markets and customer preferences.

Whether you’re building a strategy for the first time or improving your current planning process, your process should always involve the following key elements of strategic planning: 

1. Define your values

“What do you stand for?” It’s a simple question, but an important one.

Your corporate values tell everyone the answer to that question. Whether your company operates on values like honesty and integrity, environmental protection, equal access to services, or maximizing customer returns, your values should be documented, communicated (through the mission statement), and integrated into all company actions.

When defining values, a company should consider what its stakeholders (employees, customers, business partners) value. This ensures company values align with those in its business environment. 

2. Develop your mission and vision statements

Once you have a values framework, take time to define your mission statement and vision statement. These two key components aren’t just for marketing. They will serve as guideposts for your company and its decision-making.

  • Your mission statement articulates your company values, purpose, and goals. It should be aspirational and inspiring, setting a high standard for the organization while providing direction. 
  • The vision statement guides the company’s decisions, such as what opportunities to pursue, what products and services to provide, and how to set key performance indicators. 

Both statements must be clear, concise, and actionable—something your team members can easily remember and use as a reference in daily operations. Make these two identity statements a central part of your corporate communications.

3. Conduct a risk analysis

Risk analysis helps you identify potential risks and their effects on the organization.

During this step, you consider the internal and external environment to highlight potential risks, estimate their likelihood, and how to handle them. 

You may also conduct a SWOT analysis (short for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and risks) to help inform your planning. 

4. Examine your strategic options

Look at your mission and vision statements, risk analysis, and current resources. From there, consider opportunities that could help teams reach their goals.

Analyzing the industry trends and internal customer data may give you context when deciding between competing strategies. 

Ask what has worked for other competitors in your space, and how you can take advantage of these to differentiate your products or services.

Solicit internal feedback from your managers, teams, or leadership on the conditions and considerations they see in daily operations.

This well-rounded view of the business will bring your plans into sharper focus. 

5. Outline specific tactics

Tactics are the individual methods used for enacting your strategic plan. Take, for instance, an email marketing campaign.

This tactic involves sending multiple emails to prospective customers on an automated schedule. These emails could include educational content, promotions, and surveys to bring prospects further down the funnel.

Analyzing the data from these emails allows businesses to understand the effectiveness of their campaigns and adjust their strategies accordingly. 

Choose tactics that best align with the way your customers work, where they consume content, where they shop, and how they seek support. While the strategy may undergo adjustment, tactics are much more flexible.

You can try other options if one tactic doesn’t produce the desired results. 

6. Build KPIs and metrics

Once you have strategies, key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics help measure success.

KPIs and metrics with clearly defined and measurable outcomes shed light on what’s working versus what can improve, plus highlight conditions or outcomes that are different from your expectations.

Committing to regular adjustments of your chosen metrics ensures your planning efforts achieve their desired outcomes.

Conclusion: create a strategic planning template with Cube

Now you know all the essential elements of strategic planning.

And the fastest way to create more plans is to template your planning process.

That's where Cube can help.

Cube connects to your ERP and HRIS (among other things) and integrates with Excel and Google Sheets.

So you can pull historical data, make models and plans, and easily share them with stakeholders or the rest of the planning committee.

Click the image below to request a free demo of Cube and see it in action.

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Organizational plans: a quick primer (with examples)

Organizational plans: a quick primer (with examples)

7 Important Elements of a Strategic Plan

If You Take These Recommended Steps, You Could Change the World

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  • Management & Leadership
  • Human Resources
  • Employee Benefits

Vision Statement

Mission statement, core values.

  • SWOT Analysis

Long-Term Goals

Yearly objectives, action plans.

Dan McCarthy is a management and leadership expert who's spoken, written, and taught on management topics for more than 20 years.

A strategic plan is a document that establishes the direction of an organization. It can be a single page or fill up a binder, depending on the size and complexity of the business and work.

Most managers can benefit from having a strategic plan. The process of developing a plan helps the manager (and the team) step back and examine where they are, where they want to go, and how they are most likely to get there. In the absence of a plan, work still gets done on a day-to-day basis but often lacks a sense of purpose and priority.

There are seven basic elements of a strategic plan. While much more is often included in the plan, these seven elements will help you get started.

A vision statement describes the way you envision your business. As such, it should communicate that dream to your employees and customers in an inspirational manner.

A vision statement should be reviewed continuously to ensure it is still aligned with the way you see your company.

Harley-Davidson's vision statement focuses on keeping its brand internationally known and valued, using the combined power of its stakeholders and employees to drive value and innovation: 

Harley-Davidson, Inc. is an action-oriented, international company, a leader in its commitment to continuously improve our mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders (customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, government, and society). Harley-Davidson believes the key to success is to balance stakeholders’ interests through the empowerment of all employees to focus on value-added activities.

While a vision describes how you view your business to your customers and stakeholders, a mission statement describes what you do currently. It often describes what you do, for who, and how. Focusing on your mission each day should enable you to reach your vision. A mission statement could broaden your choices, and/or narrow them.

RedHat has been a provider of Linux operating systems for over 25 years. It has a simple mission statement:

To be the catalyst in communities of customers, contributors, and partners creating better technology the open source way.

A vision and mission can also be combined in the same statement. The Walt Disney Company does this: 

The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.

Note that the statement is both aspirational (“is to…”) and descriptive of what they do and how they do it ("through the...").

Core values describe your beliefs and behaviors. They are the beliefs you have that will enable you to achieve your vision and mission.

The Coca-Cola Company lists it's core values as:

Leadership: The courage to shape a better future
Collaboration: Leverage collective genius
Integrity: Be real
Accountability: If it is to be, it's up to me
Passion: Committed in heart and mind
Diversity: As inclusive as our brands
Quality: What we do, we do well

SWOT Analysis 

SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A SWOT analysis provides businesses a situational investigation into their position in the market. It allows you to spot and name the important aspects, happenings, and adversaries of your business.

A business's strength could be its ability to attract local customers, while its weakness might be an inability to break into a non-local consumer base. A local competitor with ties to non-local customers could be facing a financial situation, giving this business an opportunity.

However, the other business remains a threat if it pulls out of the crises. If another competitor is trying to expand its customer base, it is a threat as well.

Long-term goals are statements that drill down a level below the vision and describe how you plan to achieve it. This set of goals usually starts three years out and extends to around five years into the future, directly aligning with the mission and vision statements.

Long-term goals are the milestones a company sets to guide operations toward their far-reaching objectives. Some examples of long-term goals could be for a business to strengthen its hold on the local market, increasing profits, or expanding its operations and sales.

Each long-term goal should have a few one-year objectives that advance your goals. Each objective should be as SMART as possible: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.

After you make your yearly objectives, you might break each one down further into short-term goals, which define the actions and objectives for the next three months to get you to your yearly goals. The plans for achieving your short-term goals are your action plans.

Each objective should have a plan that details how it will be achieved. The amount of detail depends on the amount of flexibility you want your managers and team to have. The more detail provided the less flexibility exists for those that follow the plan.

It’s been said that “A vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan without a vision is just drudgery. But a vision with a plan can change the world.” Creating a plan to achieve your business objectives may not change the world—but it is possible. Some of the most successful corporations started in garages, and through planning became industry giants.

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