The Process of Developing Immediate and Long-Term Outcomes for Strategic Planning

Now that the organizational mission, vision, and value statements are written, it is time to set immediate and long-term goals. To achieve these goals, strategies and plans must be in place. For the strategic plan to be successful, a continuous monitoring and evaluation of the plans must take place to ensure success. The planning, monitoring, and evaluation of an organization's strategies and plans is known in many circles as Results Based Management. On the positive side, this type of management system has constant feedback built in so that organizational leaders can continuously learn and improve its plans and strategies. When implemented properly, not only does this management system improve end results, but it also gives leadership the tools and information needed to make smarter decisions in the future so that organizational goals are truly obtainable.

The one negative to Results Based Management is this system requires its leaders to be honest and speak frankly about what is and is not working within the plan. Survival instincts can creep into the picture and there is the tendency for some leaders to be less than honest about how effective some plans are working within their departments. When this happens, the system breaks down and the overall strategic plan becomes ineffective and the organization's future is in jeopardy.

To counteract the survival instinct, the organizational leadership should incorporate results based measures that hold leaders and managers accountable for achievements within their departments as well as for their personal actions and behaviors. With simple, clear, and measurable goals that leaders and managers are held accountable for, an incentive based leadership style promotes a culture that is built on results and ensures all employees are working as a team to achieve the same objectives.

The advantages of formulating and planning for immediate and long-term outcomes are:

  • Objectives are outlined and clear

  • Responsibilities are understood and properly identified

  • Negative trends are corrected in the early stages

  • Leaders, managers, and supervisors are identified and are accountable for end results

  • Incentives are detailed

  • Systematic approach is mapped out for decision making

  • Organizational improvements are built-in

To achieve these results leadership must take ownership of the plan. They must buy into the system and make it their own. They must accept, believe, and take ownership of the mission, vision, and value statements for the strategic plan to be competently actualized. For an organization to grow and reach its future goals, leadership cannot return to "business as usual" once the strategic plan is written or their actions could seal an organization's failure. That is why plans, or the action steps to achieve immediate and future goals, must be realistic and have leadership buy-in. For this reason, leadership must understand the "why" for the steps in the process, and endorse the results-oriented job performance not only with them but also within their leadership spectra. With this understanding, leadership must convey ownership of the plan to its organizational sections so employees are committed and motivated to achieve the results and goals set out in the plan.

One of the best ways to achieve buy-in from employees is to implement a suggestion program where individuals can have a voice. Encourage them to make suggestions for improvement – after all they are the ones performing the tasks on a daily basis and are impacted by the processes short-comings. They intimately know the process and can make knowledgeable assessments of the various steps within the plan. For this reason it is imperative for leadership to have a formal, workable suggestion program in place for process input. This type of program also promotes ownership of the overall process because each person then feels a part of the plan and its outcome, especially if leadership acknowledges their suggestions even if they are not implemented. Leadership must realize that what truly is important with Results Based Management is not the plan itself but that the organization as a whole sees improvement so that it can ultimately reach its future quantitative and quality goals.

For an organization's culture to change and benefit from Results Based Management and the strategic plan leadership is developing, the plan being formulated cannot be generic. The steps must lead to organizational sustainability. Look at Microsoft's history. When Bill Gates and Paul Allen started the company in 1975, office documents were being generated on typewriters. People were not aware of micro-computers. For Microsoft to be sustainable, it had to change not only its own internal culture but its customer's culture. For this reason, how Microsoft operated and developed its products was as important as what it did. If the organization had not developed its Windows operating system in 1985, the company probably would not be in existence today since the DOS system was not well received among new computer users. DOS was understood at Microsoft and the internal culture had changed, but their customer's culture was not buying into the change – hence the need for Windows.

The formulating and planning stages central theme must be on sustainability. For the plan to be successful, these three steps are needed:

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  • All steps and plans must align with the organization's overall strategic plan and goals. When evaluating steps, leadership must ensure the overall objective of the department process supports the organization's overall goals and is not focused only on internal methodologies. Leaders should continuously evaluate internal processes by asking the questions: "Are my people involved in the planning process? Am I listening to their suggestions and input? Are they taking ownership?"

  • Continuously measure each step through the questions: "Is this sustainable? Has everyone's input and suggestions been scrutinized and evaluated towards implementation? Can this step be evaluated in the future, and when needed, improvements implemented?"

  • Engender empowerment. Ownership means enabling leaders at the lowest level possible the freedom to take ownership of its processes and implement needed changes to ensure organizational strategic plans and goals are met.

Now that the reasons and goals for the formulation and planning process has been explained, it is now time to examine the necessary steps involved to formulate the planning steps for immediate and long term goals that marry the organization's mission, vision, and values.

Information Criteria

Team leaders should discuss their approach to formulating a plan. Initial data has been retrieved during the initial planning stages. Many questions have been asked and evaluations have been made on the overall health of the organization. Formal and informal mandates have been examined, and costs have been determined. So now it's time to set up the formal arrangements for step evaluation for legitimacy and sustainability along with final authorization of said steps within the plan.

All information should be measured by the prepared mission, vision, and values statements. If any data does not meet the three statement's criteria it should be discarded. If this data involves working projects, leadership should seriously look at the project and see if it should be modified to meet the organization's three focus statements or if it should be shut down. While evaluating data a broad analysis should be taking place to get an idea of critical issues, organizational strengths, and foundational elements within the infrastructure. Critical issues could be a shortage of resources such as computers, industrial machinery, finances, people, etc. Or critical issues could be a lack of training among employees or a lack of space to handle the new demands. Organizational strengths simply are things the organization does really well or resources it has an overabundance of such as talented software engineers or award winning counselors. Foundational elements fall into a wide category but are essential for the plan to be a success. On one side of the coin foundational elements are buy-in and support from leadership. It's their backing that will make the plan a success. Foundational elements also are the values the institute uses to guide its decisions. On the other side of the coin, foundational elements are basic resources that keep an organization running and will get the plan off the ground. And with strategic planning the foundational elements also include the lists of strengths, weaknesses and other information needed by the team to write a strong plan.

Once a broad picture has been drawn, leadership will have a better understanding of how to divide the step writing processes for the initial plan.

Another advantage of this overview is once the data has been separated into one of the three categories – critical issues, organizational strengths, and foundational elements within the infrastructure -- it is easier for the team to focus its attention on the various challenges within the data so that necessary steps can be written into the plan to facilitate any the hurdles uncovered during the investigations.

The Broad Scope Rough Draft

Once the data has been separated and analyzed, enough information is available for the leadership team to write out a broad scope rough draft of the strategic plan. A broad scope does not go into every step of a plan but lays out a rough outline of the plan and then lists broad goals under the main headings. Where needed under the main headings, suggested steps or untested plans are listed underneath the goals. These suggestions or untested plans are then assigned to the appropriate office, team, or unit to test and to report its findings within a certain time frame. This testing procedure is really effective and ensures the final plan is workable. This is the strategy used by the military when testing new war plans or other types of military strategies.

Along with the plan should be an Issue Note – an addendum that points out the organizational shortfalls, weaknesses or critical areas that need to be addressed for the strategic plan to be a success. Other explanatory items that should be included in the note are: a simple explanation as to why the organization has embarked upon the strategic planning process; the ultimate goal of the strategic plan; and who or what departments are needed to facilitate in remedying the issues listed in the note.

The plan's rough draft should begin with a priorities overview. As with all strategic plans involving any size organization, there will be challenges – some minor while others can be major – and these need to be identified with emphasis placed on the major challenges. Why list the minor challenges at this point? It's psychological – it allows the organizational members to have some instant and achievable goals and gives the appearance that the major challenges are not as daunting to overcome.

There is one other item that should be addressed within the priorities overview and that is the organization's known output constraints. Output constraints are an organization's limitations. For a manufacturing plant this would be its known line output. If the machinery only is capable of 2,000 items in a day, then without additional manufacturing lines and more floor space, this is a known constraint. For an organization that performs counseling, if there are only so many offices and personnel available for counseling, then this is a known constraint. This is important to note so that when immediate goals are set these constraints are kept in mind. For future goals possibly listed in the visionary statement, these constraints realistically must be addressed.

Once all this information has been outlined and a broad scope of the draft written, now it is the time for the team to look at the results from the tests and learn what did and did not work. More tests may be needed before there is a workable solution for that portion of the plan. The team also should brainstorm the initial steps needed for implementation, fixes, and resources needed to be brought online.

  • When creating the outline, questions that should be asked include:

  • How long will it take to finish and formalize the plan?

  • What are the milestones to ensure we are on schedule?

  • Who is responsible for the different elements within the plan?

  • How often will updates be unveiled in the process to the organization as a whole?

  • What is the cost?

Remember it is important for everyone involved within an organization to buy into the strategic plan for it to be successful. For ownership to take place, it is important to have everyone – including shareholders and anyone with vested interest – to feel they are a part of the planning process. So it is up to the leaders to encourage input and to "talk up" the plan as it is being developed. This will reduce negative tensions when organizational changes are introduced or traditions erased that do not meet the ultimate goals outlined in the strategic plan.

Shareholder and Vested Interest Groups Outlined

Shareholders and individuals with vested interest in an organization are important for the strategic plan to be a success. But not all shareholders are equal. It is up to the planning team's leaders to outline the various levels that each shareholder or vested interest person should be involved in the overall planning process.

For example, some of the shareholders are needed for the success of the strategic plan once it is implemented but have very little influence on the planning process itself. For example, the group of shareholders is wheelers and dealers in the community but is barely known within the organization and is not involved in its daily processes.

The next group is well known within the daily organization and has great influence on the purse strings for funding projects. This group should be involved in the planning process while the first group should be made aware of the strategic plan being written but brought in at its final stages.

And then there is the group who is both instrumental in the organization as a whole. They wield power in the organization and outside with its customers and in the community the organization serves. This is where the planning team's main focus should be centered. His group even has influence on the other two groups of shareholders and this core group is vital to selling the strategic plan.

Leadership should outline how to involve the various shareholders and the arrangements that will be necessary to ensure their involvement at the appropriate times. This is where a little finesse and PR type activities might be considered to ensure overall success for the implementation of the strategic plan.