Understanding the Process of Outlining, Designing Plan, and Including Budgets in Strategic Planning

Now it is time to look at the rough draft and the lessons learned from the broad concept scope of its efforts, the priority lists, and the organization's goal. It's time to outline the strategic plan, design, and finance it. All the necessary information has been gathered, so now it is time to answer the final who, what, when, where, and how. What takes place now will determine if the organization will continue to be a success or a fading memory.

All the planning, questions asked, lists made, information evaluated and risks assessed – the whole process was accomplished so that leadership could determine what the organization needed to achieve to accomplish its goals and continue being a leader in the future. That is the simple definition of planning – "a process to determine what actions need to be accomplished by whom, at what time, utilizing what assets or methods and the costs involved." So the strategic plan is the direction and actions leadership has deemed necessary to achieve the organization's goals.

This lesson will help you better understand what goes into the strategic plan by creating the plan's outline. This lesson also will offer brief explanations of what is included under each heading.


The object of the strategic plan is for leadership to create a blueprint of the organization's future, foresee issues and the changing landscape, while visualizing success. For all this to happen, the various departments must carry out their predetermined mission – meeting their goals so the overall institutional goal will be met.

Within the outline will be immediate goals to be achieved while others look about five years down the road. Other goals are considered futuristic in nature and are planned to be achieved in 20 years or more.

The strategic plan is different from a long-range plan which is conceived from the known goals of an organization. It's also different than the organization's business plan, which most organizations construct for the purpose of initially defining why the organization exists, guiding leadership, and obtaining needed finances from investors. Leadership has looked over the industry's landscape and felt its pulse for changes and is developing a revolutionary plan to meet those anticipated extreme differences. Because of these differences, the strategic plan outline -- while extracting some of the same categories from the long-range and business plan – has many differences.

Categories within the plan that differentiate from the other two plans will include: a strategic analysis category for the "why" the plan is being done; the statement of where the organization currently stands and where it wants to be 20 or more years down the road known as the strategic formulation, which answers "where" the organization is heading. Other main categories include the organization's mission statement answering the "what" question. The two categories covering both "when" and "how" are the long-term objectives and operational plans.

The Outline Broken Down

1. The Introduction

As with most business style plans, the strategic plan also opens with an introduction. Within the introduction will be a paragraph outlining the organization's history. This historical paragraph is followed by the statements explaining what this document entails and a sentence explaining its purpose, which generally will be along the lines of – "This plan will be a roadmap for the organization as it sets out on a journey to be the best in customer service and an industry leader both in integrity and products."

From there the introduction will go on to outline the process by which the plan was written. It will include statements from top leadership as to what drove them to develop the strategic plan. Also included will be who had input and who assisted outside the organization with the plan's development.

The last paragraph of the introduction will be forward looking. It will revert back to restating why the plan was initiated and the future goals the organization wants to achieve from following the plan's processes.

2. Table of Contents

The Table of Contents simply is a listing of the various categories within the document and the order in which they appear. There is nothing different with the Contents page within the strategic plan.

3. Strategic Planning Process/Analysis

As the heading states, the opening paragraphs will explain the process the leadership team took to obtain the information used within the report. The narrative briefly will explain how the team looked towards the future and saw the anticipated changes. It then should state how the team performed a complete "physical" of the organization to get a clear picture of its health. Once all this was accomplished, the team then set out to write clear and concise mission and vision statements that are the essential foundation for the plan. From these statements the leadership then clarified their values and priorities for the organization to follow in accomplishing the objectives within the plan.

From there the following paragraphs should explain how established priorities determined goals and how from each goal a set of tactics were determined to reach known goals within the organization. Also this section should point out how all the goals align within the plan to reach the plan's main goals for the institution.

The final statement within this section should outline how often this plan will be reviewed, who will perform said review, the process that will be used and a general idea of how long it will take to complete it.

4. Long Term Objectives

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This is simple statements summarizing where the organization stands at the moment this plan was developed and where it would like to be in 20 years. Some of this information should be derived from the organization's vision statement.

5. Mission and Vision Statements

The opening sentences should explain the purpose for both the mission and vision statements and give a solid definition of both terms.

Following this explanatory paragraph should be both statements.

6. Priorities and Values Guiding Principles

Here is where leadership not only will list the values written at the time of the mission and vision statements, but also state the reason they were created. The "why" should be guides that explain the "behind the scenes" reasoning for their values statements and give insight into the reason certain objectives and tactics are given priority within the plan. The priorities listed in this category should be from the most significant or from the "high impact" areas of the plan. One question to ask when listing the priorities within this section is, "If this principle is not followed, will the plan succeed?" If the answer is "no" then it qualifies for this section in the plan. One example is: "Execution Excellence: The manufacturing arm of the organization is committed to performing all its task in a timely manner to ensure a quality product is produced. By meeting this value in excellence, the packaging, marketing, and transportation departments' goals are also met." The explanation following this could be something as simple as, "This creates overall excellence and a win-win situation for the organization."

7. Values and Priorities

This area in the plan can be extensive in nature. Before listing the values and priorities that will guide the organization through the plan, a brief explanation is needed explaining why these values and priorities are being listed and what the outcome will be if they are followed. An example of values and priorities are:

Technological Superiority

A. Needs Assessment

B. Budget Planning

C. Development and Acquisition

D. Training

E. Implementation

External Outreach

A. Marketing

B. Media Relations

C. Community Relations

D. Social Networking

8. Goals and Tactics

This is another extensive section in the plan where all the plan's goals are listed. To keep it organized, this category will have subheadings for easy reference. Goals will be broken up into Immediate and Intermediate (five-year) goals. The second category will be under the heading of Long-Term Goals.

To help further organize the category goals should be either listed by department, value, priority or by some other listing under each of the subheads. Whichever organizational method is chosen, it should make logical sense for your organization.

The first paragraph under this heading should be a statement explaining why the goals have been created and a brief summary of all the goals. Keep it short and do not be tempted to get on a soapbox at this point.

Goals should be listed in a priority sequence under each category. Beneath the goal should be the tactics or strategies that will be used to accomplish said goal. It any material uncovered during the investigation was significant in a goal being established, it can be inserted after the goal and its tactics within the plan. This information can be formatted as a supporting chart, break out facts, or other easy to digest format. Also do not be afraid to place pictures of people performing any of the steps listed to break up the copy and make the plan appealing to the viewer.

9. Operational Plans

Operational plans generally are not found within a strategic plan since these plans typically outline the day-to-day activities involved in running an operation. But if some details are not given within a strategic plan, then the tactics involved in achieving the goals will fall by the wayside and not be met. The excuse given simply will be, "It wasn't my responsibility."

For this reason, a simple operational plan is needed within the strategic plan outlining who is responsible for what goals, values, priorities and tactics within the plan. Along with who is responsible should be a brief explanation of how the tactics will be accomplished and with what resources.

10. Strategic Plan Budget

Once the goals have been established, resources documented and tactics prioritized, the decisions for how the plan will be funded should be documented within the plan. The budget category is not an organization's typical budget plan but instead looks ahead and provides an outline of the goals and how the organization plans to fund them.

The budget offers an explanation to shareholders, leadership, employees and other interested parties of the costs associated with the plan and the relationship between those expenses and the plan's specific goals.

There are a few avenues financial managers and leaders can utilize to establish a budget for future items within the plan. One way is allocating money from line item resources existing in the organization used for similar or the same type tactics. The other way is for leadership to look for new resources to finance the plan. Whatever avenue is pursued, sources must be identified within the budget plan.

Calculating costs for future operations can be tricky since there are no absolutes in the plan for future activities. Costs are unknown, available technology is not exact, and the future economy is questionable. So the cost of achieving future goals is an educated guestimate.

Costs could be estimated by using historical data from the organization's operating costs. The costs for accomplishing tactics in the future could be forecast by adjusting the costs using predicted inflation rates. While not perfect, for many goals within the plan this is one of the more certain methods for estimating costs for the budget.

Another way for determining costs also uses historical data from the organization's industry specific history. The difference here is trends are examined for future cost predictions. For example: say a new computer driven piece of machinery costs $25,000 when it was introduced. Five years later the same machinery sold for $15,000 new or $11,000 remanufactured. Leadership could look at their resource needs and then look at market trends to identify the present day costs. By following known industry cost trends, budgets can be set for future needed resources. Once again, it's not 100 percent accurate, but will give leadership a solid estimate within the budget for future costs.

At a minimum, line items listed in the budget plan should reference the goal, resource, or tactic it is forecasting for expenses as an easy reference guide.

11. Strategic Plan Timeline

This timeline should be done as an Excel template or as a chart using a similar type program for each of the goals. This is a great way to organize tasks, keep track of the plan's progress, and for keeping managers accountable of the deadlines.

Each template should be labeled with a goal. The first column should list the tactics involved in achieving that goal in sequential order. The second column should list who is responsible for achieving that tactic. The third column will have the due date and the final column of the template will be for initialing it when the tactic is complete.