About Strategic Planning

To flourish, to achieve its vision, to become all that it hopes to be, an organization’s special features are helpful, its distinctiveness separates it from the crowd, but its strategic advantage(s) are most critical to its ultimate success. Rise above the day to day and the year to year. Imagine boldly. “What must we do to compete most effectively, given who we are and what we aspired to do?

Strategic Planning Questions

Ask the right questions:

  • What values are beyond compromising here?
  • What is our vision of our ideal future?
  • Who are we, what do we do, where and whom do we serve?
  • Where do we compete for students, etc.?
  • What gives us a distinctive edge in this marketplace?
  • Big picture, what do we need to do to fulfill our mission and realize our vision?
  • How will we know we are achieving our goals?
  • What activities and projects will bring about those results?
  • How? Who will champion each initiative, how will we fund the work, what do we do and in what order, who will keep everything on track?


Strategic Planning Terminology

Those principles, beliefs and core values the community regards as self-evident.  Typically, these non-negotiables are expressed as six to ten abstract concepts. 

A well-focused sentence describing the organization’s shared sense of its aspirational ideal future.
The point on the horizon, or just over the horizon, that is where the organization wants to be. 

A statement describing who the organization is, what the organization does, who/where the organization serves, and how this organization is different or distinctive.

Strategic Position
The location of the organization relative to other organizations in the same competitive space. 

Strategic Advantage(s)
The one or two singular factors that give an organization a major competitive advantage within its competitive space. 

Strategic Goals
Statements expressing in broad terms three to five things the organization must do to achieve its mission within its competitive space. 

Desired Outcome/Metric
An objective metric or a specific recognizable result -- framed in terms of industry standards and competitive organizations – which the organization will use to know that a goal is being achieved – three to five per goal. 

Strategic Initiatives
Specific projects, short term or long term, that will be undertaken immediately and over the next several years to bring about the desired outcomes. Each initiative should be championed by an individual in the organization who has the energy and the capability to carry it out successfully. The strategic initiatives should be sequenced, well-planned, integrated with one another, managed as a group, and prioritized for funding over other projects, activities, or new proposals which are not related one or more goals of the strategic plan.

 Note: It is usually valuable to identify and distinguish an organization’s actual peers from its aspirational peers. Actual peers are organizations of similar size, mission, reputation, and resources against which the organization competes head to head for students, staff, contracts, media attention, grants, gifts, facilities, etc., or which offer similar programs in similar competitive spaces elsewhere. 

Aspirational peers are those which the organization seeks at some point in the future to have among its actual peers, but which are currently are not operating in the same competitive space. Aspirational peers, realistically selected, can motivate institutions toward bolder and more expansive strategic thinking. Actual peers are those against which to benchmark progress toward aspirations.

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