The Definition of Strategic Planning

The following is reprinted with permission from strategicplanningMD.

Strategic planning is a process by which we determine the answers to two questions and then craft a plan to achieve desires results. The two questions are:

•    How much?
•    By when?

These questions are generally framed as goals and objectives, while the action plan that supports these two questions is called strategies and tactics.

Oftentimes, the strategic plan is divided into strategic themes — also called areas of focus, pillars of excellence or some similar terms — which is how Harvard Medical School approached its planning process. Emory University followed a similar model, identifying five strategic themes on which to develop its 10-year plan.

Regardless of the methodology used, it is vital that the organization establish concrete definitions for the strategic planning process itself. At a minimum, goals, objectives, strategies and tactics should all have specific definitions that are agreed upon by every person on the strategic planning team, similar to those established at the California State University at Fresno.

Goals provide the organization long-term focus, while objectives provide the quantitative measurements for achieving the goals. Strategies and tactics are those things we implement on a week-to-week and day-to-day basis that we believe have the best chance of achieving the objectives. The University of Illinois adopted four long-term goals aimed at making the university one of the premier institutions of higher learning in the country.

In order to create a relevant and timely strategic plan, the organization must first collect and disseminate information that provides a conceptual framework to help understand current conditions. Michigan State University does this by focusing on:

•    Internal operational constraints;
•    The external environment and the realities it imposes;
•    The organization's intentions and priorities; and
•    The organization's sense of direction.

The key to any strategic plan is to first answer the two important questions of how much, by when, and identify baselines and targets for each of its strategic plan objectives. Without measureable and quantifiable strategic plan objectives, the planning process remains largely unfocused, with real results weak or non-existent.

Set a long-term vision through goals, identify strong objectives to measure progress toward the goals and then create actionable strategies and tactics that will move the objectives toward the desired results. That is the fundamental definition of strategic planning.

More Articles on Strategic Planning:

Market Expansion: Hospitals Reaching for "Well-Insured" Patients
What 4 Factors Should Determine a Hospital's Service Line Strategy?

Constructing a Strategic Roadmap Ensures Specialist Employment Decisions are "Investment Grade"

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