The Importance of Strategic Planning and Setting Goals in an Organization

A meeting for strategic planning, goal setting

As I write this, it’s the beginning of 2023. Yesterday was my first day back in the office after a holiday break. I received two phone calls from prospective clients. They each said, “We need a strategic plan.” 

I’m a planner by nature. “Plan the work, then work the plan” is a mantra at which my family rolls their eyes. But they also appreciate it, and so do the companies with which I work. One recently said to me, “This strategic planning process has kept us focused. I’m not sure where we would be without it.” So when I get calls from large organizations that don’t have a plan, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher. 

Nonetheless, I’m here to help. Your organization may not be ready for a full strategic planning process. But you can begin with some initial planning to help you see the value of goal setting for your organization.

The Importance of Strategic Planning in an Organization

What Is a Strategic Plan?

Let’s start by answering this question. I’m sure there are a zillion definitions out there, some of which are deep and complex. But let me simplify it here: 

A strategic plan is simply a road map that tells the organization where it’s going and how it’s going to get there. 

I use a tool called StratOp to guide my clients through the strategic planning process. StratOp is a custom-tailored master plan that develops and redefines an organization’s complete strategy and operation. It does so by defining the current reality, creating definable targets for the future, establishing initiatives for attaining future goals, and maintaining accountability throughout the process. 

Who Is Responsible for an Organization’s Strategic Plan?

Ultimately, leadership is responsible for making sure the strategic plan is created and executed. Specifically, ownership for planning must come from the top leader. If the CEO/president/owner has not bought into the planning process, it will eventually break down throughout the organization. 

Examples of Strategic Plans

As you can imagine, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to planning. Factors such as the size of an organization, resource availability, market type, etc., will affect what kind of planning process one uses. Here are a few examples of planning tools that are commonly used:

  • The “One-Page” Plan: This is often used by smaller organizations. It’s literally the entire organizational plan on one page—an easy-to-read overview to help everyone understand the complete strategy. Key elements of this plan type would be mission, vision, competitive advantage, key strategies, and short- and long-term objectives. 
  • Company Strategic Plan: A detailed plan that covers all the major components (growth targets, target markets, unique selling propositions, etc.). This plan will have detailed objectives, goals, and action items.
  • Action Plan: Some organizations will benefit from this simple plan. It’s a simple list of organizational goals, followed by a list of action items against those goals. 

The Importance of Goal Setting in an Organization

Very few people set out on a road trip without a destination. For most of us, it seems ridiculous to just get in a car and drive. Having a destination allows us to plan for the trip and monitor progress along the way. 

In the same way, having goals or targets will give insight into what the plan should be. Without goals, it’s virtually impossible to plan.

What Is the Most Important Step in Prioritizing Goals?

Many think the most important step in setting and prioritizing goals is to look ahead. However, in my experience, the most important step is to look at “now”, and gain the proper perspective before planning

One of the flaws of most strategic planning systems is premature planning without full clarity of perspective. If you have the proper perspective, the plan almost writes itself. So before setting goals, work to get a clear, honest picture of the “here and now.” Seek to answer the question, “Where do we stand today?”

Examples of Goal Setting

Keep in mind that not all company goals need to be financial. Here are a few examples of the types of goals that organizations strive to achieve:

  • Increase in sales and revenue
  • Increase in operating efficiency
  • Increase in employee engagement
  • Operational efficiency
  • Market share and territory expansion
  • Number of strategic acquisitions

The list could go on, but you get the point. Start with a heading like this, then use the SMART goals approach to add details. In the end, your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. 

Assess and Reassess

As I mentioned above, the key to success in strategic planning and goal setting is, “Plan the work, then work the plan”. This is not a set-it-and-forget-it proposition. It’s a cycle. We plan, then work the plan. Then we gather to plan again, then work the new plan. 

During this cycle, when we are in the “plan” portion, we’re asking the question, “How are we doing?” Once that question is answered honestly, we can make adjustments to how we work the plan. Assuming you have the right plan, having a regular cadence of review and adjustment is critical to having your plan work. Success doesn’t come from the plan. It comes from managing the plan. 

Let’s Get Started

I’d love to help you get started on your planning journey, which is why I’m offering a simple planning tool to help you with the first step. Just fill out the form below to download the PDF. If you’d like to discuss strategic planning or goal setting any further, feel free to contact me to set up a time to chat.

Simple Planning Tool Download