What is a strategic plan? Many would say “It’s roadmap,” and that would be correct. But it’s an answer that fails to inspire and leads to dull planning. Have you considered other, more creative possibilities? In this article, let’s take a look at five uncommon functions of a strategic plan:

Strategic Plan as MIRROR

A good mirror accurately reflects its surroundings, without fuzziness or distortion. In similar fashion, a strategic plan should reflect the state of your organization, its values and culture, its beautiful features and its blemishes. Consider this: How good of a mirror is your plan? Do employees, suppliers, and customers agree with the tone and content of the plan, or would they note a gap between printed page and their day-to-day experience?

Strategic Plan as FLIGHT PLAN

Airline pilots file flight plans before take-off, so they know where they’re going and when they’ll arrive. With a flight plan, they can communicate progress or course corrections to passengers, control towers, and other partners. From this perspective, strategic plans often miss the mark. They may lack the starting point (an honest assessment of current performance) or the end point (the vision); they may also lack the strategies that will get them through the journey. Consequently, whatever progress you report has no context and is therefore meaningless. Consider this: Does your organization have a clear and robust flight plan?

Strategic Plan as BULLY PULPIT

A bully pulpit is a visible and influential position from which to express one’s views. Many organizations miss this opportunity to show leadership or inspire key stakeholders when they stick to a dry, standardized strategic plan format. Consider this: What issue can your organization raise in the pages of your plan, to change views or inspire action, firmly define your position, or establish your organization as a leader?

Strategic Plan as MAGNIFYING GLASS

A magnifying glass works magic by revealing what can’t be seen by the naked eye. Your strategic plan progress reports act the same for stakeholders outside your organization. The sharper the detail you provide about your organization’s efforts – good, bad, and ugly – the more interest and trust those parties will have in your organization. In reporting progress toward your plan’s vision and goals, stories magnify detail most effectively; good data visualization and pictures follow close behind. Consider this: How can your strategic plan reporting bring your organization into sharper focus for your audiences?

Strategic Plan as PRESSURE GAUGE

A pressure gauge relieves excessive pressure by channeling the pressure in a chosen direction. In some instances, a strategic plan works the same way.  For organizations facing intense pressure from advocacy groups, consumers, or the press, the plan can be one channel for directly and forthrightly addressing the concerns of these stakeholders. Because the plan is about more than one issue, the pressing issue can be framed in terms of the organization’s operating context and commitment to a continuous improvement process. If stakeholders are engaged in the strategic planning (and reporting) process over time, the pressure valve works even better. Consider this: Which of your organization’s issues could find relief by using the strategic plan to set context and engage stakeholders?

With these five uncommon perspectives on the functions of a strategic plan, you can reap more value from your strategic planning efforts.


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