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The Alternative Board Blog

5 “Must-Have” Elements of a Strategic Plan

Jan. 3, 2024 | Posted by Lee Polevoi

Deciding to “stay in place” is not a viable option for most businesses. Marketplace conditions are always in flux, and customer needs and preferences frequently change over time, so business leaders need to engage in effective and realistic strategic planning.

While a full-fledged strategic plan can take many shapes, certain key elements should always be included. This helps ensure the plan occupies a meaningful place within the organization, rather than ending up as yet another document left forgotten on a shelf.

As you put together your strategic plan, don’t try to rush the process. As we’ve noted before with respect to strategic plans, “Picking a certain route will define how slowly or quickly you reach your final destination, so it’s very important to choose wisely.”


Here are five “must-have” elements and action steps to keep in mind:


1. Start with your vision.

You may know what “success” looks like at present, and perhaps even a bit into the future. But every strategic plan requires a broader, far-reaching vision of future success.

And “while exact timelines may vary,” notes ClearPoint Strategy, they “typically range from 3 to 10 years.” The benefit of having a well-articulated vision is helping “you and your employees visualize where the organization is headed.”


2. Incorporate company values.

Whether values derive from a business leader or the company culture itself, it’s critical to articulate “what the business does, who it serves and the founders’ motivation for starting the business,” states Indeed. For a strategic plan, “values may be broad, with a word or two representing each.”

If your company values are immediately apparent, evaluate the present state of your business in order to objectively understand if everyone is adhering to those values. Having stated values in place helps a business maintain its core mission and build ever-deeper trust with its customer base.


3. Emphasize accountability.

In many cases, a group of individuals works together to craft a strategic plan. Unfortunately, this can lead to no one being actually responsible for action steps in the plan. That’s why establishing accountability is critical.

Without accountability, as Cascade notes, these negative outcomes are likely:

  • A clash of perspectives about business priorities
  • Internal conflict when things go wrong and no one is responsible
  • A lack of pride or sense of achievement in the results of plan

“Ideally, the people responsible for a particular segment of your plan should also have been critical contributors to the plan itself.”


4. Establish priorities.

A strategic plan is not the place to address a long list of potential objectives. Inserting too many “priorities” within the strategic plan usually results in very little getting accomplished, since no one can accurately determine what’s truly important, and what isn’t.

One effective approach is to “conduct a SWOT analysis or similar kind of exercise to identify the most pressing issues to be addressed by the company,” notes Indeed. Examples of such issues may include “targeting a particular market opportunity, addressing a weakness and driving innovation.”


5. Outline strategic initiatives.

Perhaps the best way to translate concept into practice is through identifying key strategic initiatives aimed towards long-term growth. According to the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, most strategic initiatives are created to:


  • Tackle a fundamental business issue getting in the way of long-range growth.
  • “Build and create” efforts aiming for significant changes in how things are done within the organization.
  • Assume an “offensive” plan offering a potentially significant competitive advantage.
  • Preserve existing business advantages in a more “defensive” posture.
  • Adopt “time-based initiatives” to be achieved over several years.


In the end, “successfully implementing a strategic initiative of any type will lead to greater value and benefits for the firm, its customers, its employees, and the community.”

Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board


Written by Lee Polevoi

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