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This section is about writing the strategic plan for your organisation. It includes summarising and documenting the industry research undertaken, and the results of analyses conducted by the organisation. It includes a suggested format for writing and communicating the strategic plan to the organisation. It also includes a section on how to articulate the strategy into action plans so that everyone is aware of the expectations upon departments and individuals.
Scenario: Rewriting the future
Now you have conducted research and analyses, and have an understanding of the environment, both internal and external. You have identified areas to improve and are able to develop a strategy that is realistic and achievable for the future. You must now develop strategic objectives and action plans, and write the strategic plan document.
What skills will you need?
In order to effectively write the organisation’s strategic plan, you must be able to:
Document the research
Determine the format
Outline strategic requirements
Gain support for the
Documenting the research
When research and various analyses are completed, the information needs to be documented and prepared for review and inclusion in the strategic plan. This may be in the form of a research report which will appear in the appendices, however some information may be prepared for the main body of the document. Firstly, consider the following:
restate the objectives of the strategic plan
discuss the main findings of the strategic plan
Provide recommendations based on the research and analysis
When preparing a research report that reflects this information, consider these questions:
How much does the audience know about the topic?
Are there any technical terms that may require definition or further explanation?
What will recipients do with the report?
Formatting the research
The structure and format of the research reports will usually be influenced by:
the type of information
the complexity of the information or recommendations
your experience in report writing
A standard report consists of five key sections:
The title page should contain:
the report title, which clearly states the purpose of the report
full details of the person/s for whom the report was prepared
full details of the person/s who prepared the report
the date of the presentation of the report.
The introduction should:
clearly state the purpose of the report
provide background information to establish the context for the report
indicate the scope of the report and clarify key terms.
The main body of the report should outline the key findings of the audit.
If you are presenting primary data, you should include:
data collection techniques/methods used
findings or results
discussion and explanation of your
If you are presenting secondary data, you should include:
the source information, organised under appropriate topics with sub-headings
analysis/discussion of the sources you are reporting.
The conclusion should summarise the key points from the main body of the report. It should clearly relate to the objectives of the strategic plan. No new information should be included here.
Your recommended strategy or course of action, based on the outcome of the research and analysis conducted. They must be supported by the data presented in the body of your report.
Write the research reports
Remember, when you are writing research reports, you need to be:
precise: Use short sentences and be simple and direct. Avoid using excess words and cumbersome phrases. Express your meaning clearly and do not use clichés, jargon or ambiguous
objective: Present data impartially and without bias. Present facts and avoid using emotive terms. Clearly distinguish opinion from
accurate: Ensure your report is free of spelling and grammatical errors. Proofread your work carefully before finalising and presenting
impersonal: Avoid the use of personal terms like ‘I’, ‘my’ and ‘me’.
Learning activity: Research reports
Use the internet to find three sample research reports. Describe how they are similar to or different from the report format standards outlined above. List the name of the company issuing the report, along with the company or consultant that developed the report, if you can find this information.
Preparing to write the strategic plan
Before you commence writing the strategic plan, clearly identify the readers of your document. Then write the plan in a style that is easily understood by your audience and suits the culture of your organisation.
Remember that this plan is essentially a working document that will be utilised by employees and stakeholders to initiate focused and intentional action that generates results that will be measured and monitored.
Focus on facts and information from credible and reputable sources. Interpret the research data so that it can be understood by everyone in the organisation. Validate all key information used in the plan.
Make sure the strategic plan remains concise, balanced and logical. Where possible use quantitative rather than qualitative information. Remember the KISSS approach to planning; keep it simple, short and specific. Take the time to link sections of the strategic plan together so that it is easier to follow.
The goal of the strategic plan is implementation, so you need to ensure that the document clearly states the actions that will be taken to achieve new levels of growth and productivity.
Tests for a good strategic business plan
During the writing of the strategic plan, it is helpful to continually ask yourself a set of questions that will assist with the wording and structure of the document. Below are five suggested questions:
Comprehension – Are you satisfied the plan will be clearly understood by the majority of your audience?
Appropriateness – Are you satisfied that the strategic directions proposed are aligned with the company’s mission and constitution?
Sustainability – Are you satisfied that the strategic directions proposed are of a nature and quality that should ensure success in the future?
Feasibility – Are you satisfied that all implications of the strategic directions proposed have been considered thoroughly? Are you satisfied that implementation is possible and all supporting goals, objectives and strategies are realistic, practically achievable, affordable and comprehensive?
Accountability – Are you satisfied that management is adequately resourced and well prepared to implement this plan? Are you satisfied that management accountability is clearly defined, and that there is an effective action plan to remedy the situation if management fails in the implementation of the plan?
Your organisation may have templates or style guidelines that direct how documents are to be produced. This may include directions for use of company logos, headers and footers, page numbering and file naming protocols.
You should ensure your strategic plan follows all necessary guidelines, contains all the relevant information and is presented professionally. Have a colleague check your work for details you may have missed.
Learning activity: Checklist
Use the checklist below to review the research reports you found in the previous learning activity.
Does the title tell you what the document is about?
Does the introduction clearly state why the document was created?
Does the body of the report present information in a clear and logical order?
Is the language used clear and precise?
From your understanding of the standard formatting requirements described in this section, how could you improve presentation of the marketing plan?
Determining the format of the strategic plan
When writing your strategic plan, you need to decide on the best format to present the information to your senior leaders, stakeholders and other employees. The simplest format may be to document the research, background information, analysis results, decisions and approved actions that flowed from the discussions around the ten components of the strategic process (from Section 1 – An overview of the process).
Review the current status of the organisation.
Analyse external factors.
Analyse internal factors.
Identify gaps and inconsistencies.
Identify priority issues.
Outline action plans and strategies.
Write the strategic plan.
Communicate the strategy.
Implement the strategy.
Monitor and evaluate the strategy.
Strategic plan template
There are various templates available online. The following outline, based on a template provided by Arts Queensland, is one example of a template that could be used for writing your organisation’s strategic plan. The template outlines 18 standard sections, with additional provision for appendices.
The executive summary should summarise the whole strategic plan into two or three pages, clearly stating the vision, mission and values of the organisation and concisely describing the key objectives and the overall strategies being used to achieve them.
Section 1 – Strategic focus
This section should include:
an aim – what do we want to achieve from this plan?
a mission and vision statement
goals, listed in order of priority
performance objectives – measurable outcomes.
Section 2 – The organisation
This section should provide a brief overview of the organisation, including:
a list of owners/directors/shareholders
the history/background of the organisation
a summary of the organisational culture
an explanation of the main activity of the organisation
location/s of the organisation
a list of major achievements or milestones.
Section 3 – Market analysis
This section should include information from research and historical data, including:
critical success factors.
Section 4 – Products/Services
This section should include a description of each of the organisation’s products and/or services and include:
an analysis of strengths and weaknesses of each product/service
an analysis of opportunities and threats for each product/service
a description of strategies to build on strengths and correct/avoid weaknesses
a description of strategies to capitalise on opportunities and avoid threats.
Section 5 – Marketing
This section should cover marketing strategies for the organsiation’s products and/or services and include:
market entry strategy
market development strategy
Section 6 – Research and development
This section should cover research and development details associated with products and services, including:
details of any research supporting product development
details of intellectual property held/shared by the organisation
details of patents held by the organisation
intended research or development activities
outline of process for new product development.
Section 7 – Production and delivery
This section should provide details of manufacturing processes for products, including:
manufacturing plant location and size requirements
quality assurance systems
OHS compliance requirements.
Section 8 – Supply chains
This section provides details of the supply chain for products and services, including:
list all major suppliers
details of outsourcing arrangements
gaps in supply chain
Section 9 – Business systems and processes
This section should address the systems and processes used or required by the organisation, including:
Section 10 – Stakeholder relationships and alliances
This section should outline the key stakeholders of the organisation including:
For each stakeholder, detail communication needs and requirements.
Section 11 – Organisational structure
This section outlines the structure of the business including:
details of management or executive team
human resource requirements
industrial relations issues
performance management systems
training and development systems.
Section 12 – Environmental and social impacts
This section should outline the environmental and social issues associated with provision of products and services by the organisation, and key strategies to address them.
Section 13 – Risk factors and regulatory compliance
This section should outline risk assessment and compliance requirements for the organisation, including:
risk treatment strategies
corporate governance requirements
occupational health and safety
Section 14 – Corporate governance
This section should outline the governance of the organisation, including:
Board composition and responsibilities
Section 15 – Financials
This section outlines the financial requirements for the organisation including:
Statement of Financial Performance
Statement of Financial Position.
Section 16 – Application of investment funds
This section should outline the total investment requirements for the plan, the investors involved, and how funds will be used at each round of investment.
Section 17 – Strategic action plan
This section should outline what is to be achieved by the organisation, including:
measurable outcomes for each strategic
details strategies to achieve each
detailed tasks to achieve each
implementation strategy, including allocated responsibilities, communication flow, authority lines, etc.
Section 18 – Plan improvement
This section should outline the strategy for reviewing the strategic plan, measuring performance and implementing improvements, including:
timelines for review
responsibilities for review.
Outlining strategic requirements
The strategic plan must demand action that affects the daily operations of the organisation. Once your priority issues have been identified and approved, they need to be delegated to the appropriate department leaders and stakeholders for implementation. The department leaders/stakeholders will need to consider the strategic requirements of the plan, and the demands it is making upon them and their department.
From the priority issues, department leaders will develop action plans that detail the objectives, tasks, who is responsible, resources needed and other requirements for carrying out a strategic initiative. Each initiative typically generates two to three action plans.
Action plans are then submitted to senior leadership for approval. If the plans need to be revised, senior leadership will ask the department leaders to refine them.
The successful execution of strategy is dependent upon your ability to turn these identified priority issues into action plans. Action plans become strategic initiatives to be implemented at a functional level by the departments within the organisation. This is where strategic planning and execution overlap.
The next step is to conduct a meeting to discuss the allocation of resources for the implementation of these plans, which may include identifying a collaboration with other departments. This step is critical, as it ensures the alignment of the action plans with the business strategy.
Typical components of a strategic initiative
A strategic initiative action plan usually contains the following information:
Priority issue – A description of the area (issue, opportunity, strength) that the department or team will focus on, and why it’s important.
Objectives and metrics – An outline of the mid and long-term objectives (e.g. 1–3 years ahead) within the strategic initiative. Objectives give the department or team the ability to measure how it is performing. This is determined by deciding on what metrics you will use to measure success.
Action steps – The list of tasks outlining the ‘who, what and when’ of implementing the initiative. These steps outline the four to five high level tasks that need to be completed and can be measured monthly or quarterly. More detailed action plans are created by the individual employees responsible.
Resources – The list of resources needed to carry out the initiative, e.g. finance, people, technology.
Interlocks – The list of possible interdepartmental connections and collaboration that will be needed to execute the initiative.
Impact estimate – The projected cost and revenue potential of the project (cost/benefit analysis).
The correct strategies should lead to improvements within the organisation. The purpose of strategy is to find more effective ways of achieving the organisation’s vision. Therefore, strategies will require changes and improvements in some areas of the organisation, both internally and externally, including:
use of technology
relationship with suppliers
employee skills and capacities
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS).
Departmental leaders and key stakeholders are usually better positioned within the organisation (than yourself or senior leaders) to develop strategies and objectives for these areas.
Each strategy and strategic objective needs to be measurable, have a timeframe for completion, and indicate who is responsible for implementation.
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. In the same way, what you can’t manage won’t be implemented or improved. Without clear links back to the organisation’s strategic plan, employees and entire departments may undertake actions that are not advancing the implementation of the strategy.
Without measurements your decisions will be based on instinct or experience, your performance will be subjective and your organisation will lack the standards and benchmarks it needs for improvement.
Every organisation needs to measure its objectives for continuous improvement and adjustment so that the goal is realised. There are various ways of developing strategies, however, each of the business strategies could be designed around the following categories:
KRAs (key result areas)
KPIs (key performance indicators)
timelines for stages of the implementation
targets for completion and achievement.
1. Define the goals.
Organisation goals flow on from the priority issues listed after reviewing the research material and analyses. These goals describe where you want the organisation to be should it undertake these activities. Each goal also needs a KPI (key performance indicator) in order for it to be measurable.
2. Identify the key result areas (KRAs).
KRAs are similar to goals but broader in description, and are used to determine the business activities that your organisation must perform well in order to remain competitive. The question to ask is, ‘If we cease to do this activity would it threaten our existence?’. In the same way, you could also ask ‘If we did this activity better, in what way would it give us a competitive edge?’.
3. Develop objectives.
Objectives are more specific than organisational goals or KRAs. They are statements about what each department or individual must do in order to achieve the organisation’s mission. Objectives are about planning and measuring. For example, ‘Reduce the reject rate from 20% to 5% by December 2012, without increasing the cost of manufacturing’.
4. Setting benchmarks.
Benchmarks are helpful for performance measures. Every department and individual needs to know how well they are performing.
5. Define key performance indicators (KPIs).
Once you have identified your goals and KRAs, you can begin creating KPIs for each one. KPIs will give you the ability to measure the performance and progress of individuals and departments.
6. Strategic actions.
Strategies and actions that your organisation undertakes demonstrate how you will achieve the set objectives. Each action should be improving the performance of a KRA or rectifying a priority issue. The table below shows you how these actions might be planned.
Some actions that departments undertake will be complex, and possibly take months to complete. As a result, timelines will need to be set. Some of these tasks require project management due to their complexity.
All actions and timelines require a deadline, or a target for completion. This target may be reviewed as time lapses, but not indefinitely, which allows for procrastination. Targets are signs that the strategic plan is finally being implemented.
Gaining support for the plan
In the first instance, you should produce a draft of the strategic plan. Circulate it to senior leaders, key stakeholders for comments, support and endorsement. Involve a small number of people to help you write the first draft and perhaps ask a facilitator or consultant outside the organisation to also review the document.
Don’t stress about having all the details in the first draft. The draft should also be presented to your board of directors or senior leaders for review and approval. It’s not unusual for the board or management of a large organisation to provide major input into the content of the document, i.e. mission, vision, goals and strategies.
Employees and other staff often provide major input into action planning, including the responsibilities and timelines for the completion of objectives. Even so, it can be advantageous to receive their feedback on the whole plan before it goes to final print and circulation.
As with any program, the two critical elements for the success of a strategic plan are senior management support and employee involvement. Senior management sets the vision and provides resources from which the action plans flow. If executive and managerial participation is widespread and heartfelt, workers will follow their leadership.
You should now understand how to prepare a research document and how to write a strategic plan. You should also understand the process required for outlining the strategic requirements for various departments and individuals within the organisation.
Hill, C. W. L., Jones, G. I. R., Galvin, P., and Haidar, A., 2007, Strategic management: An integrated approach, 2nd Australasian edn, John Wiley & Sons, Australia (Chapters 5 and 8).
Wikipedia, ‘Strategic planning’, viewed August 2015,<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_planning>.
McNamara, C., ‘All about strategic planning’, Free Management Library, viewed August 2015, http://managementhelp.org/plan_dec/str_plan/str_plan.htm#anchor1215269>.
Before you proceed to the next section, make sure that you are able to:
Document the research
Determine the format
Outline strategic requirements
Gain support for the
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