What is strategic planning?

A key function of the Management Committee is to determine the direction and scope of the organisation over the longer term. This is usually reviewed on a 3 or 5 year basis through a process called strategic planning.

What is strategic planning?

Strategic planning is the process of:

  • clarifying what the organisation is about;
  • deciding what is and is not a priority for the use of resources;
  • analysing the internal and external environment;
  • considering how best to deal with upcoming changes and transitions;
  • setting out a clear direction; and
  • setting concrete goals for the future.

Strategic planning involves looking at the organisation as a complete entity and is concerned with its long term development. This involves looking at where the organisation is now, determining where you want to get to, and mapping how to get there. 

The strategic plan should be summarised in a written document to ensure that all concerned are clear regarding the aims and objectives the organisation is working towards.

How to develop a strategic plan

Strategic planning involves looking at the organisation as a complete entity and is concerned with its long term development.

Developing the plan is a process that may involve discussion with a number of different stakeholder groups and should take place over a period of time. Whilst it is important to document your plan in written form to provide consistent guidance and a reference point for the organsiation, this should remain an active process. Your plans should be regularly reviewed to ensure that you are able to anticipate and adapt to challenges and changes in the internal and external environment.

There are a number of key stages in developing your strategic plan. Click on the links below for information, tools and support for each stage of the process:

  1. Determine who should be involved in the process and at what stage
  2. Analyse where the organisation is now
  3. Discuss where the organisation wants to be
  4. Determine how the organisation is going to get there
  5. Produce a written strategic plan
  6. Monitor and review your strategic plan

Other types of plans

Management Committees may develop a number of different types of plans for their organisation and its activities.

These may include:

An operational plan outlines the activities and targets which the organisation will carry out in order to work towards achieving the aims and objectives set out in the strategic plan. It provides the framework for an organisation's day-to-day operations. An operational plan covers a one year period. Your strategic plan should be supported by annual operational plans. These will often be developed by senior staff members (where there are paid staff) but must be approved by the management committee.  On the basis of reports against the operational plan, the Management Committee can then review progress towards meeting the strategic aims and objectives.

A business plan is a detailed plan showing how resources will be managed to achieve the strategic plan. It includes detailed operational and financial information such as budget projections, which indicate how the organisation will resource its activities and be able to meet is objectives in the future. Business plans often cover a 3 year period. A business plan is also used to present its feasability of a particular new initiative.

A development plan is similar to a strategic plan, although it is more commonly used to outline the initial development or starting up stage of an organisation. Some organisations refer to their strategic plan as a development plan, so terminology can often be confusing. Development plans often cover a 1 to 3 year period, reviewed annually.

A project plan outlines the objectives and key activities related to a specific project area to be achieved within a specified timeframe. A project plan is often for a 1 to 3 year period.