Strategic Plan Step 2: Where Are We Now?

Those involved in the strategic planning process must start with reviewing the present circumstances and characteristics of the organisation.

In order to plan for the future, you first need to reach a common understanding of the present circumstances.  To answer this question you will need to focus discussions on two key areas:

  1. Analysing the external and internal environment; and
  2. Reviewing (or developing) the vision, mission and values of the organisation.

1. Analysing the External and Internal Environment

Strategic planning is about having a clear direction to steer towards but also being able to respond to changes as necessary.  To do this your organisation needs to have information about the challenges, opportunities and future trends, inside and outside.  So whether your organisation is just starting up or is already established, the first step in the planning process is to assess the external and internal position of an organisation.  A SWOT analysis is commonly used to identify.

S - Strengths (internal)

W - Weaknesses (internal)

O - Opportunities (external)

T - Threats (external)

Strengths and weaknesses primarily focus within the organisation.  Opportunities and threats are primarily outside the organisation.  This analysis of the environment allows the organisation to take this into account when planning for its future.

SWOT Analysis of your organisation (example)


What the organisation is good at and is doing well e.g.

  • action on employment group and single parent group working well;
  • community development training courses very popular; and
  • good support and back-up for staff and volunteers.


What the organisation is not good at and which are not going well e.g.

  • accessing funding from a wider variety of sources;
  • prioritising work; and
  • evaluating regularly.


The events and trends that are favourable to the organisation e.g.

  • Introduction of Community Planning; and
  • More tenders available for local work.


The trends or events that are unfavourable to the organisation e.g.

  • Reduced public sector funding;
  • Changes to benefits systems.

Conducting a SWOT analysis: example questions to prompt discussion

SWOT Worksheet: do your own SWOT now!

2. Reviewing the organisation's vision, mission and values

Your SWOT analysis will provide key information on needs, priorities, problems and opportunities.  On the basis of the needs identified, your organisation may need to redefine (or define) its vision, mission and values statement.  These statements reflect what the organisation plans or aims to do over the next 3 to 5 years.  If the organisation is a charity, then you need to consider the charitable objects and purposes as well as public benefit.  It is really important that each element of the SWOT analysis is used to consider what the future priorities for the organisation should be.

View worksheet: Developing a vision statement

View worksheet: Developing your mission statement

View worksheet: Developing organisational values

For further information on strategic planning and the other stages in the process, click on the links below:

What is strategic planning?

Step 1:  Who should be involved?

Step 3:  Where are we going?

Step 4:  How will we get there?

Step 5:  Writing your plan

Step 6:  Monitor and review