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Guiding Principles

What Are Some Important Principles to Keep in Mind in Planning Strategically?

Regardless of the steps one takes in the strategic planning process, implementation of the plan is not always successful.  One way of looking at strategic planning is as a road trip.  What do you need to know to have a successful journey?  Elements might include identifying “drivers” and establishing clear and consistent communication with them; being familiar both with where you are and where you want to go; providing detailed directions; and frequently assessing your progress.  King (see King, Bonds-Raacke, & Saylor, 2011) has identified a set of principles that can contribute to arriving safely at the end of a strategic planning journey.  She identifies these as the C-SALT principles:  Collaboration, Specificity, Assessment, Leadership, and Transparency.  

  • Collaboration:  A good strategic plan provides a collectively developed road map for achieving an organization’s vision.  Identifying and involving all key stakeholders from the beginning of the planning process, as well as maintaining clear and consistent lines of communication with them, is critical. 
  • Specificity:  With strategic planning, the devil is indeed in the details.  Without sufficient specificity in elements of the plan such as strategies and action plans, what can result is a wish list of laudable goals with no clear picture  of how to implement them.
  • Assessment:  Assessment is one of the most important but one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of planning.  Assessment of outcomes and achievements is an obvious necessity but assessment should be emphasized throughout the process (e.g., in environmental scanning or learning about key stakeholders).  When it comes to plan implementation, it is critical that every goal (and accompanying strategies and action plans) is written in such a way that measurability is possible.  There should be a clear answer to the question:  How will we know when this goal has been achieved?
  • Leadership:  Not only should senior leadership take a key role in strategic planning in order to highlight its importance, but also leadership has to be assigned to guide plan development and implementation.  In other words, ownership of goals and strategies is a critical consideration.  One (or few) individuals should be assigned to guide the implementation of each strategy; leaving implementation solely to committees tends to diffuse accountability.  As the saying goes, “If everyone is in charge, no one is in charge.” 
  • Transparency:  Openness in the strategic planning process is as important as communication and accountability.  No part of the planning process should take place behind closed doors.  The involvement of all is not antagonistic to the points made previously about leadership; effective strategic planning is both a “bottom-up” and a “top-down” process.