Strategic planning communication: 6 tips for getting your company on board
Lucid Content Team
Reading time: about 7 min
If you make a strategic plan but no one hears about it, will it make an impact? By our estimate, the outlook is not so good. That’s because a plan is only as good as its implementation.
In other words, if you want to be successful, you must learn not only how to create a strategic plan for your business, but also how to communicate that plan effectively.
Easier said than done.
Use the following tips to improve your strategic plan communication and get employee engagement and buy-in from the ground up.
Why it’s important to effectively communicate your strategic vision
Companies invest a lot of time in developing a strategic plan or vision for the business. However, all that time and resources are wasted if you can’t successfully communicate your vision to the broader organization.
Not only is that initial investment wasted, but if you can’t align your company strategically, you’re essentially leaving every team to guess at what work is important, what problems or goals to prioritize, and what their ultimate purpose is.
A sure recipe for misalignment between departments and across the organization.
This misalignment can cause confusion and inefficiency, competition between teams and departments, and burnout and disengagement among employees.
In other words, without a well-communicated strategic plan, the business cannot move forward effectively or efficiently.
How to present a strategic plan
Use the following tips and best practices to communicate your strategic plan effectively and get everyone is on the same page.
Hold an all-hands meeting
Announce your vision first at an organization-wide all-hands meeting. Ideally, you will be communicating your plans time and time again in the coming months through various meetings and formats. But it’s important to communicate your plans to the entire organization first so everyone receives the same messaging.
Telling everyone together will help prevent confusion or misinformation from spreading through the rumor mill and ensure that no one is left out.
It also gives you the opportunity to answer questions and get initial feedback from the collective group. Be sure to leave time during your meeting to take questions and solicit feedback. Addressing those concerns together can reduce the burden on managers to answer difficult questions and ensures everyone is getting the same answers from the same reliable source.
Then, as you continue to roll out communication and implementation across departments, you can move forward more effectively on the initial feedback you received and address more specific questions case by case and team by team.
Explain the “why”
In your efforts to explain what is changing, don’t forget to also explain why. Change isn’t easy. When you unveil a new strategic plan, you are likely to disrupt your employees’ processes and approaches to their work.
For example, let’s say your new plan includes updates in technology or the adoption of new systems. While you may be able to see how those changes will make your employees’ work easier or more efficient in the long run, they are the ones who will have to bear the brunt of learning a new system, changing well-worn processes that “worked just fine” before, and dealing with the growing pains of a learning curve—which could include lower productivity and even upset customers initially.
Show respect for your people by recognizing what you’re actually asking them to do, and clarify why it’s so important to move forward with the new plan.
As you outline the “why” behind these changes, make sure you do two things:
1. Create urgency
Why change now? What is the rush? As you explain the purpose behind the new plans, you need to create urgency for why these changes are coming now. What is driving the need to change?
This will help people both understand why you’re making those changes and help them adopt the same sense of urgency in implementing those plans effectively.
2. Answer what’s in it for “me”
Sometimes high-level strategy can feel irrelevant to the everyday work or processes teams and individuals are doing. As you communicate your plans and vision for the future, make sure you connect the purpose and benefits directly to your employees.
How does the new strategy improve their work experience? What are the benefits to their team or department? For example, if the new strategic vision will lead to happier customers, explain how that translates to easier customer service calls or higher sales quotas.
When people feel that change will be good for them (and not just a nebulous bottom line), they will be more engaged in making those plans successful.
Create a framework for teams to align their work with company strategy
Take the guesswork out of alignment by creating a company-wide framework for implementing the new strategy and keeping everyone’s work aligned. A simple but effective approach is to create goals and projects based on the strategic plan.
OKRs help you organize your goals around a strategy and track key results at the end of the period you’re measuring. This process helps teams and individuals not only align their priorities and goals but also clarify ownership and accountabilities.
When everyone is operating from the same framework, it makes it easier to implement company strategy broadly and consistently so that everyone is aligned.
Reinforce the strategic plan in future communications
Follow up and follow through to keep the momentum going behind your new strategic plans. Too often, leadership makes the mistake of building up the new strategy on the front end without making that communication consistent throughout the rest of the year and beyond.
Remember: Communicating your strategic plan shouldn’t be a one-time big announcement.
Building adoption and aligning your organization to a new vision or goal takes time. Reinforce your message by making your strategy an integral part of your company meetings, company newsletter, employee reviews, and one-on-one conversations.
Celebrate successes along the way
Implementing a new strategic plan isn’t as simple as checking off a to-do list. There will be questions to answer, problems to solve, and people to win over. This takes time and won’t always be smooth sailing. That’s why it is important to celebrate employee, team, or organizational successes along the way.
Highlight these individual and collective wins in team and company meetings. Recognizing successes while your company transitions to a new strategy will drive engagement and adoption, leading to greater ownership and accountability throughout the organization.
Clarify your message with visuals
Strategic plans usually involve lots of terms, projections, and parts. But these details can quickly get lost in translation if you don’t communicate clearly. Help your audience stay engaged and on board by visualizing key information.
Visuals are a simple but powerful way to support your presentation and clarify your messaging so that everyone understands your vision for the future. Use visuals like flowcharts, graphs, product roadmaps, and organizational models to clarify new processes, roles, and accountabilities.
As teams begin implementing the new strategy, use visuals to improve alignment within and across teams. Lucidchart makes it easy for teams to collaborate and innovate from a single application. Simple collaboration features let team members add feedback or ask clarifying questions around group projects.
Visual collaboration and communication from the top down and within teams will help your company understand and adopt your new vision faster and more successfully.
Dive deeper into how creating visuals in Lucidchart can improve your strategic planning.
Lucidchart, a cloud-based intelligent diagramming application, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This intuitive, cloud-based solution empowers teams to collaborate in real-time to build flowcharts, mockups, UML diagrams, customer journey maps, and more. Lucidchart propels teams forward to build the future faster. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidchart.com.
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How do you present a strategic plan?
A step by step guide to present a strategic plan in a professional format, showing all the important messages.
Time needed: 1 hour
Presenting a strategic plan in 11 steps:
1. It gives a short and clear description of the target state. 2. It gives a clear indication of the actions required. 3. It can be understood within minutes. 4. It does NOT use jargon.
* A Roadmap with starting state and target state. * Formats for “Strategy on 1 Page”. * Formats showing: Diagnosis, Policy, Action.
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Created : 2020-10-15 16:01:17 Modified : 2021-12-28 15:08:16
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13 Key Steps to Communicating Your Strategic Plan
blog , Strategic Plan
Creating a strategic plan is quite an undertaking for any business. Not only are you often hiring outside firms to facilitate the process, but you are also using an enormous amount of internal resources to gather data, convert it into meaningful information, and sort that data during over 3-5 days of meetings with your key players.
What is fascinating, is how often this effort fails– not in terms of determining the business’ path forward, but in disseminating the information broadly and effectively to all the members of the organization, especially those that were not part of the decision-making team. A great strategic plan should have focus and clarity around vision, mission, objectives, strategies, and actions. In order to elevate engagement and participation, a communication plan needs to provide great simplicity, clarity, and focus, without ambiguity.
Communication Strategy in 13 Steps
1. call an all-company meeting.
This meeting is focused on communicating the organization’s strategic plan. If you have any thoughts that information from your senior team will leak before the meeting, use email or text message to get out in front of your messaging.
2. Who’s coming to the party
Review in detail who will be present and what level of detail they will need. You want to create comfort around any changes that might affect them. Think through the negative, as well as positive aspects of the strategic plan. When it comes to change, people will always assume the worst, so it’s important to get it all out at once.
3. Provide conceptual tools
During the meeting, describe the basic principles of a strategic plan, as well as any new terms or definitions of terms. For example, if you discuss EBITDA, (earnings before interest tax and depreciation) don’t assume all your employees will understand what you mean. If you use a Balanced Scorecard Model, take employees through the basics so that they can understand the meaning behind what you are about to explain to them. The more they truly understand, the more buy-in you will receive from them in the end.
4. Tell and retell the history
Provide a broader base about the history of the organization in order to create context around how strategy plays a part in the growth of the company. You can provide the key elements of what has led to your growth, challenges in the past, and how that has informed your future direction.
5. Reveal the competition
Describe your competitive advantages and disadvantages with specific examples. In other words, name the competition. It may surprise you to know how few people actually think about the impact competition has on your business and direction.
6. Compare and contrast
Compare past planning processes with current ones. Some organizations have had very bad strategic plans or poor execution of plans, which can give you a bad rap among employees. If you are not specific about how this year is different from the past, you may have a tsunami of resistance against your planning before you have even begun to change it. Get ahead of the resistance by naming the difference.
7. Connect employees to the plan
Describe how this strategic plan differs from one in the past. If you went out to employees with surveys, make sure they understand how they participated in the creation of the plan. Making connection points with employees will help find a mental place for them to store the information you are sharing. Without this many companies disconnect with their people and it directly impacts employee engagement. Dow Corning uses a matrix that focuses on the Intellectual Understanding and Emotional Commitment of their employees. Those that are high in both are considered Champions. If you execute your communication plan well you are more likely to develop Champions within your organization.
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8. Describe the plan
Explain what barriers may arise that could potentially prevent your organization from achieving its vision, mission, objectives, and actions. Remember that all employees have different levels of understanding, so make sure that you not only describe the numerics of the strategic plan but also what the terms mean and why they are meaningful to understanding the business. Differentiate between signal and noise for your employees to determine relevancy.
9. Provide handouts of the plan
Don’t hand out information that you wouldn’t want your competitors to see – there is a fine line of ‘what’ information to share with ‘who’ within the company). If your strategic plan is in book format, do yourself a favor and don’t pass that out. Provide only the critical information that will help support your employees in doing their job.
10. Point out the differences
Describe how you would imagine these new differences will show up in behaviors throughout the organization. The greater clarity people have around the potential impact of these new changes, the higher your return on both your planning and your communication delivery.
11. Ask them what they believe will be different and the same
Often times leaders don’t want to ask questions because they are afraid of what they may hear. Remember, just because you don’t hear it doesn’t mean that they aren’t thinking about it and discussing it among themselves. The only difference between you asking is that you now will know what is going on for them.
12. Allow them to ask you questions
Often times this model puts you as the leader on a pedestal, which is not the leader of today. So be careful about showing up as the leader with all the answers.
13. Reinforce Communication Strategy in regular intervals and in different ways
- Ask them to each meet with their managers about the details and implications of how they do their work within the organization.
- Provide a report card monthly on how the company and or area is doing against the strategic plan.
- Provide employee reviews that directly connect back to the plan.
- Tie compensation back to the success of plan initiatives.
- Include connections in the company newsletter or intranet blog about successes and challenges associated with the strategic plan.
- Put up a communication board or measurement graphic that will keep everyone connected back to the plan (be explicit).
- Use infographics to present information back to employees.
- Hold live quarterly employee meetings, or by video if you are challenged geographically, and reconnect everyone back to the strategic plan.
- Use walls and screen savers to propagate company values and mission regularly.
- Use an electronic scoreboard on video monitors throughout the organization.
- Use metaphorical premiums that can represent the over-arching vision.
If you use some or all of these steps in your communication strategy you will reduce resistance and increase the likelihood of strategic plan success.
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About the Guest Contributor Gary Cohen ( CO2 Partners, LLC ) Managing Partner
Gary is famous for asking; he wrote the book on it. He probes his clients with the only kind of questions that can produce change: unexpected ones. From the client’s answers, this dedicated Minneapolis leadership coach offers not just insights but alternative courses of action.
“There always are several good roads to Rome,” he says. “The key is to identify the one that best fits both your head and heart.” And he focuses on Rome–and not the possible curves in the road–for a simple reason: most obstacles are artificial, and the rest are in our heads. “Clear your head,” he has said, “and the obstacles disappear.” This may explain why Gary’s clients call him “eccentric in exactly the right way.” He knows that unusual success comes from unusual approaches, and–as Gary often has said, “I never have met a client who wanted to be ordinary.”
CEO experience: Managing Partner and Co-founder of CO2 Partners, LLC in 2004 an Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Firm. Founded ACI in 1989 with $4,000 and two employees, then grew 48 percent compounded annually for 12 years to over 2,200 employees and went public on the NASDAQ; Venture Magazine’s Top 10 Best Performing Businesses; and Business Journal’s 25 Fastest Growing Small Public Companies and Entrepreneur of the Year finalist.
Board memberships: All Kinds of Minds, Harvard Alumni Club of Minnesota, IC Systems, Inc., Richfield Bank, ACI, Telecentric, Outward Bound National Advisory, HBS Alumni Club of Minnesota (Past President), and Minnesota Zoo Foundation among others.
Author: Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions (McGraw Hill 2009); articles for Business Week, Leader to Leader, and Forbes. Clients: Unilever, Intel, Genentech, MetLife, Thermo-Fisher, and 100 -plus entrepreneur-led businesses.
Education: University of Minnesota (B.A); Harvard Business School; Covey Leadership Center; Disney Leadership Institute; and Aspen Institute Crown Fellow. Want to know more about Gary’s approach to leadership and life? Read his blog, Elements of Leadership.
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Insights / Executive Leadership / Article
9 steps to successful functional strategic planning.
May 29, 2023
Contributor: Jackie Wiles
Take these steps to ensure your strategic planning process is productive, adaptable and tied to enterprise goals.
Only 29% of strategists agree their organizations change plans fast enough to respond to disruption. Gartner’s latest research shows companies that do this have a common attribute: Their business and function leaders are highly engaged in the strategy planning process.
While functional leaders should never develop strategic plans in a vacuum, today’s disrupted conditions make it especially critical for functional strategic plans to account for a variety of scenarios and be able to change with pivots in enterprise strategy.
“The key is to abide by some key principles of any strategic planning process — whether at the enterprise, business-unit or functional levels,” says Marc Kelly, VP at Gartner. “And eliminate everything that isn't necessary and sufficient to communicate an effective strategy.”
Download now: Build a Better Strategic Plan for Your Function
Commit to being strategic-minded
Before you even start your functional planning process, commit to keeping a strategic mindset. Don’t allow yourself to be hijacked by short-termism, tactical execution plans and other check-the-box activities. All too often, concerns about meeting short-term targets, fear of failure and a preoccupation with operational issues overwhelm aspiration.
This principle applies to your mindset on cost management and budgeting . Commit to a strategic approach wherever and whenever you decide which initiatives to pursue and fund.
View your function’s cost architecture through the lens of business value, and view cost optimization as a continuous discipline focused on directing resources (time, capabilities and budget) to differentiating growth initiatives , such as digitalization.
Be clear on the best budgeting approach(es) for your function’s needs, considering what type of purpose-driven budgeting best supports your strategy execution.
Download now: Your Guide to Optimizing Costs Strategically, Not Tactically
Then take a methodical step-by-step approach
The best functional plans identify select initiatives that will drive enterprise ambitions and commit the capacity (time, budget, talent and technology) necessary to execute successfully. These nine steps provide a guide by which functional leaders can ensure a rigorous approach to planning, however adaptive their enterprise’s strategy .
Step 1: Outline expectations
Clearly define the enterprise and business context upfront for all stakeholders to prevent managers and executives from misunderstanding one another and derailing the process.
Outline for your function the responsibilities, process timelines and expected outcomes for each participant, especially in cases where the planning and budgeting processes cross functions. Identify which stakeholder(s) will ultimately sign off on your strategy and budget plans.
Step 2: Verify the business context
Enterprise mission , which defines your organization’s reason for being and the goals it will continually pursue.
Example: One electric-car maker’s mission “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy ” reflects its absolute commitment to moving toward sustainable practices and reminds employees of the company’s broader purpose.
Enterprise vision , which embodies the organization’s abstract but realistic aspirations, including underlying values, principles and beliefs that support its decision-making processes.
Example: One aerospace company’s vision “to be the premier international defense, aerospace and security company” is realistic and more alluring than the status quo. It’s directional and focused.
Make sure your function’s employees know how the mission and vision apply to their specific work. Be clear what impact business priorities, challenges and pivots will have on your function’s imperatives, opportunities, risks and priorities.
Step 3: Set goals and objectives
Enterprise strategy translates business aspirations into:
Goals: Individual or combined undertakings that, when achieved, drive differentiated value in the longer term.
Example: Become the largest supplier of renewable electricity in Europe.
Objectives: Discrete and measurable steps that describe how you will achieve a specific goal (see step 4 for the actions required for this).
Example: Increase wind capacity by 200% overall in three years, with 10 new wind farms across five regions in Europe.
Once clear on the enterprise plan, you can evaluate the current state of your functional activities, identify the future state, and set goals and objectives accordingly.
Step 4: Assess your capabilities
Identify key functional capabilities required to execute on your action plan. Ask business partners to assess how they perceive your function’s strengths and weaknesses. Your assessment and that of your business partners should broadly align. Regardless, generate a prioritized list of functional capabilities to bolster or gaps to fill as a result of your findings.
Step 5: Develop an action plan
This is the stage at which you take your general assessment of goals and objectives and translate them into detailed action steps with assigned responsibilities. This functional action plan should be a formal document that summarizes the sequence of steps or initiatives required to attain an objective. This is the primary source of information for how you will execute, monitor, control and close out objectives.
Action plans are subject to change once surprise events occur, so be prepared to respond with an adaptive strategy to respond to change as and when you can handle it.
Step 6: Set measures and metrics
The terms measure and metric are often used interchangeably, but they are different.
A measure is an observable business outcome (for example, employee engagement ). Measures allow you to evaluate the efficacy of your action plans. Agree on them in advance to avoid reporting biases.
A metric describes the actual data collected to quantify the measure (say, the percentage of “satisfied” employees according to an annual survey ).
Make sure measures and metrics are complete enough to account for a range of variables. For example, don’t only use customer satisfaction to measure engagement. Also track critical factors, such as discretionary effort and intent to stay.
Step 7: Put your strategy on one — yes, one — page
Simply and clearly state the key elements of your strategic plan: where the functional organization is, where it is going and how it will get to the future state.
Capture an overview on a single page that communicates how you are adding value today and demonstrates how you plan to impact the business over the next year. Include a statement of strategy, a before-and-after description of the state of your function, one or two critical assumptions underpinning the strategy, and five to seven initiatives required to meet the functional objectives established to support business goals.
Step 8: Drive the plan home
Do this by evangelizing the objectives and strategy across your function and company. The one-page strategy template is a helpful tool, as it makes the plan easy for others to consume, but you’ll still need a deliberate process for communicating the plan — and ensuring that key constituencies understand and agree with it.
You must develop a clear and consistent message that drives buy-in and commitment among functional leadership and engagement and motivation among the workforce, with all stakeholders clear on how your priorities are changing and why.
Step 9: Prepare to respond to change
Once the strategic plan is adopted and shared, it’s critical to measure progress against the objectives, revisit and monitor the plan to ensure it remains valid, and adapt the strategy as business conditions change. To do this:
Monitor triggers to track the effectiveness of the strategic plan.
Cancel underperforming projects quickly.
Track and validate assumptions periodically.
Lastly, make sure you have an agreed-upon action plan for specific steps to take or decisions to make to increase the chances of success when monitoring triggers an alarm.
This article has been updated annually to reflect new events, conditions and research.
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How To Write A Strategic Plan That Gets Results + Examples
Are you feeling overwhelmed with the thought of writing a strategic plan for your business? Do you want to create a plan that will help you move your team forward with inspired alignment and disciplined execution? You're not alone.
Gone are the days of rigid, 5- or 10-year planning cycles that do not leave room for flexibility and innovation. To stay ahead of the curve, you need a dynamic and execution-ready strategic plan that can guide your business through the ever-evolving landscape.
At Cascade, we understand that writing a strategic plan can be dreadful, especially in today's unpredictable environment. That's why we've developed a simple model that can help you create a clear, actionable plan to achieve your organization's goals. With our tested and proven strategic planning template , you can write a strategic plan that is both adaptable and effective .
Whether you're a seasoned strategy professional or a fresh strategy planner, this guide will walk you through the process step-by-step on how to write a strategic plan. By the end, you'll have a comprehensive, easy-to-follow strategic plan that will help you align your organization on the path to success.
Follow this guide step-by-step or skip to the part you’re most interested in:
- Pre-Planning Phase: Build The Foundation
Cascade Model For Strategic Planning: What You Need To Know
- Key Elements of a Strategic Plan
How To Write A Strategic Plan In 6 Simple Steps
3 strategic plan examples to get you started, how to achieve organizational alignment with your strategic plan.
- Quick Overview of Key Steps In Writing A Strategic Plan
Create An Execution-Ready Strategic Plan With Cascade 🚀
*Editor’s note: This article is part of our ‘How to create a Strategy’ collection. At the end of this article, you’ll find a link to each piece within this collection so you can dig deeper into each element of an effective strategic plan and more related resources to master strategy execution.
Pre-Planning Phase: Build The Foundation
Before we dive into writing a strategic plan, it's essential to know the basics you should cover before the planning phase. The pre-planning phase is where you'll begin to gather the data and strategic insights necessary to create an effective strategic plan.
1. Run a strategic planning workshop
The first step is to run a strategic planning workshop with your team. Get your team in the room, get their data, and gather their insights. By running this workshop, you'll foster collaboration and bring fresh perspectives to the table. And that’s not all.
The process of co-creating and collaborating to put that plan together with stakeholders is one of the most critical factors in strategy execution . According to McKinsey’s research , initiatives in which employees contribute to development are 3.4 times more likely to be successful. They feel like the plan is a result of their efforts, and they feel ownership of it, so they're more likely to execute it.
💡 Tip: Use strategy frameworks to structure your strategy development sessions, such as GAP analysis , SWOT analysis , Porter’s Five Forces , Ansoff matrix , McKinsey 7S model , or GE matrix . You can even apply the risk matrix that will help you align and decide on key strategic priorities.
2. Choose your strategic planning model
Before creating your strategic plan, you need to decide which structure you will use. There are hundreds of ways to structure a strategic plan. You’ve likely heard of famous strategic models such as OKRs and the Balanced Scorecard .
But beyond the well-known ones, there's also a myriad of other strategic planning models ranging from the extremely simple to the absurdly complex.
Many strategic models work reasonably well on paper, but in reality, they don't show you how to write a strategic plan that fits your organization's needs.
Here are some common weaknesses most popular strategic models have:
- They're too complicated. People get lost in terminology rather than focus on execution.
- They don’t scale. They work well for small organizations but fail when you try to extend them across multiple teams.
- They're too rigid. They force people to add layers for the sake of adding layers.
- They're neither tangible nor measurable. They’re great at stating outcomes but lousy at helping you measure success.
- They're not adaptable. As we saw in the last years, the business environment can change quickly. Your model needs to be able to work in your current situation and adapt to changing economic landscapes.
Our goal in this article is to give you a simpler, more effective way to write a strategic plan. This is a tested and proven strategic planning model that has been refined over years of working with +20,000 teams around the world. We call it the Cascade Strategy Model.
This approach has proven to be more effective than any other model we have tried when it comes to executing and implementing the strategy .
It’s easy to use and it works for small businesses, fast-growing startups, as well as multinationals trying to figure out how to write a fail-proof strategic plan.
We’ve created a simple diagram below to illustrate what a strategic plan following the Cascade Model will look like when it's completed:
Rather than a traditional roadmap , imagine your strategy as a flowchart. Each row is a mandatory step before moving on to the next.
We call our platform Cascade for a reason: strategy must cascade throughout an organization along with values, focus areas, and objectives.
Above all, the Cascade Model is intended to be execution-ready —in other words, it has been proven to deliver success far beyond strategic planning. It adds to a successful strategic management process.Key elements of a Strategic Plan
Key Elements Of A Strategic Plan
The key elements of a strategic plan include:
- Vision : Where do you want to get to?
- Values : How will you behave on the journey?
- Focus Areas : What are going to be your strategic priorities?
- Strategic objectives : What do you want to achieve?
- Actions and projects : How are you going to achieve the objectives?
- KPIs : How will you measure success?
In this part of the article, we will give you an overview of each element within the Cascade Model. You can follow this step-by-step process in a spreadsheet , or sign up to get instant access to a free Cascade strategic planning template and follow along as we cover the key elements of an effective strategic plan.
Your vision statement is your organization's anchor - it defines where you want to get to and is the executive summary of your organization's purpose. Without it, your strategic plan is like a boat without a rudder, at the mercy of strong winds and currents like Covid and global supply chain disruptions.
A good vision statement can help funnel your strategy towards long-term goals that matter the most to your organization, and everything you write in your plan from this point on will help you get closer to achieving your vision.
Trying to do too much at once is a surefire way to sink your strategic plan. By creating a clear and inspiring vision statement , you can avoid this trap and provide guidance and inspiration for your team. A great vision statement might even help attract talent and investment into your organization.
For example, a bike manufacturing company might have a vision statement like, “To be the premier bike manufacturer in the Pacific Northwest.” This statement clearly articulates the organization's goals and is a powerful motivator for the team.
In short, don't start your strategic plan without a clear vision statement. It will keep your organization focused and help you navigate toward success.
📚 Recommended read: How to Write a Vision Statement (With Examples, Tips, and Formulas)
Values are the enablers of your vision statement —they represent how your organization will behave as you work towards your strategic goals. Unfortunately, many companies throw around meaningless words just for the purpose of PR, leading to a loss of credibility.
To avoid this, make sure to integrate your organization’s core values into everyday operations and interactions. In today's highly-competitive world, it's crucial to remain steadfast in your values and cultivate an organizational culture that's transparent and trustworthy.
Companies with the best company cultures consistently outperform competitors and their average market by up to 115.6%, as reported by Glassdoor .
For example, a bike manufacturing company might have core values like:
These values reflect the organization's desire to become the leading bike manufacturer, while still being accountable to employees, customers, and shareholders.
👉 Here’s how to add vision and values to your strategic plan in Cascade:
After you sign up and invite your team members to collaborate on the plan, navigate to Plans and Teams > Teams page, and add the vision, mission and values. This will help you to ensure that the company’s vision, mission statement, and values are always at top of mind for everyone.
📚When you're ready to start creating some company values, check out our guide, How To Create Company Values .
3. Focus Areas
Your focus areas are the strategic priorities that will keep your team on track and working toward the company’s mission and vision. They represent the high-level areas that you need to focus on to achieve desired business outcomes.
In fact, companies with clearly defined priorities are more likely to achieve their objectives. According to a case study by the Harvard Business Review , teams that focus on a small number of key initiatives are more likely to succeed than those that try to do too much.
That’s also something that we usually recommend to our customers when they set up their strategic plan in Cascade. Rather than spreading your resources too thin over multiple focus areas, prioritize three to five.
Following our manufacturing example above, some good focus areas include:
- Aggressive growth
- Producing the nation's best bikes
- Becoming a modern manufacturer
- Becoming a top place to work
Your focus areas should be tighter in scope than your vision statement, but broader than specific goals, time frames, or metrics.
By defining your focus areas, you'll give your teams a guardrail to work within, which can help inspire innovation and creative problem-solving.
With a clear set of focus areas, your team will be better able to prioritize their work and stay focused on the most important things, which will ultimately lead to better business results.
👉Here’s how you can set focus areas in Cascade:
In Cascade, you can add focus areas while creating or importing an existing strategic plan from a spreadsheet. With Cascade’s Focus Area deep-dive functionality , you will be able to:
- Review the health of your focus areas in one place.
- Get a breakdown by plans, budgets, resources, and people behind each strategic priority.
- See something at-risk? Drill down into each piece of work regardless of how many plans it's a part of.
📚 Recommended read: Strategic Focus Areas: How to create them + Examples
4. Strategic Objectives
The importance of setting clear and specific objectives for your strategic plan cannot be overstated.
Strategic objectives are the specific and measurable outcomes you want to achieve . While they should align with your focus areas, they should be more detailed and have a clear deadline.
According to the 2022 State of High Performing Teams report , there is a strong correlation between goals and success not only at the individual and team level but also at the organizational level. Here’s what they found:
- Employees who are unaware of their company's goals are over three times more likely to work at a company that is experiencing a decline in revenue than employees who are aware of the goals.
- Companies with shrinking revenues are almost twice as likely to have employees with unclear work expectations.
Jumping straight into actions without defining clear objectives is a common mistake that can lead to missed opportunities or misalignment between strategy and execution.
To avoid this pitfall, we recommend you add between three and six objectives to each focus area .
It's here that we need to start being a bit more specific for the first time in your strategic planning process . Let's take a look at an example of a well-written strategic objective:
- Continue top-line growth that outpaces the industry by 31st Dec 2023.
This is too specific to be a focus area. While it's still very high level, it indicates what the company wants to accomplish and includes a clear deadline. Both these aspects are critical to a good strategic objective.
Your strategic objectives are the heart and soul of your plan, and you need to ensure they are well-crafted. So, take the time to create well-planned objectives that will help you achieve your vision and lead your organization to success.
👉Here’s how you can set objectives in Cascade:
Adding objectives in Cascade is intuitive, straightforward, and accessible from almost anywhere in the workspace. With one click, you’ll open the objective sidebar and fill out the details. These can include a timeline, the objective’s owner, collaborators, and how your objective will be measured (success criteria).
📚 Recommended read: What are Strategic Objectives? How to write them + Examples
5. Actions and projects
Once you’ve defined your strategic objectives, the next step is to identify the specific strategic initiatives or projects that will help you achieve those objectives . They are short-term goals or actionable steps you or your team members will take to accomplish objectives. They should leverage the company’s resources and core competencies.
Effective projects and actions in your strategic plan should:
- Be extremely specific.
- Contain a deadline.
- Have an owner.
- Align with at least one of your strategic objectives.
- Provide clarity on how you or your team will achieve the strategic objective.
Let's take a look at an example of a well-written project continuing with our bike manufacturing company using the strategic objective from above:
Strategic objective: Continue top-line growth that outpaces the industry by 31st Dec 2023.
Project: Expand into the fixed gear market by 31st December 2023.
This is more specific than the objective it links to, and it details what you will do to achieve the objective.
Another common problem area for strategic plans is that they never quite get down to the detail of what you're going to do.
It's easier to state "we need to grow our business," but without concrete projects and initiatives, those plans will sit forever within their PowerPoint templates, never to see the light of day after their initial creation.
Actions and projects are where the rubber meets the road. They connect the organizational strategic goals with the actual capabilities of your people and the resources at their disposal. Defining projects is a vital reality check every strategic plan needs.
👉Here’s how you create actions and projects in Cascade:
From the Objective sidebar, you can choose to add a project or action under your chosen objective. In the following steps, you can assign an owner and timeline to each action or project.
Plus, in Cascade, you can track the progress of each project or action in four different ways. You can do it manually, via milestones, checklists, or automatically by integrating with Jira and 1000+ other available integrations .
📚 Recommended read: How to create effective projects
Measuring progress towards strategic objectives is essential to effective strategic control and business success. That's where Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) come in. KPIs are measurable values that track progress toward achieving key business objectives . They keep you on track and help you stay focused on the goals you set for your organization.
To get the most out of your KPIs, make sure you link them to a specific goal or objective. In this way, you'll avoid creating KPIs that don't contribute to your objectives and distract you from focusing on what matters.
Ideally, you will add both leading and lagging KPIs to each objective so you can get a more balanced view of how well you're progressing. Leading KPIs can indicate future performance while lagging KPIs show how well you’ve done in the past. Both types of KPIs are critical for operational planning and keeping your business on track.
Think of KPIs as a form of signpost in your organization. They provide critical insights that inform business leaders of their organization’s progress toward key business objectives. Plus, they can help you identify opportunities faster and capitalize on flexibility.
👉Here’s how you can set and track KPIs in Cascade:
In Cascade , you can add measures while creating your objectives or add them afterward. Open the Objective sidebar and add your chosen measure.
When you create your Measure, you can choose how to track it. Using Cascade, you can track it manually or automatically. You can automate tracking via 1000+ integrations , including Excel spreadsheets and Google Sheets. In this way, you can save time and ensure that your team has up-to-date information for faster and more confident decision-making.
📚 Recommended reads:
- 10 Popular KPI Software Tools To Connect & Visualize Your Data (2023 Guide)
- How To Track KPIs To Hit Your Business Goals
Corporate Strategic Plan
Following the steps outlined above, you should end up with a strategic plan that looks something like this:
This is a preview of a corporate strategic plan template that is pre-filled with examples. Here you can use the template for free and begin filling it out to align with your organization's needs. Plus, it’s suitable for organizations of all sizes and any industry.
Once you fill in the template, you can also switch to the timeline view. You’ll get a complete overview of how the different parts of your plan are distributed across the roadmap in a Gantt chart view.
This template will help you create a structured approach to the strategic planning process, focus on key strategic priorities, and drive accountability to achieve necessary business outcomes.
👉 Get your free corporate strategic plan template here.
Coca-Cola Strategic Plan
Need a bit of extra inspiration to start writing your organization’s strategic plan? Check out this strategic plan example, inspired by Coca-Cola’s business plan:
This template is pre-filled with Coca-Cola’s examples so you can inspire your strategic success on one of the most iconic brands on the planet.
👉 Grab your free example of a Coca-Cola strategic plan here.
The Ramsay Health Care expansion strategy
Ramsay Health Care is a multinational healthcare provider with a strong presence in Australia, Europe, and Asia.
Almost all of its growth was organic and strategic. The company founded its headquarters in Sydney, Australia, but in the 21st century, it decided to expand globally through a primary strategy of making brownfield investments and acquisitions in key locations.
Ramsay's strategy was simple yet clever. By becoming a majority shareholder of the biggest local players, the company expanded organically in each region by leveraging and expanding their expertise.
Over the last two decades, Ramsay's global network has grown to 460 locations across 10 countries with over $13 billion in annual revenue.
📚 Recommended read: Strategy study: The Ramsay Health Care Growth Study
✨ Bonus resource: We've created a list of the most popular and free strategic plan templates in our library that will help you build a strategic plan based on the Cascade model explained in this article. You can use these templates to create a plan on a corporate, business unit, or team level.
We highlighted before that other strategic models often fail to scale strategic plans and goals scales across multiple teams and organizational levels.
In an ideal world, you want to have a maximum of two layers of detail underneath each of your focus areas. This means you'll have a focus area, followed by a layer of objectives. Underneath the objectives, you'll have a layer of actions, projects, and KPIs.
If you have a single team that’s responsible for the strategy execution, this works well. However, how do you implement a strategy across multiple and cross-functional teams? And why is it important?
According to LSA research of 410 companies across 8 industries, highly aligned companies grow revenue 58% faster and are 72% more profitable. And this is what Cascade can help you achieve.
To achieve achieve organization-wide alignment with your strategic plan and impact the bottom line, there are two ways to approach it in Casade: through contributing objectives or shared objectives .
1. Contributing objectives
This approach involves adding contributing objectives that link to your main strategic objectives, like this:
For each contributing objective, you simply repeat the Objective → Action/Project → KPI structure as follows:
Here's how you can create contributing objectives in Cascade:
Option A: Create contributing objectives within the same plan
This means creating multiple contributing objectives within the same strategic plan that contribute to the main objective.
However, be aware that if you have a lot of layers, your strategic plan can become cluttered, and people might have difficulty understanding how their daily efforts contribute to the strategic plan at the top level.
For example, the people responsible for managing contributing objectives at the bottom of the plan ( functional / operational level ) will lose visibility on how are their objectives linked to the main focus areas and objectives (at a corporate / business level ).
This approach is best suited to smaller organizations that only need to add a few layers of objectives to their plan.
Option B: Create contributing objectives from multiple plans linking to the main objective
This approach creates a network of aligned strategic plans within your organization. Each plan contains a set of focus areas and one single layer of objectives, each with its own set of projects, actions, and KPIs. This concept looks like this:
This example illustrates an objective that is a main objective in the IT strategic plan , but also contributes to the main strategic plan's objective.
For example, let’s say that your main business objective is to improve customer satisfaction by reducing product delivery time by 25% in the next quarter. This objective requires multiple operational teams within your organization to work together to achieve a shared objective.
Each team will create its own objective in its plan to contribute to the main objective:
- Logistics team: Reduce the shipment preparation time by 30%
- IT team: Implement new technology to reduce manual handling in the warehouse
- Production team: Increase production output by hour for 5%
Here’s how this example would look like within Cascade platform:
Although each contributing objective was originally created in its own plan, you can see how each contributing objective relates to the main strategic objective and its status in real-time.
2. Shared objectives
In Cascade, shared objectives are the same objectives shared across different strategic plans.
For example, you can have an objective that is “Achieve sustainable operations”. This objective can be part of the Corporate Strategy Plan, but also part of the Operations Plan , Supply Chain Plan , Production Plan, etc. In short, this objective becomes a shared objective between multiple teams and strategic plan.
This approach helps you to:
- Cascade your business strategy as deep as you want across a near-infinite number of people while maintaining strategic alignment throughout your organization .
- Create transparency and a much higher level of engagement in the strategy throughout your organization since objective owners are able to identify how their shared efforts contribute to the success of the main business objectives.
The more shared objectives you have across your organization, the more your teams will be aligned with the overarching business strategy. This is what we call " alignment health ”.
Here’s how you can see the shared objectives in the alignment map and analyze alignment health within Cascade:
You get a snapshot of how is your corporate strategic plan aligned with sub-plans from different business units or departments and the status of shared objectives. This helps you quickly identify misaligned initiatives and act before it’s too late. Plus, cross-functional teams have better visibility of how their efforts contribute to shared objectives.
So whether you choose contributing objectives or shared objectives, Cascade has the tools and features to help you achieve organization-wide alignment and boost your bottom line.
Quick Overview Of Key Steps In Writing A Strategic Plan
Here’s a quick infographic to help you remember how everything connects and why each element is critical to creating an effective strategic plan:
This simple answer to how to write a strategic plan avoids confusing jargon and has elements that the whole organization can both get behind and understand.
💡Tip: Save this image or bookmark this article for your next strategic planning session.
If you're struggling to write an execution-ready strategic plan, the Cascade model is the solution you've been looking for. With its clear, easy-to-understand terminology, and simple linkages between objectives, projects, and KPIs, you can create a plan that's both scalable and flexible.
But why is a flexible and execution-ready strategic plan so important? It's simple: without a clear and actionable plan, you'll never be able to achieve your business objectives. By using the Cascade Strategic Planning Model, you'll be able to create a plan that's both tangible and measurable, with KPIs that help you track progress towards your goals.
However, the real value of the Cascade framework lies in its flexibility . By creating links between main business objectives and your teams’ objectives, you can easily scale your plan without losing focus. Plus, the model's structure of linked layers means that you can always adjust your strategy in response to new challenges or opportunities and keep everyone on the same page.
So if you want to achieve results with your strategic plan, start using Cascade today. With its unique combination of flexibility and focus, it's the perfect tool for any organization looking to master strategy execution and succeed in today's fast-paced business world.
Want to see Cascade in action? Get started for free or book a 1:1 demo with Cascade’s in-house strategy expert.
This article is part one of our mini-series "How to Write a Strategic Plan". This first article will give you a solid strategy model for your plan and get the strategic thinking going.
Think of it as the foundation for your new strategy. Subsequent parts of the series will show you how to create the content for your strategic plan.
Articles in our How to Write a Strategic Plan series
- How To Write A Strategic Plan: The Cascade Model (This article)
- How to Write a Good Vision Statement
- How To Create Company Values
- Creating Strategic Focus Areas
- How To Write Strategic Objective
- How To Create Effective Projects
- How To Write KPIs + Ultimate Guide To Strategic Planning
More resources on strategic planning and strategy execution:
- 6 Steps to Successful Strategy Execution
- 4-Step Strategy Reporting Process (With Template)
- Annual Planning: Plan Like a Pro In 5 Steps (+ Template)
- 18 Free Strategic Plan Templates (Excel & Cascade) 2023
- The Right Way To Set Team Goals
- 23 Best Strategy Tools For Your Organization in 2023
7 Tips For Better Board Reporting
Horizontal Vs Vertical Strategic Alignment
6 Steps To Successful Strategy Execution
5 PMO Templates And Tools To Deliver Your Portfolio Value
Your toolkit for strategy success.