2. Setting Strategic Direction


Planners carefully come to conclusions about what the organization must do as a result of the major issues and opportunities facing the organization. These conclusions include what overall accomplishments (or "strategic goals") the organization should achieve, and the overall methods (or "strategies") to achieve the accomplishments. Goals should be designed and worded as much as possible to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Acceptable to those working to achieve the goals
  • Realistic
  • Timely
  • Extending the capabilities of those working to achieve the goals
  • Rewarding to those working to achieve the goals

An acronym for these criteria is "SMARTER."

Strategic Philosophy

At some point in the strategic planning process (sometimes in the activity of setting the strategic direction), planners identify or update what might be called the strategic "philosophy". This includes identifying or updating the organization's mission, vision and/or values statements. "Mission statements" are brief written descriptions of the purpose of the organization. Mission statements vary in nature from very brief to quite comprehensive, and including having a specific purpose statement that is part of the overall mission statement. Many people consider the values statement and vision statement to be part of the mission statement.

Vision statements are usually a compelling description of how the organization will or should operate at some point in the future and of how customers or clients are benefiting from the organization's products and services. Values statements list the overall priorities in how the organization will operate. Some people focus the values statement on moral values. Moral values are values that suggest overall priorities in how people ought to act in the world, for example, integrity, honesty, respect, etc. Other people include operational values which suggest overall priorities for the organization, for example, to expand market share, increase efficiency, etc.