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Strategic planning is a process that outlines the direction of an organization. It identifies how an organization will allocate their resources to achieve a desired future state while positioning itself to be competitive within the industry. Through this process, areas of excellence and improvement are substantiated, and organizational goals are aligned to ensure that all entities are moving in the same direction.

Goals, outcomes and benefits of strategic planning include the following:

  • Defining an overarching vision for the organization
  • Identifying areas of excellence in which to invest
  • Acquiring necessary resources for new initiatives
  • Prioritizing critical issues
  • Aligning organizational goals so that stakeholders are moving in a common direction
  • Increasing motivation, commitment, and teamwork/Enhancing communication
  • Adapting more effectively to changing circumstances
  • Positioning an organization to be competitive
  • Developing shared criteria for evaluation


The process of strategic planning itself seeks to answer four fundamental questions:

  • Where is the organization today?
  • Where should the organization be in the future?
  • How should the organization get there?
  • Is the organization getting there?

These questions can be answered for the whole organization, individual departments, or even certain service lines. Developing a plan that answers these questions is a multi-step process consisting of:

Where is the organization today?

  • An initial planning phase during which the scope of a given strategic project is determined and stakeholders are aligned.
  • An environmental assessment where the organization’s/service’s current position is evaluated through data acquisition and analysis, focus groups, surveys, stakeholder interviews, and benchmarking.


Where should the organization be in the future? AND How should the organization get there?

  • A mission, vision, goal, and strategy development process that involves examining the acquired information to articulate a desired future state and the changes necessary to realize this vision.
  • The creation of a final plan document as well as an implementation plan and metrics scorecard.


Is the organization getting there?

  • An ongoing system for tracking the plan’s progress by reviewing key metrics and having discussions with those responsible for the plan’s execution.


Leadership - At its core, strategic planning is a leadership function that benefits anyone in a leadership position. A strategic plan is more likely to succeed if the impetus for strategic planning comes from the top and the organization’s leader is prepared to visibly and consistently commit the organization to a strategic process.

Organizational Integration - To be effective, strategy cannot stand alone or apart from operations. If strategy defines the desired future states and the means to that end, “operations” defines, allocates, and manages the necessary resources. Key areas include:

  • Linking to annual forecasts and budgets: Strategic plans involve change, and change often requires the investment of resources. To succeed, the strategic planning process must include the means by which its resource estimates and priorities become part of the institution’s long-range resource forecasts and annual budgets.
  • Coordinating with related organization(s): Few organizational units stand entirely on their own. To succeed, the strategic planning process must anticipate and involve participants from other affected units and must be communicated regularly across the organization.
  • Assignment of ownership and accountability: The organization’s management must, in the end, embrace assignment of ownership and accountability. To succeed, the strategic plan and the organization’s leadership must clearly assign and communicate organizational and individual responsibilities for the successful execution and implementation of each goal and strategy.

Group on Institutional Planning (GIP) Toolkit (PDF)

Creating Strategic Plans

Step 1: Initial Planning (Approval, Scope, Timeframe, Stakeholders, Planning Team)

The goals of the initial planning phase are to: 1) clarify the scope of the strategic plan; 2) organize the planning process; and 3) identify stakeholders and possibly a list of steering committee members to be involved with the development and implementation of the plan.

Step 2: Environmental Assessment

The objective of the environmental assessment phase is to define and collect the necessary data to understand the service’s current state. Some questions an environmental assessment hopes to answer include:

  • What does the service’s historical performance indicate?
  • What trends are impacting the organization?
  • What opportunities or threats are facing the service or organization?
  • What strengths or weaknesses does the service or organization possess?


This is accomplished through interviews, data analysis, focus groups, surveys, internal and/or external benchmarking, and sometimes an innovation assessment. The end result of this phase should be a summary document that provides an accurate representation of the present environment while identifying both issues and opportunities. Assistance of a business manager is helpful in identifying data and doing the analyses.

Step 3: Mission, Vision, Goal and Strategy Formation

The purpose of this step is to agree on your current mission, create a future vision for the organization/service and generate short-term goals and detailed strategies towards reaching this desired state.

The formation of the mission, vision and accompanying goals is accomplished through brainstorming and discussions with senior leadership/stakeholders while the formation of strategies is best achieved by smaller workgroups comprised of those that will be directly involved in implementation. In the last part of this phase, the direction and strategies are used to generate volume projections and a pro forma validating the expected successes of plan implementation.

Step 4: Final Plan Development and Approval/Endorsement

The goal of this step is to: 1) compile the necessary documents for senior leadership and key stakeholders in the organization/service; and 2) secure plan confirmation/approval. The purpose is to provide senior leadership/key stakeholders with the information needed to make decisions regarding the organization/service. In addition, senior management will want to understand how the organization/service will drive implementation (i.e., how the plan will be implemented). An implementation plan and scorecard are useful tools to facilitate this discussion.

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Implementing Strategic Plans

The strategic plan should be a living document that helps drive decision making for leaders and teams. It should be reviewed periodically to assess progress.

Step 1: Develop an Implementation Plan

Once you know what you want to achieve and how, develop an implementation plan that highlights strategy leaders, timeline (including interdependencies) and resources needed (both existing and incremental). This not only helps the department organize around their plan but provide direction for enabling business entities such as advancement, space planning, communications, and government affairs.

Step 2: Scorecard Development and On-Going Review

Prior to the completion of the plan, determine how frequently the plan will be re-evaluated and how often updates will be given to senior leadership/key stakeholders. Develop a scorecard that compares actual performance to targets for key plan metrics.

To ensure that the plan is moving forward, periodic meetings with individuals denoted in the implementation plan may be needed to discuss progress and any factors that mitigate the plan’s success. Adjustments may be needed to the planned timeline, or to strategies and resources.

Step 3: Communications Plan

Once your plan is complete and approved by senior leadership, it is important to communicate it to key stakeholders including faculty and staff, boards, alumni, philanthropists/foundations, politicians and other influencers. Additionally, work with your communication’s team to ensure regular communications tie to the strategic plan progress whenever possible. Encourage your leader to mention their strategic plan in regular interactions and how the plan impacts his/her decision making and prioritization.

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Use of Data and Scorecards in Strategic Plans

It is important to understand if your actions are creating the progress desired. Therefore, it is important to develop metrics to track your success and make changes to the plan if needed. Leadership and key stakeholders will also want to understand that goals are being achieved.

  • Tracking progress allows you to advocate for support, financial or otherwise, as you move forward in your plan. A few points to consider when developing dashboard:
  • It will be important to identify metrics in key areas that will demonstrate progress toward goals (e.g., clinical volume, quality and safety, financial, research funding, etc.).
  • Targets for each metric should be identified. /Metrics should be compiled in a scorecard for tracking progress over time. Actual performance should be compared to the targets.


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Strategic Planning Presentations

  • Communicating Your Strategic Plan: To Enlighten, Convince, Motivate, and Align (webinar). Download the related notes by Shari Capers and Rebecca Saavedra.
  • The Changing Environment (PDF): How do you plan for the long term in an ever changing environment? This resource provides an overview of things to consider as a clinical, research, educational or institutional plan is developed and how to leverage effective strategies to cope with changing circumstances. 
  • Introduction to Strategic Planning (PDF): This presentation introduces the concept of strategic planning and illustrates how strategic planning can help your institution. In this presentation, you will learn how to develop the strategic direction, assess the environment and establish goals. 
  • Environmental Assessment Tools (PDF): Strategic planning emphasizes assessment of the environment both inside and outside of the organization. This presentation includes an in-depth discussion of research data that are publicly available and the practical uses of the data that can be used in the environmental assessment. 
  • Assessment of the Local Healthcare Market  (PDF): Assessing the local healthcare market is critical in development of a strategic plan. This presentation focuses on leveraging comparative healthcare market indicators to determine where investments in clinical services might be useful and the most effective.
  • Organization Alignment (PDF): For your strategic plan to succeed, each person in your organization must support it. This session will focus on the importance of, and ways to gain buy-in from, the university or other institutional leaders, identify project leaders, and develop a communication plan.
  • Performance Excellence and Continuous Improvement Methods (PDF): There are many tools, methods, templates and frameworks that can be utilized in strategic planning. This presentation provides a brief introduction to some of the more well known frameworks. While the method itself can be a valuable asset in strategic planning, the adaptability of the different frameworks to fit your unique planning needs is where the real value is derived. Gain a better understanding of how to utilize some of the different methods and potential outcomes by utilizing these tools.
  • Developing the Action Plan: Moving from Planning to Action (PDF): Moving beyond the development of the strategy and goals, this presentation focuses on elements important for the success of the strategic plan. Coordinated action across the institution is the key to success. In this presentation we will examine how resource plans are constructed and how to develop and identify key stakeholders and resources needed to achieve your goals.
  • Managing Your Strategic Plan (PDF): This presentation offers examples of metrics, scorecards, dashboards, and other tracking tools for accountability. Included in the session will be a discussion of return on investment, delegation and assignment of responsibilities, and staffing and effort associated with managing your plan. 
  • The Future (PDF): What has changed over the years in strategic planning and what should we expect in the years to come? What are the new technologies and technologies coming down the pipeline that will help the strategic planning process be successful? This is a chance to think toward the future, and to help better position yourself, as a strategic planner, to be ‘strategically thinking’ toward future opportunities.

Strategic Planning Career Development

Planners are masters of process. Planners must skillfully employ a variety of techniques to shepherd participants through the steps of visioning, environmental assessment, development of goals, objectives and strategies, and tactical planning for implementation. The skills involved are both substantive and political.

Planners must be generalists with the ability to master new subject areas quickly. In one instance, the planner may be called on to facilitate planning for managed care networks, and in the next, be called on to plan for a transgenic animal program. The potential topical areas are nearly limitless, and the planner must be comfortable working with technical material that may be unfamiliar.

The roles that planners are called on to play are even more varied than the many different organizations that make up academic medicine. The senior planning position in a large organization, such as an academic medical center, would include all of the elements listed below. Senior planners in smaller organizations, or specialists within a planning group, may have responsibilities requiring some of these abilities, but not all of them.

Competencies are listed below:

  • High Performing Teams
  • Change Management
  • Coaching Skills
  • Facilitation Skills
  • Lean- A3
  • Leadership Building
  • Project Management
  • Situation Analysis

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