Strategic Planning: 8 Steps Back, 10 Steps Forward

First, Look back!  

That’s right, I’m going to spend time looking back in order to move forward well. Here are some options for reviewing the year.


What went well this past year? What did I most enjoy doing? What energized my team?


What is different now than the beginning of the year? Who is no longer with us? What new people entered our lives? What new things did we try or develop?


What was especially significant about this year, for me personally? For our team? What significant moments happened, and what do I want to remember about those experiences? What did I/we do that took courage?


What progress did we make toward reaching our goals? Which goals did we let go of and why? What goals do we still want to reach?


What would I/we have preferred to have less of this past year? What loss did we grieve? What still needs to be grieved? What still needs to be forgiven? What do I still need to ask forgiveness for?


What is there to be grateful for? Who do we need to thank? What hard things can I be thankful for?


What did we learn? What did I learn about myself, my strengths, my needs? What did I learn about my team members, their strengths, their needs? What did we learn about our projects/plans? What did we learn about life, growth, God, and/or about working with others?


Capture the past year with a word, picture, or metaphor. For example, If this past year could be summed up in three words, what would we choose? Or if this past year were a (type of movie, a mode of transportation, a stage of life, etc.) what would it be?

Looking Forward

Parts of “An Illuminated Life” by Claire Buswell served as inspiration for this section
and can be found on her website

Now that you’ve reflected and have some take-aways from your past year, it’s time to:


Determine a time frame for which you are looking forward . . . a year, two, five, ten?


Read them over, explain them to someone, write them out as if to an 8-year-old. Do something to familiarize yourself with them again. If you’ve never done Mission Vision Values, consider spending your planning time working on these. If you like, See Beyond can facilitate this process for you (or any other part of this planning process).



Let yourself develop a picture of an ideal future (in your chosen time frame). Make it visual, close your eyes, and picture it - don’t worry about the words. If you are a detail oriented person, or one who always thinks of all the implications, intentionally put those strengths on hold (for now - you’ll use them later). Let your dreaming be adventurous and focus on the big picture. If you are dreaming in a group setting, be audacious and speak out about your dream to others. See what that does to develop your dream further and to spur you or others on in their thinking. You're visioning!


Write out your vision for the upcoming time frame. Don’t skip this. Writing it out clarifies what you are hoping for. This is NOT the plan on how to get there, it’s a statement of an ideal future. Let it be full of the passion that makes you want it, and by all means, it should be at least somewhat beyond what seems realistic - otherwise it’s not a vision.


(Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Take some time to take note of your Strengths and Weaknesses. (These are internal, be it personally about you, or internal to your team/org.) Be as honest and frank as you are able. Then, take note of the Opportunities and Threats that exist in your external environment. This part of the process is best done with others' involvement. So, get ideas and input from others about SWOT.


Take time to adjust your vision or your big picture goals based on your learning points from past years, counsel, and your own analysis of the implications involved from the intersection of your vision and your SWOT analysis.


Look at where you want to be and where you are now, take note of the gap, and start jotting down some of the things that have to happen between now and then. What are the major areas that need attention in order for your vision to be accomplished?


Which of the areas from step 7 are key to the others? Which areas most influence the success of achieving the dream? Organize these in a way that makes sense to you. Prioritize them, and make sure everything isn’t a top priority! That doesn’t work. Your top priorities (a few areas) are your strategic thrusts for this time period.



Now, take each of your strategic thrusts, and write out concrete doable goals. Create plenty of stair-step goals (some for sooner, some for later), so that you are seeing progress over time, and have something to measure your progress by. Make your goals doable by making them SMART:  (There are many forms of this, but I like the original: specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-related). Actually, go put action points in your calendar that help you build toward your goals.


You just finished some planning designed to propel you forward! What will you do to celebrate the work you put into strategic planning? Dance? Go out for ice cream? Enjoy an afternoon off? It takes a lot of work to do a good job, and that’s worth celebrating.

Et Voilà! You’ve got some concrete goals to move you forward. Now comes the work of building buy-in with others before plunging into implementation. You can learn more about this vital step in the article:  “Between Vision and Reality”!