Strategic Plan Structure

A strategic plan can strengthen your organization — refocus it on what’s genuinely important — redirect it in face of changing circumstances. Strategic planning is challenging. And, when done well, it’s enjoyable and creative. Developed in the order listed, the following components become a strategic action plan. (Examples are from a collaborative community process that focused on strengthening local education.)


Aspirational Goals (Why we do what we do) a.k.a. mission or vision. Example: Children succeed academically

Desired Outcomes (What success will look like) a.k.a. results In some situations, aspirational goals and desired outcomes may be the same. Example: Literate children

Objectives (What are measureable subsets of our goals and outcomes?) a.k.a. targets. Example: 90% 3rd grade literacy by 2020

Indicators (What will reveal the effects of our actions?) a.k.a. sub-goal or factor. In some situations, objectives and indicators may be the same. This component can be very useful in some situations, less in others. Example: 3rd Grade literacy

Metrics (What will quantify the effects of our actions?) a.k.a. measures. Based on indicators. This component can be very useful, but is not always essential. Example: A particular test of 3 rd Grade literacy.

Prospective Actions (How we will cause the change we desire) a.k.a. solutions, tactics, projects, programs, initiatives. Example: Hire tutors

Barriers (What could get in the way of prospective actions?) a.k.a. obstacles. Considering barriers may change our ideas on what actions to take or they may indicate additional actions we need to take to overcome the barriers. Example: Insufficient community support

Criteria (On what basis will we choose priority actions?) a.k.a. standards. Usually, these ased on desired outcomes. Example: Achievable next year, history of success.

Chosen Actions (What we will do) a.k.a. solutions, tactics, projects, programs, initiatives. Example: Seek volunteer tutors

Tasks (Who will do what, where, and when?) Example: X organization will develop a tutor-recruitment campaign in Y neighborhood next summer


Regarding the terms used here: Although experience indicates that the terms in bold tend to be well understood by most participants, terms do vary among places and organizations. To avoid confusion, participants should agree on a particular set of terms, whatever they may be. Notice that alternative terms are offered here (a.k.a.). In a particular community’s planning process, the choice of terms is less important than the relationships among the components they designate. That is, each component should build on prior components and inform the next.