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Strategic Plan Definitions

Strategic Plan Book Cover


While planning and plans are related terms and concepts, they are different and should not be used interchangeably. Planning is at its core, a process. It is the work of making decisions about future directions and activities at an organization. It allows an organization to decide what should be done, what can be done, how to do it, when to do it, who will do it, how much it will cost, and how to know when it is successfully completed. The planning process requires individuals to gain an understanding of the organization, its parts, its environment, and how it all works together prior to making decisions about the future. Only through this process can an organization establish realistic goals.

A plan is a written statement of the conclusions reached during the planning process. It is a document of major decisions that should be used to assist in the coordination, control, and assessment of the activities called for in the plan.


There are two types of planning in organizations: strategic and operational. Strategic Planning is a future-focused endeavor which requires an organization to collaboratively examine its environment and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses – all within the context of its Mission. Through that process of examination and evaluation, priorities and goals must be developed and clearly articulated. The Strategic Plan serves as the articulation of the priorities and goals arrived at during the Strategic Planning process. Typically, strategic plans are designed to be carried out over a five-year period.

Operational Planning and the resulting plans detail how the operating areas of the organization will achieve the goals laid out in the strategic plan. Operational Planning requires the various parts of the organization to make decisions about the role they will play in helping to fulfill the organization’s strategic goals. Operational plans are at the unit/department and school level. The goals of these operational plans are guided by the strategic goals. The annual operating plans allow the College to implement its yearly goals while at the same time measuring incremental success on the Strategic Plan. Operational plans should be directly linked to Annual Operating and Capital Budgets, as well as other plans such as the Facilities Master Plan, Technology Plan, etc.