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How to Build Your Strategic Foundation

Before you can really develop a strategic plan, you must know why you’re doing what you’re doing (your mission), where you’re trying to go (your vision), and how you’re going to go about it (your values). These are the glue that holds an organization together. You preserve these elements while your strategies and goals change and flex with the market.

You may modify your mission, vision, or values over time, but the intent stays unchanged. So, you will have complete clarity when making critical business decisions that impact your future.

Your mission, vision, and values can sound abstract, esoteric, and downright fluffy to a lot of people, especially those who are burning to move forward with a real-world project. These people don’t want to hang back conceptualizing about people’s wishes and dreams.

Don’t let being pragmatic get in the way of this important stage of building a strong foundation of consensus for your organization. If you don’t take the time to articulate mission, values, and vision on the front end, you may pay for it later when you’re trying to write goals and objectives without a crystal clear strategic direction.

Following an average time frame for the strategic planning process, these tasks should take you approximately two weeks to complete. Take a look at your strategic foundation — the core and the future of your business — by using the framework in the table.

Your Core Your Future
DNA: What you do best (competitive advantage) Future vision: Where you’re headed (vision statement)
Core purpose: Why you exist (mission statement) Future description: What does it look like — your envisioned future (vivid description)
Core values: What you stand for (values statement)

After you complete the first phase of the strategic management process, you will see how all the elements of your strategic foundation — competitive advantage, mission, values, vision, and vivid description — should work together. Remember these elements of your organization don’t change, or at least they don’t change significantly. Your strategies, goals, objectives, and actions change based on market conditions, but they’re always built on your strategic foundation.

Bring all the elements together in a strategic foundation sheet like the examples shown in the figures. This sheet is an excellent document to include in a new employee packet, post in the break room, hand out to every employee, and use in strategy meetings. It gives everyone a bigger sense of purpose and an understanding of what your organization is all about.

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