The responsibility for setting strategic direction is a collaborative responsibility that starts at the highest levels of the organization and then cascades down throughout the organization as goals and objectives are established, and strategies and tactics are formulated. In organizations that are governed by boards of directors, the boards will set the overall strategic direction. In smaller organizations, that direction may come from the owner, or the senior leaders of the organization. In either case, the responsibilities will be the same.
Establishing the Organization's Mission, Vision and Values
An organization's mission, vision and values guide the direction of the organization and are established at its highest level. In organizations with boards of directors, the board is responsible for establishing the mission, vision and values. The mission is an indication of why the company exists and who it exists to serve. The vision is a statement of an organization's long-range intended outcomes. Values are statements of what the organization stands for -- or will not stand for.
Gathering Input From Internal and External Sources
In setting strategic direction for an organization it is important to consider both internal and external factors that may impact its success. Internal factors may include such things as employee turnover, employee satisfaction, sales data or customer service data. External data may include information about competitors, the economic landscape, industry data and market data. Having a process in place to continually monitor and review data can be an important way to ensure that the organization is avoiding blind spots that may impact its ability to achieve desired outcomes.
Establishing Goals and Objectives
Goals and objectives identify where the company would like to head and what it would like to achieve. Goals are broad and general; objectives are more specific and should provide enough detail that, after a plan has been implemented, two independent observers could indicate whether or not the objective had been achieved. For example, a goal might be to "increase market share." A related objective might be to increase market share in XYZ geographic area by 25 percent by the end of the third quarter.
Identifying Strategies and Tactics
Strategies and tactics are designed to support goals and objectives and provide specific direction to individual parts of the organization -- or to individuals. Strategies are statements of how goals and objectives will be met -- "create a marketing campaign," for example. Tactics are designed in support of strategies and indicate, specifically, the action steps that will be taken to achieve the strategies. "General RFPs for advertising agencies," for example. Strategies and tactics represent the task lists or "to dos" that the organization will take in support of its overall plan.