Some Characteristics of Good Strategic Plans

Dwight Eisenhower once said, "I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable." It's a good way of saying that effective strategies must be adaptable by nature. Rigid sets of instructions just won't do.

Still, a well conceived and written strategic plan can be a helpful guide for programs, policies, and processes if it achieves some basic things. Note that most of these characteristics have less to do with the plans' format and more to do with its practicality and clarity. To these ends, good strategic plans share the following characteristics.

  • Accountability—responsibility is assigned for successful completion of initiatives.
  • Balance—the plans guide not only financial decision-making, but also operational and human resources issues.
  • Flexibility—a mechanism for changing and updating the plan is built into the process.
  • Manageability—in-process measures are identified to ensure processes are working as intended, critical performance issues are addressed, resources required are projected, and methods of status reporting are in place.
  • Prioritization—priorities are established whenever there are multiple interdependent action plans.
  • Realism—the question of what the organization can do versus what it would like to do is addressed rationally, though the tone is optimistic.
  • Specificity—expected results and milestones are clearly defined, along with the specific actions for implementation and the deliverables for each step.
  • Sustainability—a sufficient time period is covered to close performance gaps.