Strategy is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals. Strategy is important because the resources available to achieve these goals are usually limited. Strategy generally involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions. A strategy describes how the ends (goals) will be achieved by the means (resources).
The following is a five-step process for building a Safety Strategic Plan. The steps outlined below describe the basic work that needs to be completed.
STEP 1 – DEVELOP A WORK PLAN
To get ready for strategic planning, an organization must have leaders that are truly committed to the effort, and whether they are able to devote the necessary attention to the "big picture."
A Safety Planning Committee that determines it is ready to begin strategic planning must perform four tasks before proceeding:
- Identify specific issues that the planning process should address
- Clarify roles (who does what in the process)
- Create a Planning Committee
- Identify the information that must be collected to help make sound decisions.
STEP 2 - ARTICULATE MISSION AND VISION
A Safety Planning Committee‘s ability to articulate its mission indicates its focus and purposefulness. Whereas the mission statement summarizes the what, how, and why of an organization's work, a vision statement presents an image of what success will look like. For example, “Zero Accidents.”
With mission and vision statements completed, the Safety Planning Committee has taken an important step towards creating a shared, coherent idea of what it is strategically planning for.
STEP 3 - ASSESS THE CURRENT SITUATION
The Safety Planning Committee must take a clear-eyed look at its current situation. What are the organization's strengths, weaknesses, and performance - information that will highlight the critical issues that the organization faces and that its strategic plan must address. These could include a variety of primary concerns, such as funding, new program opportunities, changing regulations. The Safety Planning Committee needs to agree on no more than five to ten critical issues around which to organize the strategic plan.
STEP 4 - DEVELOP STRATEGIES, GOALS, AND OBJECTIVES
At this stage it is time to determine how to address the critical issues of Step 3… the broad approaches to be taken (strategies), and the general and specific results to be sought (the goals and objectives). Strategies, goals, and objectives may come from individual input in brainstorming, group discussion, formal decision-making techniques, etc. In the end, the Safety Panning Team agrees on how to address the critical issues.
This can take considerable time and flexibility: discussions frequently require additional information or a reevaluation of conclusions reached during the situation assessment. Plus, new insights will emerge which change the thrust of the mission statement. It is important that the Safety Planning Committee is not afraid to go back to an earlier step in the process and take advantage of available information to create the best possible plan.
STEP 5 – COMPLETE THE STRATEGIC PLAN
This step is a compilation of the information garnered in Steps 1-4 and essentially involves putting all that down on paper. Usually one member of the Safety Planning Committee, the chairperson, or even a planning consultant will draft a final planning document and submit it for review. This is also the time to consult with senior staff to determine whether the document can be translated into operating plans (the subsequent detailed action plans for accomplishing the goals proposed by the strategic plan) and to ensure that the plan answers key questions about priorities and directions in sufficient detail to serve as a guide. Revisions should not be dragged out for months, but action should be taken to answer any important questions that are raised at this step. It would certainly be a mistake to bury conflict at this step just to wrap up the process more quickly, because the conflict, if serious, will inevitably undermine the potency of the strategic directions chosen by the planning committee. However, do not succumb to “Paralysis by Analysis.”
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