« Posts

What vs. How: Establishing a Common Vocabulary for Strategic Planning

As discussed in our organizational direction post, a vision statement is an image of the future that an organization seeks to create—or rather, what the organization wants to be in the future.  While establishing a vision is a critical component of strategic planning, it does not address howan organization will realize its desired future state.  The next step in the development of a strategic plan—strategy formulation—seeks to answer the following “how” questions:

  • How do we define success?
  • How do we get there?

Strategy formulation is guided by an organization’s overall strategy, or the principle means for accomplishing the vision, and its major outputs include goals, major initiatives, and objectives.  This component of the strategic plan is often challenging for many health care organizations, as the number of means to realize a vision appear infinite. Developing too many vague goals can be avoided by first establishing a common vocabulary, as outlined below, among participants in the strategic planning process.


Distinguishing the whats from the hows is a simple but important step in the strategic planning process.  Developing a common framework from which to build the strategic plan will help avoid confusion and lead to more concise and clear outputs as the process unfolds.