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Creating a Strategic Plan

Sector initiatives require a fine balance between maintaining focus on the goals and tasks at-hand and being open to new ideas or changes in course. This is where a road map can be useful. When changes occur (such as new members entering the partnership; a shift in immediate skills challenges in the industry; sudden changes to funding), the partnership needs a way to accomodate changing circumstances while staying focused on longer term goals. Developing a strategic plan early in the initiative's lifecycle will make this easier. It will also offer the partnership a framework for focusing decision-making, for defining success, and for maximizing limited time and resources.

A good strategic plan is more than a timeline of tasks toward a future goal. It should build directly off of the regional and industry analysis conducted in the early phases of the partnership's development. It should include a traditional SWOT analysis that walks the partners through potential strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the initiative. It should take into account current economic and political trends. Most importantly, it should include a unifying vision of the change desired by the partners. A set of clear goals (stick to 3 to 5) should be developed by consensus of the partnership, and each goal should be articulated with a measurable indicator of success. Getting all this on paper requires facilitation either by the intermediary or a third-party facilitator. This toolkit includes a variety of strategic planning tools that can help. A strategic plan is never final or set in stone, but it is a blueprint for the partnership to take action and monitor their progress.