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Definition of a strategic plan and some implications for general counsel

An article in the Admin. Sciences Quarterly, Vol. 54, June 2009 at 272, somewhat ponderously defines strategic plans as “formal documents that articulate organizational goals and the means by which to achieve them over a specified period of time and propose to promote effective management by prioritizing goals under resource constraints.”

For a chief legal officer, the unpacked version of that sentence means the department’s strategic plan (1) states in writing (2) the goals the department wants to achieve and (3) how it will achieve those goals during (4) a year to five years and implicitly (5) what goals it will not try to achieve in light of (6) limited resources.

It is not enough to record the aspirations of the department; the plan must also explain what the department will do (with individual accountabilities and milestones in the better plans) to get there. A strategic plan needs a timeframe, be it one year or five years, and to be realistic it needs to acknowledge that not everything can be accomplished; some things must go. The plan should be a roadmap for a relatively few, specific priorities (See my post of June 25, 2008: strategic plan with 10 references.).