top of page

*The One-Page Strategic Plan

Not too many semesters ago, I taught a graduate course on Strategic Planning in the MBA program at Western Carolina University. I enjoyed teaching the course and took it quite seriously - striving to keep the content up to date with the latest in research, theory, and publications. Eventually, I created a Strategic Planning Guidebook that reflected my thinking on the topic. The Guidebook encouraged having the senior leadership of an organization create the Vision, Mission, and Core Values of the entity and then to involve a wider scope of key managers to conduct research and to create the plan. An External Situational Analysis is created comprised of an Environmental Scan of current trends that could affect the business followed by an Industry Analysis, Market Analysis, and Competitive Benchmarking. Once the external factors outside of the control of the organization are identified, the focus turns to internal factors - a Value Chain Analysis, a Resource Review for Competitive Advantage, and a Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats, and Opportunities matrix is created. The 'art' of strategic planning is to look for synergies between the SWOT elements to suggest new, winning ideas that lead to strategies for improving performance. Using strengths to capitalize on opportunities creates offensive strategies while doing so to minimize threats generates defensive strategies. The strategic planners create goals while functional managers create the programs, budgets, and operational plans for executing the final plan. This usually results in a 25-35 page document.

All was going fine throughout the semester until one bright student, Drake Fowler, asked a challenging question. "Dr. Wright, what is the value of creating a detailed strategic plan that is only going to go on a shelf and be forgotten about a week or so after it is written?" That pretty much took all of the air out of my sail for that class. In an attempt to save a little face, I turned the question back to the student. "Drake", I asked, "how would you suggest the strategic plan become part of the day-to-day business?" The following week, Drake surprised me with a brilliant concept: the one-page strategic plan.

The one-page strategic plan is essentially a summary document of the essential elements of the strategic plan presented on a poster. The poster displays the vision, mission, and core values statements, with the grand strategies, goals, and programs outlined over the relevant time period. Drake, somewhat of a graphic artist, made the poster colorful and interesting, with the company logo and marketing tag line included. He suggested the document be posted throughout the facility and on the firm's digital home screen for users. In this way, the strategic plan would be a reminder throughout each day as an influence on decision making, planning, and actions.

How is the one-page plan created? It is not easy. Here are the instructions provided by Drake:

Getting to One Page

1. Evaluate the strategy to determine what areas of the business (functions, budgets, or programs) are impacted. If it seems that the overall plan contains too many strategic elements, abstraction may be required to roll up initiatives into broader, higher level strategies. The goal is to end up with 3 to 5 major strategies. 2. Identify the key programs or tactics that will be used for each element. These are action-oriented items that focus on the key steps to achieve the overall plan. 3. Reduce the number of words used to describe the strategy and tactics. Break longer statements into their core meanings. 1 2 34 5 Vision Environmental Strategy Strategy Evaluation & Mission Scanning Formulation Implementation Control Core Values *Understanding what affects *SWOT *Programs *Monitoring your organization Analysis *Budgets Performance *Procedures Typical Strategic Planning Process 5

4. Weed out repetition and overlap from the list. If an item shows up in two places, pick the one most appropriate place. Repeating an item does not make it more important, it just makes it redundant.

5. Parse each statement to remove adjectives, adverbs, and superlatives. Identify static nouns and replace them with action verbs.


There is no simpler way to express this important step except to say that “design matters”. Once the strategic plan is distilled to its essence, a graphic designer may be helpful to create a layout that expresses the plan simply. The use of color and shape, font, and even the spacing between letters (kerning) can help convey the full intent of the plan. Dieter Rams, industrial designer at Braun, said, “Good design is making something intelligible and memorable. Great design is making something memorable and meaningful.” The design of the one page strategic plan should create something that has meaning to every member of the organization. It is the company’s road map to success. It should be clear, concise, powerful, and beautiful.

Below is a sample of a one-page strategic plan created by students for the WCU MBA Program

*1. Wright, E. W., Fowler, D., Moss, H. (2016). The One Page Strategic Plan. Supervision, 2(77).


bottom of page