Strategic plans are designed to help organizations achieve long-term goals and objectives, but for a strategic plan to remain relevant and guide an organization effectively, it needs to be reviewed on a regular basis and updated when necessary. The optimal frequency for reviewing and updating a strategic plan can vary depending on factors like the organization’s industry, size, resources, and rate of change in its external environment. Most experts recommend conducting comprehensive reviews of the strategic plan at least once a year, with some interim reviews throughout the year as well.
Conducting an annual review allows an organization to assess progress made against the strategic plan on a regular cadence. It provides an opportunity to revisit goals, objectives, strategies, and initiatives outlined in the plan and evaluate whether they are still appropriate given changes that may have occurred internally or externally over the past year. An annual review meeting typically involves gathering key stakeholders from across the organization who were involved in developing the original plan. During the meeting, participants discuss what strategic priorities and tactics worked well over the past 12 months and which may need refining. They also look at whether the overall vision and mission still align with the organization’s current direction or if updates are warranted. Data on key performance indicators is analyzed to determine what strategic priorities drove the most success and where improvements are needed. The annual review culminates with an assessment of whether any elements of the plan, such as timelines, budgets, or departmental responsibilities need modification to optimize results over the coming year.
While an annual comprehensive review provides the necessary periodic check-in, some organizations also find value in conducting interim reviews on a quarterly or biannual basis. These shorter check-ins allow for more frequent monitoring of progress against objectives and timelines outlined in the plan. They provide opportunities to course correct sooner if implementation is lagging or external factors arise requiring an adjustment of strategic priorities mid-year. During interim reviews, participants typically focus the discussion on a subset of strategic initiatives, priorities or key performance indicators to keep the meetings efficient. Any recommended changes uncovered during an interim review would then be documented and fully evaluated during the next annual review meeting when a comprehensive refresh is conducted if needed.
For organizations operating in dynamic industries or markets that change rapidly, it may even make sense to review the strategic plan on a semi-annual basis to ensure it remains optimally aligned. Reviews that are conducted too frequently, such as monthly, run the risk of disrupting implementation efforts by constantly refining priorities before they have had enough time to take hold. There also needs to be a balance between reviewing frequently enough to stay nimble without expending too many resources on the review process itself.
The timing of annual reviews is also an important consideration. Most experts recommend scheduling the annual strategic plan review meeting towards the end of the fiscal or calendar year, typically in the last quarter. This allows time following the meeting to refine implementation plans for the coming year based on insights from the review. It also provides a natural checkpoint at the close of the year to evaluate performance and progress made against the existing plan. Some organizations find value in conducting a portion of the annual review mid-year as well to incorporate any learnings or adjustments into the second half implementation.
Regardless of review frequency or timing, it is critical that strategic plan reviews involve gathering input from leaders and contributors across all divisions and levels of the organization. Getting diverse perspectives is important for identifying opportunities or risks that may not be as obvious from an executive level view. The review process also needs to incorporate analysis of both qualitative and quantitative performance data to ensure any recommended updates to strategies or priorities are firmly grounded in facts rather objective opinions. With regular, systematic reviews built into the process, an organization’s strategic plan has the best chance of remaining an effective roadmap to drive long-term success even as internal or external conditions inevitably change over time.
Most experts agree that reviewing a strategic plan at minimum on an annual basis, with some organizations benefitting from additional interim reviews quarterly or biannually, provides the necessary cadence to evaluate progress and ensure the plan remains optimally aligned. The overriding goal of maintaining a regular review schedule is to continuously refine implementation strategies based on learnings so the organization can dynamically respond to opportunities while navigating challenges to stay on track with its long-term vision.