Strategic Planning for Teams

Creating strategic plans for an individual team is not something I’ve found is common but I feel it can be worthwhile. Typically, we are given goals and do the work to figure out how to achieve them, and that cycle repeats itself regularly over time. I found that when I got my first development team that they were gaps in understanding those goals; why were the goals set, what did they accomplish for the company. why were they appropriate for the team and how each team member contributed to the achievement of the goal?

Initially I took the route of team building in the hopes that bring the them together as a functioning unit would address some of these issues (more on that in a later post).  What I found it is that even with a cohesive team we still had those gaps and that contributed to a somewhat of an existential crisis for individuals who needed the why’s answered.

My first strategic plan was just that – why are we here and at a very basic level it was effective.  The more complex our world became the more I formalized the process and I feel like I’ve come up with a pretty good straightforward set of steps to building a strategic plan.

Note: strategic plans for me are not any different than creating a business plan or a marketing plan, it is at heart a definition of problems with an outline of solutions.


I find that the best place to start he is with your mission, and or your vision for the team.  This one is absolutely the hardest peace on to building a plan for me.  Analytics and they must time to sell off.  But to start with an exercise similar to writing a user story.  I prefer using to-that-to over as-I need-to, like so:

Our mission is…

To <your product>

That <does what?>

To <benefit provided>

In the case of my development team there are a few different functions we provide but at the highest level it comes down to – Our mission is to collaboratively provide solutions that automate processes, support decision making and provide timely insights to help the business focus on achieving their goals.

If you’re spending too much time on routine, mundane or automatable tasks, we can help you and we’ll do it by building the solution with you.  I think that last part is key, it takes your mission (why we’re here) and combines of with your vision (who we are). Both are valuable and I think spending time on defining your core values is worth it.


Once you have your mission or vision statements, figuring out what your challenges are in a living up to those is the next step.  I use SWOT to accomplish that, there are other ways to do it but I feel like this is easiest way to get it done.  Really you are taking a hard look at your team when defining strengths and weaknesses and the doing the same for your group, division, company, and market looking for any and all influences to your desired outcome.




Stable, mature methodology

Product development skills

Business acumen

Delivery time

Accuracy of development




Need for faster development schedules

Need for more accurate products
Need for proof of concept work

Need for nimble systems





Lack of relationships in new structure

Clear objectives, long term goals

New members are silo’d





Discard of products rather than rework

Preference to purchase instead of build

Protectionism/Politicization of projects



And here’s where you start building you’re your strategies.  I take every item on that opportunity list and match it up with the strengths that I’ve laid out on in that area; the need for more accurate products matches a very neatly with our accuracy of development which is based on our product development skills and our stable mature methodology…  It’s pretty easy to connect these up when you get going.  Once you’ve gone through all those and matched them up, do a gut check and ask for each opportunity how you’ll respond. You’ll know you’re on the right path if it sounds natural. The next step would be to take all of your weaknesses and threats and work through them as you would any other risk; avoid, mitigate, transfer (I wish that worked!) or accept. I also like to additionally think through how I could convert them to strengths/opportunities and also how I could defend ourselves from them.


Objectives & Measurements

At this point you should have your mission/vision statement(s), a list of strategies to convert your opportunities by using your strengths and how you’re going to overcome or manage your weaknesses and threats. From there it comes down to taking all those and outlining the steps needed to accomplish, how much time it’ll take to do so, and also how you will know that you have been successful.  For the latter I like to use specific metrics; defect rates, accuracy percentages, changes to velocity.  The Fillmore specific and unemotional the metrics are the easier it is to show your progress towards them.

I also think closing with a summarization paragraph that outlines how the team knows their successful in plain terms can help build a shared understanding of the responsibilities that go into that success. It may take a few tries and some refining but I think it’s very important and may even be the thing most commonly referenced out of the plan. Here’s the one I’m working on right now…

Our team’s success comes through… robust, reliable project and product performance… which comes through delivering the highest quality and valuable products when they are needed … which stems from superior product development and lifecycle management methodologies…and ensuring that the team has all of the tools and resources needed to execute successfully… every time.



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