How to Create and Use a Strategic Plan

Version 2021.1

This section provides guidance on how to create and use a departmental strategic plan that aligns with your institution’s mission, vision, and values and that identifies prioritized actions your department can take over a multi-year period. The plan, an internally-facing document, developed through conversation and reviewed regularly, represents a departmental commitment to

Strategic Objectives

Statements describing what a department wants to achieve in a way that progress can be measured within a specific time frame.


Departmental Actions

Activities a department undertakes to achieve strategic objectives.

, and

Measurable Outcomes

Metrics that codify the desired intermediate progress and ultimate outcomes of a department toward achieving its strategic objectives.

. For additional guidance and an example, see the resources on Creating SMART Goals and Structure of a Strategic Plan. A department strategic plan may be developed as an aspect or consequence of a program review (see the section on How to Undertake an Undergraduate Program Review) or developed by a department at a time when new initiatives are needed, even if not part of the schedule of program reviews. For guidance on departmental mission, vision, and values statements, see the section on How to Create and Use Foundational Documents.


A strategic plan declares departmental priorities, highlights the distinctive features of a program, guides department activities, and enables department leaders to advocate for resources and communicate strategies to achieve successes. The plan can provide a transparent framework for resource allocation and an outline of common initiatives through which members contribute to improving the department—factors especially important in challenging budgetary environments. Constructing or revising the plan provides an opportunity for members of a department to incorporate diverse perspectives in envisioning its future, recognize individual activities, gauge successes and needs, and help articulate its mission and/or values. A collaboratively developed plan can serve as a road map to focus the attention and develop buy-in of department members and administrators and guide a systematic approach to departmental improvement.

The Cycle of Reflection and Action

Effective Practices

Effective Practices

  1. Design and follow an inclusive process for developing or revising a departmental strategic plan

  2. Adopt, use, and maintain the plan

Resources within the EP3 guide:

External resources:

  • K. Halvorson, What Is Strategy (and Why Should You Care)?, Brain Traffic (2017): A description of the differences among and importance of specific foundational documents, such as vision and mission statements. Useful as a quick reference on how to use these documents.
Stay Informed with Updates
Our quarterly newsletter keeps you in the loop about events, ways to get involved, and the latest EP3 Guide content.
By signing up, I agree to the APS Privacy Policy.
EP3 Logo

Brought to you by

Funding provided by

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1738311, 1747563, and 1821372. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

This site is governed by the APS Privacy and other policies.

© 2024 The American Physical Society