States have different ways of defining goals, objectives and strategies. The New York State Council on the Arts, in its Renewing NYSCA: A Five-Year View, 1999-2003, gives the following succinct definitions that you might find useful in your own planning:
Goal: Goals are desired future results or conditions that help to realize the vision of the agency or resolve issues. Goals describe a vision accomplished or problem solved. Goals tend to be general, long term, and result oriented. Goals answer, What difference are we trying to make or why?
Objective: Objectives state specific, achievable results consistent with the goal. Objectives are targeted, specific outcomes. Objectives answer, What is achieved?
Strategy: Strategies are general approaches or methods utilized to fulfill objectives. Strategies answer, How are objectives achieved?
Example: Goals, Objectives and Strategies in South Dakota
Goal: To remove barriers to accessibility.
Objective A: Assist South Dakota arts institutions to become more aware of the legal requirements and ways to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). (This is one of five objectives listed.)
Strategies for Objective A: Feature explanatory and "how-to" articles in publications. Present related workshops at conferences. Maintain ADA references. Assess grantee ADA compliance as part of updating South Dakota Arts Council plan.
Many of the major decisions about your plan may already have been made earlier in the process as you described your mission and values. Now the major work is to codify the results of prior meetings and discussions in the form of goals, objectives and strategies—the statements that specify what you will accomplish and how. At the same time, you will need to decide on priorities, targeting those goals and strategies that are more important than others. Which will take precedence in the short term because they need immediate attention? Which will become priorities because they provide the most leverage for significant change in the long term?
How do you get from the broad themes you've identified early in the process to the identification of major goals and the creation of objectives and strategies? At this point in your planning you have a number of options, depending on the structure you've set up for planning, your layers of accountability, and the degree to which you want to be inclusive but still get things done. For some states this means taking separate themes and assigning them to specific committees or task forces that report back with their recommendations. Others may opt for coming to consensus in small groups or in large retreat settings. Many states create early drafts of their plans that include decisions made to date and then invite a response from a broad cross-section of constituents. It is not unusual for a plan to go through two or three of these drafts, garnering more responses and support along the way, until the agency's administration, council and staff feel they have reached a comfortable point of conclusion.