The first step in the strategic process is to set the goals for the organization, division or individual. The goals have to be set in the context of the firm, the market it operates in and the competitive environment. The goals also have to be congruent with the vision of the organization.

Management often makes the mistake of setting the goals rather than the vision for the organization. The first step in obtaining employee buy-in to the strategic process is to have the entire organization involved in setting the goals. This does not mean that management devolves responsibility for leading the organization. Rather it means that management must clearly articulate its vision and then allow staff the freedom to develop the strategies that will bring that vision forth.

Note that the three stages in the strategic process overlap. The "end" of the goals level leads into and develops the strategic level. Once the goals are clearly and finally established, the next task is to establish tactics that will implement the goals according to the strategies selected.