What's Your Question?
Understanding the Succession Planning Process
The process by which you train and prepare employees to fill crucial roles within an organization is known as succession planning. This process ensures that the business continues its day-to-day operations as usual. This article will highlight the steps in the succession planning process.
Timeline and Training
No matter the type or size of your organization, succession planning is essential to continue to have your business run smoothly upon your departure. It’s important to identify your successor well in advance so that they may be properly trained for the role. This training may occur years in advance of the anticipated exit from the company. You may identify someone who needs to start at a lower position within the company and work their way up through the ranks to achieve a thorough training and knowledge base or you may have to cross-train them for several different roles.
Identify the Positions Needing Successors
Although succession planning usually refers to high-leadership roles in a company, it can apply to other roles as well. One of the first steps in this process is to recognize which roles within your company will need a successor if the current employee leaves. You’ll want to analyze which positions impact the revenue or growth of the company. This profit could be compromised if a successor is not put into place.
Informing Key Players
You’ll want to have a discussion with all the key players, those currently in a role identified as needing a successor and those who you would like to groom to take the role over. You should make sure that everyone is agreeable and on the same page. The current employee should be willing to train their successor so that a seamless transition can take place once the time comes. The person identified as the successor should be motivated to learn the role they will step into one day and a timeline should be established. Typically these identified successors feel an increase of pride and a greater investment in the company, according to The Balance website.
Internal vs. External Successors
Identifying an internal successor has multiple benefits. They know the company’s culture, have a sense of loyalty from currently working there and have been through the basic training program. In addition, they know colleagues internally and may also know some of the external clients as well. In cases where a suitable internal employee can’t be identified, an external one may have to be. This will entail more effort and time to be invested in finding and training a suitable candidate.
Succession Planning Benefit
Succession planning is a key necessity in running an efficient business. You want to have a plan for the future of the company, and identifying and training successors to step into key roles will ensure that your organization doesn’t miss a beat.
MORE FROM QUESTIONSANSWERED.NET
5 steps of the strategic planning process
Reading time: about 6 min
Posted by: Lucid Content Team
Strategic planning process steps
- Determine your strategic position.
- Prioritize your objectives.
- Develop a strategic plan.
- Execute and manage your plan.
- Review and revise the plan.
Every business should have a strategic plan—but the number of businesses that try to operate without a defined plan (or at least a clearly communicated one) might surprise you. Research from OnStrategy shows that 86% of executive teams spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy, and 95% of a typical workforce doesn’t understand its organization’s strategy.
Because so many businesses lack in these regards, you can get ahead of the game by using strategic planning. In this article, we will explain what the strategic planning process looks like and the steps involved.
What is the strategic planning process?
In the simplest terms, the strategic planning process is the method that organizations use to develop plans to achieve overall, long-term goals.
This process differs from the project planning process, which is used to scope and assign tasks for individual projects, or strategy mapping , which helps you determine your mission, vision, and goals.
The strategic planning process is broad—it helps you create a roadmap for which strategic objectives you should put effort into achieving and which initiatives would be less helpful to the business.
Before you begin the strategic planning process, it is important to review some steps to set you and your organization up for success.
1. Determine your strategic position
This preparation phase sets the foundation for all work going forward. You need to know where you are to determine where you need to go and how you will get there.
Involve the right stakeholders from the start, considering both internal and external sources. Identify key strategic issues by talking with executives at your company, pulling in customer insights, and collecting industry and market data. This will give you a clear picture of your position in the market and customer insight.
It can also be helpful to review—or create if you don’t have them already—your company’s mission and vision statements to give yourself and your team a clear image of what success looks like for your business. In addition, review your company’s core values to remind yourself about how your company plans to achieve these objectives.
To get started, use industry and market data, including customer insights and current/future demands, to identify the issues that need to be addressed. Document your organization's internal strengths and weaknesses, along with external opportunities (ways your organization can grow in order to fill needs that the market does not currently fill) and threats (your competition).
As a framework for your initial analysis, use a SWOT diagram. With input from executives, customers, and external market data, you can quickly categorize your findings as Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) to clarify your current position.
An alternative to a SWOT is PEST analysis. Standing for Political, Economic, Socio-cultural, and Technological, PEST is a strategic tool used to clarify threats and opportunities for your business.
As you synthesize this information, your unique strategic position in the market will become clear, and you can start solidifying a few key strategic objectives. Often, these objectives are set with a three- to five-year horizon in mind.
2. Prioritize your objectives
Once you have identified your current position in the market, it is time to determine objectives that will help you achieve your goals. Your objectives should align with your company mission and vision.
Prioritize your objectives by asking important questions such as:
- Which of these initiatives will have the greatest impact on achieving our company mission/vision and improving our position in the market?
- What types of impact are most important (e.g. customer acquisition vs. revenue)?
- How will the competition react?
- Which initiatives are most urgent?
- What will we need to do to accomplish our goals?
- How will we measure our progress and determine whether we achieved our goals?
Objectives should be distinct and measurable to help you reach your long-term strategic goals and initiatives outlined in step one. Potential objectives can be updating website content, improving email open rates, and generating new leads in the pipeline.
3. Develop a plan
Now it's time to create a strategic plan to reach your goals successfully. This step requires determining the tactics necessary to attain your objectives and designating a timeline and clearly communicating responsibilities.
Strategy mapping is an effective tool to visualize your entire plan. Working from the top-down, strategy maps make it simple to view business processes and identify gaps for improvement.
Truly strategic choices usually involve a trade-off in opportunity cost. For example, your company may decide not to put as much funding behind customer support, so that it can put more funding into creating an intuitive user experience.
Be prepared to use your values, mission statement, and established priorities to say “no” to initiatives that won’t enhance your long-term strategic position.
4. Execute and manage the plan
Once you have the plan, you’re ready to implement it. First, communicate the plan to the organization by sharing relevant documentation. Then, the actual work begins.
Turn your broader strategy into a concrete plan by mapping your processes. Use key performance indicator (KPI) dashboards to communicate team responsibilities clearly. This granular approach illustrates the completion process and ownership for each step of the way.
Set up regular reviews with individual contributors and their managers and determine check-in points to ensure you’re on track.
5. Review and revise the plan
The final stage of the plan—to review and revise—gives you an opportunity to reevaluate your priorities and course-correct based on past successes or failures.
On a quarterly basis, determine which KPIs your team has met and how you can continue to meet them, adapting your plan as necessary. On an annual basis, it’s important to reevaluate your priorities and strategic position to ensure that you stay on track for success in the long run.
Track your progress using balanced scorecards to comprehensively understand of your business's performance and execute strategic goals.
Over time you may find that your mission and vision need to change — an annual evaluation is a good time to consider those changes, prepare a new plan, and implement again.
Master the strategic planning process steps
As you continue to implement the strategic planning process, repeating each step regularly, you will start to make measurable progress toward achieving your company’s vision.
Instead of constantly putting out fires, reacting to the competition, or focusing on the latest hot-button initiative, you’ll be able to maintain a long-term perspective and make decisions that will keep you on the path to success for years to come.
Get started with a strategy map template.
Sign up to get the latest Lucidchart updates and tips delivered to your inbox once a month.
Lucidchart is the intelligent diagramming application that empowers teams to clarify complexity, align their insights, and build the future—faster. With this intuitive, cloud-based solution, everyone can work visually and collaborate in real time while building flowcharts, mockups, UML diagrams, and more.
The most popular online Visio alternative , Lucidchart is utilized in over 180 countries by millions of users, from sales managers mapping out target organizations to IT directors visualizing their network infrastructure.
Business Model Canvas 101: A Step-by-Step Guide to Strengthening Your Strategy
Define Your Business with a Strategy Mapping Template
Build leaders that accelerate team performance and engagement.
Drive productivity through sustained well-being and mental health for all employees with BetterUp Care™.
Transform your business, starting with your sales leaders.
Foster a culture of inclusion and belonging.
See how innovative companies use BetterUp to build a thriving workforce.
- For Individuals
Best practices, research, and tools to fuel individual and business growth.
View on-demand BetterUp events and learn about upcoming live discussions.
The latest insights and ideas for building a high-performing workplace.
Innovative research featured in peer-reviewed journals, press, and more.
We're on a mission to help everyone live with clarity, purpose, and passion.
Join us and create impactful change.
Read the buzz about BetterUp.
Meet the leadership that's passionate about empowering your workforce.
Strategic planning: Read this before it's that time again
Jump to section
What is strategic planning?
What is strategic plan management?
Benefits of robust strategic planning and management
10 steps in the strategic planning process.
Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. - Dwight D. Eisenhower
It’s that time again.
Every three to five years, most larger organizations periodically plan for the future. Many times strategic planning documents are shelved and forgotten until the next cycle begins. On the other hand, many smaller and newer organizations, propelled by urgency, may not devote the necessary time and energy to the strategic planning process.
Only 63% of businesses plan more than a year out. They fail to see that — contrary to Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire cat — “any way” does not take you there.
For all organizations, a more rigorous annual planning process is critical for driving future success, profitability, value, and impact.
John Kotter, a former professor at Harvard Business School and noted expert on innovation says, “ Strategy should be viewed as a dynamic force that constantly seeks opportunities, identifies initiatives that will capitalize on them, and completes those initiatives swiftly and efficiently.”
There’s hardly a better case that can be made for dynamic planning than in the tech industry, where mergers and acquisitions are accelerating exponentially. Companies need to be nimble enough to navigate rapid change . In this case, planning should occur quarterly.
Strategic planning is an ongoing process by which an organization sets its forward course by bringing all of its stakeholders together to examine current realities and define its vision for the future.
It examines its strengths, weaknesses, and strengths, resources available, and opportunities. Strategic planning seeks to anticipate future industry trends . During the process, the organization creates a vision, articulates its purpose, and sets strategic goals that are long-term and forward-focused.
Those strategic goals inform operational goals and incremental milestones that need to be reached. The operational plan has clear objectives and supporting initiatives tied to metrics to which everyone is accountable . The plan should be agile enough to allow for recalibrating when necessary and redistributing resources based on internal and external forces.
The output of the planning process is a document that is shared across the enterprise.
Strategic planning for individuals
Strategic planning isn’t just for companies. At BetterUp, strategic planning is one of the skills that we identify, track, and develop within the Whole Person Model . For individuals, strategic planning is the ability to think through ways to achieve desired outcomes. Just as strategic planning helps organizations realize their goals for the future, it helps individuals grow and achieve goals in a unified direction.
Working backward from the desired outcome, effective strategic planning consists of coming up with the steps we need to take today in order to get where we want to be tomorrow.
While no plan is infallible, people who develop this skill are good at checking to make sure that their actions are in alignment with the outcomes that they want to see in the future. Even when things don’t go according to plan, their long-term goals act as a “North star” to get them back on course. In addition, envisioning desired future states and figuring out how to turn them into reality enhances an individual’s sense of personal meaning and motivation.
Whether we’re talking about strategic planning for the company or the individual, strategic plans can go awry in a variety of ways including:
- Unrealistic goals and too many priorities
- Poor communication
- Using the wrong measures
- Lack of leadership
The extent to which that document is shelved until the next planning cycle or becomes a dynamic map of the future depends on the people responsible for overseeing the execution of the plan.
What is strategic plan management?
"Most people think of strategy as an event, but that’s not the way the world works," according to Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen. "When we run into unanticipated opportunities and threats, we have to respond. Sometimes we respond successfully; sometimes we don’t. But most strategies develop through this process. More often than not, the strategy that leads to success emerges through a process that works 24/7 in almost every industry."
Strategic business management is the ongoing process by which an organization creates and sustains a successful roadmap that moves the company in the direction it needs to move, year after year, for long-term success. It spans from research and formulation to execution, evaluation, and adjustment. Given the pace of change, strategic management is more relevant and important than ever for assigning measurable goals and action steps
Many organizations fail because they don’t have the strategic management team at the table right from the beginning of the planning process. A strategic plan is only as good as its ability to be executed and sustained.
A strategic management initiative might be driven by an internal group — many companies have an internal strategy team — or an outside consulting firm. Ultimately company leaders need to own executing and sustaining the strategy.
Strategic management teams
In this Harvard Business Review article, Ron Carucci from consulting firm Navalent reports that 61% of executives in a 10-year longitudinal study felt they were not prepared for the strategic challenges they faced upon being appointed to senior leadership roles. Lack of commitment to the plan is also a contributing factor. In addition, leaders attending to quarterly targets, crisis management , and reconciling budgets often consider the execution of a long-term strategy a low priority.
A dedicated strategic management team works with those senior leaders and managers throughout the organization to communicate, coordinate and evaluate progress against goals. They tie strategic objectives to day-to-day operational metrics throughout the enterprise.
A good strategic management group can assist in creating a culture of empowerment and learning . It holds regular meetings with employees. It sets a clear agenda and expectations to make the strategic plan real and compelling to the organization through concrete objectives, results, and timelines.
Strategy development is a lot of work, but the benefits are lasting. After all, as the saying goes, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Taking the time for review and planning activities has the following benefits:
- Organizations and people are set up to succeed
- Increased likelihood of staying on track
- Decreased likelihood of being distracted or derailed
- Progress through the plan is communicated throughout the organization
- Metrics facilitate course correction
- Budgets enterprise-wide are based on strategy
- Cross-organization alignment
- Robust employee performance and compensation plans
- Commitment to learning and training
- A robust strategic planning process gets everyone involved and invested in the organizations
- Employees inform management about what’s working or not working at the operational level
- Innovation is encouraged and rewarded
- Increased productivity
1. Define mission and vision
Begin by articulating the organization's vision for the future. Ask, "What would success look like in five years?" Create a mission statement describing organizational values and how you intend to reach the vision. What values inform and determine mission, vision, and purpose?
Purpose-driven strategic goals articulate the “why” of what the corporation is doing. It connects the vision statement to specific objectives, drawing a line between the larger goals and the work that teams and individuals do.
2. Conduct a comprehensive assessment
This stage includes identifying an organization’s strategic position.
Gathering data from internal and external environments and respective stakeholders takes place at this time. Involving employees and customers in the research.
The task is to gather market data through research. One of the most critical components of this stage is a comprehensive SWOT analysis that involves gathering people and bringing perspectives from all stakeholders to determine:
- W eaknesses
- O pportunities
Strengths and weaknesses — In this stage, planners identify the company’s assets that contribute to its current competitive advantage and/or the likelihood of a significant increase in the organization’s market share in the future. It should be an objective assessment rather than an inflated perspective of its strengths.
An accurate assessment of weaknesses requires looking outward at external forces that can reveal new opportunities as well as threats. Consider the massive shift in multiple industries whose strategy has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While it was disastrous to the airline and restaurant industries’ business models , tech companies were able to seize the opportunity and address the demands of remote work.
Michael Porter’s book Competetive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors claims that there are five forces at work in an industry that influence that industry’s ability to develop a competitive strategy. Since the book was published in 1979, organizations have turned to Porter’s theory to create their strategic framework.
Here are the 5 forces (and key questions) that determine the competitive strategy for most industries.
- Competitive rivalry : When considering the strengths of an organization’s competitors it’s important to ask: How do our products/services hold up to our competition? If the rivalry is intense, companies need to consider what capacity they have to gain leverage through price cuts or bold marketing strategies. If there is little competition, the organization has a substantial gain in the market.
- Supplier power: How might suppliers influence strategy? For example, what if suppliers raised their prices? To what extent would a company need a particular supplier for our product(s)? Is it possible to switch suppliers in a way that is more cost effective and efficient? The number of suppliers that exist will determine your ability to keep costs low.
- Buyer power: To what extent do buyers have the ability to shop around right into the hands of your competitors? How much power does your customer base have in determining price? A small number of well-informed buyers shifts the power in their direction while a large pool may give you the strategic advantage
- Threat of substitution: What is the threat of a company’s buyer substituting your services/products from the competition? What if the buyer figures out another way to access the services/products that it offers?
- Threat of new entry: How easy is it for newcomers to enter the organization’s market?
Considering the factors above, determine the company’s value through financial forecasting . While almost certainly to become a moving target influenced by the five forces, a forecast can assign initial anticipated measurable results expected in the plan or ROI: profits/cost of investment.
4. Set the organizational direction of the business
The above research and assessment will help an organization to set goals and priorities. Too often an organization’s strategic plan is too broad and over-ambitious. Planners need to ask, ”What kind of impact are we seeking to have, and in what time frame?” They need to drill down to objectives that will have the most impact.
5. Create strategic objectives
This next phase of operational planning consists of creating strategic objectives and initiatives. Kaplan and Norton posit in their balanced scorecard methodology that there are four perspectives for consideration in identifying the conditions for success. They are interrelated and must be evaluated simultaneously.
- Financial : Such considerations as growing shareholder value, increasing revenue, managing cost, profitability, or financial stability inform strategic initiatives.
- Customer-satisfaction: Objectives can be determined by identifying targets related to one or some of the following: value for the cost, best service, increased market share, or providing customers with solutions.
- Internal processes such as operational processes and efficiencies, investment in innovation, investment in total quality and performance management , cost reduction, improvement of workplace safety, or streamlining processes.
- Learning and growth: Organizations must ask: Are initiatives in place in terms of human capital and learning and growth to sustain change? Objectives may include employee retention, productivity, building high-performing teams, or creating a pipeline for future leaders .
6. Align with key stakeholders
It’s a team effort. The success of the plan is in direct proportion to the organization’s commitment to inform and engage the entire workforce in strategy execution. People will only be committed to strategy implementation when they're connected to the organization's goals. With everyone pulling in the same direction, cross-functional decision-making becomes easier and more aligned.
7. Begin strategy mapping
A strategy map is a powerful tool for illustrating the cause-effect of those perspectives and connecting them to between 12 and 18 strategic objectives. Since most people are visual learners, the map provides an easy-to-understand diagram for everyone in the organization creating shared knowledge at all levels.
8. Determine strategic initiatives
Following the development of strategic objectives, strategic initiatives are determined. These are the actions the organization will take to reach those objectives. They may relate initiatives related to factors such as scope, budget, raising brand awareness, product development, and employee training.
9. Benchmark performance measures and analysis
Strategic initiatives inform SMART goals to which metrics are assigned to evaluate performance. These measures cascade from senior management to management to front-line workers. At this stage, the task is to create goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based informing the operational plan.
Benchmarks are established against so that performance can be measures, and a time frame is created. Key performance indicators (KPI’s) are assigned based on organizational goals. These indicators align workers’ performance and productivity with long-term strategic objectives.
10. Performance evaluation
Assessment of whether the plan has been successful . It measures activities and progress toward objectives and allows for the creation of improved plans and objectives in order to improve overall performance .
Think of strategic planning as a circular process beginning and ending with evaluation. Adjust a plan as necessary. The pace at which review of the plan is necessary may be once a year for many organizations or quarterly for organizations in rapidly evolving industries.
Prioritizing the strategic planning process
The strategic planning meeting may have a reputation for being just another to-do, but it might be time to take a second look. With the right action plan and a little strategic thinking, you can reinvigorate your business environment and start planning for success.
It's that time to get excited about the future again.
Betterup Fellow Coach, M.S.Ed, M.S.O.D.
4 reasons why you can't afford to skip out on succession planning
Contingency planning: 4 steps to prepare for the unexpected, strategic plan vs. work plan: what's the difference, the only guide you’ll ever need for career planning, what is strategic plan management and how does it benefit teams, strategy versus tactics: planning and executing on your goals, declining capabilities in productivity and wellness signal a need for worker support, how to excel at life planning (a life planning template), how to use strategic foresight to stay ahead of the curve, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..
1200 Folsom St San Francisco, CA 94103
- Sales Performance
- Diversity & Inclusion
- Case Studies
- News and Press
- Leadership Team
- Become a BetterUp Coach
- [email protected]
- Contact Sales
- Acceptable Use Policy
- Trust & Security
- Cookie Preferences
English | Deutsch | UK English | Français
- CIO strategy
- Stephen J. Bigelow, Senior Technology Editor
- Mary K. Pratt
What is strategic planning?
Strategic planning is a process in which an organization's leaders define their vision for the future and identify their organization's goals and objectives. The process includes establishing the sequence in which those goals should be realized so that the organization can reach its stated vision.
Strategic planning typically represents mid- to long-term goals with a life span of three to five years, though it can go longer. This is different than business planning, which typically focuses on short-term, tactical goals, such as how a budget is divided up. The time covered by a business plan can range from several months to several years.
The product of strategic planning is a strategic plan. It is often reflected in a plan document or other media. These plans can be easily shared, understood and followed by various people including employees, customers, business partners and investors.
Organizations conduct strategic planning periodically to consider the effect of changing business, industry, legal and regulatory conditions . A strategic plan may be updated and revised at that time to reflect any strategic changes.
Why is strategic planning important?
Businesses need direction and organizational goals to work toward. Strategic planning offers that type of guidance. Essentially, a strategic plan is a roadmap to get to business goals. Without such guidance, there is no way to tell whether a business is on track to reach its goals.
The following four aspects of strategy development are worth attention:
- The mission. Strategic planning starts with a mission that offers a company a sense of purpose and direction. The organization's mission statement describes who it is, what it does and where it wants to go. Missions are typically broad but actionable. For example, a business in the education industry might seek to be a leader in online virtual educational tools and services.
- The goals. Strategic planning involves selecting goals. Most planning uses SMART goals -- specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound -- or other objectively measurable goals. Measurable goals are important because they enable business leaders to determine how well the business is performing against goals and the overall mission. Goal setting for the fictitious educational business might include releasing the first version of a virtual classroom platform within two years or increasing sales of an existing tool by 30% in the next year.
- Alignment with short-term goals. Strategic planning relates directly to short-term, tactical business planning and can help business leaders with everyday decision-making that better aligns with business strategy. For the fictitious educational business, leaders might choose to make strategic investments in communication and collaboration technologies, such as virtual classroom software and services but decline opportunities to establish physical classroom facilities.
- Evaluation and revision. Strategic planning helps business leaders periodically evaluate progress against the plan and make changes or adjustments in response to changing conditions. For example, a business may seek a global presence, but legal and regulatory restrictions could emerge that affect its ability to operate in certain geographic regions. As result, business leaders might have to revise the strategic plan to redefine objectives or change progress metrics.
What are the steps in the strategic planning process?
There are myriad different ways to approach strategic planning depending on the type of business and the granularity required. Most strategic planning cycles can be summarized in these five steps:
Identify. A strategic planning cycle starts with the determination of a business's current strategic position. This is where stakeholders use the existing strategic plan -- including the mission statement and long-term strategic goals -- to perform assessments of the business and its environment. These assessments can include a needs assessment or a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to understand the state of the business and the path ahead.
Prioritize. Next, strategic planners set objectives and initiatives that line up with the company mission and goals and will move the business toward achieving its goals. There may be many potential goals, so planning prioritizes the most important, relevant and urgent ones. Goals may include a consideration of resource requirements -- such as budgets and equipment -- and they often involve a timeline and business metrics or KPIs for measuring progress.
Develop. This is the main thrust of strategic planning in which stakeholders collaborate to formulate the steps or tactics necessary to attain a stated strategic objective. This may involve creating numerous short-term tactical business plans that fit into the overarching strategy. Stakeholders involved in plan development use various tools such as a strategy map to help visualize and tweak the plan. Developing the plan may involve cost and opportunity tradeoffs that reflect business priorities. Developers may reject some initiatives if they don't support the long-term strategy.
Implement. Once the strategic plan is developed, it's time to put it in motion. This requires clear communication across the organization to set responsibilities, make investments, adjust policies and processes, and establish measurement and reporting. Implementation typically includes strategic management with regular strategic reviews to ensure that plans stay on track.
Update. A strategic plan is periodically reviewed and revised to adjust priorities and reevaluate goals as business conditions change and new opportunities emerge. Quick reviews of metrics can happen quarterly, and adjustments to the strategic plan can occur annually. Stakeholders may use balanced scorecards and other tools to assess performance against goals.
Who does the strategic planning in a business?
A committee typically leads the strategic planning process. Planning experts recommend the committee include representatives from all areas within the enterprise and work in an open and transparent way where information is documented from start to finish.
The committee researches and gathers the information needed to understand the organization's current status and factors that will affect it in the future. The committee should solicit input and feedback to validate or challenge its assessment of the information.
The committee can opt to use one of many methodologies or strategic frameworks that have been developed to guide leaders through this process. These methodologies take the committee through a series of steps that include an analysis or assessment, strategy formulation, and the articulation and communication of the actions needed to move the organization toward its strategic vision.
The committee creates benchmarks that will enable the organization to determine how well it is performing against its goals as it implements the strategic plan. The planning process should also identify which executives are accountable for ensuring that benchmarking activities take place at planned times and that specific objectives are met.
How often should strategic planning be done?
There are no uniform requirements to dictate the frequency of a strategic planning cycle. However, there are common approaches.
- Quarterly reviews. Once a quarter is usually a convenient time frame to revisit assumptions made in the planning process and gauge progress by checking metrics against the plan.
- Annual reviews. A yearly review lets business leaders assess metrics for the previous four quarters and make informed adjustments to the plan.
Timetables are always subject to change. Timing should be flexible and tailored to the needs of a company. For example, a startup in a dynamic industry might revisit its strategic plan monthly. A mature business in a well-established industry might opt to revisit the plan less frequently.
Types of strategic plans
Strategic planning activities typically focus on three areas: business, corporate or functional. They break out as follows:
- Business. A business-centric strategic plan focuses on the competitive aspects of the organization -- creating competitive advantages and opportunities for growth. These plans adopt a mission evaluating the external business environment, setting goals, and allocating financial, human and technological resources to meet those goals. This is the typical strategic plan and the main focus of this article.
- Corporate. A corporate-centric plan defines how the company works. It focuses on organizing and aligning the structure of the business, its policies and processes and its senior leadership to meet desired goals. For example, the management of a research and development skunkworks might be structured to function dynamically and on an ad hoc basis. It would look different from the management team in finance or HR.
- Functional. Function-centric strategic plans fit within corporate-level strategies and provide a granular examination of specific departments or segments such as marketing, HR, finance and development. Functional plans focus on policy and process -- such as security and compliance -- while setting budgets and resource allocations.
In most cases, a strategic plan will involve elements of all three focus areas. But the plan may lean toward one focus area depending on the needs and type of business
What is strategic management?
Organizations that are best at aligning their actions with their strategic plans engage in strategic management. A strategic management process establishes ongoing practices to ensure that an organization's processes and resources support the strategic plan's mission and vision statement .
In simple terms, strategic management is the implementation of the strategy . As such, strategic management is sometimes referred to as strategy execution. Strategy execution involves identifying benchmarks, allocating financial and human resources and providing leadership to realize established goals.
Strategic management may involve a prescriptive or descriptive approach . A prescriptive approach focuses on how strategies should be created. It often uses an analytical approach -- such as SWOT or balanced scorecards -- to account for risks and opportunities. A descriptive approach focuses on how strategies should be implemented and typically relies on general guidelines or principles.
Given the similarities between strategic planning and strategic management, the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
What is a strategy map?
A strategy map is a planning tool or template used to help stakeholders visualize the complete strategy of a business as one interrelated graphic. These visualizations offer a powerful way for understanding and reviewing the cause-and-effect relationships among the elements of a business strategy.
While a map can be drawn in a number of ways, all strategy maps focus on four major business areas or categories: financial, customer, internal business processes (IBPs), and learning and growth. Goals sort into those four areas, and relationships or dependencies among those goals can be established.
For example, a strategy map might include a financial goal of reducing costs and an IBP goal to improve operational efficiency . These two goals are related and can help stakeholders understand that tasks such as improving operational workflows can reduce company costs and meet two elements of the strategic plan.
A strategy map can help translate overarching goals into an action plan and goals that can be aligned and implemented.
Strategy mapping can also help to identify strategic challenges that might not be obvious. For example, one learning and growth goal may be to increase employee expertise but that may expose unexpected challenges in employee retention and compensation, which affects cost reduction goals.
Benefits of strategic planning
Effective strategic planning has many benefits. It forces organizations to be aware of the future state of opportunities and challenges. It also forces them to anticipate risks and understand what resources will be needed to seize opportunities and overcome strategic issues.
Strategic planning also gives individuals a sense of direction and marshals them around a common mission. It creates standards and accountability. Strategic planning can enhance operational plans and efficiency. It also helps organizations limit time spent on crisis management , where they're reacting to unexpected changes that they failed to anticipate and prepare for.
Information technology is a key part of developing an effective strategic plan. Look at these six free IT strategic planning templates that can help make IT a driving force in a business.
Continue Reading About strategic planning
- Gartner: Three questions CIOs must ask before updating strategy post-pandemic
- How to create a great strategy in the digital age
- Infographic: Strategic IT plan checklist for CIOs
- The CIO role, from IT operator to business strategist
- How is digital transformation affecting the CIO role?
Dig deeper on cio strategy.
IT strategy (information technology strategy)
8 free IT strategic planning templates and examples for CIOs
Azure management groups, subscriptions, resource groups and resources are not mutually exclusive. Businesses can -- and often do ...
Amazon CodeGuru reviews code and suggests improvements to users looking to make their code more efficient as well as optimize ...
Establishing sound multi-cloud governance practices can mitigate challenges and enforce security. Review best practices and tools...
Configuration profiles make it easier to manage BYOD iPhones, but they're also associated with malware. Mobile security policies ...
User Enrollment creates a management profile for BYOD iPhones, but IT must remove that data in cases such as device loss or theft...
User Enrollment in iOS can separate work and personal data on BYOD devices. IT teams should learn how to enable it in Microsoft ...
Linux admins can use Cockpit to view Linux logs, monitor server performance and manage users. Use the tool to help admins manage ...
Hyperscale data centers can hold thousands of servers and process much more data than an enterprise facility. However, they can ...
Organizations that build 5G data centers may need to upgrade their infrastructure. These 5G providers offer products like virtual...
The Strategic Planning Process in 4 Steps
To assist you throughout your planning process, we have created a how-to guide on the basics of strategic planning which will take you through the planning process step-by-step..
Free Strategic Planning Guide
What is Strategic Planning?
Strategic Planning is a process where organizations define a bold vision and create a plan with objectives and goals to reach that future. A great strategic plan defines where your organization is going, how you’ll win, who must do what, and how you’ll review and adapt your strategy.
Overview of the complete strategic planning process:
Getting started: strategic planning introduction.
The strategic management process is about getting from Point A to Point B more effectively, efficiently, and enjoying the journey and learning from it. Part of that journey is the strategy and part of it is execution. Having a good strategy dictates “how” you travel the road you have selected and effective execution makes sure you are checking in along the way. On average, this process can take between three and four months. However no one organization is alike and you may decide to fast track your process or slow it down. Move at a pace that works best for you and your team and leverage this as a resource. For more of a deep dive look into each part of the planning phase, you will see a link to the detailed How-To Guide at the top of each phase.
1-2 weeks (1 hr meeting with Owner/CEO, Strategy Director and Facilitator (if necessary) to discuss information collected and direction for continued planning.)
Questions to Ask:
- Who is on your Planning Team?
- Who will be the business process owner (Strategy Director) of planning in your organization?
- Fast forward 12 months from now, what do you want to see differently in your organization as a result of embarking on this initiative?
- Planning team members are informed of their roles and responsibilities.
- Planning schedule is established.
- Existing planning information and secondary data collected.
Step 1: determine organizational readiness, set up your planning process for success – questions to ask:.
- Are the conditions and criteria for successful planning in place at the current time? Can certain pitfalls be avoided?
- Is this the appropriate time for your organization to initiate a planning process? Yes or no? If no, where do you go from here?
Step 2: Develop Your Team & Schedule
Who is going to be on your planning team? You need to choose someone to oversee the implementation (Chief Strategy Officer or Strategy Director) and then you need some of the key individuals and decision makers for this team. It should be a small group of approximately 12-15 persons.
OnStrategy is the leader in strategic planning and performance management. Our cloud-based software and hands-on services closes the gap between strategy and execution. Learn more about OnStrategy here .
Step 3: Collect Current Data
Collect the following information on your organization:
- The last strategic plan, even if it is not current
- Mission statement, vision statement, values statement
- Business plan
- Financial records for the last few years
- Marketing plan
- Other information, such as last year’s SWOT, sales figures and projections
Step 4:Review collected data:
Review the data collected in the last action with your strategy director and facilitator.
- What trends do you see?
- Are there areas of obvious weakness or strengths?
- Have you been following a plan or have you just been going along with the market?
Strategic Planning Phase 1: Determine Your Strategic Position
Want More? Deep Dive Into the “ Evaluate Your Strategic Position ” How-To Guide.
Step 1: identify strategic issues.
Strategic issues are critical unknowns that are driving you to embark on a strategic planning process now. These issues can be problems, opportunities, market shifts or anything else that is keeping you awake at night and begging for a solution or decision.
- How will we grow, stabilize, or retrench in order to sustain our organization into the future?
- How will we diversify our revenue to reduce our dependence on a major customer?
- What must we do to improve our cost structure and stay competitive?
- How and where must we innovate our products and services?
Step 2: Conduct an Environmental Scan
Conducting an environmental scan will help you understand your operating environment. An environmental scan is also referred to as a PEST analysis, which is an acronym for Political, Economic, Social and Technological trends. Sometimes it is helpful to also include Ecological and Legal trends as well. All of these trends play a part in determining the overall business environment.
Step 3: Conduct a Competitive Analysis
The reason to do a competitive analysis is to assess the opportunities and threats that may occur from those organizations competing for the same business you are. You need to have an understanding of what your competitors are or aren’t offering your potential customers. Here are a few other key ways a competitive analysis fits into strategic planning:
- To help you assess whether your competitive advantage is really an advantage.
- To understand what your competitors’ current and future strategies are so you can plan accordingly.
- To provide information that will help you evaluate your strategic decisions against what your competitors may or may not be doing.
Step 4: Identify Opportunities and Threats
Opportunities are situations that exist but must be acted on if the business is to benefit from them.
What do you want to capitalize on?
- What new needs of customers could you meet?
- What are the economic trends that benefit you?
- What are the emerging political and social opportunities?
- What niches have your competitors missed?
Threats refer to external conditions or barriers that may prevent a company from reaching its objectives.
What do you need to mitigate?
Questions to answer:.
- What are the negative economic trends?
- What are the negative political and social trends?
- Where are competitors about to bite you?
- Where are you vulnerable?
Step 5: Identify Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths refer to what your company does well.
What do you want to build on?
- What do you do well (in sales, marketing, operations, management)?
- What are your core competencies?
- What differentiates you from your competitors?
- Why do your customers buy from you?
Weaknesses refer to any limitations a company faces in developing or implementing a strategy.
What do you need to shore up?
- Where do you lack resources?
- What can you do better?
- Where are you losing money?
- In what areas do your competitors have an edge?
Step 6: Customer Segments
Customer segmentation defines the different groups of people or organizations a company aims to reach or serve.
Who are we providing value to?
- What needs or wants define your ideal customer?
- What characteristics describe your typical customer?
- Can you sort your customers into different profiles using their needs, wants and characteristics?
- Can you reach this segment through clear communication channels?
Step 7: Develop Your SWOT
A SWOT analysis is a quick way of examining your organization by looking at the internal strengths and weaknesses in relation to the external opportunities and threats. By creating a SWOT analysis, you can see all the important factors affecting your organization together in one place. It’s easy to read, easy to communicate, and easy to create. Take the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats you developed earlier, review, prioritize and combine like terms. The SWOT analysis helps you ask, and answer, the following questions: “How do you….”
- Build on your strengths
- Shore up your weaknesses
- Capitalize on your opportunities
- Manage your threats
Strategic Planning Process Phase 2: Developing Strategy
Want More? Deep Dive Into the “Developing Your Strategy” How-To Guide.
Step 1: Develop Your Mission Statement
The mission statement describes an organization’s purpose or reason for existing.
What is our purpose? Why do we exist? What do we do?
- What does your organization intend to accomplish?
- Why do you work here? Why is it special to work here?
- What would happen if we were not here?
Outcome: A short, concise, concrete statement that clearly defines the scope of the organization.
Step 2: discover your values.
Your values statement clarifies what your organization stands for, believes in and the behaviors you expect to see as a result.
How will we behave?
- What are the key non-negotiables that are critical to the success of the company?
- What are the guiding principles that are core to how we operate in this organization?
- What behaviors do you expect to see?
- If the circumstances changed and penalized us for holding this core value, would we still keep it?
Outcome: Short list of 5-7 core values.
Step 3: casting your vision statement.
A Vision Statement defines your desired future state and provides direction for where we are going as an organization.
Where are we going?
- What will our organization look like 5–10 years from now?
- What does success look like?
- What are we aspiring to achieve?
- What mountain are you climbing and why?
Outcome: A picture of the future.
Step 4: identify your competitive advantages.
A Competitive Advantage is a characteristic(s) of an organization that allows it to meet their customer’s need(s) better than their competition can.
What are we best at?
- What are your unique strengths?
- What are you best at in your market?
- Do your customers still value what is being delivered? Ask them.
- How do your value propositions stack up in the marketplace?
Outcome: A list of 2 or 3 items that honestly express the organization’s foundation for winning.
Step 5: crafting your organization-wide strategies.
Your strategies are the general methods you intend to use to reach your vision. No matter what the level, a strategy answers the question “how.”
How will we succeed?
- Broad: market scope; a relatively wide market emphasis.
- Narrow: limited to only one or few segments in the market
- Does your competitive position focus on lowest total cost or product/service differentiation or both?
Outcome: Establish the general, umbrella methods you intend to use to reach your vision.
Phase 3: strategic plan development.
Want More? Deep Dive Into the “Build Your Plan” How-To Guide.
Strategic Planning Process Step 1: Use Your SWOT to Set Priorities
If your team wants to take the next step in the SWOT analysis, apply the TOWS Strategic Alternatives Matrix to help you think about the options that you could pursue. To do this, match external opportunities and threats with your internal strengths and weaknesses, as illustrated in the matrix below:
TOWS Strategic Alternatives Matrix
Evaluate the options you’ve generated, and identify the ones that give the greatest benefit, and that best achieve the mission and vision of your organization. Add these to the other strategic options that you’re considering.
Step 2: Define Long-Term Strategic Objectives
Long-Term Strategic Objectives are long-term, broad, continuous statements that holistically address all areas of your organization. What must we focus on to achieve our vision? What are the “big rocks”?
Questions to ask:
- What are our shareholders or stakeholders expectations for our financial performance or social outcomes?
- To reach our outcomes, what value must we provide to our customers? What is our value proposition?
- To provide value, what process must we excel at to deliver our products and services?
- To drive our processes, what skills, capabilities and organizational structure must we have?
Outcome: Framework for your plan – no more than 6
Step 3: Setting Organization-Wide Goals and Measures
Once you have formulated your strategic objectives, you should translate them into goals and measures that can be clearly communicated to your planning team (team leaders and/or team members). You want to set goals that convert the strategic objectives into specific performance targets. Effective goals clearly state what, when, how, and who, and they are specifically measurable. They should address what you need to do in the short-term (think 1-3 years) to achieve your strategic objectives. Organization-wide goals are annual statements that are specific, measurable, attainable, responsible and time bound. These are outcome statements expressing a result expected in the organization.
What is most important right now to reach our long-term objectives?
Outcome: clear outcomes for the current year..
Step 4: Select KPIs
Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are the key measures that will have the most impact in moving your organization forward. We recommend you guide your organization with measures that matter.
How will we measure our success?
Outcome: 5-7 measures that help you keep the pulse on your performance. When selecting your Key Performance Indicators, begin by asking “What are the key performance measures we need to track in order to monitor if we are achieving our goals?” These KPIs include the key goals that you want to measure that will have the most impact in moving your organization forward.
Step 5: Cascade Your Strategies to Operations
Cascading action items and to-dos for each short-term goal is where the rubber meets the road – literally. Moving from big ideas to action happens when strategy is translated from the organizational level to the individual. Here we widen the circle of the people who are involved in the planning as functional area managers and individual contributors develop their short-term goals and actions to support the organizational direction. But before you take that action, determine if you are going to develop a set of plans that cascade directly from the strategic plan, or instead if you have existing operational, business or account plans that should be synced up with organizational goals. A pitfall is to develop multiple sets of goals and actions for directors and staff to manage. Fundamentally, at this point you have moved from planning the strategy to planning the operations; from strategic planning to annual planning. That said, the only way strategy gets executed is to align resources and actions from the bottom to the top to drive your vision.
Questions to Ask
- How are we going to get there at a functional level?
- Who must do what by when to accomplish and drive the organizational goals?
- What strategic questions still remain and need to be solved?
Department/functional goals, actions, measures and targets for the next 12-24 months
Step 6: Cascading Goals to Departments and Team Members
Now in your Departments / Teams, you need to create goals to support the organization-wide goals. These goals should still be SMART and are generally (short-term) something to be done in the next 12-18 months. Finally, you should develop an action plan for each goal. Keep the acronym SMART in mind again when setting action items, and make sure they include start and end dates and have someone assigned their responsibility. Since these action items support your previously established goals, it may be helpful to consider action items your immediate plans on the way to achieving your (short-term) goals. In other words, identify all the actions that need to occur in the next 90 days and continue this same process every 90 days until the goal is achieved.
Examples of Cascading Goals:
Phase 4: executing strategy and managing performance.
Want More? Deep Dive Into the “Managing Performance” How-To Guide.
Step 1: Strategic Plan Implementation Schedule
Implementation is the process that turns strategies and plans into actions in order to accomplish strategic objectives and goals.
How will we use the plan as a management tool?
- Communication Schedule: How and when will you roll-out your plan to your staff? How frequently will you send out updates?
- Process Leader: Who is your strategy director?
- Structure: What are the dates for your strategy reviews (we recommend at least quarterly)?
- System & Reports: What are you expecting each staff member to come prepared with to those strategy review sessions?
Outcome: Syncing your plan into the “rhythm of your business.”
Once your resources are in place, you can set your implementation schedule. Use the following steps as your base implementation plan:
- Establish your performance management and reward system.
- Set up monthly and quarterly strategy meetings with established reporting procedures.
- Set up annual strategic review dates including new assessments and a large group meeting for an annual plan review.
Now you’re ready to start plan roll-out. Below are sample implementation schedules, which double for a full strategic management process timeline.
Step 2: Tracking Goals & Actions
Monthly strategy meetings don’t need to take a lot of time – 30 to 60 minutes should suffice. But it is important that key team members report on their progress toward the goals they are responsible for – including reporting on metrics in the scorecard they have been assigned. By using the measurements already established, it’s easy to make course corrections if necessary. You should also commit to reviewing your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) during these regular meetings.
Your Bi-Annual Checklist
Never lose sight of the fact that strategic plans are guidelines, not rules. Every six months or so, you should evaluate your strategy execution and plan implementation by asking these key questions:
- Will your goals be achieved within the time frame of the plan? If not, why?
- Should the deadlines be modified? (Before you modify deadlines, figure out why you’re behind schedule.)
- Are your goals and action items still realistic?
- Should the organization’s focus be changed to put more emphasis on achieving your goals?
- Should your goals be changed? (Be careful about making these changes – know why efforts aren’t achieving the goals before changing the goals.)
- What can be gathered from an adaptation to improve future planning activities?
Why Track Your Goals?
- Ownership: Having a stake and responsibility in the plan makes you feel part of it and leads you to drive your goals forward.
- Culture: Successful plans tie tracking and updating goals into organizational culture.
- Implementation: If you don’t review and update your goaFls, they are just good intentions
- Accountability: Accountability and high visibility help drive change. This means that each measure, objective, data source and initiative must have an owner.
- Empowerment: Changing goals from In Progress to Complete just feels good!
Step 3: Review & Adapt
Guidelines for your strategy review.
Restricting the meeting to reporting on measurements can help you stay on task and keep the meeting within 30 minutes, but if you can commit to a full hour, the meeting agenda should also include some time devoted to working on one specific topic or on one of the quarter’s priorities where decisions need to be made. Once agreed upon, this topic should be developed to conclusion. Holding meetings helps focus your goals on accomplishing top priorities and accelerating growth of the organization. Although the meeting structure is relatively simple, it does require a high degree of discipline.
Strategy Review Session Questions:
- What were our three most important strategic accomplishments of the last 90 days – how have we changed our field of play in the past 90 days?
- What are the three most important ways we fell short of our strategic potential?
- In the last 90 days, what are the three most important things that we have learned about our strategy? (NOTE: We are looking for insight to decision to action observations.)
Step 4: Annual Updates The three words strategic planning off-site provoke reactions anywhere from sheer exuberance to ducking for cover. In many organizations, retreats have a bad reputation because stepping into one of the many planning pitfalls is so easy. Holding effective meetings can be tough, and if you add a lot of brainpower mixed with personal agendas, you can have a recipe for disaster. That’s why so many strategic planning meetings are unsuccessful. Executing your strategic plan is as important, or even more important, than your strategy. Critical actions move a strategic plan from a document that sits on the shelf to actions that drive organizational growth. The sad reality is that the majority of organizations who have strategic plans fail to implement. Don’t be part of the majority! In fact, research has shown that 70% of organizations that have a formal execution process out-perform their peers. (Kaplan & Norton) Guiding your work in this stage of the planning process is a schedule for the next 12 months that spells out when the quarterly strategy reviews are, who is involved, what participants need to bring to the meetings and how you will adapt the plan based on the outcomes of the reviews. You remain in this phase of the strategic management process until you embark on the next formal planning sessions where you start back at the beginning. Remember that successful execution of your plan relies on appointing a strategy director, training your team to use OnStrategy (or any other planning tool), effectively driving accountability, and gaining organizational commitment to the process.
Strategic planning frequently asked questions
Read our frequently asked questions about strategic planning to learn how to build a great strategic plan..
Business Strategic Planning is a process where your business defines a bold vision of the future and creates a plan to reach that future. It helps your business define where you’re going, how you’ll get there, how you’ll grow, and what you must do to reach your desired future.
A great strategic plan determines where your organization is going, how you’ll win, what roles each team member has in the execution, and your game plan for reviewing and adapting your strategy. Elements include a current state analysis, SWOT, mission, vision, values, competitive advantages, growth strategy, growth enablers, a 3-year roadmap, and annual plan with goals, KPIs, and OKRs.
Typically, the average strategic planning process takes about 3-4 months, but depending on your organization, it could take more or less time. Every organization is different, so you should work at a pace that works for you.
There are four overarching phases to the strategic planning process that include: determining position, developing your strategy, building your plan, and managing performance. Each phase plays a unique but distinctly crucial role in the strategic planning process.
Prior to starting your strategic plan, you must go through this pre-planning process to determine your organization’s readiness by following these steps:
Ask yourself these questions: Are the conditions and criteria for successful planning in place now? Can we foresee any pitfalls that we can avoid? Is there an appropriate time for our organization to initiate this process?
Develop your team and schedule. Who will oversee the implementation as Chief Strategy Officer or Director? Do we have at least 12-15 other key individuals on our team?
Research and Collect Current Data. Find the following resources that your organization may have used in the past to assist you with your new plan: last strategic plan, mission, vision, and values statement, business plan, financial records, marketing plan, SWOT, sales figures, or projections.
Finally, review the data with your strategy director and facilitator and ask these questions: What trends do we see? Any obvious strengths or weaknesses? Have we been following a plan or just going along with the market?
Determining your positioning entails conducting a scan of macro and micro trends in your environment and industry, identifying marketing and competitive opportunities and threats, clarifying target customers and value propositions, gathering and reviewing staff and partner feedback for strengths and weaknesses, synthesizing the data into a SWOT, and solidifying your competitive advantages.
Developing your strategy includes determining your primary business model and organizational purpose, identifying your corporate values, creating an image of what success would look like in 3-5 years, solidifying your competitive advantages, formulating organization wide-strategies that explain your base, and agreeing on strategic issues you need to address in the planning process. .
Once you get to the strategic plan development process in the planning process, you must begin developing your strategic framework and defining long-term strategic objectives, set short-term SMART organizational goals, and select the measure that will be your KPIs (key performance indicators.)
The last phase of strategic planning is implementation, execution, and ongoing refreshes. This step entails establishing an implementation schedule, rolling out your plan, executing against your key results, and reviewing process and refreshing your plan quarterly. p>
The ideal execution schedule for your strategic plan will differ from team to team or organization to organization, but generally, you should try to set 4 quarterly reviews, a mid-year executive survey, 12 monthly check-ins, and a year-end plan review and annual refresh.
Join 60,000 other leaders engaged in transforming their organizations.
Subscribe to get the latest agile strategy best practices, free guides, case studies, and videos in your inbox every week..
Strategic Planning Basics
What is strategic planning.
Strategic planning is an organizational management activity that is used to set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations, ensure that employees and other stakeholders are working toward common goals, establish agreement around intended outcomes/results, and assess and adjust the organization’s direction in response to a changing environment. It is a disciplined effort that produces fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, who it serves, what it does, and why it does it, with a focus on the future. Effective strategic planning articulates not only where an organization is going and the actions needed to make progress, but also how it will know if it is successful.
What is a Strategic Plan?
What is strategic management what is strategy execution.
Strategic management is the comprehensive collection of ongoing activities and processes that organizations use to systematically coordinate and align resources and actions with mission, vision and strategy throughout an organization. Strategic management activities transform the static plan into a system that provides strategic performance feedback to decision making and enables the plan to evolve and grow as requirements and other circumstances change. Strategy Execution is basically synonymous with Strategy Management and amounts to the systematic implementation of a strategy.
What Are the Steps in Strategic Planning & Management?
There are many different frameworks and methodologies for strategic planning and management. While there are no absolute rules regarding the right framework, most follow a similar pattern and have common attributes. Many frameworks cycle through some variation on some very basic phases:
- Analysis or assessment, where an understanding of the current internal and external environments is developed
- Strategy formulation, where high level strategy is developed and a basic organization level strategic plan is documented
- Strategy execution, where the high level plan is translated into more operational planning and action items, and
- Evaluation or sustainment / management phase, where ongoing refinement and evaluation of performance, culture, communications, data reporting, and other strategic management issues occurs.
Related: What Are the Nine Steps to Strategic Planning and Management?
What is a Strategy Map?
A strategy map is a simple graphic that shows a logical, cause-and-effect connection between strategic objectives (shown as ovals on the map). It is one of the most powerful elements associated with the balanced scorecard methodology, as it is used to quickly communicate how value is created by the organization. Strategy mapping can vastly improve any strategy communication effort. Most people are visual learners and so a picture of your strategy will be understood by many more employees than a written narrative. Plus the process of developing a strategy map forces the team to agree on what they are trying to accomplish in simple, easy-to-understand terms. With a well-designed strategy map, every employee can see how they contribute to the achievement of the organization’s objectives.
What Are the Attributes of a Good Planning Framework?
For more information about strategic planning and management in general or for about how we can help you, please contact us directly.
Overcome Analysis Paralysis to Improve Your Organizational Performance
by Terry Sterling | Feb 27, 2023
Dealing with ever-increasing volumes of data can leave your organization trapped in analysis paralysis. Learn its causes and the strategies you can implement to break free of its hold and achieve your business goals.
No, Andy Grove Didn’t Invent OKRs and Other “Stake-Your-Claim” Problems
by David Wilsey | Jan 31, 2023
Andy Grove changed the Intel MBO review cadence from annually to quarterly and dubbed it OKR. But if I cook pizza in the microwave and call it Pizzaz, have I invented a new food? This type of “stake-your-claim” problem creates confusion.
International Association of Strategy Professionals
BSC-KPI-OKR: The Alphabet of Strategy Management
Assess Your Strategic Management Health and Improve Your Strategic Performance
How strategic is YOUR organization?
Become a strategic planning and management expert!
The Institute Way
Group Project Manager , T-Mobile US, Inc.
Chief Strategy Officer , National Marrow Donor Program
Contact us to find out how we can help your organization focus on strategy and improve performance.
- SUGGESTED TOPICS
- The Magazine
- Most Popular
- Managing Yourself
- Managing Teams
- Work-life Balance
- The Big Idea
- Data & Visuals
- Reading Lists
- Case Selections
- HBR Learning
- Topic Feeds
- Account Settings
- Email Preferences
The Big Lie of Strategic Planning
- Roger L. Martin
A detailed plan may be comforting, but it’s not a strategy.
Strategy making forces executives to confront a future they can only guess at. It’s not surprising, then, that they try to make the task less daunting by preparing a comprehensive plan for how the company will achieve its goal. But good strategy is not the product of endless research and modeling; it’s the result of a simple process of thinking through how to hit a target and whether it’s realistic to try. Discomfort is part of the process. If you are entirely comfortable, you’re probably stuck in one or more of the following traps.
Planning arguably makes for more thorough budgets, but it must not be confused with strategy.
Costs lend themselves wonderfully to planning, because the company controls them. But for revenue, customers are in charge. Planning can’t make revenue magically appear.
Self-referential strategy frameworks.
Even managers who avoid the first two traps may end up using a framework that leads them to design a strategy entirely around what the company controls.
A company can avoid those traps by focusing on customers, recognizing that strategy is about making bets, and articulating the logic behind strategic choices.
All executives know that strategy is important. But almost all also find it scary, because it forces them to confront a future they can only guess at. Worse, actually choosing a strategy entails making decisions that explicitly cut off possibilities and options. An executive may well fear that getting those decisions wrong will wreck his or her career.
The natural reaction is to make the challenge less daunting by turning it into a problem that can be solved with tried and tested tools. That nearly always means spending weeks or even months preparing a comprehensive plan for how the company will invest in existing and new assets and capabilities in order to achieve a target—an increased share of the market, say, or a share in some new one. The plan is typically supported with detailed spreadsheets that project costs and revenue quite far into the future. By the end of the process, everyone feels a lot less scared.
This is a truly terrible way to make strategy. It may be an excellent way to cope with fear of the unknown, but fear and discomfort are an essential part of strategy making. In fact, if you are entirely comfortable with your strategy, there’s a strong chance it isn’t very good. You’re probably stuck in one or more of the traps I’ll discuss in this article. You need to be uncomfortable and apprehensive: True strategy is about placing bets and making hard choices. The objective is not to eliminate risk but to increase the odds of success.
In this worldview, managers accept that good strategy is not the product of hours of careful research and modeling that lead to an inevitable and almost perfect conclusion. Instead, it’s the result of a simple and quite rough-and-ready process of thinking through what it would take to achieve what you want and then assessing whether it’s realistic to try. If executives adopt this definition, then maybe, just maybe, they can keep strategy where it should be: outside the comfort zone.
Comfort Trap 1: Strategic Planning
Virtually every time the word “strategy” is used, it is paired with some form of the word “plan,” as in the process of “strategic planning” or the resulting “strategic plan.” The subtle slide from strategy to planning occurs because planning is a thoroughly doable and comfortable exercise.
Focus your energy on the key choices that influence revenue decision makers—that is, customers.
Strategic plans all tend to look pretty much the same. They usually have three major parts. The first is a vision or mission statement that sets out a relatively lofty and aspirational goal. The second is a list of initiatives—such as product launches, geographic expansions, and construction projects—that the organization will carry out in pursuit of the goal. This part of the strategic plan tends to be very organized but also very long. The length of the list is generally constrained only by affordability.
The third element is the conversion of the initiatives into financials. In this way, the plan dovetails nicely with the annual budget. Strategic plans become the budget’s descriptive front end, often projecting five years of financials in order to appear “strategic.” But management typically commits only to year one; in the context of years two through five, “strategic” actually means “impressionistic.”
This exercise arguably makes for more thoughtful and thorough budgets. However, it must not be confused with strategy. Planning typically isn’t explicit about what the organization chooses not to do and why. It does not question assumptions. And its dominant logic is affordability; the plan consists of whichever initiatives fit the company’s resources.
Mistaking planning for strategy is a common trap. Even board members, who are supposed to be keeping managers honest about strategy, fall into it. They are, after all, primarily current or former managers, who find it safer to supervise planning than to encourage strategic choice. Moreover, Wall Street is more interested in the short-term goals described in plans than in the long-term goals that are the focus of strategy. Analysts pore over plans in order to assess whether companies can meet their quarterly goals.
Comfort Trap 2: Cost-Based Thinking
The focus on planning leads seamlessly to cost-based thinking. Costs lend themselves wonderfully to planning, because by and large they are under the control of the company. For the vast majority of costs, the company plays the role of customer. It decides how many employees to hire, how many square feet of real estate to lease, how many machines to procure, how much advertising to air, and so on. In some cases a company can, like any customer, decide to stop buying a particular good or service, and so even severance or shutdown costs can be under its control. Of course there are exceptions. Government agencies tell companies that they need to remit payroll taxes for each employee and buy a certain amount of compliance services. But the proverbial exceptions prove the rule: Costs imposed on the company by others make up a relatively small fraction of the overall cost picture, and most are derivative of company-controlled costs. (Payroll taxes, for instance, are incurred only when the company decides to hire an employee.)
Also by this author
Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works
Costs are comfortable because they can be planned for with relative precision. This is an important and useful exercise. Many companies are damaged or destroyed when they let their costs get out of control. The trouble is that planning-oriented managers tend to apply familiar, comfortable cost-side approaches to the revenue side as well, treating revenue planning as virtually identical to cost planning and as an equal component of the overall plan and budget. All too often, the result is painstaking work to build up revenue plans salesperson by salesperson, product by product, channel by channel, region by region.
But when the planned revenue doesn’t show up, managers feel confused and even aggrieved. “What more could we have done?” they wonder. “We spent thousands upon thousands of hours planning.”
There’s a simple reason why revenue planning doesn’t have the same desired result as cost planning. For costs, the company makes the decisions. But for revenue, customers are in charge. Except in the rare case of monopolies, customers can decide of their own free will whether to give revenue to the company, to its competitors, or to no one at all. Companies may fool themselves into thinking that revenue is under their control, but because it is neither knowable nor controllable, planning, budgeting, and forecasting it is an impressionistic exercise.
Of course, shorter-term revenue planning is much easier for companies that have long-term contracts with customers. For example, for business information provider Thomson Reuters, the bulk of its revenue each year comes from multiyear subscriptions. The only variable amount in the revenue plan is the difference between new subscription sales and cancellations at the end of existing contracts. Similarly, if a company has long order backlogs, as Boeing does, it will be able to predict revenue more accurately, although the Boeing Dreamliner tribulations demonstrate that even “firm orders” don’t automatically translate into future revenue. Over the longer term, all revenue is controlled by the customer.
Giant Opportunities Encourage Bad Strategy
Companies in many industries prefer a small slice of a huge market to a large slice of a small one. The thinking is, of course, that the former promises unlimited growth potential. And there’s a certain amount of truth to that. But all too often, the size of the opportunity encourages sloppy strategy making. Why choose where to play or how to win when there’s a huge market to conquer? Anybody is a potential customer, so just go out and sell stuff.
But when anyone could be a customer, it is impossible to figure out whom to target and what those people actually want. The results tend to be an offering that is not captivating to anybody and a sales force that doesn’t know where to spend its time. This is when crisp strategy making and clear thinking about opportunities are most important.
When you’re facing a huge growth opportunity, it is smarter to think sequentially: Determine what piece of the overall market to tackle first and target it precisely and relentlessly. Once you’ve achieved a dominant position in that segment, expand from there into the next, and so on.
The bottom line, therefore, is that the predictability of costs is fundamentally different from the predictability of revenue. Planning can’t and won’t make revenue magically appear, and the effort you spend creating revenue plans is a distraction from the strategist’s much harder job: finding ways to acquire and keep customers.
Comfort Trap 3: Self-Referential Strategy Frameworks
This trap is perhaps the most insidious, because it can snare even managers who, having successfully avoided the planning and cost traps, are trying to build a real strategy. In identifying and articulating a strategy, most executives adopt one of a number of standard frameworks. Unfortunately, two of the most popular ones can lead the unwary user to design a strategy entirely around what the company can control.
In 1978 Henry Mintzberg published an influential article in Management Science that introduced emergent strategy, a concept he later popularized for the wider nonacademic business audience in his successful 1994 book, The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning. Mintzberg’s insight was simple but indeed powerful. He distinguished between deliberate strategy, which is intentional, and emergent strategy, which is not based on an original intention but instead consists of the company’s responses to a variety of unanticipated events.
Planning typically isn’t explicit about what the organization chooses not to do and why. It does not question assumptions.
Mintzberg’s thinking was informed by his observation that managers overestimate their ability to predict the future and to plan for it in a precise and technocratic way. By drawing a distinction between deliberate and emergent strategy, he wanted to encourage managers to watch carefully for changes in their environment and make course corrections in their deliberate strategy accordingly. In addition, he warned against the dangers of sticking to a fixed strategy in the face of substantial changes in the competitive environment.
All of this is eminently sensible advice that every manager would be wise to follow. However, most managers do not. Instead, most use the idea that a strategy emerges as events unfold as a justification for declaring the future to be so unpredictable and volatile that it doesn’t make sense to make strategy choices until the future becomes sufficiently clear. Notice how comforting that interpretation is: No longer is there a need to make angst-ridden decisions about unknowable and uncontrollable things.
A little digging into the logic reveals some dangerous flaws in it. If the future is too unpredictable and volatile to make strategic choices, what would lead a manager to believe that it will become significantly less so? And how would that manager recognize the point when predictability is high enough and volatility is low enough to start making choices? Of course the premise is untenable: There won’t be a time when anyone can be sure that the future is predictable.
Bringing Science to the Art of Strategy
- A.G. Lafley, Roger Martin, Jan W. Rivkin, and Nicolaj Siggelkow
Hence, the concept of emergent strategy has simply become a handy excuse for avoiding difficult strategic choices, for replicating as a “fast follower” the choices that appear to be succeeding for others, and for deflecting any criticism for not setting out in a bold direction. Simply following competitors’ choices will never produce a unique or valuable advantage. None of this is what Mintzberg intended, but it is a common outcome of his framework, because it plays into managers’ comfort zone.
In 1984, six years after Mintzberg’s original article introducing emergent strategy, Birger Wernerfelt wrote “A Resource-Based View of the Firm,” which put forth another enthusiastically embraced concept in strategy. But it wasn’t until 1990, when C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel wrote one of the most widely read HBR articles of all time, “The Core Competence of the Corporation,” that Wernerfelt’s resource-based view (RBV) of the firm was widely popularized with managers.
RBV holds that the key to a firm’s competitive advantage is the possession of valuable, rare, inimitable, and non-substitutable capabilities. This concept became extraordinarily appealing to executives, because it seemed to suggest that strategy was the identification and building of “core competencies,” or “strategic capabilities.” Note that this conveniently falls within the realm of the knowable and controllable. Any company can build a technical sales force or a software development lab or a distribution network and declare it a core competence. Executives can comfortably invest in such capabilities and control the entire experience. Within reason, they can guarantee success.
The problem, of course, is that capabilities themselves don’t compel a customer to buy. Only those that produce a superior value equation for a particular set of customers can do that. But customers and context are both unknowable and uncontrollable. Many executives prefer to focus on capabilities that can be built—for certain. And if those don’t produce success, capricious customers or irrational competitors can take the blame.
Escaping the Traps
It’s easy to identify companies that have fallen into these traps. (See the exhibit “Are You Stuck in the Comfort Zone?”) In those companies, boards tend to be highly comfortable with the planners and spend lots of time reviewing and approving their work. Discussion in management and board meetings tends to focus on how to squeeze more profit out of existing revenue rather than how to generate new revenue. The principal metrics concern finance and capabilities; those that deal with customer satisfaction or market share (especially changes in the latter) take the backseat.
Are You Stuck in the Comfort Zone?
Probably: You have a large corporate strategic planning group. Probably Not: If you have a corporate strategy group, it is tiny.
Probably: In addition to profit, your most important performance metrics are cost- and capabilities-based. Probably Not: In addition to profit, your most important performance metrics are customer satisfaction and market share.
Probably: Strategy is presented to the board by your strategic planning staff. Probably Not: Strategy is presented to the board primarily by line executives.
Probably: Board members insist on proof that the strategy will succeed before approving it. Probably Not: Board members ask for a thorough description of the risks involved in a strategy before approving it.
How can a company escape those traps? Because the problem is rooted in people’s natural aversion to discomfort and fear, the only remedy is to adopt a discipline about strategy making that reconciles you to experiencing some angst. This involves ensuring that the strategy-making process conforms to three basic rules. Keeping to the rules isn’t easy—the comfort zone is always alluring—and it won’t necessarily result in a successful strategy. But if you can follow them, you will at least be sure that your strategy won’t be a bad one.
Rule 1: Keep the strategy statement simple.
Focus your energy on the key choices that influence revenue decision makers—that is, customers. They will decide to spend their money with your company if your value proposition is superior to competitors’. Two choices determine success: the where-to-play decision (which specific customers to target) and the how-to-win decision (how to create a compelling value proposition for those customers). If a customer is not in the segment or area where the company chooses to play, she probably won’t even become aware of the availability and nature of its offering. If the company does connect with that customer, the how-to-win choice will determine whether she will find the offering’s targeted value equation compelling.
This article also appears in:
HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2015
If a strategy is about just those two decisions, it won’t need to involve the production of long and tedious planning documents. There is no reason why a company’s strategy choices can’t be summarized in one page with simple words and concepts. Characterizing the key choices as where to play and how to win keeps the discussion grounded and makes it more likely that managers will engage with the strategic challenges the firm faces rather than retreat to their planning comfort zone.
Rule 2: Recognize that strategy is not about perfection.
As noted, managers unconsciously feel that strategy should achieve the accuracy and predictive power of cost planning—in other words, it should be nearly perfect. But given that strategy is primarily about revenue rather than cost, perfection is an impossible standard. At its very best, therefore, strategy shortens the odds of a company’s bets. Managers must internalize that fact if they are not to be intimidated by the strategy-making process.
What Is Strategy?
- Michael E. Porter
For that to happen, boards and regulators need to reinforce rather than undermine the notion that strategy involves a bet. Every time a board asks managers if they are sure about their strategy or regulators make them certify the thoroughness of their strategy decision-making processes, it weakens actual strategy making. As much as boards and regulators may want the world to be knowable and controllable, that’s simply not how it works. Until they accept this, they will get planning instead of strategy—and lots of excuses down the line about why the revenue didn’t show up.
Rule 3: Make the logic explicit.
The only sure way to improve the hit rate of your strategic choices is to test the logic of your thinking: For your choices to make sense, what do you need to believe about customers, about the evolution of your industry, about competition, about your capabilities? It is critical to write down the answers to those questions, because the human mind naturally rewrites history and will declare the world to have unfolded largely as was planned rather than recall how strategic bets were actually made and why. If the logic is recorded and then compared to real events, managers will be able to see quickly when and how the strategy is not producing the desired outcome and will be able to make necessary adjustments—just as Henry Mintzberg envisioned. In addition, by observing with some level of rigor what works and what doesn’t, managers will be able to improve their strategy decision making.
As managers apply these rules, their fear of making strategic choices will diminish. That’s good—but only up to a point. If a company is completely comfortable with its choices, it’s at risk of missing important changes in its environment. I have argued that planning, cost management, and focusing on capabilities are dangerous traps for the strategy maker. Yet those activities are essential; no company can neglect them. For if it’s strategy that compels customers to give the company its revenue, planning, cost control, and capabilities determine whether the revenue can be obtained at a price that is profitable for the company. Human nature being what it is, though, planning and the other activities will always dominate strategy rather than serve it—unless a conscious effort is made to prevent that. If you are comfortable with your company’s strategy, chances are you’re probably not making that effort.
- Roger L. Martin is a former dean of the Rotman School of Management, an adviser to CEOs, and the author of A New Way to Think (Harvard Business Review Press, 2022).
- Contact Sales
- Business strategy |
- What is strategic planning? 5 steps and ...
What is strategic planning? 5 steps and processes
A strategic plan helps you define and share the direction your company will take in the next three to five years. It includes your company’s vision and mission statements, goals, and the actions you’ll take to achieve those goals. In this article we describe how a strategic plan compares to other project and business tools, plus four steps to create a successful strategic plan for your company.
Strategic planning is when business leaders map out their vision for the organization’s growth and how they’re going to get there. Strategic plans inform your organization’s decisions, growth, and goals. So if you work for a small company or startup, you could likely benefit from creating a strategic plan. When you have a clear sense of where your organization is going, you’re able to ensure your teams are working on projects that make the most impact.
The strategic planning process doesn’t just help you identify where you need to go—during the process, you’ll also create a document you can share with employees and stakeholders so they stay informed. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to get started developing a strategic plan.
What is a strategic plan?
A strategic plan is a tool to define your organization’s goals and what actions you will take to achieve them. Typically, a strategic plan will include your company’s vision and mission statements, your long-term goals (as well as short-term, yearly objectives), and an action plan of the steps you’re going to take to move in the right direction.
Your strategic plan document should include:
Your company’s mission statement
Your company’s goals
A plan of action to achieve those goals
Your approach to achieving your goals
The tactics you’ll use to meet your goals
An effective strategic plan can give your organization clarity and focus. This level of clarity isn’t always a given—according to our research, only 16% of knowledge workers say their company is effective at setting and communicating company goals. By investing time into strategy formulation, you can build out a three- to five-year vision for the future of your company. This strategy will then inform your yearly and quarterly company goals.
Do I need a strategic plan?
A strategic plan is one of many tools you can use to plan and hit your goals. It helps map out strategic objectives and growth metrics. Here’s how a strategic plan compares to other project management and business tools.
Strategic plan vs. business plan
A business plan can help you document your strategy as you’re getting started so every team member is on the same page about your core business priorities and goals. This tool can help you document and share your strategy with key investors or stakeholders as you get your business up and running.
You should create a business plan when you’re:
Just starting your business
Significantly restructuring your business
If your business is already established, consider creating a strategic plan instead of a business plan. Even if you’re working at a relatively young company, your strategic plan can build on your business plan to help you move in the right direction. During the strategic planning process, you’ll draw from a lot of the fundamental business elements you built early on to establish your strategy for the next three to five years.
Key takeaway: A business plan works for new businesses or large organizational overhauls. Strategic plans are better for established businesses.
Strategic plan vs. mission and vision statements
Your strategic plan, mission statement, and vision statements are all closely connected. In fact, during the strategic planning process, you will take inspiration from your mission and vision statements in order to build out your strategic plan.
As a result, you should already have your mission and vision statements drafted before you create a strategic plan. Ideally, this is something you created during the business planning phase or shortly after your company started. If you don’t have a mission or vision statement, take some time to create those now. A mission statement states your company’s purpose and it addresses what problem your organization is trying to solve. A vision statement states, in very broad strokes, how you’re going to get there.
A mission statement summarizes your company’s purpose
A vision statement broadly explains how you’ll reach your company’s purpose
A strategic plan should include your mission and vision statements, but it should also be more specific than that. Your mission and vision statements could, theoretically, remain the same throughout your company’s entire lifespan. A strategic plan pulls in inspiration from your mission and vision statements and outlines what actions you’re going to take to move in the right direction.
For example, if your company produces pet safety equipment, here’s how your mission statement, vision statement, and strategic plan might shake out:
Mission statement: “To ensure the safety of the world’s animals.”
Vision statement: “To create pet safety and tracking products that are effortless to use.”
Your strategic plan would outline the steps you’re going to take in the next few years to bring your company closer to your mission and vision. For example, you develop a new pet tracking smart collar or improve the microchipping experience for pet owners.
Key takeaway: A strategic plan draws inspiration from your mission and vision statements.
Strategic plan vs. company objectives
Company objectives are broad goals. You should set these on a yearly or quarterly basis (if your organization moves quickly). These objectives give your team a clear sense of what you intend to accomplish for a set period of time.
Your strategic plan is more forward-thinking than your company goals, and it should cover more than one year of work. Think of it this way: your company objectives will move the needle towards your overall strategy—but your strategic plan should be bigger than company objectives because it spans multiple years.
Key takeaway: Company objectives are broad, evergreen goals, while a strategic plan is a specific plan of action.
Strategic plan vs. business case
A business case is a document to help you pitch a significant investment or initiative for your company. When you create a business case, you’re outlining why this investment is a good idea, and how this large-scale project will positively impact the business.
You might end up building business cases for things on your strategic plan’s roadmap—but your strategic plan should be bigger than that. This tool should encompass multiple years of your roadmap, across your entire company—not just one initiative.
Key takeaway: A business case tackles one initiative or investment, while a strategic plan maps out years of overall growth for your company.
Strategic plan vs. project plan
A strategic plan is a company-wide, multi-year plan of what you want to accomplish in the next three to five years and how you plan to accomplish that. A project plan, on the other hand, outlines how you’re going to accomplish a specific project. This project could be one of many initiatives that contribute to a specific company objective which, in turn, is one of many objectives that contribute to your strategic plan.
A project plan has seven parts:
Stakeholders and roles
Scope and budget
Milestones and deliverables
Timeline and schedule
Key takeaway: You may build project plans to map out parts of your strategic plan.
When should I create a strategic plan?
You should aim to create a strategic plan every three to five years, depending on your organization’s growth speed. That being said, if your organization moves quickly, consider creating one every two to three years instead. Small businesses may need to create strategic plans more often, as their needs change.
Since the point of a strategic plan is to map out your long-term goals and how you’ll get there, you should create a strategic plan when you’ve met most or all of them. You should also create a strategic plan any time you’re going to make a large pivot in your organization’s mission or enter new markets.
What are the 5 steps in strategic planning?
The strategic planning process should be run by a small team of key stakeholders who will be in charge of building your strategic plan.
Your group of strategic planners, sometimes called the management committee, should be a small team of five to 10 key stakeholders and decision-makers for the company. They won’t be the only people involved—but they will be the people driving the work.
Once you’ve established your management committee, you can get to work on the strategic planning process.
Step 1: Determine where you are
Before you can get started with strategy development and define where you’re going, you first need to define where you are. To do this, your management committee should collect a variety of information from additional stakeholders—like employees and customers. In particular, plan to gather:
Relevant industry and market data to inform any market opportunities, as well as any potential upcoming threats in the near future
Customer insights to understand what your customers want from your company—like product improvements or additional services
Employee feedback that needs to be addressed—whether in the product, business practices, or company culture
A SWOT analysis to help you assess both current and future potential for the business (you’ll return to this analysis periodically during the strategic planning process).
To fill out each letter in the SWOT acronym, your management committee will answer a series of questions:
What does your organization currently do well?
What separates you from your competitors?
What are your most valuable internal resources?
What tangible assets do you have?
What is your biggest strength?
What does your organization do poorly?
What do you currently lack (whether that’s a product, resource, or process)?
What do your competitors do better than you?
What, if any, limitations are holding your organization back?
What processes or products need improvement?
What opportunities does your organization have?
How can you leverage your unique company strengths?
Are there any trends that you can take advantage of?
How can you capitalize on marketing or press opportunities?
Is there an emerging need for your product or service?
What emerging competitors should you keep an eye on?
Are there any weaknesses that expose your organization to risk?
Have you or could you experience negative press that could reduce market share?
Is there a chance of changing customer attitudes towards your company?
Step 2: Identify your goals and objectives
This is where the magic happens. To develop your strategy, take into account your current position, which is where you are now. Then, draw inspiration from your original business documents—these are your final destination.
To develop your strategy, you’re essentially pulling out your compass and asking, “Where are we going next?” This can help you figure out exactly which path you need to take.
During this phase of the planning process, take inspiration from important company documents to ensure your strategic plan is moving your company in the right direction like:
Your mission statement, to understand how you can continue moving towards your organization’s core purpose
Your vision statement, to clarify how your strategic plan fits into your long-term vision
Your company values, to guide you towards what matters most towards your company
Your competitive advantages, to understand what unique benefit you offer to the market
Your long-term goals, to track where you want to be in five or 10 years
Your financial forecast and projection, to understand where you expect your financials to be in the next three years, what your expected cash flow is, and what new opportunities you will likely be able to invest in
Step 3: Develop your plan
Now that you understand where you are and where you want to go, it’s time to put pen to paper. Your plan will take your position and strategy into account to define your organization-wide plan for the next three to five years. Keep in mind that even though you’re creating a long-term plan, parts of your strategic plan should be created as the quarters and years go on.
As you build your strategic plan, you should define:
Your company priorities for the next three to five years, based on your SWOT analysis and strategy.
Yearly objectives for the first year. You don’t need to define your objectives for every year of the strategic plan. As the years go on, create new yearly objectives that connect back to your overall strategic goals .
Related key results and KPIs for that first year. Some of these should be set by the management committee, and some should be set by specific teams that are closer to the work. Make sure your key results and KPIs are measurable and actionable.
Budget for the next year or few years. This should be based on your financial forecast as well as your direction. Do you need to spend aggressively to develop your product? Build your team? Make a dent with marketing? Clarify your most important initiatives and how you’ll budget for those.
A high-level project roadmap . A project roadmap is a tool in project management that helps you visualize the timeline of a complex initiative, but you can also create a very high-level project roadmap for your strategic plan. Outline what you expect to be working on in certain quarters or years to make the plan more actionable and understandable.
Step 4: Execute your plan
After all that buildup, it’s time to put your plan into action. New strategy execution involves clear communication across your entire organization to make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and how to measure the plan’s success.
Map your processes with key performance indicators, which will gauge the success of your plan. KPIs will establish which parts of your plan you want achieved in what time frame.
A few tips to make sure your plan will be executed without a hitch:
Align tasks with job descriptions to make sure people are equipped to get their jobs done
Communicate clearly to your entire organization throughout the implementation process
Fully commit to your plan
Step 5: Revise and restructure as needed
At this point, you should have created and implemented your new strategic framework. The final step of the planning process is to monitor and manage your plan.
Share your strategic plan —this isn’t a document to hide away. Make sure your team (especially senior leadership) has access to it so they can understand how their work contributes to company priorities and your overall strategic plan. We recommend sharing your plan in the same tool you use to manage and track work, so you can more easily connect high-level objectives to daily work. If you don’t already, consider using a work management tool .
Update your plan regularly (quarterly and annually). Make sure you’re using your strategic plan to inform your shorter-term goals. Your strategic plan also isn’t set in stone. You’ll likely need to update the plan if your company decides to change directions or make new investments. As new market opportunities and threats come up, you’ll likely want to tweak your strategic plan to ensure you’re building your organization in the best direction possible for the next few years.
Keep in mind that your plan won’t last forever—even if you do update it frequently. A successful strategic plan evolves with your company’s long-term goals. When you’ve achieved most of your strategic goals, or if your strategy has evolved significantly since you first made your plan, it might be time to create a new one.
The benefits of strategic planning
Strategic planning can help with goal-setting by allowing you to explain how your company will move towards your mission and vision statements in the next three to five years. If you think of your company trajectory as a line on a map, a strategic plan can help you better quantify how you’ll get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be in a few years).
When you create and share a clear strategic plan with your team, you can:
Align everyone around a shared purpose
Proactively set objectives to help you get where you want to go
Define long-term goals, and then set shorter-term goals to support them
Assess your current situation and any opportunities—or threats
Help your business be more durable because you’re thinking long-term
Increase motivation and engagement
Sticking to the strategic plan
To turn your company strategy into a plan—and ultimately, impact—make sure you’re proactively connecting company objectives to daily work. When you can clarify this connection, you’re giving your team members the context they need to get their best work done.
With clear priorities, team members can focus on the initiatives that are making the biggest impact for the company—and they’ll likely be more engaged while doing so.
How to pitch project management software: A complete guide
How to create a CRM strategy: 6 steps (with examples)
Level up your marketing with a perceptual map (with template)
Business process analysis (BPA) explained
An official website of the United States government
Here’s how you know
The .gov means it’s official. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.
The site is secure. The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.
How to Strategic Plan in 7 Steps
By Avery Collins, GSA
April 26, 2022
This is the second post in a series highlighting different aspects of strategic planning in the Federal Government. Today, we will meet Agency Alpha, a fictional agency that will help us learn more about the strategic planning process.
L ast week, we met Carson and learned how she used strategic planning to land a new job . We talked about how this same process applies to government agencies and leaders, who use strategic planning to determine their vision for the future and create a strategic plan to serve as their roadmap.
The strategic planning process that agencies follow is more in-depth than most of us use for our personal goals. Today we will be following Agency Alpha, a fictional federal agency that will help illustrate the strategic planning process. While each federal agency approaches strategic planning a little differently and there is not a single best approach, a sound strategic planning process includes the following 7 key steps.
Step 1: Environmental Scan
The first step of any strategic planning process starts with research. Agency Alpha conducts an environmental scan , a process where they identify and monitor factors that may impact the long-term direction of the agency. Agency Alpha starts by looking at the incoming administration’s priorities and potential new regulations. They identify climate change, customer experience, and equity as a few Administration priorities that they would need to incorporate into their future vision.
Step 2: Internal Analysis
Research doesn’t stop after assessing the environment outside of an agency. Agency Alpha also needs to complete an internal analysis , including a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) assessment. They utilize their annual review process to evaluate performance across the agency and engage with staff and senior leadership. They compare their operations with the Administration priorities they identified in step 1, and in this instance they focus specifically on climate.
Step 3: Strategic Direction
Agency Alpha uses what they learned from their environmental scan and internal analysis to create a strategic direction . They meet with staff and stakeholders and use that input to build a vision for the future that is both idealistic and high-impact. They theorize how to align Administration priorities like equity, customer experience, and climate with agency operations. They determine what is actually achievable and what the agency should strive for. Climate is important to the agency employees and those they serve. They see it as a big part of the future, and thus a big part of the vision for Agency Alpha.
Step 4: Develop Goals and Objectives
After determining their strategic direction and vision, Agency Alpha engages with internal stakeholders and senior leadership to create a focused set of goals and objectives . They facilitate focus groups and meet with subject matter experts to come up with strategies, indicators, and desired outcomes for each goal. They use existing processes like staff engagement, communities of practice, and quarterly reviews to get buy-in from across the agency.
Step 5: Define Metrics, Set Timelines, and Track Progress
After the goals and objectives are set, Agency Alpha adds details to their plan. They determine the responsible offices and bureaus for each goal. They identify the necessary resource allocations, create actionable timeframes, and define metrics that best measure success. Agency Alpha appoints Team Beta to lead clean energy initiatives and Team Cobra to lead climate literacy initiatives. They set milestones and timelines to ensure they stay on track.
Step 6: Write and Publish a Strategic Plan
Once Agency Alpha gathers the information in step 5, they write an informed strategic plan that captures the voice and purpose of the agency. Their engagement with staff and stakeholders in steps 2 through 5 gained agency-wide support for the plan to help ensure that the strategic plan does not end up as a stand-alone document.
Step 7: Plan for Implementation and the Future
While drafting their plan, Agency Alpha begins to prepare for how to implement it after publication. They include performance measures that track progress and create a formal system for leadership and staff to annually review the plan and update goals and objectives as needed. Every agency follows a slightly different process, but most have gone through these 7 steps over the last year and a half. Last month, federal agencies published their strategic plans for 2022 to 2026 on performance.gov .
Stay tuned as we explore the importance of strategy and performance in the Federal Government and share agency success stories. The next post in this series will feature the National Endowment for the Arts and look at how staff and external engagement shaped their overall vision for the next four years.
The art of formulating business strategies, implementing them, and evaluating their impact based on organizational objectives
What is Strategic Planning?
Strategic planning is the art of creating specific business strategies, implementing them, and evaluating the results of executing the plan, in regard to a company’s overall long-term goals or desires. It is a concept that focuses on integrating various departments (such as accounting and finance, marketing, and human resources) within a company to accomplish its strategic goals. The term strategic planning is essentially synonymous with strategic management.
The concept of strategic planning originally became popular in the 1950s and 1960s, and enjoyed favor in the corporate world up until the 1980s, when it somewhat fell out of favor. However, enthusiasm for strategic business planning was revived in the 1990s and strategic planning remains relevant in modern business.
CFI’s Course on Corporate & Business Strategy is an elective course for the FMVA Program.
Strategic Planning Process
The strategic planning process requires considerable thought and planning on the part of a company’s upper-level management. Before settling on a plan of action and then determining how to strategically implement it, executives may consider many possible options. In the end, a company’s management will, hopefully, settle on a strategy that is most likely to produce positive results (usually defined as improving the company’s bottom line) and that can be executed in a cost-efficient manner with a high likelihood of success, while avoiding undue financial risk.
The development and execution of strategic planning are typically viewed as consisting of being performed in three critical steps:
1. Strategy Formulation
In the process of formulating a strategy, a company will first assess its current situation by performing an internal and external audit. The purpose of this is to help identify the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats ( SWOT Analysis ). As a result of the analysis, managers decide on which plans or markets they should focus on or abandon, how to best allocate the company’s resources, and whether to take actions such as expanding operations through a joint venture or merger.
Business strategies have long-term effects on organizational success. Only upper management executives are usually authorized to assign the resources necessary for their implementation.
2. Strategy Implementation
After a strategy is formulated, the company needs to establish specific targets or goals related to putting the strategy into action, and allocate resources for the strategy’s execution. The success of the implementation stage is often determined by how good a job upper management does in regard to clearly communicating the chosen strategy throughout the company and getting all of its employees to “buy into” the desire to put the strategy into action.
Effective strategy implementation involves developing a solid structure, or framework, for implementing the strategy, maximizing the utilization of relevant resources, and redirecting marketing efforts in line with the strategy’s goals and objectives.
3. Strategy Evaluation
Any savvy business person knows that success today does not guarantee success tomorrow. As such, it is important for managers to evaluate the performance of a chosen strategy after the implementation phase.
Strategy evaluation involves three crucial activities: reviewing the internal and external factors affecting the implementation of the strategy, measuring performance, and taking corrective steps to make the strategy more effective. For example, after implementing a strategy to improve customer service, a company may discover that it needs to adopt a new customer relationship management (CRM) software program in order to attain the desired improvements in customer relations.
All three steps in strategic planning occur within three hierarchical levels: upper management, middle management, and operational levels. Thus, it is imperative to foster communication and interaction among employees and managers at all levels, so as to help the firm to operate as a more functional and effective team.
Benefits of Strategic Planning
The volatility of the business environment causes many firms to adopt reactive strategies rather than proactive ones. However, reactive strategies are typically only viable for the short-term, even though they may require spending a significant amount of resources and time to execute. Strategic planning helps firms prepare proactively and address issues with a more long-term view. They enable a company to initiate influence instead of just responding to situations.
Among the primary benefits derived from strategic planning are the following:
1. Helps formulate better strategies using a logical, systematic approach
This is often the most important benefit. Some studies show that the strategic planning process itself makes a significant contribution to improving a company’s overall performance, regardless of the success of a specific strategy.
2. Enhanced communication between employers and employees
Communication is crucial to the success of the strategic planning process. It is initiated through participation and dialogue among the managers and employees, which shows their commitment to achieving organizational goals.
Strategic planning also helps managers and employees show commitment to the organization’s goals. This is because they know what the company is doing and the reasons behind it. Strategic planning makes organizational goals and objectives real, and employees can more readily understand the relationship between their performance, the company’s success, and compensation. As a result, both employees and managers tend to become more innovative and creative, which fosters further growth of the company.
3. Empowers individuals working in the organization
The increased dialogue and communication across all stages of the process strengthens employees’ sense of effectiveness and importance in the company’s overall success. For this reason, it is important for companies to decentralize the strategic planning process by involving lower-level managers and employees throughout the organization. A good example is that of the Walt Disney Co., which dissolved its separate strategic planning department, in favor of assigning the planning roles to individual Disney business divisions.
An increasing number of companies use strategic planning to formulate and implement effective decisions. While planning requires a significant amount of time, effort, and money, a well-thought-out strategic plan efficiently fosters company growth, goal achievement, and employee satisfaction.
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to Strategic Planning. To keep learning and advancing your career, the additional CFI resources below will be useful:
- Broad Factors Analysis
- Systems Thinking
- See all management & strategy resources
- Share this article
- Affinity Group
Strategic planning is a process that outlines the direction of an organization. It identifies how an organization will allocate their resources to achieve a desired future state while positioning itself to be competitive within the industry. Through this process, areas of excellence and improvement are substantiated, and organizational goals are aligned to ensure that all entities are moving in the same direction.
Goals, outcomes and benefits of strategic planning include the following:
- Defining an overarching vision for the organization
- Identifying areas of excellence in which to invest
- Acquiring necessary resources for new initiatives
- Prioritizing critical issues
- Aligning organizational goals so that stakeholders are moving in a common direction
- Increasing motivation, commitment, and teamwork/Enhancing communication
- Adapting more effectively to changing circumstances
- Positioning an organization to be competitive
- Developing shared criteria for evaluation
The process of strategic planning itself seeks to answer four fundamental questions:
Where is the organization today.
- Where should the organization be in the future?
- How should the organization get there?
Is the organization getting there?
These questions can be answered for the whole organization, individual departments, or even certain service lines. Developing a plan that answers these questions is a multi-step process consisting of:
- An initial planning phase during which the scope of a given strategic project is determined and stakeholders are aligned.
- An environmental assessment where the organization’s/service’s current position is evaluated through data acquisition and analysis, focus groups, surveys, stakeholder interviews, and benchmarking.
Where should the organization be in the future? AND How should the organization get there?
- A mission, vision, goal, and strategy development process that involves examining the acquired information to articulate a desired future state and the changes necessary to realize this vision.
- The creation of a final plan document as well as an implementation plan and metrics scorecard.
- An ongoing system for tracking the plan’s progress by reviewing key metrics and having discussions with those responsible for the plan’s execution.
Leadership - At its core, strategic planning is a leadership function that benefits anyone in a leadership position. A strategic plan is more likely to succeed if the impetus for strategic planning comes from the top and the organization’s leader is prepared to visibly and consistently commit the organization to a strategic process.
Organizational Integration - To be effective, strategy cannot stand alone or apart from operations. If strategy defines the desired future states and the means to that end, “operations” defines, allocates, and manages the necessary resources. Key areas include:
- Linking to annual forecasts and budgets: Strategic plans involve change, and change often requires the investment of resources. To succeed, the strategic planning process must include the means by which its resource estimates and priorities become part of the institution’s long-range resource forecasts and annual budgets.
- Coordinating with related organization(s): Few organizational units stand entirely on their own. To succeed, the strategic planning process must anticipate and involve participants from other affected units and must be communicated regularly across the organization.
- Assignment of ownership and accountability: The organization’s management must, in the end, embrace assignment of ownership and accountability. To succeed, the strategic plan and the organization’s leadership must clearly assign and communicate organizational and individual responsibilities for the successful execution and implementation of each goal and strategy.
Group on Institutional Planning (GIP) Toolkit (PDF)
Creating Strategic Plans
Step 1: initial planning (approval, scope, timeframe, stakeholders, planning team).
The goals of the initial planning phase are to: 1) clarify the scope of the strategic plan; 2) organize the planning process; and 3) identify stakeholders and possibly a list of steering committee members to be involved with the development and implementation of the plan.
Step 2: Environmental Assessment
The objective of the environmental assessment phase is to define and collect the necessary data to understand the service’s current state. Some questions an environmental assessment hopes to answer include:
- What does the service’s historical performance indicate?
- What trends are impacting the organization?
- What opportunities or threats are facing the service or organization?
- What strengths or weaknesses does the service or organization possess?
This is accomplished through interviews, data analysis, focus groups, surveys, internal and/or external benchmarking, and sometimes an innovation assessment. The end result of this phase should be a summary document that provides an accurate representation of the present environment while identifying both issues and opportunities. Assistance of a business manager is helpful in identifying data and doing the analyses.
Step 3: Mission, Vision, Goal and Strategy Formation
The purpose of this step is to agree on your current mission, create a future vision for the organization/service and generate short-term goals and detailed strategies towards reaching this desired state. The formation of the mission, vision and accompanying goals is accomplished through brainstorming and discussions with senior leadership/stakeholders while the formation of strategies is best achieved by smaller workgroups comprised of those that will be directly involved in implementation. In the last part of this phase, the direction and strategies are used to generate volume projections and a pro forma validating the expected successes of plan implementation.
Step 4: Final Plan Development and Approval/Endorsement
The goal of this step is to: 1) compile the necessary documents for senior leadership and key stakeholders in the organization/service; and 2) secure plan confirmation/approval. The purpose is to provide senior leadership/key stakeholders with the information needed to make decisions regarding the organization/service. In addition, senior management will want to understand how the organization/service will drive implementation (i.e., how the plan will be implemented). An implementation plan and scorecard are useful tools to facilitate this discussion.
- Four Basic Questions (PDF) Four questions to consider when developing your strategic plan
- Structure (PDF) Visual overview of the structure of the strategic plan
- Environmental Assessment Tools for Research (PDF) This presentation is divided into three parts: Part 1 focuses on an overview of research strategic planning, including trends; Part 2 focuses on assessing the internal environment; and Part 3 focuses on assessing the external environment.
- SWOT Analysis (internal to your organization ) (PDF) Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
- What is Planning? (PDF)
Implementing Strategic Plans
The strategic plan should be a living document that helps drive decision making for leaders and teams. It should be reviewed periodically to assess progress.
Step 1: Develop an Implementation Plan
Once you know what you want to achieve and how, develop an implementation plan that highlights strategy leaders, timeline (including interdependencies) and resources needed (both existing and incremental). This not only helps the department organize around their plan but provide direction for enabling business entities such as advancement, space planning, communications, and government affairs.
Step 2: Scorecard Development and On-Going Review
Prior to the completion of the plan, determine how frequently the plan will be re-evaluated and how often updates will be given to senior leadership/key stakeholders. Develop a scorecard that compares actual performance to targets for key plan metrics.
To ensure that the plan is moving forward, periodic meetings with individuals denoted in the implementation plan may be needed to discuss progress and any factors that mitigate the plan’s success. Adjustments may be needed to the planned timeline, or to strategies and resources.
Step 3: Communications Plan
Once your plan is complete and approved by senior leadership, it is important to communicate it to key stakeholders including faculty and staff, boards, alumni, philanthropists/foundations, politicians and other influencers. Additionally, work with your communication’s team to ensure regular communications tie to the strategic plan progress whenever possible. Encourage your leader to mention their strategic plan in regular interactions and how the plan impacts his/her decision making and prioritization.
- Strategic Planning and Assessment Presentation - This presentation is designed to give an overview of the strategic planning process for those new to the process. It has been used with deans and other executives particularly in higher education, but it is applicable to any organization.
- Strategic Planning: Moving from Point A to Point B Faster - Best practices for strategy and strategic planning.
- Proposed Timeline and Process for Updating the Strategic Plan (PDF)
- Planning within Turbulence: The Changing Nature of Change (PDF)
Use of Data and Scorecards in Strategic Plans
It is important to understand if your actions are creating the progress desired. Therefore, it is important to develop metrics to track your success and make changes to the plan if needed. Leadership and key stakeholders will also want to understand that goals are being achieved.
- Tracking progress allows you to advocate for support, financial or otherwise, as you move forward in your plan. A few points to consider when developing dashboard:
- It will be important to identify metrics in key areas that will demonstrate progress toward goals (e.g., clinical volume, quality and safety, financial, research funding, etc.).
- Targets for each metric should be identified. /Metrics should be compiled in a scorecard for tracking progress over time. Actual performance should be compared to the targets.
- AAMC Data Resources for benchmarking purposes
- Dashboard example (PDF) of how data can be presented
Recommended Strategic Planning Reading
AAMC President's Address 2007: " Culture and the Courage to Change " (PDF). Former AAMC President Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., delivered the following address at the association's 118th annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on November 4, 2007
- Collaboration and Peer Review in Medical Schools' Strategic Planning
- Improving Diversity Through Strategic Planning: A 10-Year (2002–2012) Experience at the Medical University of South Carolina
- Defining the Role of the University of Kentucky HealthCare in Its Medical Market—How Strategic Planning Creates the Intersection of Good Public Policy and Good Business Practices
- Strategic Planning and the Balanced Scorecard for Faculty Practice Plans
- Making Interprofessional Education Work: The Strategic Roles of the Academy
- Strategic Planning in a Complex Academic Environment: Lessons from One Academic Health Center
- Development and Implementation of a Comprehensive Strategic Plan for Medical Education at an Academic Medical Center
Space Planning and Management in Academic Medical Centers
Strategic Planning Presentations
- Developing, Implementing and Monitoring Your Strategic Plan (webinar)
- Operationalizing Your Strategic Plan - Part II (webinar)
- Tips and Tools to Successfully Implement a Strategic Plan (webinar)
- Communicating Your Strategic Plan: To Enlighten, Convince, Motivate, and Align (webinar). Download the related notes by Shari Capers and Rebecca Saavedra.
- The Changing Environment (PDF): How do you plan for the long term in an ever changing environment? This resource provides an overview of things to consider as a clinical, research, educational or institutional plan is developed and how to leverage effective strategies to cope with changing circumstances.
- Introduction to Strategic Planning (PDF): This presentation introduces the concept of strategic planning and illustrates how strategic planning can help your institution. In this presentation, you will learn how to develop the strategic direction, assess the environment and establish goals.
- Environmental Assessment Tools (PDF): Strategic planning emphasizes assessment of the environment both inside and outside of the organization. This presentation includes an in-depth discussion of research data that are publicly available and the practical uses of the data that can be used in the environmental assessment.
- Organization Alignment (PDF): For your strategic plan to succeed, each person in your organization must support it. This session will focus on the importance of, and ways to gain buy-in from, the university or other institutional leaders, identify project leaders, and develop a communication plan.
- Performance Excellence and Continuous Improvement Methods (PDF): There are many tools, methods, templates and frameworks that can be utilized in strategic planning. This presentation provides a brief introduction to some of the more well known frameworks. While the method itself can be a valuable asset in strategic planning, the adaptability of the different frameworks to fit your unique planning needs is where the real value is derived. Gain a better understanding of how to utilize some of the different methods and potential outcomes by utilizing these tools.
- Developing the Action Plan: Moving from Planning to Action (PDF): Moving beyond the development of the strategy and goals, this presentation focuses on elements important for the success of the strategic plan. Coordinated action across the institution is the key to success. In this presentation we will examine how resource plans are constructed and how to develop and identify key stakeholders and resources needed to achieve your goals.
- Managing Your Strategic Plan (PDF): This presentation offers examples of metrics, scorecards, dashboards, and other tracking tools for accountability. Included in the session will be a discussion of return on investment, delegation and assignment of responsibilities, and staffing and effort associated with managing your plan.
- The Future (PDF): What has changed over the years in strategic planning and what should we expect in the years to come? What are the new technologies and technologies coming down the pipeline that will help the strategic planning process be successful? This is a chance to think toward the future, and to help better position yourself, as a strategic planner, to be ‘strategically thinking’ toward future opportunities.
Institutional Strategic Plans
- Chicago Medical School Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science 2020-2023 (PDF)
- Creighton University School of Medicine 2008-2018 (PDF)
- Strategic Plan FY 2019-2022 (PDF)
- Strategic Plan FY 2020-2024 - Advancing Health Equity and Inclusion for Community and Academic Impact (PDF)
- Florida Atlantic University Schmidt College of Medicine 2018-2023
- Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine 2015-2020 (PDF)
- Indiana University School of Medicine 2018-2022
- Memorial University of Newfoundland 2018-2023
- Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine 2022-2025
- Rutgers New Jersey Medical School 2019-2024 (PDF)
- University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
- University of Alabama at Birmingham Heersink School of Medicine
- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences 2019-2029
- University of California, Davis, School of Medicine 2022-2027
- University of California, Riverside, School of Medicine 2020-2025 (PDF)
- University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine 2021-2023
- University of Central Florida College of Medicine 2021-2026 (PDF)
- University of Louisville School of Medicine 2020-2023 (PDF)
- University of Michigan Medical School 2019-2024
- University of New Mexico School of Medicine 2018-2023
- University of South Carolina School of Medicine 2008
- Wayne State University 2022-2027 (PDF)
- Western Michigan University School of Medicine 2018-2022
Strategic Planning Career Development
Planners are masters of process. Planners must skillfully employ a variety of techniques to shepherd participants through the steps of visioning, environmental assessment, development of goals, objectives and strategies, and tactical planning for implementation. The skills involved are both substantive and political.
Planners must be generalists with the ability to master new subject areas quickly. In one instance, the planner may be called on to facilitate planning for managed care networks, and in the next, be called on to plan for a transgenic animal program. The potential topical areas are nearly limitless, and the planner must be comfortable working with technical material that may be unfamiliar.
The roles that planners are called on to play are even more varied than the many different organizations that make up academic medicine. The senior planning position in a large organization, such as an academic medical center, would include all of the elements listed below. Senior planners in smaller organizations, or specialists within a planning group, may have responsibilities requiring some of these abilities, but not all of them.
Competencies are listed below:
- High Performing Teams
- Change Management
- Coaching Skills
- Facilitation Skills
- Leadership Building
- Project Management
- Situation Analysis
GIP Strategic Planning and Management Subcommittee
Learn more about the GIP Strategic Planning and Management Subcommittee . Learn more about the subcommittee's recent hot topic discussions .
- Medical Education
- Medical School Administration
The 5 steps of the strategic planning process
Starting a project without a strategy is like trying to bake a cake without a recipe — you might have all the ingredients you need, but without a plan for how to combine them, or a vision for what the finished product will look like, you’re likely to end up with a mess. This is especially true when working with a team — it’s crucial to have a shared plan that can serve as a map on the pathway to success.
Creating a strategic plan not only provides a useful document for the future, but also helps you define what you have right now, and think through and outline all of the steps and considerations you’ll need to succeed.
What is strategic planning?
While there is no single approach to creating a strategic plan, most approaches can be boiled down to five overarching steps:
- Define your vision
- Assess where you are
- Determine your priorities and objectives
- Define responsibilities
- Measure and evaluate results
Each step requires close collaboration as you build a shared vision, strategy for implementation, and system for understanding performance.
Related: Learn how to hold an effective strategic planning meeting
Why do I need a strategic plan?
Building a strategic plan is the best way to ensure that your whole team is on the same page, from the initial vision, to the metrics for success, to evaluating outcomes and adjusting (if necessary) for the future. Even if you’re an expert baker, working with a team to bake a cake means having a collaborative approach and clearly defined steps, so that the end result reflects the goals you laid out at the beginning.
Here’s how to build and structure your strategic plan, complete with templates and assets to help you along the way.
1. Define your vision
Whether it’s for your business as a whole, or a specific initiative, creating a strategic plan means you’ll need to be aligned on a vision for success.
For example: We are going to revolutionize customer success by streamlining and optimizing our process for handling support tickets. It’s important to have buy-in across the board, so that all stakeholders know the overall objective and understand the roles they will play in realizing your goals.
Using a platform like MURAL, you can easily capture and organize your team’s ideas through sticky notes, diagrams, text, or even images and videos, allowing you to build actionable next steps immediately (and in the same place) through color coding and tagging.
This can be done in real-time or asynchronously , whether in person, hybrid, or remote. By leveraging a shared digital space, everyone has a voice in the process and room to add their thoughts, comments, and feedback.
Related: Brainstorming and Ideation Template
2. Assess where you are
The next step in creating a strategic plan is to conduct an assessment of where you stand, in terms of your own initiatives, as well as the greater marketplace. One of the most common ways to conduct a strategic assessment is a SWOT analysis.
What is a SWOT analysis?
A SWOT analysis is an exercise where you define:
- Strengths: What are your unique strengths for this initiative or for this product? In what ways are you a leader?
- Weaknesses: What weaknesses can you identify in your offering? How does your product compare to others in the marketplace?
- Opportunities: Are there areas for improvement that would help differentiate your business?
- Threats: Beyond weaknesses, are there existing on potential threats to your initiative that could limit or prevent its success? How can those be anticipated?
Related: SWOT Analysis Template
3. Determine your priorities and objectives
In order to realize your vision, what will you need to prioritize, and what specific objectives can you outline to accomplish your goals?
Once you’ve defined your vision and analyzed your current standing, you’ll be well positioned to start outlining and ranking your priorities, and the specific objectives tied to those priorities. This can take the form of brainstorming and ideation based on the takeaways from steps 1 and 2.
Related: Project Kickoff Template
4. Define tactics and responsibilities
What are the specific steps necessary to accomplish your objectives? Who will be accountable? This is the stage where individuals or units within your team can get granular about how to achieve your goals, one step at a time.
It’s important to note that these may shift over time, as you launch and gather initial data about your project. For this reasons it’s key to:
- Develop a plan that has clear metrics for success
- Ensure that your plan is adaptable to changing circumstances
- Outline clear roles and responsibilities, so it’s easy to right the ship or make small adjustments in a coordinated fashion
One of the more common ways to define tactics and metrics is to use the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) method. By outlining your OKRs, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking to accomplish, and have a framework for analyzing the results once you begin to accumulate relevant data.
Related: OKR Planning Template
5. Manage, measure, and evaluate
Once your plan is set into motion, it’s important to actively manage (and measure) progress. Before launching your plan, settle on a means to measure success or failure, so that everyone is aligned on progress and can come together to evaluate your initiative at regular intervals.
Determine an interval at which to come together and go over results — this can take place weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on the nature of the project.
One of the best ways to evaluate progress is through Agile retrospectives (or retros), which can be done in real time, or asynchronously with a platform like MURAL, offering a shared digital space to gather and organize feedback.
Related: Retrospective Radar Template
Retrospectives are typically divided into three parts:
- What went well
- What didn’t go well
- What opportunities are there for improvement
This structure is also sometimes called the ‘Rose, Thorn, Bud’ framework. By using this approach, team members can collectively brainstorm and categorize their feedback, making the next steps clear and actionable.
Another method for reviewing progress is the quarterly business review (QBR). Like the Agile retrospective allows you to collect feedback and adjust accordingly. In the case of QBRs, however, we recommend dividing your feedback into four categories:
- Start (what new items should be launched?)
- Stop (what items need to be paused?)
- Continue (what is going well?)
- Change (what could be modified to perform better?)
Using the above approach, your team can make room for new ideas within the existing strategic framework in order to track better to your longterm goals.
Related: Quarterly Business Report Template
The beauty of the strategic plan is that it can be applied from the campaign level all the way up to organizational vision. Using the strategic planning framework, you build buy-in, trust, and transparency by collaboratively creating a vision for success, and mapping out the steps together on the road to your goals.
Also, in so doing, you build in an ability to adapt effectively on the fly in response to data through measurement and evaluation, making your plan both flexible and resilient.
Related: 5 Tips for Holding Effective Post-mortems
Why MURAL for strategic planning
MURAL unlocks collaborative strategic planning through a shared digital space with an intuitive interface, a library of pre-fab templates, and methodologies based on design thinking principles.
Outline goals, identify key metrics, and track progress with a platform built for any enterprise.
Learn more about strategic planning with MURAL
We've got you covered with our icebreaker generator.
...Click button to generate icebreaker
About the author
About the authors
Looking for a way to take your company in a new and profitable direction? It starts with strategic planning. Keep reading to learn what a strategic plan is, why you need it and how you can strategically create one.
The marketing planning process is a road map that analyzes the business environment, investigates potential problems, identifies threats and opportunities for growth in the industry and forecasts financial projections and returns on investm...
The process by which you train and prepare employees to fill crucial roles within an organization is known as succession planning. This process ensures that the business continues its day-to-day operations as usual. This article will highli...
Strategic planning process steps · 1. Determine your strategic position · 2. Prioritize your objectives · 3. Develop a plan · 4. Execute and manage the plan · 5.
1. Define mission and vision · 2. Conduct a comprehensive assessment · 3. Forecast · 4. Set the organizational direction of the business · 5. Create
Strategic planning is a process in which an organization's leaders define their vision for the future and identify their organization's goals and objectives
Strategic Planning is a process where organizations define a bold vision and create a plan with objectives and goals to reach that future. A
What Are the Steps in Strategic Planning & Management? · Analysis or assessment, where an understanding of the current internal and external
They usually have three major parts. The first is a vision or mission statement that sets out a relatively lofty and aspirational goal. The second is a list of
Strategic planning is when business leaders map out their vision for the organization's growth and how they're going to get there. Strategic
How to Strategic Plan in 7 Steps · Step 1: Environmental Scan · Step 2: Internal Analysis · Step 3: Strategic Direction · Step 4: Develop Goals and
Strategic planning is the art of creating specific business strategies, implementing them, and evaluating the results of executing the plan, in
Strategic planning is a process that outlines the direction of an organization. It identifies how an organization will allocate their resources to achieve a
The 5 steps of the strategic planning process · 1. Define your vision · 2. Assess where you are · 3. Determine your priorities and objectives · 4.