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what are the strategic planning process

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What is strategic planning? A 5-step guide

Julia Martins contributor headshot

Strategic planning is a process through which business leaders map out their vision for their organization’s growth and how they’re going to get there. In this article, we'll guide you through the strategic planning process, including why it's important, the benefits and best practices, and five steps to get you from beginning to end.

Strategic planning is a process through which business leaders map out their vision for their organization’s growth and how they’re going to get there. The strategic planning process informs your organization’s decisions, growth, and goals.

Strategic planning helps you clearly define your company’s long-term objectives—and maps how your short-term goals and work will help you achieve them. This, in turn, gives you a clear sense of where your organization is going and allows you to ensure your teams are working on projects that make the most impact. Think of it this way—if your goals and objectives are your destination on a map, your strategic plan is your navigation system.

In this article, we walk you through the 5-step strategic planning process and show you how to get started developing your own strategic plan.

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What is strategic planning?

Strategic planning is a business process that helps you define and share the direction your company will take in the next three to five years. During the strategic planning process, stakeholders review and define the organization’s mission and goals, conduct competitive assessments, and identify company goals and objectives. The product of the planning cycle is a strategic plan, which is shared throughout the company.

What is a strategic plan?

[inline illustration] Strategic plan elements (infographic)

A strategic plan is the end result of the strategic planning process. At its most basic, it’s a tool used to define your organization’s goals and what actions you’ll take to achieve them.

Typically, your strategic plan should include: 

Your company’s mission statement

Your organizational goals, including your long-term goals and short-term, yearly objectives

Any plan of action, tactics, or approaches you plan to take to meet those goals

What are the benefits of strategic planning?

Strategic planning can help with goal setting and decision-making by allowing you to map out how your company will move toward your organization’s vision and mission statements in the next three to five years. Let’s circle back to our map metaphor. 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:

Build a strong organizational culture by clearly defining and aligning on your organization’s mission, vision, and goals.

Align everyone around a shared purpose and ensure all departments and teams are working toward a common objective.

Proactively set objectives to help you get where you want to go and achieve desired outcomes.

Promote a long-term vision for your company rather than focusing primarily on short-term gains.

Ensure resources are allocated around the most high-impact priorities.

Define long-term goals and set shorter-term goals to support them.

Assess your current situation and identify any opportunities—or threats—allowing your organization to mitigate potential risks.

Create a proactive business culture that enables your organization to respond more swiftly to emerging market changes and opportunities.

What are the 5 steps in strategic planning?

The strategic planning process involves a structured methodology that guides the organization from vision to implementation. The strategic planning process starts with assembling a small, dedicated team of key strategic planners—typically five to 10 members—who will form the strategic planning, or management, committee. This team is responsible for gathering crucial information, guiding the development of the plan, and overseeing strategy execution.

Once you’ve established your management committee, you can get to work on the planning process. 

Step 1: Assess your current business strategy and business environment

Before you can define where you’re going, you first need to define where you are. Understanding the external environment, including market trends and competitive landscape, is crucial in the initial assessment phase of strategic planning.

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 about the product, business practices, or the day-to-day company culture.

Consider different types of strategic planning tools and analytical techniques to gather this information, such as:

A balanced scorecard to help you evaluate four major elements of a business: learning and growth, business processes, customer satisfaction, and financial performance.

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? 

Weaknesses:

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? 

Opportunities:

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 company’s goals and objectives

To begin strategy development, take into account your current position, which is where you are now. Then, draw inspiration from your vision, mission, and current position to identify and define your goals—these are your final destination. 

To develop your strategy, you’re essentially pulling out your compass and asking, “Where are we going next?” “What’s the ideal future state of this company?” This can help you figure out which path you need to take to get there.

During this phase of the planning process, take inspiration from important company documents, such as:

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 strategic plan and determine performance metrics

Now that you understand where you are and where you want to go, it’s time to put pen to paper. Take your current business position and strategy into account, as well as your organization’s goals and objectives, and build out a strategic plan for the next three to five years. Keep in mind that even though you’re creating a long-term plan, parts of your plan should be created or revisited as the quarters and years go on.

As you build your strategic plan, you should define:

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. 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. These KPIs will help you track progress and ensure you’re moving in the right direction.

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: Implement and share your plan

Now it’s time to put your plan into action. Strategy implementation involves clear communication across your entire organization to make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and how to measure the plan’s success. 

Make sure your team (especially senior leadership) has access to the strategic plan, so they can understand how their work contributes to company priorities and the overall strategy map. 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 platform .  

A few tips to make sure your plan will be executed without a hitch: 

Communicate clearly to your entire organization throughout the implementation process, to ensure all team members understand the strategic plan and how to implement it effectively. 

Define what “success” looks like by mapping your strategic plan to key performance indicators.

Ensure that the actions outlined in the strategic plan are integrated into the daily operations of the organization, so that every team member's daily activities are aligned with the broader strategic objectives.

Utilize tools and software—like a work management platform—that can aid in implementing and tracking the progress of your plan.

Regularly monitor and share the progress of the strategic plan with the entire organization, to keep everyone informed and reinforce the importance of the plan.

Establish regular check-ins to monitor the progress of your strategic plan and make adjustments as needed. 

Step 5: Revise and restructure as needed

Once you’ve created and implemented your new strategic framework, the final step of the planning process is to monitor and manage your plan.

Remember, your strategic plan isn’t set in stone. You’ll need to revisit and update the plan if your company changes directions or makes new investments. As new market opportunities and threats come up, you’ll likely want to tweak your strategic plan. Make sure to review your plan regularly—meaning quarterly and annually—to ensure it’s still aligned with your organization’s vision and goals.

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.

Build a smarter strategic plan with a work management platform

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. 

A work management platform plays a pivotal role in this process. It acts as a central hub for your strategic plan, ensuring that every task and project is directly tied to your broader company goals. This alignment is crucial for visibility and coordination, allowing team members to see how their individual efforts contribute to the company’s success. 

By leveraging such a platform, you not only streamline workflow and enhance team productivity but also align every action with your strategic objectives—allowing teams to drive greater impact and helping your company move toward goals more effectively. 

Strategic planning FAQs

Still have questions about strategic planning? We have answers.

Why 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 that will help your company be successful.

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.

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 is a strategic planning template?

A strategic planning template is a tool organizations can use to map out their strategic plan and track progress. Typically, a strategic planning template houses all the components needed to build out a strategic plan, including your company’s vision and mission statements, information from any competitive analyses or SWOT assessments, and relevant KPIs.

What’s the difference between a 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, you should create 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.

What’s the difference between a 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.

Simply put: 

A mission statement summarizes your company’s purpose.

A vision statement broadly explains how you’ll reach your company’s purpose.

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. 

What’s the difference between a 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.

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. a 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.

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. a 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. 

What’s the difference between strategic management vs. strategic planning?

A strategic plan is a tool to define where your organization wants to go and what actions you need to take to achieve those goals. Strategic planning is the process of creating a plan in order to hit your strategic objectives.

Strategic management includes the strategic planning process, but also goes beyond it. In addition to planning how you will achieve your big-picture goals, strategic management also helps you organize your resources and figure out the best action plans for success. 

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Strategic Planning Process Definition, Steps and Examples

Published: 03 January, 2024

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Stefan F.Dieffenbacher

Digital Strategy

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Table of Contents

Organizations use Strategic Planning to gather all their stakeholders to evaluate the collection of current circumstances and decide upon their ongoing goals and benchmarks. They decide upon long-term objectives and establish a vision for the company’s future.

The efforts behind an organization’s Strategic Planning Processes are vital to its success, and yet, while many organizations acknowledge they need to do this kind of planning, they often don’t understand how to make it a reality. In this article, we explain the reasons behind Strategic Planning and how to make your Strategic Planning Process as powerful as possible.

What is a Strategic Plan

Strategic planning is a systematic process wherein the leaders of an organization articulate their vision for the future and delineate the goals and objectives that will guide the trajectory of the organization.

What is the Strategic Planning Process

Strategic planning is a process of defining an organization’s direction and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this direction . It involves creating a long-term plan that outlines the organization’s vision, mission, values, and objectives, as well as the strategies and tactics that will be used to achieve them.

Strategy is often misunderstood, which is surprising because fundamentally it’s a pretty basic concept. Strategy is a clearly expressed direction and a verified plan on how to get there. Your Strategic Planning Process formalizes the steps you’ll take to decide on your plan. The Strategic Planning Process facilitates using a Strategic Execution Framework that articulates where you’ll invest in innovation and where you can cut costs.

As far as business development planning is concerned, your Strategic Execution Framework is a vital tool for driving innovation, but first you must define the process you’ll undertake to determine how you and your team see the future of your organization. In this article, we discuss how to create your Strategic Plan and define its relationship to other concepts and documents that direct your business and its activities.

Innovation Strategy Execution Framework

While it’s true that every business is different and must develop their own processes, we believe there are some process  of strategic planning stepsthat benefit all organizations.

Below are our recommendations for the steps to take when undergoing your Strategic Planning Process, along with the questions we suggest you answer during each specific step.

Step One: Analyze your Business Environment

  • Who are your competitors?
  • What relevant market data do you have, and what do you still need?
  • What technology has emerged that impacts your business model?
  • How have customer expectations changed since your last Strategic Plan?
  • What advantages do you have over competitors?
  • Where is your company weaker compared to competitors?
  • What predictable complications are on the horizon?
  • Which unpredictable complications seem most likely or most potentially impactful?

Step Two: Set your Strategic Direction

  • What is your overall Business Purpose ?
  • How have your operations reflected your Purpose and Goals recently?
  • How should your operations reflect your Purpose and Goals?
  • Where do you see your business going in the next year?
  • In two years? In three years?
  • What are the metrics you’ll use to measure success?
  • What are your make-or-break necessities?

Step Three: Set and develop Strategic Goals and Strategic Objectives

  • Have you considered short-, mid-, and long-term business goals , and what are they?
  • How do your Strategic Goals reflect your Mission Statement?
  • How do your Strategic Goals reflect your company values and vision?
  • What daily operations must be completed to work toward your Strategic Objectives?
  • How will you communicate your Strategic Goals and Strategic Objectives?
  • Who is responsible for reporting on success?
  • How will strategic data be collected?

Related: Strategic Goals: Examples, Importance, Definitions and How to Set Them

Step Four: Drill down to Department-Level Objectives

  • What are specific department concerns?
  • How will your budget influence and be influenced by your Strategic Goals and Objectives?
  • Which departments have resources that could be shared to better advantage?
  • What roles do individual departments play in your overall Strategic Goals?
  • What ongoing projects become a priority because of your new Strategic Goals?
  • Are Departmental Objectives complementing each other and the overall Business Model?

Step Five: Manage and Analyze Performance

  • Who is on the Strategic Planning team?
  • Are tasks and job descriptions properly aligned to ensure the right work is getting completed?
  • What is the schedule for the meeting for Strategic Planning?
  • What are your metrics for measuring performance and success?
  • Have you clearly articulated and shared KPIs?
  • Who is responsible for gathering data?
  • How will data be collected?
  • How will data be reported?
  • What’s at stake for strategy success or failure?

Step Six: Review and develop your Strategic Plan

  • How should your Strategic Plan look on paper?
  • What is your Strategy Execution Framework —how will you guarantee the Strategic Plan Team’s decisions are respected and executed?
  • What is the review process?
  • How often do you evaluate your Strategic Plan?
  • How will you communicate your final Strategic Plan?

Strategic Planning Process Examples

1) apple strategic plan process.

  • Vision and Mission: Apple’s strategic planning begins with a clear vision and mission. Apple’s vision is to create innovative products that inspire and enrich people’s lives.
  • Environmental Analysis: Apple conducts thorough environmental analyses, considering technological trends, market demands, and competitive landscapes. This includes staying at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies.
  • SWOT Analysis: Apple evaluates its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. For example, one of Apple’s strengths is its strong brand image, while a weakness might be dependence on a limited product line.
  • Setting business Goals and Objectives: Apple sets specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. This could include objectives like maintaining a certain market share, launching new products, or achieving specific financial targets.
  • Strategies and Tactics: Apple develops strategies based on its goals. For instance, a strategic move might be expanding its ecosystem by integrating hardware, software, and services. Tactics could include aggressive marketing campaigns and product launches.
  • Implementation and Execution: Apple’s strategic plans are meticulously executed. The launch of iconic products like the iPhone, iPad, and Mac series demonstrates effective implementation of their strategies.
  • Monitoring and Adjusting: Apple constantly monitors its performance metrics, customer feedback, and market dynamics. If necessary, adjustments are made to the strategic plan to stay responsive to changing conditions.

2) Tesla Strategic Plan Process

  • Vision and Mission: Tesla’s strategic planning revolves around its mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. The vision includes producing electric vehicles and renewable energy solutions.
  • Market Analysis: Tesla analyzes global markets for electric vehicles, renewable energy, and energy storage. This involves understanding regulatory environments, consumer behaviours, and technological advancements.
  • Risk Assessment: Tesla conducts risk assessments related to manufacturing, supply chain, and market volatility. For instance, it considers risks associated with battery production and global economic conditions.
  • Setting Bold Objectives: Tesla is known for setting ambitious objectives, such as achieving mass-market electric vehicle adoption and establishing a robust network of charging stations worldwide.
  • Innovative Strategies: Tesla’s strategic planning involves innovation in technology and business models . For instance, the “Gigafactories” for mass production of batteries and the “Autopilot” feature in vehicles reflect innovative strategies.
  • Agile Adaptation: Due to the rapidly changing automotive and energy sectors, Tesla maintains an agile approach. The company adapts its plans swiftly to capitalize on emerging opportunities, as seen in the expansion of its energy products.
  • Continuous Improvement: Tesla places emphasis on continuous improvement. The iterative development of electric vehicle models, software updates, and advancements in battery technology showcase a commitment to refinement.

These examples demonstrate how strategic planning is a dynamic and integral part of the business processes of leading companies. They highlight the importance of a well-defined vision, rigorous analysis, adaptability, and innovation in the strategic planning process.

Tactical vs. Strategic Planning Process

An easy way to distinguish your company’s Tactical Planning from your Strategic Planning is to separate your wants from your HOWs.

In your Strategic Planning, you identify what you WANT for the company. These are big-picture dreams (achievable, but big ) that are your definition of success. In your Tactical Planning, you identify the HOW for reaching those dreams, including the smaller necessary steps.

Each kind of planning is vital for securing the organization’s future, but they require different sorts of attention and philosophy, and teams that are good at planning one way may not necessarily be good at the other kind of planning.

Strategic Planning vs. Your Business Purpose

Your Strategic Planning Process will of course be deeply connected to your Business Purpose .

We like to think of Business Purpose in broad terms, choosing especially to think of a business’s role in massive transformation. Embedded within a Business Purpose is the Business Plan that directs operations and how a company delivers value to its customers.

What is the relationship between your Strategic Planning and your Business Purpose? One feeds into the other. Your Business Purpose must point to a larger impact you’ll have on the people who purchase your goods and services, and your Strategic Planning takes into account how you’ll grow and expand that Purpose as you reach more customers more successfully.

Strategic Planning vs Business Planning

Strategic planning and business planning are two distinct processes that are often used interchangeably, but they have some key differences.

Strategic planning is a top-level process that focuses on determining the direction of an organization over the long term. It involves setting goals, determining the key resources and actions necessary to achieve those goals, and allocating those resources in a way that best serves the organization’s future. The outcome of strategic planning is typically a long-term strategic plan that outlines the organization’s vision, mission, values, and objectives.

Business planning , on the other hand, is a more tactical process that focuses on the implementation of specific initiatives and projects to support the organization’s long-term goals. Business plans typically outline the steps necessary to launch a new product, enter a new market, or achieve a specific objective. They may also include budgets, marketing plans, and other operational details.

In short, strategic planning is about setting the direction for an organization, while business planning is about implementing specific initiatives to support that direction. Both processes are important for the success of an organization and should be used in conjunction to ensure that resources are allocated effectively and that the organization is moving in the right direction.

Why is Strategic Planning Important?

Imagine this scenario: A warehouse full of goods sits, unsold and unmoved. A collection of brilliant people languishes at desks all day. Outside, the world spins and changes. It’s ready for what these people could do, can do, and yet nothing happens. Needs remain unmet. Progress is halted. Everyday life takes several backwards steps. This is what your business will look like without proper Strategic Planning.

Strategic Planning forces you to consider your Strategic Objectives and critically compare them to the resources you have available. As you continuously evaluate the circumstances of your business and your customers, your Strategic Plan evolves to match your goals and business capabilities.

The process involved pushes decision-makers to practice Strategic Thinking . It limits wasteful spending, especially when upper-level managers are willing to forgo pet projects in favor of operations with a broader use and appeal.

Strategic Planning is important because it directs your resources to efficiently meet your overall Business Goals. Without Strategic Planning, you are likely to waste resources, make conflicting decisions, or fail to grow your business to its greatest potential.

When Do You Create a Strategic Plan?

Most businesses find value in reviewing their Strategic Plan every three years. This allows enough time to pass that you can evaluate the success of previous plans, reflect on the achievement of your Strategic Goals, consider developments outside your organization that affect your business, and begin formulating new goals that will become the next version of your plans.

When businesses first begin, they often have too many fires burning at once. They remain focused on existing today rather than planning for tomorrow. Most entrepreneurs remember those stressful early days of starting their businesses and can understand why formalities like Strategic Plans can fall by the wayside. We believe if your business lasts longer than a year it’s important to develop a plan for the future. Think of Strategic Planning as a celebration of a first anniversary—a sign that you’re poised to continue moving forward for years to come.

However, Strategic Planning is not a one-off event that is over once the cookies are all gone and the room clears. Your Strategic Planning team should meet regularly to measure how effective the plans are at helping you reach your Strategic Goals. Ad hoc subcommittees can play a role in gathering evidence to ensure that your plans remain appropriate, especially if conditions change.

For example, we recommended a close review of Strategic Plans and Strategic Goals once the COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that business was going to be affected at least short- to mid-term. We continue to recommend teams regularly revisit their Strategic Plans with global circumstances in mind to recognize opportunities and prepare for challenges.

The Benefits of Strategic Planning

As we’ve mentioned, there are many benefits of Strategic Planning . Some of those benefits include:

  • Shared sense of power and importance
  • United direction
  • Clear path and purpose for decision-making and operations
  • Boosted operational effectiveness
  • Responsible, efficient use of available resources
  • Meaningful work done on a daily basis
  • Tracking of progress
  • Ability to adjust to changing circumstances

What is a business without Strategic Planning? In most cases, it’s not much, nor is it long for the world. While it’s possible to accidentally find success without much planning, most successful businesses are a result of careful thought mixed with the urge to pounce on the opportunity.

What prepares you to pounce?

Your Strategic Planning and the processes that make it possible.

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The Strategic Planning Process in 4 Steps

To guide you through the strategic planning process, we created this 4 step process you can use with your team. we’ll cover the basic definition of strategic planning, what core elements you should include, and actionable steps to build your strategic plan..

Free Strategic Planning Guide

What is Strategic Planning?

Strategic Planning is when 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 development.

A strategic plan or a business strategic plan should include the following:

  • Your organization’s vision organization’s vision of the future.
  • A clearly Articulated mission and values statement.
  • A current state assessment that evaluates your competitive environment, new opportunities, and new threats.
  • What strategic challenges you face.
  • A growth strategy and outlined market share.
  • Long-term strategic goals.
  • An annual plan with SMART goals or OKRs to support your strategic goals.
  • Clear measures, key performance indicators, and data analytics to measure progress.
  • A clear strategic planning cycle, including how you’ll review, refresh, and recast your plan every quarter.

Strategic Planning Video - What is Strategic Planning?

Overview of the Strategic Planning Process:

The strategic management process involves taking your organization on a journey from point A (where you are today) to point B (your vision of the future).

Part of that journey is the strategy built during strategic planning, and part of it is execution during the strategic management process. A good strategic plan dictates “how” you travel the selected road.

Effective execution ensures you are reviewing, refreshing, and recalibrating your strategy to reach your destination. The planning process should take no longer than 90 days. But, move at a pace that works best for you and your team and leverage this as a resource.

To kick this process off, we recommend 1-2 weeks (1-hour meeting with the Owner/CEO, Strategy Director, and Facilitator (if necessary) to discuss the information collected and direction for continued planning.)

Strategic Planning Guide and Process

Questions to Ask:

  • Who is on your Planning Team? What senior leadership members and key stakeholders are included? Checkout these links you need help finding a strategic planning consultant , someone to facilitate strategic planning , or expert AI strategy consulting .
  • 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 your strategic plan and implementation?
  • Planning team members are informed of their roles and responsibilities.
  • A strategic planning schedule is established.
  • Existing planning information and secondary data collected.

Action Grid:

Overview of the Strategic Planning Process

Step 1: Determine Organizational Readiness

Set up your plan 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 strategy implementation (Chief Strategy Officer or Strategy Director) and strategic management of your plan? You need some of the key individuals and decision makers for this team. It should be a small group of approximately 12-15 people.

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

All strategic plans are developed using the following information:

  • The last strategic plan, even if it is not current
  • Mission statement, vision statement, values statement
  • Past or current 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?

Conclusion: A successful strategic plan must be adaptable to changing conditions. Organizations benefit from having a flexible plan that can evolve, as assumptions and goals may need adjustments. Preparing to adapt or restart the planning process is crucial, so we recommend updating actions quarterly and refreshing your plan annually.

Strategic Planning Pyramid

Strategic Planning Phase 1: Determine Your Strategic Position

Want more? Dive into the “ Evaluate Your Strategic Position ” How-To Guide.

Action Grid

Step 1: identify strategic issues.

Strategic issues are critical unknowns driving you to embark on a robust strategic planning process. These issues can be problems, opportunities, market shifts, or anything else that keeps you awake at night and begging for a solution or decision. The best strategic plans address your strategic issues head-on.

  • 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 called a PEST analysis, an acronym for Political, Economic, Social, and Technological trends. Sometimes, it is helpful to 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 understand 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.

Learn more on how to conduct a competitive analysis here .

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 preventing a company from reaching its objectives.

What do you need to mitigate? What external driving force do you need to anticipate?

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

How to Segment Your Customers

Customer segmentation defines the different groups of people or organizations a company aims to reach or serve.

  • 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

How to Perform a 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. Creating a SWOT analysis lets you 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

How to Write a Mission Statment

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 are your organization’s goals? 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. Check our the post on great what are core values and examples of core values .

How will we behave?

  • What are the key non-negotiables that are critical to the company’s success?
  • What guiding principles 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.

How to Write Core Values

A Vision Statement defines your desired future state and directs 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.

How to Write a Vision Statment

A competitive advantage is a characteristic of an organization that allows it to meet its customer’s need(s) better than its competition can. It’s important to consider your competitive advantages when creating your competitive strategy.

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.

What is a Competitive Advantage

Your competitive strategy is the general methods you intend to use to reach your vision. Regardless of 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.

How to Develop a Growth Strategy

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 your strategy map to help you think about the options 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? Check out examples of strategic objectives here. 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. You can use the balanced scorecard framework, OKRs, or whatever methodology works best for you. Just don’t exceed 6 long-term objectives.

Strategy Map

Step 3: Setting Organization-Wide Goals and Measures

How to Set SMART Goals

Once you have formulated your strategic objectives, you should translate them into goals and measures that can be communicated to your strategic planning team (team of business leaders and/or team members).

You want to set goals that convert the strategic objectives into specific performance targets. Effective strategic goals clearly state what, when, how, and who, and they are specifically measurable. They should address what you must do in the short term (think 1-3 years) to achieve your strategic objectives.

Organization-wide goals are annual statements that are SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, responsible, and time-bound. These are outcome statements expressing a result to achieve the desired outcomes expected in the organization.

What is most important right now to reach our long-term objectives?

Outcome: clear outcomes for the current year..

Strategic Planning Outcomes Table

Step 4: Select KPIs

How to Develop KPIs for Strategic Planning

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. See examples of KPIs here.

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 (KPIs), ask, “What are the key performance measures we need to track to monitor if we are achieving our goals?” These KPIs include the key goals you want to measure that will have the most impact on moving your organization forward.

Step 5: Cascade Your Strategies to Operations

Cascade Your Strategy to Acton Plans

To move from big ideas to action, creating action items and to-dos for short-term goals is crucial. This involves translating strategy from the organizational level to individuals. Functional area managers and contributors play a role in developing short-term goals to support the organization.

Before taking action, decide whether to create plans directly derived from the strategic plan or sync existing operational, business, or account plans with organizational goals. Avoid the pitfall of managing multiple sets of goals and actions, as this shifts from strategic planning to annual planning.

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:

Build a Strategic Plan You Can Implement

Phase 4: Executing Strategy and Managing Performance

Want more? 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.

Strategic Planning Calendar

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. Need help comparing strategic planning software ? Check out our guide.

Effective Strategic Planning: Your Bi-Annual Checklist

Is it strategic?

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 strategic 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 strategic goals, 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.

The most important part of this meeting is a 70/30 review. 30% is about reviewing performance, and 70% should be spent on making decisions to move the company’s strategy forward in the next quarter.

The best strategic planners spend about 60-90 minutes in the sessions. Holding meetings helps focus your goals on accomplishing top priorities and accelerating the organization’s growth. Although the meeting structure is relatively simple, it does require a high degree of discipline.

Strategy Review Session Questions:

Strategic planning frequently asked questions, read our frequently asked questions about strategic planning to learn how to build a great strategic plan..

Strategic planning is when 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..

Your strategic plan needs to include an assessment of your current state, a SWOT analysis, mission, vision, values, competitive advantages, growth strategy, growth enablers, a 3-year roadmap, and annual plan with strategic goals, OKRs, and KPIs.

A strategic planning process should take no longer than 90 days to complete from start to finish! Any longer could fatigue your organization and team.

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?

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what are the strategic planning process

The 5 steps of the strategic planning process

An illustration of a digital whiteboard with a bullseye diagram and sticky notes

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 and 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 result reflects the strategic goals you laid out at the beginning.

The benefits of strategic planning also permeate into the general efficiency and productivity of your organization as a whole. They include: 

  • Greater attention to potential biases or flaws, improving decision-making 
  • Clear direction and focus, motivating and engaging employees
  • Better resource management, improving project outcomes 
  • Improved employee performance, increasing profitability
  • Enhanced communication and collaboration, fostering team efficiency 

Next, let’s dive into how to build and structure your strategic plan, complete with templates and assets to help you along the way.

Before you begin: Pick a brainstorming method

There are many brainstorming methods you can use to come up with, outline, and rank your priorities. When it comes to strategy planning, it’s important to get everyone’s thoughts and ideas out before committing to any one strategy. With the right facilitation , brainstorming helps make this process fair and transparent for everyone involved.  

First, decide if you want to run a real-time rapid ideation session or a structured brainstorming . In a rapid ideation session, you encourage sharing half-baked or silly ideas, typically within a set time frame. The key is to just get out all your ideas quickly and then edit the best ones. Examples of rapid ideation methods include round robin , brainwriting , mind mapping , and crazy eights . 

In a structured brainstorming session, you allow for more time to prepare and edit your thoughts before getting together to share and discuss those more polished ideas. This might involve brainstorming methods that entail unconventional ways of thinking, such as reverse brainstorming or rolestorming . 

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. These features allow you to build actionable next steps immediately (and in the same place) through color coding and tagging. 

Whichever method you choose, the ideal outcome is that you avoid groupthink by giving everyone a voice and a say. Once you’ve reached a consensus on your top priorities, add specific objectives tied to each of those priorities.

Related: Brainstorming and ideation template

1. Define your vision

Whether it’s for your business as a whole, or a specific initiative, successful strategic planning involves alignment with a vision for success. You can think of it as a project-specific mission statement or a north star to guide employees toward fulfilling organizational goals. 

To create a vision statement that explicitly states the ideal results of your project or company transformation, follow these four key steps: 

  • Engage and involve the entire team . Inclusivity like this helps bring diverse perspectives to the table. 
  • Align the vision with your core values and purpose . This will make it familiar and easy to follow through. 
  • Stay grounded . The vision should be ambitious enough to motivate and inspire yet grounded enough to be achievable and relevant.
  • Think long-term flexibility . Consider future trends and how your vision can be flexible in the face of challenges or opportunities. 

For example, say your vision is to revolutionize customer success by streamlining and optimizing your process for handling support tickets. It’s important to have a strategy map that allows stakeholders (like the support team, marketing team, and engineering team) to know the overall objective and understand the roles they will play in realizing the goals. 

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: Vision board 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. Start by conducting a resource assessment. Figure out which financial, human, and/or technological resources you have available and if there are any limitations. You can do this using a SWOT analysis.

What is SWOT analysis?

SWOT analysis is an exercise where you define:

  • Strengths: What are your unique strengths for this initiative or 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'd help differentiate your business?
  • Threats: Beyond weaknesses, are there existing potential threats to your idea that could limit or prevent its success? How can those be anticipated?

For example, say you have an eco-friendly tech company and your vision is to launch a new service in the next year. Here’s what the SWOT analysis might look like: 

  • Strengths : Strong brand reputation, loyal customer base, and a talented team focused on innovation
  • Weaknesses : Limited bandwidth to work on new projects, which might impact the scope of its strategy formulation 
  • Opportunities : How to leverage and experiment with existing customers when goal-setting
  • Threats : Factors in the external environment out of its control, like the state of the economy and supply chain shortages

This SWOT analysis will guide the company in setting strategic objectives and formulating a robust plan to navigate the challenges it might face. 

Related: SWOT analysis template

3. Determine your priorities and objectives

Once you've identified your organization’s mission and current standing, start a preliminary plan document that outlines your priorities and their corresponding objectives. Priorities and objectives should be set based on what is achievable with your available resources. The SMART framework is a great way to ensure you set effective goals . It looks like this:  

  • Specific: Set clear objectives, leaving no room for ambiguity about the desired outcomes.
  • Measurable : Choose quantifiable criteria to make it easier to track progress.
  • Achievable : Ensure it is realistic and attainable within the constraints of your resources and environment.
  • Relevant : Develop objectives that are relevant to the direction your organization seeks to move.
  • Time-bound : Set a clear timeline for achieving each objective to maintain a sense of urgency and focus.

For instance, going back to the eco-friendly tech company, the SMART goals might be: 

  • Specific : Target residential customers and small businesses to increase the sales of its solar-powered device line by 25%. 
  • Measurable : Track monthly sales and monitor customer feedback and reviews. 
  • Achievable : Allocate more resources to the marketing, sales, and customer service departments. 
  • Relevant : Supports the company's growth goals in a growing market of eco-conscious consumers. 
  • Time-bound : Conduct quarterly reviews and achieve this 25% increase in sales over the next 12 months.

With strategic objectives like this, you’ll be ready to put the work into action. 

Related: Project kickoff template

4. Define tactics and responsibilities

In this stage, individuals or units within your team can get granular about how to achieve your goals and who'll be accountable for each step. For example, the senior leadership team might be in charge of assigning specific tasks to their team members, while human resources works on recruiting new talent. 

It’s important to note that everyone’s responsibilities may shift over time as you launch and gather initial data about your project. For this reason, it’s key to define responsibilities with clear short-term metrics for success. This way, you can make sure that your plan is adaptable to changing circumstances. 

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 key performance indicators (KPIs) to track and have a framework for analyzing the results once you begin to accumulate relevant data. 

For instance, if our eco-friendly tech company has a goal of increasing sales, one objective might be to expand market reach for its solar-powered products. The sales team lead would be in charge of developing an outreach strategy. The key result would be to successfully launch its products in two new regions by Q2. The KPI would be a 60% conversation rate in those targeted markets.  

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 management process that allows you to measure success or failure. In this way, everyone is aligned on progress and can come together to evaluate your strategy execution at regular intervals.

Determine the milestones at which you’ll 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. During this process, gather and organize feedback about the key elements that played a role in your strategy. 

Related: Retrospective radar template

Retrospectives are typically divided into three parts:

  • What went well.
  • What didn’t go well.
  • New opportunities 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. Creating an action plan during a post-mortem meeting is a crucial step in ensuring that lessons learned from past projects or events are effectively translated into tangible improvements. 

Another method for reviewing progress is the quarterly business review (QBR). Like the agile retrospective, it 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?).

Strategic planners know that planning activities continue even after a project is complete. There’s always room for improvement and an action plan waiting to be implemented. Using the above approaches, your team can make room for new ideas within the existing strategic framework in order to track better to your long-term goals.

Related: Quarterly business review template

Conclusions

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.

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

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Why Is Strategic Planning Important?

Above view of team creating a strategic plan

  • 06 Oct 2020

Do you know what your organization’s strategy is? How much time do you dedicate to developing that strategy each month?

If your answers are on the low side, you’re not alone. According to research from Bridges Business Consultancy , 48 percent of leaders spend less than one day per month discussing strategy.

It’s no wonder, then, that 48 percent of all organizations fail to meet at least half of their strategic targets. Before an organization can reap the rewards of its business strategy, planning must take place to ensure its strategy remains agile and executable .

Here’s a look at what strategic planning is and how it can benefit your organization.

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What Is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning is the ongoing organizational process of using available knowledge to document a business's intended direction. This process is used to prioritize efforts, effectively allocate resources, align shareholders and employees on the organization’s goals, and ensure those goals are backed by data and sound reasoning.

It’s important to highlight that strategic planning is an ongoing process—not a one-time meeting. In the online course Disruptive Strategy , Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen notes that in a study of HBS graduates who started businesses, 93 percent of those with successful strategies evolved and pivoted away from their original strategic plans.

“Most people think of strategy as an event, but that’s not the way the world works,” Christensen says. “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’s at work 24/7 in almost every industry.”

Strategic planning requires time, effort, and continual reassessment. Given the proper attention, it can set your business on the right track. Here are three benefits of strategic planning.

Related: 4 Ways to Develop Your Strategic Thinking Skills

Benefits of Strategic Planning

1. create one, forward-focused vision.

Strategy touches every employee and serves as an actionable way to reach your company’s goals.

One significant benefit of strategic planning is that it creates a single, forward-focused vision that can align your company and its shareholders. By making everyone aware of your company’s goals, how and why those goals were chosen, and what they can do to help reach them, you can create an increased sense of responsibility throughout your organization.

This can also have trickle-down effects. For instance, if a manager isn’t clear on your organization’s strategy or the reasoning used to craft it, they could make decisions on a team level that counteract its efforts. With one vision to unite around, everyone at your organization can act with a broader strategy in mind.

2. Draw Attention to Biases and Flaws in Reasoning

The decisions you make come with inherent bias. Taking part in the strategic planning process forces you to examine and explain why you’re making each decision and back it up with data, projections, or case studies, thus combatting your cognitive biases.

A few examples of cognitive biases are:

  • The recency effect: The tendency to select the option presented most recently because it’s fresh in your mind
  • Occam’s razor bias: The tendency to assume the most obvious decision to be the best decision
  • Inertia bias: The tendency to select options that allow you to think, feel, and act in familiar ways

One cognitive bias that may be more difficult to catch in the act is confirmation bias . When seeking to validate a particular viewpoint, it's the tendency to only pay attention to information that supports that viewpoint.

If you’re crafting a strategic plan for your organization and know which strategy you prefer, enlist others with differing views and opinions to help look for information that either proves or disproves the idea.

Combating biases in strategic decision-making requires effort and dedication from your entire team, and it can make your organization’s strategy that much stronger.

Related: 3 Group Decision-Making Techniques for Success

3. Track Progress Based on Strategic Goals

Having a strategic plan in place can enable you to track progress toward goals. When each department and team understands your company’s larger strategy, their progress can directly impact its success, creating a top-down approach to tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) .

By planning your company’s strategy and defining its goals, KPIs can be determined at the organizational level. These goals can then be extended to business units, departments, teams, and individuals. This ensures that every level of your organization is aligned and can positively impact your business’s KPIs and performance.

It’s important to remember that even though your strategy might be far-reaching and structured, it must remain agile. As Christensen asserts in Disruptive Strategy , a business’s strategy needs to evolve with the challenges and opportunities it encounters. Be prepared to pivot your KPIs as goals shift and communicate the reasons for change to your organization.

Which HBS Online Strategy Course is Right for You? | Download Your Free Flowchart

Improve Your Strategic Planning Skills

Strategic planning can benefit your organization’s vision, execution, and progress toward goals. If strategic planning is a skill you’d like to improve, online courses can provide the knowledge and techniques needed to lead your team and organization.

Strategy courses can range from primers on key concepts (such as Economics for Managers ), to deep-dives on strategy frameworks (such as Disruptive Strategy ), to coursework designed to help you strategize for a specific organizational goal (such as Sustainable Business Strategy ).

Learning how to craft an effective, compelling strategic plan can enable you to not only invest in your career but provide lasting value to your organization.

Do you want to formulate winning strategies for your organization? Explore our portfolio of online strategy courses and download the free flowchart to determine which is the best fit for you and your goals.

what are the strategic planning process

About the Author

Essential Guide to the Strategic Planning Process

By Joe Weller | April 3, 2019 (updated March 26, 2024)

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In this article, you’ll learn the basics of the strategic planning process and how a strategic plan guides you to achieving your organizational goals. Plus, find expert insight on getting the most out of your strategic planning.

Included on this page, you'll discover the importance of strategic planning , the steps of the strategic planning process , and the basic sections to include in your strategic plan .

What Is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning is an organizational activity that aims to achieve a group’s goals. The process helps define a company’s objectives and investigates both internal and external happenings that might influence the organizational path. Strategic planning also helps identify adjustments that you might need to make to reach your goal. Strategic planning became popular in the 1960s because it helped companies set priorities and goals, strengthen operations, and establish agreement among managers about outcomes and results.

Strategic planning can occur over multiple years, and the process can vary in length, as can the final plan itself. Ideally, strategic planning should result in a document, a presentation, or a report that sets out a blueprint for the company’s progress.

By setting priorities, companies help ensure employees are working toward common and defined goals. It also aids in defining the direction an enterprise is heading, efficiently using resources to achieve the organization’s goals and objectives. Based on the plan, managers can make decisions or allocate the resources necessary to pursue the strategy and minimize risks.

Strategic planning strengthens operations by getting input from people with differing opinions and building a consensus about the company’s direction. Along with focusing energy and resources, the strategic planning process allows people to develop a sense of ownership in the product they create.

John Bryson

“Strategic planning is not really one thing. It is really a set of concepts, procedures, tools, techniques, and practices that have to be adapted to specific contexts and purposes,” says Professor John M. Bryson, McKnight Presidential Professor of Planning and Public Affairs at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota and author of Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations: A Guide to Strengthening and Sustaining Organizational Achievement . “Strategic planning is a prompt to foster strategic thinking, acting, and learning, and they all matter and they are all connected.”

What Strategic Planning Is Not

Strategic planning is not a to-do list for the short or long term — it is the basis of a business, its direction, and how it will get there.

“You have to think very strategically about strategic planning. It is more than just following steps,” Bryson explains. “You have to understand strategic planning is not some kind of magic solution to fixing issues. Don’t have unrealistic expectations.”

Strategic planning is also different from a business plan that focuses on a specific product, service, or program and short-term goals. Rather, strategic planning means looking at the big picture.

While they are related, it is important not to confuse strategic planning with strategic thinking, which is more about imagining and innovating in a way that helps a company. In contrast, strategic planning supports those thoughts and helps you figure out how to make them a reality.

Another part of strategic planning is tactical planning , which involves looking at short-term efforts to achieve longer-term goals.

Lastly, marketing plans are not the same as strategic plans. A marketing plan is more about introducing and delivering a service or product to the public instead of how to grow a business. For more about marketing plans and processes, read this article .

Strategic plans include information about finances, but they are different from financial planning , which involves different processes and people. Financial planning templates can help with that process.

Why Is Strategic Planning Important?

In today’s technological age, strategic plans provide businesses with a path forward. Strategic plans help companies thrive, not just survive — they provide a clear focus, which makes an organization more efficient and effective, thereby increasing productivity.

Stefan Hofmeyer

“You are not going to go very far if you don’t have a strategic plan. You need to be able to show where you are going,” says Stefan Hofmeyer, an experienced strategist and co-founder of Global PMI Partners . He lives in the startup-rich environment of northern California and says he often sees startups fail to get seed money because they do not have a strong plan for what they want to do and how they want to do it.

Getting team members on the same page (in both creating a strategic plan and executing the plan itself) can be beneficial for a company. Planners can find satisfaction in the process and unite around a common vision. In addition, you can build strong teams and bridge gaps between staff and management.

“You have to reach agreement about good ideas,” Bryson says. “A really good strategy has to meet a lot of criteria. It has to be technically workable, administratively feasible, politically acceptable, and legally, morally, and ethically defensible, and that is a pretty tough list.”

By discussing a company’s issues during the planning process, individuals can voice their opinions and provide information necessary to move the organization ahead — a form of problem solving as a group.

Strategic plans also provide a mechanism to measure success and progress toward goals, which keeps employees on the same page and helps them focus on the tasks at hand.

When Is the Time to Do Strategic Planning?

There is no perfect time to perform strategic planning. It depends entirely on the organization and the external environment that surrounds it. However, here are some suggestions about when to plan:

If your industry is changing rapidly

When an organization is launching

At the start of a new year or funding period

In preparation for a major new initiative

If regulations and laws in your industry are or will be changing

“It’s not like you do all of the thinking and planning, and then implement,” Bryson says. “A mistake people make is [believing] the thinking has to precede the acting and the learning.”

Even if you do not re-create the entire planning process often, it is important to periodically check your plan and make sure it is still working. If not, update it.

What Is the Strategic Planning Process?

Strategic planning is a process, and not an easy one. A key is to make sure you allow enough time to complete the process without rushing, but not take so much time that you lose momentum and focus. The process itself can be more important than the final document due to the information that comes out of the discussions with management, as well as lower-level workers.

Jim Stockmal

“There is not one favorite or perfect planning process,” says Jim Stockmal, president of the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP). He explains that new techniques come out constantly, and consultants and experienced planners have their favorites. In an effort to standardize the practice and terms used in strategic planning, ASP has created two certification programs .

Level 1 is the Strategic Planning Professional (SPP) certification. It is designed for early- or mid-career planners who work in strategic planning. Level 2, the Strategic Management Professional (SMP) certification, is geared toward seasoned professionals or those who train others. Stockmal explains that ASP designed the certification programs to add structure to the otherwise amorphous profession.

The strategic planning process varies by the size of the organization and can be formal or informal, but there are constraints. For example, teams of all sizes and goals should build in many points along the way for feedback from key leaders — this helps the process stay on track.

Some elements of the process might have specific start and end points, while others are continuous. For example, there might not be one “aha” moment that suddenly makes things clear. Instead, a series of small moves could slowly shift the organization in the right direction.

“Don’t make it overly complex. Bring all of the stakeholders together for input and feedback,” Stockmal advises. “Always be doing a continuous environmental scan, and don’t be afraid to engage with stakeholders.”

Additionally, knowing your company culture is important. “You need to make it work for your organization,” he says.

There are many different ways to approach the strategic planning process. Below are three popular approaches:

Goals-Based Planning: This approach begins by looking at an organization’s mission and goals. From there, you work toward that mission, implement strategies necessary to achieve those goals, and assign roles and deadlines for reaching certain milestones.

Issues-Based Planning: In this approach, start by looking at issues the company is facing, then decide how to address them and what actions to take.

Organic Planning: This approach is more fluid and begins with defining mission and values, then outlining plans to achieve that vision while sticking to the values.

“The approach to strategic planning needs to be contingent upon the organization, its history, what it’s capable of doing, etc.,” Bryson explains. “There’s such a mistake to think there’s one approach.”

For more information on strategic planning, read about how to write a strategic plan and the different types of models you can use.

Who Participates in the Strategic Planning Process?

For work as crucial as strategic planning, it is necessary to get the right team together and include them from the beginning of the process. Try to include as many stakeholders as you can.

Below are suggestions on who to include:

Senior leadership

Strategic planners

Strategists

People who will be responsible for implementing the plan

People to identify gaps in the plan

Members of the board of directors

“There can be magic to strategic planning, but it’s not in any specific framework or anybody’s 10-step process,” Bryson explains. “The magic is getting key people together, getting them to focus on what’s important, and [getting] them to do something about it. That’s where the magic is.”

Hofmeyer recommends finding people within an organization who are not necessarily current leaders, but may be in the future. “Sometimes they just become obvious. Usually they show themselves to you, you don’t need to look for them. They’re motivated to participate,” he says. These future leaders are the ones who speak up at meetings or on other occasions, who put themselves out there even though it is not part of their job description.

At the beginning of the process, establish guidelines about who will be involved and what will be expected of them. Everyone involved must be willing to cooperate and collaborate. If there is a question about whether or not to include anyone, it is usually better to bring on extra people than to leave someone out, only to discover later they should have been a part of the process all along. Not everyone will be involved the entire time; people will come and go during different phases.

Often, an outside facilitator or consultant can be an asset to a strategic planning committee. It is sometimes difficult for managers and other employees to sit back and discuss what they need to accomplish as a company and how they need to do it without considering other factors. As objective observers, outside help can often offer insight that may escape insiders.

Hofmeyer says sometimes bosses have blinders on that keep them from seeing what is happening around them, which allows them to ignore potential conflicts. “People often have their own agendas of where they want to go, and if they are not aligned, it is difficult to build a strategic plan. An outsider perspective can really take you out of your bubble and tell you things you don’t necessarily want to hear [but should]. We get into a rhythm, and it’s really hard to step out of that, so bringing in outside people can help bring in new views and aspects of your business.”

An outside consultant can also help naysayers take the process more seriously because they know the company is investing money in the efforts, Hofmeyer adds.

No matter who is involved in the planning process, make sure at least one person serves as an administrator and documents all planning committee actions.

What Is in a Strategic Plan?

A strategic plan communicates goals and what it takes to achieve them. The plan sometimes begins with a high-level view, then becomes more specific. Since strategic plans are more guidebooks than rulebooks, they don’t have to be bureaucratic and rigid. There is no perfect plan; however, it needs to be realistic.

There are many sections in a strategic plan, and the length of the final document or presentation will vary. The names people use for the sections differ, but the general ideas behind them are similar: Simply make sure you and your team agree on the terms you will use and what each means.

One-Page Strategic Planning Template

“I’m a big fan of getting a strategy onto one sheet of paper. It’s a strategic plan in a nutshell, and it provides a clear line of sight,” Stockmal advises.

You can use the template below to consolidate all your strategic ideas into a succinct, one-page strategic plan. Doing so provides you with a high-level overview of your strategic initiatives that you can place on your website, distribute to stakeholders, and refer to internally. More extensive details about implementation, capacity, and other concerns can go into an expanded document.

One Page Strategic Planning Template

Download One-Page Strategic Planning Template Excel | Word | Smartsheet

The most important part of the strategic plan is the executive summary, which contains the highlights of the plan. Although it appears at the beginning of the plan, it should be written last, after you have done all your research.

Of writing the executive summary, Stockmal says, “I find it much easier to extract and cut and edit than to do it first.”

For help with creating executive summaries, see these templates .

Other parts of a strategic plan can include the following:

Description: A description of the company or organization.

Vision Statement: A bold or inspirational statement about where you want your company to be in the future.

Mission Statement: In this section, describe what you do today, your audience, and your approach as you work toward your vision.

Core Values: In this section, list the beliefs and behaviors that will enable you to achieve your mission and, eventually, your vision.

Goals: Provide a few statements of how you will achieve your vision over the long term.

Objectives: Each long-term goal should have a few one-year objectives that advance the plan. Make objectives SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, and time-based) to get the most out of them.

Budget and Operating Plans: Highlight resources you will need and how you will implement them.

Monitoring and Evaluation: In this section, describe how you will check your progress and determine when you achieve your goals.

One of the first steps in creating a strategic plan is to perform both an internal and external analysis of the company’s environment. Internally, look at your company’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the personal values of those who will implement your plan (managers, executives, board members). Externally, examine threats and opportunities within the industry and any broad societal expectations that might exist.

You can perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to sum up where you are currently and what you should focus on to help you achieve your future goals. Strengths shows you what you do well, weaknesses point out obstacles that could keep you from achieving your objectives, opportunities highlight where you can grow, and threats pinpoint external factors that could be obstacles in your way.

You can find more information about performing a SWOT analysis and free templates in this article . Another analysis technique, STEEPLE (social, technological, economic, environmental, political, legal, and ethical), often accompanies a SWOT analysis.

Basics of Strategic Planning

How you navigate the strategic planning process will vary. Several tools and techniques are available, and your choice depends on your company’s leadership, culture, environment, and size, as well as the expertise of the planners.

All include similar sections in the final plan, but the ways of driving those results differ. Some tools are goals-based, while others are issues- or scenario-based. Some rely on a more organic or rigid process.

Hofmeyer summarizes what goes into strategic planning:

Understand the stakeholders and involve them from the beginning.

Agree on a vision.

Hold successful meetings and sessions.

Summarize and present the plan to stakeholders.

Identify and check metrics.

Make periodic adjustments.

Items That Go into Strategic Planning

Strategic planning contains inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes. Inputs and activities are elements that are internal to the company, while outputs and outcomes are external.

Remember, there are many different names for the sections of strategic plans. The key is to agree what terms you will use and define them for everyone involved.

Inputs are important because it is impossible to know where you are going until you know what is around you where you are now.

Companies need to gather data from a variety of sources to get a clear look at the competitive environment and the opportunities and risks within that environment. You can think of it like a competitive intelligence program.

Data should come from the following sources:

Interviews with executives

A review of documents about the competition or market that are publicly available

Primary research by visiting or observing competitors

Studies of your industry

The values of key stakeholders

This information often goes into writing an organization’s vision and mission statements.

Activities are the meetings and other communications that need to happen during the strategic planning process to help everyone understand the competition that surrounds the organization.

It is important both to understand the competitive environment and your company’s response to it. This is where everyone looks at and responds to the data gathered from the inputs.

The strategic planning process produces outputs. Outputs can be as basic as the strategic planning document itself. The documentation and communications that describe your organization’s strategy, as well as financial statements and budgets, can also be outputs.

The implementation of the strategic plan produces outcomes (distinct from outputs). The outcomes determine the success or failure of the strategic plan by measuring how close they are to the goals and vision you outline in your plan.

It is important to understand there will be unplanned and unintended outcomes, too. How you learn from and adapt to these changes influence the success of the strategic plan.

During the planning process, decide how you will measure both the successes and failures of different parts of the strategic plan.

Sharing, Evaluating, and Monitoring the Progress of a Strategic Plan

After companies go through a lengthy strategic planning process, it is important that the plan does not sit and collect dust. Share, evaluate, and monitor the plan to assess how you are doing and make any necessary updates.

“[Some] leaders think that once they have their strategy, it’s up to someone else to execute it. That’s a mistake I see,” Stockmal says.

The process begins with distributing and communicating the plan. Decide who will get a copy of the plan and how those people will tell others about it. Will you have a meeting to kick off the implementation? How will you specify who will do what and when? Clearly communicate the roles people will have.

“Before you communicate the plan [to everyone], you need to have the commitment of stakeholders,” Hofmeyer recommends. Have the stakeholders be a part of announcing the plan to everyone — this keeps them accountable because workers will associate them with the strategy. “That applies pressure to the stakeholders to actually do the work.”

Once the team begins implementation, it’s necessary to have benchmarks to help measure your successes against the plan’s objectives. Sometimes, having smaller action plans within the larger plan can help keep the work on track.

During the planning process, you should have decided how you will measure success. Now, figure out how and when you will document progress. Keep an eye out for gaps between the vision and its implementation — a big gap could be a sign that you are deviating from the plan.

Tools are available to assist with tracking performance of strategic plans, including several types of software. “For some organizations, a spreadsheet is enough, but you are going to manually enter the data, so someone needs to be responsible for that,” Stockmal recommends.

Remember: strategic plans are not written in stone. Some deviation will be necessary, and when it happens, it’s important to understand why it occurred and how the change might impact the company's vision and goals.

Deviation from the plan does not mean failure, reminds Hofmeyer. Instead, understanding what transpired is the key. “Things happen, [and] you should always be on the lookout for that. I’m a firm believer in continuous improvement,” he says. Explain to stakeholders why a change is taking place. “There’s always a sense of re-evaluation, but do it methodically.”

Build in a schedule to review and amend the plan as necessary; this can help keep companies on track.

What Is Strategic Management?

Strategic planning is part of strategic management, and it involves the activities that make the strategic plan a reality. Essentially, strategic management is getting from the starting point to the goal effectively and efficiently using the ongoing activities and processes that a company takes on in order to keep in line with its mission, vision, and strategic plan.

“[Strategic management] closes the gap between the plan and executing the strategy,” Stockmal of ASP says. Strategic management is part of a larger planning process that includes budgeting, forecasting, capital allocation, and more.

There is no right or wrong way to do strategic management — only guidelines. The basic phases are preparing for strategic planning, creating the strategic plan, and implementing that plan.

No matter how you manage your plan, it’s key to allow the strategic plan to evolve and grow as necessary, due to both the internal and external factors.

“We get caught up in all of the day-to-day issues,” Stockmal explains, adding that people do not often leave enough time for implementing the plan and making progress. That’s what strategic management implores: doing things that are in the plan and not letting the plan sit on a shelf.

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6 Steps to Make Your Strategic Plan Really Strategic

  • Graham Kenny

what are the strategic planning process

You don’t need dozens of strategic goals.

Many strategic plans aren’t strategic, or even plans. To fix that, try a six step process: first, identify key stakeholders. Second, identify a specific, very important key stakeholder: your target customer. Third, figure out what these stakeholders want from you. Fourth, figure out what you want from them. Fifth, design your strategy around these requirements. Sixth, focus on continuously improving this plan.

Why is it that when a group of managers gets together for a strategic planning session they often emerge with a document that’s devoid of “strategy”, and often not even a plan ?

what are the strategic planning process

  • Graham Kenny is the CEO of Strategic Factors and author of Strategy Discovery . He is a recognized expert in strategy and performance measurement who helps managers, executives, and boards create successful organizations in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. He has been a professor of management in universities in the U.S. and Canada.

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strategic planning process

5 steps of the strategic planning process

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  • Process improvement

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.

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.

Strategic planning process

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.

SWOT analysis example

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. 

PEST Analysis

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.

strategic planning

Use PEST analysis for additional help with strategic planning.

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.

strategy map example

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. 

balanced scorecard template

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. 

strategic planning

Achieve your goals and monitor your progress with balanced scorecards.

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.

strategic planning

Use a strategy map to turn your organization's mission and vision into actionable objectives.

About Lucidchart

Lucidchart, a cloud-based intelligent diagramming application, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This intuitive, cloud-based solution empowers teams to collaborate in real-time to build flowcharts, mockups, UML diagrams, customer journey maps, and more. Lucidchart propels teams forward to build the future faster. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidchart.com.

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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 and weaknesses, 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.

strategic-planning-person-smiling-at-his-computer

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?

strategic-planning-a-group-talks-in-a-room

3. Forecast  

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.

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Strategic Planning Process: Why Is Strategic Planning Important for Organizations in 2024?

a transparent grid illustration connecting a circle and square representing the strategic planning process

What to read next:

Playing chess without a strong opening is a guaranteed way to disadvantage yourself. Just like in chess, organizations without an adequate strategic planning process are unlikely to thrive and adapt long-term. 

The strategic planning process is essential for aligning your organization on key priorities, goals, and initiatives, making it crucial for organizational success.   

This article will empower you to craft and perfect your strategic planning process by exploring the following:  

  • What is strategic planning
  • Why strategic planning is important for your business  
  • The seven steps of the strategic planning process   

Strategic planning frameworks

  • Best practices supporting the strategic planning process  

By the end of this article, you’ll have the knowledge needed to perfect the key elements of strategic planning. Ready? Let’s begin.  

What is strategic planning?

Strategic planning charts your business's course toward success. Using your organization’s vision, mission statement , and values — with internal and external information — each step of the strategic planning process helps you craft long-term objectives and attain your goals with strategic management.  

The key elements of strategic planning includes a SWOT analysis, goal setting , stakeholder involvement, plus developing actionable strategies, approaches, and tactics aligned with primary objectives.  

In short, the strategic planning process bridges the gap between your organization’s current and desired state, providing a clear and actionable framework that answers:   Where are you now?   Where do you want to be?   How will you get there?

7 key elements of strategic planning 

The following strategic planning components work together to create cohesive strategic plans for your business goals. Let’s take a close look at each of these:  

  • Vision : What your organization wants to achieve in the future, the long-term goal  
  • Mission : The driving force behind why your company exists, who it serves, and how it creates value  
  • Values : Fundamental beliefs guiding your company’s decision-making process  
  • Goals : Measurable objectives in alignment with your business mission, vision, and values  
  • Strategy : A long-term strategy map for achieving your objectives based on both internal and external factors  
  • Approach : How you execute strategy and achieve objectives using actions and initiatives   
  • Tactics : Granular short-term actions, programs, and activities  

Why is the strategic planning process important?

Just as a chess player needs a gameplan to reach checkmate, a company needs a solid strategic plan to achieve its goals.   

Without a strategic plan, your business will waste precious time, energy, and resources on endeavors that won’t get your company closer to where it needs to be.   

Your ideal plan should cover all key strategic planning areas, while allowing you to stay present by measuring success and course-correcting or redefining the strategic direction when necessary. Ultimately, enabling your company to stay future-proof through the creation of an always-on strategy that reflects your company's mission and vision.   

An always-on strategy involves continuous environmental scanning even after the strategic plan has been devised, ensuring readiness to adapt in response to quick, drastic changes in the environment.

Let’s dive deeper into the steps of the strategic planning process.  

What are the 7 stages of the strategic planning process?

You understand the overall value of implementing a strategic planning process — now let’s put it in practice. Here's our 7-step approach to strategic planning that ensures everyone is on the same page:  

  • Clarify your vision, mission, and values  
  • Conduct an environmental scan  
  • Define strategic priorities  
  • Develop goals and metrics  
  • Derive a strategic plan  
  • Write and communicate your strategic plan  
  • Implement, monitor, and revise   

1. Clarify your vision, mission, and values 

The first step of the strategic planning process is understanding your organization’s core elements: vision, mission, and values. Clarifying these will align your strategic plan with your company’s definition of success. Once established, these are the foundation for the rest of the strategic planning process.   

Questions to ask:

  • What do we aspire to achieve in the long term?
  • What is our purpose or ultimate goal?
  • What do we do to fulfill our vision?
  • What key activities or services do we provide?
  • What are our organization's ethics?
  • What qualities or behaviors do we expect from employees?

Read more: What is Mission vs. Vision  

A green flag with hollow filling placed to the left of an outline of an eye, with the iris also outlined in green, all on a green background, to signal mission vs. vision

2. Conduct an environmental scan

Once everyone on the same page about vision, mission, and values, it's time to scan your internal and external environment. This involves a long-term SWOT analysis, evaluating your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  

Internal factors 

Internal strengths and weaknesses help you understand where your organization excels and what it could improve. Strengths and weaknesses awareness helps make more informed decisions with your capabilities and resource allocation in mind.  

External factors

Externally, opportunities and threats in the market help you understand the power of your industry’s customers, suppliers, and competitors. Additionally, consider how broader forces like technology, culture, politics, and regulation may impact your organization.   

  • What are our organization's key strengths or competitive advantages?
  • What areas or functions within our organization need improvement?
  • What emerging trends or opportunities can we leverage?
  • How do changes in technology, regulations, or consumer behavior impact us?

3. Define strategic priorities

Prioritization puts the “strategic” in strategic planning process. Your organization’s mission, vision, values, and environmental scan serve as a lens to identify top priorities. Limiting priorities ensures your organization intentionally allocates resources.  

These categories can help you rank your strategic priorities:  

  • Critical : Urgent tasks whose failure to complete will have severe consequences — financial losses, reputation damage, or legal consequences  
  • Important : Significant tasks which support organizational achievements and require timely completion  
  • Desirable : Valuable tasks not essential in the short-term, but can contribute to long-term success and growth  
  • How do these priorities align with our mission, vision, and values?
  • Which tasks need to be completed quickly to ensure effective progress towards our desired outcomes?
  • What resources and capabilities do we need to pursue these priorities effectively?

4. Develop goals and metrics

Next, you establish goals and metrics to reflect your strategic priorities. Purpose-driven, long-term, actionable strategic planning goals should flow down through the organization, with lower-level goals contributing to higher-level ones.  

One approach that can help you set and measure your aligned goals is objectives and key results (OKRs). OKRs consist of objectives, qualitative statements of what you want to achieve, and key results, 3-5 supporting metrics that track progress toward your objective.  

OKRs ensure alignment at every level of the organization, with tracking and accountability built into the framework to keep everyone engaged. With ambitious, intentional goals, OKRs can help you drive the strategic plan forward.  

  • What metrics can we use to track progress toward each objective?
  • How can we ensure that lower-level goals and metrics support and contribute to higher-level ones?
  • How will we track and measure progress towards key results?
  • How will we ensure accountability?

Get an in-depth look at OKRs with our Ultimate OKR Playbook

an illustration of a circle in a shifting square to represent an okr playbook

5. Derive a strategic plan

The next step of the strategic planning process gets down to the nitty-gritty “how” — developing a clear, practical strategic plan for bridging the gap between now and the future.   

To do this, you’ll need to brainstorm short- and long-term approaches to achieving the goals you’ve set, answering a couple of key questions along the way. You must evaluate ideas based on factors like:  

  • Feasibility : How realistic and achievable is it?  
  • Impact : How conducive is it to goal attainment?  
  • Cost : Can we fund this approach, and is it worth the investment?  
  • Alignment : Does it support our mission, vision, and values?  

From your approaches, you can devise a detailed action plan, which covers things like:  

  • Timelines : When will we take each step, and what are the deadlines?  
  • Milestones : What key achievements will ensure consistent progress?  
  • Resource requirements : What’s needed to achieve each step?  
  • Responsibilities : Who's accountable in each step?  
  • Risks and challenges : What can affect our ability to execute our plan? How will we address these?  

With a detailed action plan like this, you can move from abstract goals to concrete steps, bringing you closer to achieving your strategic objectives.  

6. Write and communicate your strategic plan

Writing and communicating your strategic plan involves everyone, ensuring each team is on the same page. Here’s a clear, concise structure you can use to cover the most important strategic planning components:  

  • Executive summary : Highlights and priorities in your strategic overview   
  • Introduction : Background on your strategic plan  
  • Connection : How your strategic plan aligns with your organization’s mission, vision, and values  
  • Environmental scan : An overview of your SWOT analysis findings  
  • Strategic priorities and goals : Informed short and long-term organizational goals  
  • Strategic approach : An overview of your tactical plan   
  • Resource needs : How you'll deploy technology, funding, and employees  
  • Risk and challenges : How you’ll mitigate the unknowns if and when they arise  
  • Implementation plan : A step-by-step resource deployment plan for achieving your strategy  
  • Monitoring and evaluation : How you’ll keep your plan heading in the right direction  
  • Conclusion : A summary of the strategic plan and everything it entails  
  • What information or context do stakeholders need to understand the strategic plan?
  • How can we emphasize the connection between the strategic plan and the overall purpose and direction of the organization?
  • What initiatives or strategies will we implement to drive progress?
  • How will we mitigate or address risks?
  • What are the specific steps and actions we need to take to implement the strategic plan?
  • Any additional information or next steps we need to communicate?

7. Implement, monitor, and revise performance 

Finally, it’s time to implement your strategic plan, making sure it's up to date, creating a persistent, always-on strategy that doesn't lag behind. As you get the ball rolling, keep a close eye on your timelines, milestones, and performance targets, and whether these align with your internal and external environment.   

Internally, indicators like completions, issues, and delays provide visibility into your process. If any bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or misalignment arises, take corrective action promptly — adjust the plan, reallocate resources, or provide additional training to employees.  

Externally, you should monitor changes such as customer preferences, competitive pressures, economic shifts , and regulatory changes. These impact the success of your strategic action plan and may require tweaks along the way.   

Remember, implementing a strategic plan isn’t a one-time task — continual evaluation is essential for an always-on strategy. It involves extending beyond planning stages and contextualizing the strategy in real-time, allowing for swift adaptations to changing circumstances to ensure your plan remains relevant.

  • Are there any bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or misalignments we need to address?
  • Are we monitoring and analyzing external factors?
  • Are we prepared to make necessary tweaks or adaptations along the way?
  • Are we agile enough to promptly correct deviations from our strategic plan while maintaining an "always-on" strategy for continual adjustments?

You can use several frameworks to guide you through the strategic planning process. Some of the most influential ones include:

  • Balanced scorecard (BSC) : Takes an overarching approach to strategic planning, covering financial, customer, internal processes, and learning and growth, aligning short-term operational tasks with long-term strategic goals.
  • SWOT analysis : Highlights your business's internal strengths and weaknesses alongside external opportunities and threats to enable informed decisions about your strategic direction.
  • OKRs : Structures goals as a set of measurable objectives and key results. They cascade down from top-level organizational objectives to lower-level team goals, ensuring alignment across the entire organization. Get an in-depth look at OKRs here . 
  • Scenario planning : Involves envisioning and planning for various possible future scenarios, allowing you to prepare for a range of potential outcomes. It's particularly useful in volatile environments rife with uncertainties.
  • Porter's five forces : Evaluates the competitive forces within your industry — rivalry among existing competitors, bargaining power of buyers and suppliers, threat of new entrants, and threat of substitutes — to shape strategies that position the organization for success.

different strategic planning frameworks

Common problems with strategic planning and how to overcome them

While strategic planning provides a roadmap for business success, it's not immune to challenges. Recognizing and addressing these is crucial for effective strategy implementation. Let's explore common issues encountered in strategic planning and strategies to overcome them.

Static nature

Traditional strategic planning models often follow a linear, annual, and inflexible process that doesn't accommodate quick changes in the business landscape. Strategies formulated this way may quickly become outdated in today's fast-paced environment.

To overcome the rigidity of traditional strategic planning, your organization should integrate continuous environmental scanning processes. This includes monitoring market changes, competitor actions, and technological advancements, ensuring real-time insights inform strategic decision-making. Additionally, adopting agile methodologies allows for iterative planning, breaking down strategies into smaller, manageable components reviewed and adjusted regularly, ensuring adaptability in today's fast-paced landscape.

Disconnect between strategic plan and execution

There's often a significant gap between the strategic objectives and their actual implementation, leading to misalignment, confusion, and inefficiency within the organization.

To bridge the gap, ensure accountability, alignment, and feedback-driven processes across the business. Linking team roles and responsibilities to lower-level objectives can fosters alignment and accountability, whereas aligning these with overarching strategic objectives ensure coherence in execution. To ensure goals are optimized on an ongoing basis, implement a feedback mechanism that continuously evaluates progress against goals, enabling regular adjustments based on market feedback and internal insights.

Lack of real-time insights

Traditional planning models rely on historical data and periodic reviews, which might not capture real-time changes or emerging trends accurately. This can result in misaligned strategies unsuitable for the current business landscape.

Leverage advanced analytics tools and AI-driven technologies. Invest in technologies that offer real-time tracking and reporting of key performance indicators, with dashboards and monitoring systems that provide up-to-date insights. These allow you to gather, process, and interpret real-time data for proactive decision-making that aligns with the current business landscape. 

Failure to close the feedback loop

The absence of a feedback loop between strategy formulation, execution, and evaluation can impact learning and improvement. Companies might therefore struggle to refine their strategies based on real-time performance insights.

Establish a structured feedback loop encompassing strategy formulation, execution, and evaluation stages. Encourage employees to actively contribute insights on strategy execution, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and adaptation.

Best practices during the strategic planning process

Navigating strategic planning goes beyond overcoming challenges. A successful strategic plan requires you to embrace a set of guiding best practices, helping you navigate the development and implementation of your strategic planning process.   

1. Keep the planning process flexible

With ever-changing business environments, a one-and-done approach to strategic planning is insufficient. Your strategic plan needs to be adaptable to ensure its relevancy and its ability to weather the effects of changing circumstances.  

2. Pull together a diverse group of stakeholders

By including voices from across the organization, you can account for varying thoughts, perspectives, and experiences at each step of the strategic planning process, ensuring cross-functional alignment .  

3. Document the process

Continuous documentation of the strategic management process is crucial in capturing and communicating the key elements of strategic planning. This keeps everyone on the same page and your strategic plan up-to-date and relevant.  

4. Make data-driven decisions

Root your decisions in evidence and facts rather than assumptions or opinions. This cultivates accurate insights, improves prioritization, and reduces biased (flawed) decisions.  

5. Align your company culture with the strategic plan 

Your strategic plan can only be successful if everyone is on board with it — company culture supports what you’re trying to achieve. Behaviors, rules, and attitudes optimize the execution of your strategic plan.  

6. Leverage AI 

Using AI in strategic planning supports the development of an always-on strategy — amplifying strategic agility, conducting comprehensive environmental scans, and expediting planning phases. It can streamline operations, facilitate data-driven decision-making, and provide transparent insights into progress to drive accountability, engagement, and alignment with the strategic plan.

The strategic planning process in a nutshell

Careful strategy mapping is crucial for any organization looking to achieve its long-term goals while staying true to its mission, vision, and values. The seven steps in the strategic planning process outlined in this article provide a solid framework your organization can follow — from clarifying your organization’s purpose and developing a strategic plan, to implementing, monitoring, and revising performance. These steps will help your company meet goal measurements and create an always-on strategy that's rooted in the present. 

It’s important to remember that strategic planning is not a one-time event. To stay effective and relevant, you must continuously monitor and adapt your strategy in response to changing circumstances. This ongoing process of improvement keeps your organization competitive and demonstrates your commitment to achieving your goals.  

Quantive empowers modern organizations to turn their ambitions into reality through strategic agility. It's where strategy, teams, and data come together to drive effective decision-making, streamline execution, and maximize performance.  

As your company navigates today’s competitive landscape, you need an Always-On Strategy to continuously bridge the gap between current and desired business outcomes. Quantive brings together the technology, expertise, and passion to transform your strategy from a static plan to a feedback-driven engine for growth.  

Whether you’re a visionary start-up, a mid-market business looking to conquer, or a large enterprise facing disruption, Quantive keeps you ahead — every step of the way. For more information, visit www.quantive.com . 

Additional resources

Strategy execution in 4 steps: keys to successful strategy, how top companies are closing the strategy execution gap, 7 best practices for strategy execution, why your business needs strategy execution software, subscribe for our newsletter.

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What is strategic planning

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Imagine you're ready to expand your thriving business to another market. Would you choose that market based on where you'd like to vacation, or just ask ChatGPT to decide for you? That wouldn’t be strategic, and it could backfire. The smart business move would be to assess risks, opportunities, regulations, competition, and the local business landscape—then use your analysis to plan your next move.

For businesses, strategic planning can make all the difference between expanding market share and closing up shop. Read on to find out how to excel at strategic planning.

What is strategic planning?

Whether your organization is a startup or established business charting the way forward, a strategic plan is a vital tool for success—and you can lead the charge. Strategic planning is the process of putting your best business theories to the test in the marketplace. Your strategic planning process starts with defining a mission/vision statement and setting key goals. To achieve those goals, you create a detailed plan, or strategy map .

Once you put that strategic plan into motion, you're no longer just reacting to market forces. You're proactive, blazing your own trail to your desired destination. There’s no better way to ensure that decisions are evidence-based, forward-looking, collaborative, and aligned with your entire organization’s long-term objectives.

Think of your business as an orchestra. No matter how skilled your musicians are, if they all play a different tune, you won't like what you hear. Wouldn’t you rather start out with sheet music and a brilliant conductor? An organization can make decisions without a strategic plan in place, just like an orchestra can play without a conductor. But when individuals or departments make decisions based on opinion, guesswork, or instinct, you can end up with disorganized, inefficient use of time and resources—and that’s not music to anyone’s ears.

How is strategic planning different from other plans?

Roger Martin, one of the world’s leading thinkers on strategy, cautions that “a plan is not a strategy.” A plan is comfortable because you control the levers, like time and costs. But strategic planning challenges you to put strategy to the test, making “an integrative set of choices that positions you on a playing field of your choice in a way that you win .”

Benefits of strategic planning

A strategic plan can be a competitive advantage. Harvard Business Review found that up to 67% of HR and IT departments have strategies of their own that don’t align with the larger corporate strategy. The bad news gets worse: 95% of employees don’t understand their organization’s strategy. Clear, effectively communicated strategic plans position organizations to outperform competitors struggling to articulate cohesive strategies to their employees.

With a strategic plan, you can help your organization to:

  • Communicate priorities to employees at all levels
  • Allocate resources appropriately to meet goals
  • Track progress objectively
  • Make clear decisions more efficiently
  • Avoid mistakes caused by short-term thinking

3 strategic planning best practices

  • Consider it a learning process. Creating strategic plans teaches teams to think more strategically, preparing decision-makers to make choices rationally under pressure.
  • Make comprehensive plans. Research shows a thorough, comprehensive planning process yields strong results. Consider a variety of viewpoints and multiple options before setting your strategic objectives.
  • Conduct regular updates. The most successful organizations are nimble, making wise strategic decisions in real time as circumstances change. Revisiting plans frequently with key decision-makers helps keep your strategy relevant and responsive.

Who belongs on strategic planning teams?

Strategic planning teams tackle key responsibilities: defining company mission/vision statements, setting goals, identifying opportunities, evaluating risks, and plotting a course to meet objectives. To achieve this ambitious agenda,  your team should cover a broad spectrum of viewpoints and roles, including:

  • VPs and C-suite executives who must be consulted, according to your RACI matrix
  • Representatives from various departments, team leads, and department heads who are responsible or accountable for outcomes
  • Other key stakeholders to keep informed, such as board members or investors

Not sure who your key stakeholders are? Check out the FigJam stakeholder analysis template to identify valuable collaborators right from the start, but make sure the group doesn’t get too big. Large groups can get bogged down in strategic planning discussions.

Strategic planning in 5 steps

Your organization's strategic planning process may take slightly different steps depending on its size and needs, but most organizations follow these five basic steps.

1. Define the organization's mission, vision, and values .

These elements of strategic planning inform all of your objectives and the overall direction of the business strategy from here on out. What does your organization intend to do? What does it stand for, and why?

2. Conduct a situational analysis.

SWOT analysis is a time-tested tool to assess the opportunities and risks your organization faces. Cover internal and external factors, including your resources, competition, and changes in the market.

3. Set goals and objectives .

Pinpoint what you want to achieve, then set realistic and achievable targets. You  could focus on  specific objectives  (“reduce customer acquisition costs by 5% next quarter”) or address broader strategic goals (“increase customer satisfaction” ) . Articulate goals and objectives clearly , and define your measurements for success.

4. Develop and launch your action plan .

Outline the steps to take, and break down steps into tasks. Then decide who is responsible for each task, and when each task needs to be completed. With every decision, aim to minimize risk and maximize opportunity to achieve your goal.

To get your strategic plan on track for success, communicate the plan to everyone in the organization. You may want to launch your plan at an all-hands meeting, or break it up into meetings with separate departments.

5. Evaluate the results.

Establish a timeline of regular assessments to check  plan progres. Assign responsibilities to monitor and assess outcomes, and make course corrections as needed.

Pro tips and tools for strategic planning

The strategic planning process involves gathering data, documents, and team input to define timelines with multiple steps and dependencies. Figma's makes this complex process easier with these collaborative strategic planning tools:

  • Balanced scorecard. Organizations as diverse as Chrysler and the U.S. Army use the  Balanced Scorecard to take performance to the next level. A Balanced Scorecard assigns weighted values to various options to remove bias from decision-making, guide plan implementation, and help you communicate your strategy clearly.
  • SWOT analysis . Identify your company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with a SWOT analysis . This tool offers a comprehensive, objective overview of company  resources and its internal and external working environment. You’ll draw on the data you collect during your SWOT analysis many times during your strategic planning process.
  • KPI tracking dashboard. Key performance indicators (KPIs) quantify success measurements and establish the timeline for achieving specific financial, strategic, or operational milestones. A shared KPI dashboard template will get your KPI tracking system up and running fast, boosting visibility and collaboration.
  • RACI matrix. Identify all the key stakeholders on your strategic plan and group them according to their level of involvement: R esponsible, A ccountable, C onsulted, and I nformed. Figma’s RACI template can get you started quickly.
  • Gantt chart . To capture your strategic plan timeline and steps at a glance, try a Gantt chart . This bar chart highlights start dates, deadlines, resource allocations, assignments, and other key planning elements. Use a Gantt chart to sequence tasks and show your team exactly which steps need to be completed when.

Strategize for success with Figma

The keys to strategic planning are collaboration, effective teamwork, and comprehensive information-gathering—and Figma has you covered with online collaboration tools . Figma's easy, engaging strategic plan template   gets your team started with tools for brainstorming, diagramming, and sharing data and feedback—all in one space.

Go to next section

Keep reading

what are the strategic planning process

Strategic planning process in 6 steps

Every business needs a great strategic plan to achieve their long term goals.

what are the strategic planning process

What is a strategy map

A strategy map is a visual representation of how a company can achieve their long-term goals and objectives.

what are the strategic planning process

Strategic vs. tactical planning

While strategic planning involves big-picture thinking, tactical planning covers the nitty-gritty of turning strategy into action.

Mastering the building blocks of strategy

Left unchecked, market forces continually conspire to deplete profits. Powerful business strategies can counteract those tendencies, but good strategy is difficult to formulate. 1 1. A 2011 McKinsey survey asked executives to evaluate their strategies against ten objective tests of business strategy. It found that 65 percent of companies passed just three or fewer tests. For more, see Chris Bradley, Martin Hirt, and Sven Smit, “ Have you tested your strategy lately? ,” McKinsey Quarterly , January 2011. Indeed, the latest McKinsey research (see “ The strategic yardstick you can’t afford to ignore .”) finds that a very small number of companies create most economic profit. 2 2. What’s left over after subtracting the cost of capital from net operating profit. The research also shows that a significant number of good companies outperform even in so-called bad industries, where the average economic profit is less than the market average.

How do they do it? In other words, where do powerful strategies come from? Sometimes it’s luck, or good timing, or a stroke of inspiration. In our experience, it’s also possible to load the dice in favor of developing good strategies by focusing on the core building blocks that often get overlooked. One is the need to gain agreement—before creating strategy—on the essential decisions and the criteria for making them. Another is to ensure that the company is prepared and willing to act on a strategy once it is adopted. Too much of what passes for strategy development, we find, consists of hurried efforts that skip one or more of the essentials. The resulting strategies are often flawed from the start.

It’s also easy, though, to go too far in the other direction and make the creation of strategy a rigid, box-checking exercise. Appealing as a formula-driven approach might be, it ignores the truth that strategy creation is a journey—and an inherently messy one at that. Proprietary insights are hard to come by. Shaping keen insights into good strategies requires deep interpersonal engagement and debate from senior executives, as well as the ability to deal with ambiguity in charged and often stressful circumstances. When would-be strategists overlook these dynamics, they cover the essentials in name only. Consequently, they miss opportunities and threats, or create great paper strategies that remain unfinished in practice.

In this article, we’ll outline a middle path—an end-to-end way of thinking that views the creation of strategy as a journey, not a project. This method, developed through our work with some 900 global companies over the past five years, can help senior executives approach strategy in a rigorous and complete way. We’ll also describe some principles that strategists should keep in mind as they use the method to ensure that their strategic-planning processes embody the spirit of debate and engagement, which, in turn, yields inspiration. By better understanding both the method and how to get the most out of it, companies can boost the odds that the strategies they create will beat the market.

Do justice to strategy’s building blocks

Most companies we’re familiar with demonstrate a variety of good habits when they create strategies, and they get many things right. But what they miss can be critical. Consider these examples:

  • a technology company that prided itself on analytical rigor but never accurately diagnosed how difficult it would be for a targeted customer group to provide reasonable returns
  • a beer company that rightly focused on industry structure in its core business but made a losing bet on a related business—wine—after failing to forecast declining returns stemming from structural shifts there
  • a telecommunications company’s strategy team, which recognized the importance of involving senior managers but ended up alienating them by holding a series of time-consuming workshops that focused on alignment around strategic choices, though the full set of choices hadn’t yet been identified

These problems don’t have to happen. We find that companies do better when they ground all their strategy-development efforts and processes in an understanding of the building blocks of strategy. These straightforward modes of activity (exhibit) track the progression of a strategy from its roots as an idea through its emergence as an operational reality.

The building blocks of strategy help companies make strategic choices and carry them through to operational reality.

One central building block is deep insight into the starting position of the company: where and why it creates—or destroys—value (diagnose). Executives also need a point of view on how the future may unfold (forecast). By combining insights into a company’s starting position with a perspective on the future, the company can develop and explore alternative ways to win (search) and ultimately decide which alternative to pursue (choose). With the strategy selected, the company needs to create an action plan and reallocate resources to deliver it (commit).

These five core building blocks are book-ended by two others. One is an initial block (frame) to ensure that the team properly identifies and agrees to both the questions asked and the decisions made as the strategy is developed. The final block (evolve) is dedicated to the constant monitoring and refreshing of the strategy as conditions change and new information becomes available.

To some extent, the building blocks simply represent a thorough list of activities that all good strategists perform. And while all are important and should be included in the creation of strategy, slavishly following this or any other framework won’t bring success. Depending on the situation, some blocks will be more critical than others and therefore require more attention (see sidebar, “Re-create, recommit, and refresh”).

Re-create, recommit, and refresh

For a number of years, we, our colleagues, and many others who are engaged in the practice of strategy have been pointing out how ill-suited traditional strategic-planning processes are to the dynamism and pace of 21st-century business life. Less clear is what should happen to many organizations’ well-oiled approaches. Shut them down? Morph them into budgeting and operational-planning processes? Use them to synthesize the valuable insights emerging from more frequent strategic dialogues involving larger numbers of executives?

The building blocks of strategy shed fresh light on what strategic planning should and shouldn’t try to do. For starters, we’d emphasize that periodically—perhaps as often as every three to five years, if new competitors arrive or markets unexpectedly shift—companies must re-create their strategies. This cannot be accomplished through typical planning processes, as it requires broader skills, wider engagement, and more flexibility to make big strategic choices than they allow. So forget about strategic planning when you need to revamp your strategy; instead, take a more immersive strategy-development approach using all of the seven building blocks described in this article.

At the other end of the spectrum is what we would describe as the need to recommit organizations to established strategies. Traditional strategic planning is tailor-made for this purpose, and thinking about the task in these terms helps elevate it above the glorified budgeting exercise into which some processes lapse. Two of the building blocks we have described in this article—commit and evolve—are useful reminders of what any such strategic- planning process should accomplish: the constant monitoring of strategy, the reallocation of resources, the alignment of management on strategic priorities, and the creation of targets, budgets, and operational plans.

Between these two extremes lies the strategic refresh, which is particularly relevant for organizations where a lot of valuable, ongoing strategy dialogue takes place among members of the top team. Such engagement can highlight nagging issues that might one day necessitate a strategic redo but certainly merit attention now. For example, if signs suggesting that one or more key assumptions have become less valid emerge from strategic dialogues at the business-unit level, it might be time to update the company’s perspective on long-term trends. This exercise could be elevated in importance by making it a core theme of the upcoming strategic-planning process. In such situations, it’s a good idea to check all seven building blocks quickly, with an emphasis on understanding the strategic implications of underlying changes. If they are big enough, that could be a red flag signaling the need to re-create the strategy and thus to elevate the discussion beyond strategic-planning parameters.

For a closer look at how to improve strategic planning, see “ Managing the strategy journey ” and “ Dynamic management: Better decisions in uncertain times .”

That’s why taking some time to frame issues at the outset is so important. When strategists do so, they are better able to identify the real choices and constraints facing their organizations and to see which building blocks are likely to matter most given the situation at hand. Unfortunately, many executives feel that taking the time to frame strategy choices thoughtfully and to decide where to focus strategy-development efforts is a luxury they don’t have.

We’ve seen evidence of this pressure firsthand and in the responses to an executive survey we’ve been conducting as part of an ongoing research project. Fully two-thirds of the 200 executives we’ve surveyed so far report that they feel rushed to provide outputs in their strategic-planning processes. This pressure is understandable in today’s always-on, fast-changing environment, but it can be hazardous to a company’s strategic health. That’s especially true in the all-too-common situations when it’s not immediately obvious what factors will determine the success or failure of a change to strategy.

A financial-services institution in the Asia–Pacific region, for example, was investigating a growth opportunity involving the creation of an online business. Changing the company’s focus in this way would be a big undertaking, but the upside potential was large. Moreover, the members of the strategy team could already see that demonstrating the channel’s significant potential to the top team would be straightforward. Before doing that, however, they stepped back to spend some time thinking through the idea’s broader strategic context—framing, in other words.

When they did, they saw a serious risk of cannibalization for one of the company’s existing businesses. The new venture would also require substantial funding over the next three to five years before it contributed financially. This had important implications, and the team’s members needed to convince themselves that the risk was worth taking. Moreover, if the company made the move, would it stick with the effort when the time came to provide funding for people and technology?

Instead of steaming ahead with analytical work to prove the potential, the team recognized that it would be critical to invest a disproportionate amount of time and effort to the commit building block. The strategy team did this, in part, by developing a powerful multimedia concept prototype to capture the imaginations of the top team and the executives representing key support functions. The team’s focus on gaining commitment was prescient; the prototype and the communication around it helped convince the leaders that the concept was so compelling for consumers that if the company didn’t cannibalize its existing business, a competitor would probably come up with the idea. The effort also helped motivate the leaders of the finance and IT functions to support the new offer. The company launched it in record time, to promising early results in both customer acquisition and levels of customer engagement.

In retrospect, the team credits the conversations and debates held during this framing period as necessary to identify and resolve the potential stumbling blocks related to the organization’s strategic direction. Although messy at times, this activity helped build an organizational commitment to the strategy and its importance to the company.

Myth-bust your story

A focus on strategic building blocks also can help companies develop penetrating insights. While “insight” conjures up visions of research, data crunching, and “aha” moments, real strategic insight also rests on a seemingly mundane and easy-to-overlook factor: a thorough understanding of how and why a company, its competitors, and others in the industry value chain make money. Absent dumb luck, a strategy that doesn’t tap directly into such an understanding will underperform.

The difficulty, as professor Phil Rosenzweig of the International Institute for Management Development has explained so well, 3 3. See Phil Rosenzweig, “ The halo effect, and other managerial delusions ,” McKinsey Quarterly , February 2007. is that a company’s performance—good or bad—creates strong impressions that powerfully shape the way people perceive strategies, leaders, cultures, and organizational effectiveness. A commodity company, for instance, might falsely attribute its strong performance to the efficiency of its operations. Yet despite its efficiency, the economics of those operations could be swamped by market-structure changes that have significant pricing implications or by unexpectedly volatile demand.

One way senior executives can address the challenge, we find, is explicitly questioning received corporate wisdom—much as the popular US television show MythBusters does when it takes apparent axioms, urban legends, and popular assumptions and (in entertaining fashion) tries to prove or disprove them. In the creation of strategy, this approach means dispassionately identifying the elements that contribute to performance, while discounting any factor contaminated by perceptions of the company’s supposed greatness. It also requires a curiosity that’s woefully lacking in some strategic-planning processes. Nearly eight in ten executives we surveyed, for example, say that the processes of their companies are more geared to confirming existing hypotheses than to testing new ones.

To see how these dynamics play out in practice, consider the experience of a global retailer that was revisiting its strategy after the previous one had delivered five years of strong earnings. The positive results, most in the company believed, reflected good execution and the success of a recent initiative to refresh the store format. Still, the leader of the business felt there could be more to the story and worried that continuing along the same path might not produce the same results in the future. To determine what was actually driving performance, the leader met with the company’s strategy team, as well as other executives.

This was time well spent. The resulting discussions sparked important insights—revealing, for example, that while overall performance was good, there were problems under the surface. On the positive side, the company was steadily improving its margins and winning customers from a higher-cost competitor. Nonetheless, the solid network growth at the top-line level appeared to be masking a worrisome decline in the productivity of older stores. The big drag on performance, the team discovered, was the loss of mainstream customers to a cheaper competitor, which careful analysis showed to have an unassailable advantage on cost. Increasing promotional activity had so far seemed to stem the march of this aggressive rival, but the retailer was running out of steam and hitting practical limits. Significant changes would be necessary.

Let them grapple

This realization was the product of more than just number crunching. The thoughtful argument and debate surrounding the analysis from day one played a vital part in generating the insights. In our experience, many companies forget this truth when they create strategy. Instead, they put too much emphasis on preparing documents and completing analyses and not enough on stimulating the productive debates that lead to better decisions.

Getting executives to grapple with the issues can be a messy process, and the debates may be quite personal. After all, formulating good strategies typically involves revisiting fundamental and deeply held beliefs about a company’s past and future, and people tend not to shift their views without a fight. 4 4. We also know that executives exhibit a number of biases that lead them to be overconfident about their beliefs and adept at finding facts to confirm them and reject challenges. To learn more about addressing this problem, see Dan Lovallo and Olivier Sibony, “ The case for behavioral strategy ,” McKinsey Quarterly , March 2010. But without the necessary fights, and without the use of carefully designed decision-making techniques, companies may end up with rubber-stamped strategies whose flaws are exposed during implementation—or afterward, by competitors.

When companies find ways to get executives grappling—throughout the strategy-development process—with the choices that matter, they make better, less biased decisions. They also improve the likelihood that the relevant stakeholders will be on board when the time comes to make and act on choices. 5 5. The importance of gaining social support for a strategy is often overlooked. Fully 62 percent of executives in our survey say that their strategy processes focus on the strategy itself, not on building a support base of influencers who will drive implementation.

To exemplify our point, let’s look again at the retailer’s strategy team as it engaged with the company’s broader leadership group to share its observations. Most strategy teams interact with decision makers by presenting management with a summary report and recommendations. But this team understood that senior managers needed time to debate the issues themselves and reach their own conclusions—and that such collective discussions would improve the resulting strategy.

Because the senior managers had a very hands-on attitude, the strategy team designed a series of weekly meetings called think tanks to let them work through a profit-deconstruction exercise illuminating the company’s past. In each session, the analysis was tabled after a certain point, and the management team’s members took turns drawing out conclusions or identifying further questions that needed answering. The strategy team was prohibited from bringing any conclusions of the analysis to these meetings, much to its discomfort. This ensured that company leaders were invested in the decision-making process and could challenge the strategy team with new ideas.

Through a series of small-group meetings, the leadership team (with analytical help from the strategy team) debated the reasons for the company’s past success and how to continue it. By unpacking these complex dynamics together, the leadership team arrived at an accurate, sharp diagnosis: the company needed to restore mainstream shoppers’ trust in its prices. The result was a simple, focused strategy for delivering “value” products and reinforcing that market position with customers. Furthermore, because the management team was deeply involved in the diagnosis, its members had a strong incentive to drive implementation.

Don’t leave the strategy unfinished

In conversations with senior executives, we occasionally hear some version of this saying: “I’d rather have a good strategy and great execution than vice versa.” We believe that this attitude reflects confusion about what great strategy is. Such a strategy creates a path for action and is inherently incomplete without it. Yet many companies fail to get the conditions for successful implementation right, and fully two-thirds of the executives in our survey admit that their companies struggle with the issue.

It’s a crucial struggle. No strategy, however brilliant, can be implemented successfully unless the people who have the most important jobs know what they need to do differently, understand how and why they should do it, and have the necessary resources. An added challenge, of course, is that strategic choices often involve big changes over long, three- to five-year time frames.

Finishing a strategy, therefore, requires creating tangible, proximate goals that connect to the longer-term strategy. It’s easy to create a high-level list of next steps and things to do differently on Monday morning. It’s much harder to roll back the future and connect it to the present so that people understand what they need to do differently and actually do it.

When companies fail to set proximate goals, the results can be disappointing. An Asian telecommunications company, for example, had landed on an intriguing and counterintuitive strategy involving two big shifts: it wanted to move its target customer base from big business to the midmarket and to standardize its products rather than provide customized service to large clients. Making the changes work, however, would require salespeople to start saying no to new business from large and complex clients so that the company could redirect its efforts to midmarket customers. The short-term pain (lower revenues and higher costs) would ultimately lead the company to a market-beating position.

The management team understood and encouraged the shift and was ready to act. But the strategy team did not do enough to prepare the organization for the moves, instead spending its time on detailed initiative-planning exercises. Absent any effort to translate the company’s strategic desires into proximate goals for its employees, those employees balked at the changes.

Sales managers, for example, not only viewed saying no to larger customers as a short-term loss for the business but also were simply not as excited about pursuing midmarket customers with simpler needs. They understood the strategy intellectually and believed the analysis, but their skills, incentives, and ways of working and even thinking had not changed. Without such changes, they couldn’t connect the necessary steps to a longer-term goal and naturally reverted to their old ways, creating a backlash that inevitably undermined the strategy. Only afterward did the team recognize the kinds of activities that might have helped—for example, changing the salespeople’s goals, resetting the overall budget to acknowledge the transition from one customer segment to another, and using the reallocated funding to generate a new product-development road map.

Creating strategy in today’s environment of complexity, ever-changing priorities, and conflicting agendas is a daunting task. Yet when senior executives invest the time and effort to develop a more thorough, thoughtful approach to strategy, they not only increase the odds of building a winning business but also often enjoy a positive spin-off: the gifts of simplicity and focus, as well as the conviction to get things done.

Chris Bradley is a principal in McKinsey’s Sydney office, where Angus Dawson is a director and Antoine Montard is a senior expert.

The authors wish to thank Matthew Chapman, Pia Mortensen, and Victoria Newman for their contributions to the development of this article.

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Strategic Management Insight

Strategic Management & Strategic Planning Process

what are the strategic planning process

Strategic management process is a method by which managers conceive of and implement a strategy that can lead to a sustainable competitive advantage. [1 ]

Strategic planning process is a systematic or emerged way of performing strategic planning in the organization through initial assessment, thorough analysis, strategy formulation, its implementation and evaluation.

What is strategic planning process?

The process of strategic management lists what steps the managers should take to create a complete strategy and how to implement that strategy successfully in the company. It might comprise from 7 to nearly 30 steps [4] and tends to be more formal in well-established organizations.

The ways that strategies are created and realized differ. Thus, there are many different models of the process. The models vary between companies depending upon:

  • Organization’s culture.
  • Leadership style.
  • The experience the firm has in creating successful strategies.

All the examples of the process in this article represent top-down approach and belong to the ‘design school’.

Components of strategic planning process

There are many components of the process which are spread throughout strategic planning stages. Most often, the strategic planning process has 4 common phases: strategic analysis, strategy formulation, implementation and monitoring (David [5] , Johnson, Scholes & Whittington [6] , Rothaermel [1] , Thompson and Martin [2] ). For clearer understanding, this article represents 5 stages of strategic planning process:

Initial Assessment

Situation analysis.

  • Strategy Formulation
  • Strategy Implementation

Strategy Monitoring

Components: Vision statement & Mission statement Tools used: Creating a Vision and Mission statements.

The starting point of the process is initial assessment of the firm. At this phase managers must clearly identify the company’s vision and mission statements.

Business’ vision answers the question: What does an organization want to become? Without visualizing the company’s future, managers wouldn’t know where they want to go and what they have to achieve. Vision is the ultimate goal for the firm and the direction for its employees.

In addition, mission describes company’s business. It informs organization’s stakeholders about the products, customers, markets, values, concern for public image and employees of the organization (David, p. 93) [5] . Thorough mission statement acts as guidance for managers in making appropriate (Rothaermel, p. 34) [1] daily decisions.

Components: Internal environment analysis, External environment analysis and Competitor analysis Tools used: PEST , SWOT , Core Competencies, Critical Success Factors, Unique Selling Proposition, Porter’s 5 Forces , Competitor Profile Matrix , External Factor Evaluation Matrix , Internal Factor Evaluation Matrix, Benchmarking , Financial Ratios, Scenarios Forecasting, Market Segmentation, Value Chain Analysis , VRIO Framework

When the company identifies its vision and mission it must assess its current situation in the market. This includes evaluating an organization’s external and internal environments and analyzing its competitors.

During an external environment analysis managers look into the key external forces: macro & micro environments and competition. PEST or PESTEL frameworks represent all the macro environment factors that influence the organization in the global environment. Micro environment affects the company in its industry. It is analyzed using Porter’s 5 Forces Framework.

Competition is another uncontrollable external force that influences the company. A good example of this was when Apple released its IPod and shook the mp3 players industry, including its leading performer Sony. Firms assess their competitors using competitors profile matrix and benchmarking to evaluate their strengths, weaknesses and level of performance.

Internal analysis includes the assessment of the company’s resources, core competencies and activities. An organization holds both tangible resources: capital, land, equipment, and intangible resources: culture, brand equity, knowledge, patents, copyrights and trademarks (Rothaermel, p. 90) [1] . A firm’s core competencies may be superior skills in customer relationship or efficient supply chain management. When analyzing the company’s activities managers look into the value chain and the whole production process.

As a result, situation analysis identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for the organization and reveals a clear picture of company’s situation in the market.

Components: Objectives, Business level, Corporate level and Global Strategy Selection Tools used: Scenario Planning, SPACE Matrix, Boston Consulting Group Matrix , GE-McKinsey Matrix, Porter’s Generic Strategies, Bowman’s Strategy Clock, Porter’s Diamond, Game Theory, QSP Matrix.

Successful situation analysis is followed by creation of long-term objectives. Long-term objectives indicate goals that could improve the company’s competitive position in the long run. They act as directions for specific strategy selection. In an organization, strategies are chosen at 3 different levels:

  • Business level strategy. This type of strategy is used when strategic business units (SBU), divisions or small and medium enterprises select strategies for only one product that is sold in only one market. The example of business level strategy is well illustrated by Royal Enfield firms. They sell their Bullet motorcycle (one product) in United Kingdom and India (different markets) but focus on different market segments and sell at very different prices (different strategies). Firms may select between Porter’s 3 generic strategies: cost leadership, differentiation and focus strategies. Alternatively strategies from Bowman’s strategy clock may be chosen (Johnson, Scholes, & Whittington, p. 224 [6] ).
  • Corporate level strategy. At this level, executives at top parent companies choose which products to sell, which market to enter and whether to acquire a competitor or merge with it. They select between integration, intensive, diversification and defensive strategies.
  • Global/International strategy. The main questions to answer: Which new markets to develop and how to enter them? How far to diversify? (Thompson and Martin, p. 557 [2] , Johnson, Scholes, & Whittington, p. 294 [6] )

Managers may choose between many strategic alternatives. That depends on a company’s objectives, results of situation analysis and the level for which the strategy is selected.

Components: Annual Objectives, Policies, Resource Allocation, Change Management, Organizational chart, Linking Performance and Reward Tools used: Policies, Motivation, Resistance management, Leadership, Stakeholder Impact Analysis, Changing organizational structure, Performance management

Even the best strategic plans must be implemented and only well executed strategies create competitive advantage for a company.

At this stage managerial skills are more important than using analysis. Communication in strategy implementation is essential as new strategies must get support all over organization for effective implementation. The example of the strategy implementation that is used here is taken from David’s book, chapter 7 on implementation [5] . It consists of the following 6 steps:

  • Setting annual objectives;
  • Revising policies to meet the objectives;
  • Allocating resources to strategically important areas;
  • Changing organizational structure to meet new strategy;
  • Managing resistance to change;
  • Introducing new reward system for performance results if needed.

The first point in strategy implementation is setting annual objectives for the company’s functional areas. These smaller objectives are specifically designed to achieve financial, marketing, operations, human resources and other functional goals. To meet these goals managers revise existing policies and introduce new ones which act as the directions for successful objectives implementation.

The other very important part of strategy implementation is changing an organizational chart. For example, a product diversification strategy may require new SBU to be incorporated into the existing organizational chart. Or market development strategy may require an additional division to be added to the company. Every new strategy changes the organizational structure and requires reallocation of resources. It also redistributes responsibilities and powers between managers. Managers may be moved from one functional area to another or asked to manage a new team. This creates resistance to change, which has to be managed in an appropriate way or it could ruin excellent strategy implementation.

Components: Internal and External Factors Review, Measuring Company’s Performance Tools used: Strategy Evaluation Framework, Balanced Scorecard, Benchmarking

Implementation must be monitored to be successful. Due to constantly changing external and internal conditions managers must continuously review both environments as new strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats may arise. If new circumstances affect the company, managers must take corrective actions as soon as possible.

Usually, tactics rather than strategies are changed to meet the new conditions, unless firms are faced with such severe external changes as the 2007 credit crunch.

Measuring performance is another important activity in strategy monitoring. Performance has to be measurable and comparable. Managers have to compare their actual results with estimated results and see if they are successful in achieving their objectives. If objectives are not met managers should:

  • Change the reward system.
  • Introduce new or revise existing policies.

The key element in strategy monitoring is to get the relevant and timely information on changing environment and the company’s performance and if necessary take corrective actions.

Different models of the process

There is no universal model of the strategic management process. The one, which was described in this article, is just one more version of so many models that are established by other authors. In this section we will illustrate and comment on 3 more well-known frameworks presented by recognized scholars in the strategic management field. More about these models can be found in the authors’ books.

Source: David (p. 46)

  • Strategy Evaluation
  • Develop vision and mission
  • External environment analysis
  • Internal environment analysis
  • Establish long-term objectives
  • Generate, evaluate and choose strategies
  • Implement strategies
  • Measure and evaluate performance
  • Indicates all the major steps that have to be met during the process.
  • Illustrates that the process is a continuous activity.
  • Arrows show the two way process. This means that companies may sometimes go a step or two back in the process rather than having to complete the process and start it all over from the beginning. For example , if in the implementation stage the company finds out that the strategy it chose is not viable, it can simply go back to the strategy selection point instead of continuing to the monitoring stage and starting the process from the beginning.
  • Represents only strategy formulation stage and does separate situation analysis from strategy selection stages.
  • Confuses strategy evaluation with strategy monitoring stage.

Source: Rothaermel (p. 20)

  • Formulation
  • Implementation
  • Initial analysis
  • External and internal analysis
  • Business or corporate strategy formulation
  • Shows that the process is a continuous activity.
  • Separates initial analysis (in this articles it’s called initial assessment) from internal/external analysis.
  • Emphasizes the main focus of strategic management: “Gain and sustain competitive advantage”.
  • Does not include strategy monitoring stage.
  • Arrows indicate only one way process. For example , after the strategy formulation the process continues to the implementation stage while this is not always the truth. Companies may go back and reassess their environments if some conditions had changed.

Source: Thompson and Martin (p.36)

  • Where are we?
  • Where are we going?
  • How are we getting there?
  • How are we doing?
  • Situation appraisal: review of corporate objectives
  • Situation assessment
  • Clarification of objectives
  • Corporate and competitive strategies
  • Strategic decisions
  • Monitor progress
  • The model is supplemented by 4 fundamental strategic management questions.
  • Arrows indicate only one way process.

Limitations

It is rare that the company will be able to follow the process from the first to the last step. Producing a quality strategic plan requires time , during which many external and even internal conditions may change. This results in the flawed strategic plan which has to be revised, hence requiring even more time to finish.

On the other hand, when implementing the strategic plan, the actual results do not meet the requirements of the strategic plan so the plan has to be altered or better methods for the implementation have to be discovered. This means that some parts of strategic management process have to be done simultaneously, which makes the whole process more complex .

  • Rothaermel, F. T. (2012). Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases. McGraw-Hill/Irwin, p. 20, 32-45, 90
  • Thompson, J. and Martin, F. (2010). Strategic Management: Awareness & Change. 6th ed. Cengage Learning EMEA, p. 34, 557, 790
  • Clark, D. N. (1997). Strategic management tool usage: a comparative study. Strategic Change Vol. 6, pp. 417-427
  • David, F.R. (2009). Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases. 12th ed. FT Prentice Hall, p. 36-37, 45-47, 93
  • Johnson, G, Scholes, K. Whittington, R. (2008). Exploring Corporate Strategy. 8th ed. FT Prentice Hall, p. 11-13, 224, 294
  • Virtual Strategist (2012). Overview of the Strategic Planning Process (VIDEO). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sU3FLxnDv_A
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Education | Allentown School District’s new strategic plan…

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Education | Allentown School District’s new strategic plan nears completion

Allentown School District Superintendent Dr. Carol Birks participates in a Tuesday, March, 12, 2024, Allentown School District strategic plan meeting at the PPL Innovation Center in Allentown.(Amy Shortell / The Morning Call)

A final strategic plan will be presented to school directors for approval in coming weeks. Additional action plans will come before the board to implement specific goals.

It’s the first time in recent memory the district has undertaken a strategic planning initiative; when complete, it will outline everything from district culture to goals for graduates.

“We’re hoping that the strategic planning process and the actual plan and the execution – because we have to implement that plan – will help everyone to see where they are in the process of supporting learners,” said Carol Birks, who started her four-year contract as district superintendent in March 2023.

The process

A steering committee with more than 100 members has been meeting since November to hammer out the details of the district’s vision, mission, values and priorities moving forward. There are also advisory committees with additional parents, students and staff who have participated in the planning, and whose goal is to keep the steering committee accountable; they will continue to meet twice each year to monitor implementation of the strategic plan.

“I’m a big believer in the voice of the community,” said Veronica Gonzalez, a co-chair for the steering committee and CEO of Valley Health Partners Community Health Center. “And that’s a lot of what this process is, allowing for everyone to have a voice and really be intentional about the needs and how we get there.”

Surveys and focus groups have been conducted throughout the process to gain insight from more stakeholders. A simultaneous equity audit has also been run to ensure the district infuses equity throughout its overall practices, Birks said.

The district worked with consultants from Insight Education Group throughout the strategic planning process at a cost of $103,750. The district hired consultants from The Howard Group to manage the equity audit at a cost of $90,000.

“My vision is that people feel really respected, they feel valued,” Birks said. “And our students as well as our staff, and I say this often, but I really mean it, that they feel empowered, and that they feel loved in this organization, that we really care deeply about them and their success.”

“But we have  to continue to work on designing that culture,” she added.

A new approach

The district hasn’t had a strategic plan in recent memory. A five-year strategic framework expired in 2021; but Birks said “no one knew” about the framework.

In 2022, former Superintendent John Stanford laid out four priorities – academic performance, equity and culture, accountable governance and financial stability – that were meant to guide future strategic planning, but he left the district before any planning took place.

Ali Wight, the district’s liaison with the homeless and a former school counselor, said she hasn’t been part of a planning process this expansive and inclusive in her decade in the district.

“I think that’s really powerful that we’re asking for that feedback,” Wight said.

Similarly, Raiza Trinidad, a parent of three students, said she’s enjoyed helping plan for her children’s future educational experiences as both a member of the steering committee and the parent advisory committee.

“It’s been very good to see that parents have a voice,” she said. “Before there wasn’t even a podium for parents.”

Brainstorming 

The planning process has been detailed as members have discussed word choice for the district’s mission and vision statements with great specificity, dissecting the efficacy of other organizations’ statements to inform their own.

For example, the steering committee looked at the mission and vision statements for other local school districts, such as East Penn and Parkland, and large companies, including Google and Starbucks. The goal is to keep the statements precise and simple.

“It’s really looking at a mission statement and a value statement through a microscope and understanding how it resonates and then actually giving feedback that makes a difference,” said Andrea Grannum-Mosley, dean of workforce, community engagement and technical education at Lehigh Carbon Community College.

Grannum-Mosley said the committee has made sure to remember their motivations throughout each part of the planning process, ensuring the plan is “student-centered.”

Another part of the planning process has been developing a “portrait of a learner,” or a list of attributes that defines the skills students should graduate with and the processes the district will use to approach its learning experiences.

Grannum-Mosley said she would like students to be lifelong learners.

“The reality is not everybody should be pushed into a degree pathway,” she said. “If you’re a lifelong learner, you’re always going to seek a skill. It might be an Excel skill, it might be getting better at HVAC, but you’re always going to seek the ability to not just learn, but to teach.”

Trinidad wants students to graduate with integrity, critical thinking and a sense of responsibility in order to be workforce ready.

“Those are things that employers are looking for,” she said. “I work in insurance, and it’s changing day by day, but these are things that I have to carry to work every day and that my boss is looking for when he hires people.”

Morcease Beasley participates in a Tuesday, March, 12, 2024, Allentown...

Morcease Beasley participates in a Tuesday, March, 12, 2024, Allentown School District strategic plan meeting at the PPL Innovation Center in Allentown. (Amy Shortell / The Morning Call)

Rajicka Reed participates in a Tuesday, March, 12, 2024, Allentown...

Rajicka Reed participates in a Tuesday, March, 12, 2024, Allentown School District strategic plan meeting at the PPL Innovation Center in Allentown. (Amy Shortell / The Morning Call)

Veronica Gonzalez, chief executive officer, Valley Health partners community health...

Veronica Gonzalez, chief executive officer, Valley Health partners community health center, participates in a Tuesday, March, 12, 2024, Allentown School District strategic plan meeting at the PPL Innovation Center in Allentown. (Amy Shortell / The Morning Call)

Andrea Grannum-Mosely, left, and Ashley Coleman, right, participate in a...

Andrea Grannum-Mosely, left, and Ashley Coleman, right, participate in a Tuesday, March, 12, 2024, Allentown School District strategic plan meeting at the PPL Innovation Center in Allentown. (Amy Shortell / The Morning Call)

Morcease Beasley participates in a Tuesday, March, 12, 2024, Allentown...

Priorities 

Committee members also shared what they hope the district prioritizes moving forward.

Allison Morales, an Allen High School senior, said the district provides many student resources, but her peers don’t know about them. She wants the district to make sure students know what’s available to them to succeed.

She also wants her teachers to have a greater voice in the daily work of the district, especially when it comes to changes that may impact them directly.

“I just want to feel like they are heard, and not frustrated to the point that they could possibly even quit,” she said. “Because a teacher can also partake [an important role] in a student’s life.”

Wight said the district should focus on celebrating its diversity so students grow up feeling secure in themselves.

“We want our kids to feel like they belong here and that they are given an equal playing field no matter what, so that they can be the best [version of] themselves when they grow up,” Wight said.

With the quick pace that technology changes, Trinidad wants to see the curriculum keep up so students are prepared for new jobs that may not even exist yet.

For Birks, it’s essential the district harness the Lehigh Valley’s “collective genius” to create personalized learning experiences for students.

“We’re very nonprofit rich, corporate rich in this community,” she said. “There’s such diversity of thought and thinking, and we haven’t capitalized on the collective.”

Birks is trying to be more intentional about how partners are involved in the district, creating opportunities for involvement at scale. Birks highlighted local colleges and universities as another partner the district can lean into.

She envisions more programs that allow students to explore career pathways, noting current collaborations with the local fire department and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union which has a local in Allentown.

Changing the narrative

As committee members reflect on the district’s past and plan for the future, they’ve also spoken about changing the public narrative around the district.

Trinidad, who graduated from Dieruff High School in 2005, said she remembers negative perceptions about the district’s academic performance from her time in school, referencing comments made by peers from other districts at sporting events.

“It’s continued to have that stigma, and it’s good to see that now moving forward, they do want to change that,” she said. “Because there’s a lot of resilience that is happening here as Allentown is changing and growing.”

State Rep. Peter Schweyer, an Allentown School District parent and chairman of the House Education Committee, said some criticisms of the district are valid, but others aren’t fair.

When it comes to the district’s standardized test scores, which are the lowest in the county, Schweyer said the data fail to show the full picture.

Specifically, he said Allentown’s transient population isn’t taken into account, noting many families move in and out of the area from Puerto Rico, New Jersey and New York, among others. Anecdotally, he said students, like his daughters, who’ve been in the district for more than just a couple years are doing “exceedingly well.”

“We are never going to be able to change that narrative, until there’s real understanding about what that data actually means,” he said.

Schweyer and other legislators in Harrisburg are considering other ways to measure districts’ success to gauge the impact of funding, such as class size, staff turnover and graduation rates, he said.

“We are churning out tremendous kids all over the place from every walk of life, and the opportunities are there,” he said. “Now with that said, we are extraordinarily hamstrung by financial constraints.”

Allentown School District Superintendent Carol Birks participates in a Tuesday,...

Allentown School District Superintendent Carol Birks participates in a Tuesday, March, 12, 2024, Allentown School District strategic plan meeting at the PPL Innovation Center in Allentown. (Amy Shortell / The Morning Call)

Katrin L. Blamey, of DeSales University, left, participates in a...

Katrin L. Blamey, of DeSales University, left, participates in a Tuesday, March, 12, 2024, Allentown School District strategic plan meeting at the PPL Innovation Center in Allentown. (Amy Shortell / The Morning Call)

Veronica Gonzalez, chief executive officer, Valley Health partners community health...

Nneka Bernard participates in a Tuesday, March, 12, 2024, Allentown School District strategic plan meeting at the PPL Innovation Center in Allentown. (Amy Shortell / The Morning Call)

Allentown School District officials host a meeting to form a...

Allentown School District officials host a meeting to form a strategic plan Tuesday, March, 12, 2024, at the PPL Innovation Center in Allentown. (Amy Shortell / The Morning Call)

Insight on superintendent

For those involved with strategic planning, this isn’t the first time they’ve spoken with Birks. She has prided herself on listening and learning from the community in her first year on the job.

The strategic planning process has been demonstrative of her approach: methodical and inclusive.

Wight said Birks is the first superintendent she’s known on a personal level throughout her 10 years in the district.

“She knows me by name. When I walk in, she says, ‘Hi, Mrs. Wight’ and she gives me a hug,” Wight said. “I see her intently engaged with the stakeholders when she’s at these meetings, she’s talking to them.”

Schweyer described Birks as smart, driven and hardworking. He said Birks has a different vision than many other superintendents and has challenged “some of our longer held strategies” by bringing a fresh set of eyes.

For one, Birks has taken creative approaches to financial management of the district, such as using pandemic relief funding to purchase new curricula, Schweyer said.

She hasn’t been afraid to push back against the status quo when needed, either, he added.

“She’s certainly ruffled a couple of feathers along the way, and I don’t think that that’s inherently a bad thing,” Schweyer said.

Trinidad said Birks has been transparent throughout the strategic planning process and has made her hopeful about the district’s future.

“It’s been quite great to see her passion, advocacy for these kids,” she said. “It looks like the future, with Dr. Birks, for our kids is a positive, brighter one.”

Throughout her time in Allentown, Birks has worked to implement solutions when challenges arise, she said.

When students wanted to earn money, she helped create a paid district internship program. When school directors said student homelessness was a problem, she asked her team to create a task force to address the issue.

Birks has aimed to be responsive to community concerns and desires, which has also informed her approach to leading and strategic planning.

“I’ve learned a lot about this community,” Birks said. “And some of the areas that people say that they want, they really drove home: ‘We want transparency. We want communication.’”

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New Livonia library director hired, will oversee strategic planning process

what are the strategic planning process

LIVONIA — There's a new head librarian in town.

Kristen Edson took over as Livonia's library director earlier this month, and she's happy to be back in her home state. The Swartz Creek native was drawn back to Michigan from her former job in Louisiana by family. She's looking forward to getting to know Livonia better in the coming months.

"I really enjoyed the interview process and hearing from people who work for the City of Livonia," Edson said. "They talked about how much they enjoy it. Hearing that people have big plans for the city and for the libraries specifically was really good to hear."

Edson has also worked in Kalamazoo and Chicago libraries. Most recently, she's been the deputy director at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.

One of her first tasks as director will be to oversee a strategic planning process for Livonia's three libraries, one of which has been closed for years due to mold . The first step is a resident survey, which Edson expects to send out next month. The city hired libraryIQ to lead the effort and expects the process to run through March of next year.

"It’s about what the community wants," Edson said. "I’m interested in going through an in-depth strategic planning process. I’m looking forward to really getting into the weeds and really learning about the community more through that process."

According to Edson, residents can expect to chime in on the Livonia's library services, programs, communication and more. Questions will help the city decide how to make the Bennett Civic Center Library, 32777 Five Mile Road, and the Carl Sandburg Library, 30100 W. Seven Mile Road, best serve residents.

More: Off-duty Livonia police officer critically injured in crash

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More: Browndog Barlor announces closure of Farmington restaurant

People can also expect to be asked for comments on the long-closed Alfred Noble Library , 32901 Plymouth Road.

"Normally there is some question about convenience for patrons," Edson said. "I’m not sure yet, but I imagine there will be something about that location."

Like her predecessor, Toni LaPorte , Edson loves that libraries are a community gathering place for all kinds of people. She plans on keeping Livonia's libraries the beloved institutions they are now.

"The best thing about working in a library, to me, has always been that we are generalists," Edson said. "Whatever passion, whatever hobby you have, you have the opportunity to bring that here. If you love soap making, there are other people out there who also love that and you can come here for a soap-making program.

"I want the library to be a safe, welcoming place for people to come in and connect with knowledge and the greater community. I want people to be able to explore whatever interests they happen to have."

Get the latest headlines for metro Detroit every morning in your mailbox by signing up for  our daily briefings newsletter .

Contact reporter Shelby Tankersley at [email protected] or 248-305-0448. 

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what are the strategic planning process

what are the strategic planning process

Austin Police Department releases five-year plan

A USTIN (KXAN) — On Friday, the Austin Police Department released its five-year plan, which sets the agency’s priorities and is a way to stay engaged with the community in the process, the City of Austin said in a news release.

During the process, which began in 2022, APD gathered input from “various parts of the City” and from “all levels” of the agency to better establish the core focus of the plan, the release said.

“All the input and feedback we have received has been helpful in fostering continuous improvements, shaping our future accomplishments, celebrate our collective successes and continue to engage our workforce and community to make Austin the safest city in America,” said APD Interim Chief Robin Henderson in the release.

The strategic plan includes five “focus areas”:

  • Protect Austin
  • Engage our Community
  • Develop our Workforce
  • Foster Leadership Excellence
  • Enhance Organizational Capacity

Henderson said this plan is a way to help shape a brighter future where APD is “more innovative, transparent, community-focused, and highly trained,” according to the city.

The full strategic plan can be read below:

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to KXAN Austin.

Austin Police Department releases five-year plan

what are the strategic planning process

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  1. Strategic Planning: 5 Planning Steps, Process Guide [2024] • Asana

    The strategic planning process starts with assembling a small, dedicated team of key strategic planners—typically five to 10 members—who will form the strategic planning, or management, committee. This team is responsible for gathering crucial information, guiding the development of the plan, and overseeing strategy execution. ...

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  25. A look inside Allentown School District's strategic planning process

    The strategic planning process has been demonstrative of her approach: methodical and inclusive. Wight said Birks is the first superintendent she's known on a personal level throughout her 10 ...

  26. WUSD Begins Strategic Planning Process

    The strategic planning process will provide an opportunity for collective engagement around the district's "why," while providing intention and focus for continuous improvement. The plan will guide decision making, set specific actions for progress, and enable the district to monitor, evaluate, and adjust to reach its goals. ...

  27. New Livonia library director will oversee strategic planning process

    One of her first tasks as director will be to oversee a strategic planning process for Livonia's three libraries, one of which has been closed for years due to mold. The first step is a resident ...

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  29. Austin Police Department releases five-year plan

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