A Beginner’s Guide To Strategic Planning (In 2021)

Strategic planning is an essential practice in business development and growth.

If you are looking forward to achieving your organizational goals, a strategic planning guide needs to be created.

It involves a basic understanding of what strategic planning is, and how it functions for your business.  

You also need to learn about importance of strategic planning, steps to create and develop strategic plannig process and much more. 

What Is Strategic Planning? 

Strategic planning is the set of activities organized and customized to achieve the business goals or team goals. 

It is the process that influences the path of a particular organization by defining its internal and external happenings and objectives. 

Strategic planning, at its core, is a form of planning that is more organized, customized, and formatted to drive certain required results. 

It also helps you recognize all the essential adjustments that you possibly need to make in order to achieve your goal. 

Strategic planning started gaining popularity in the corporate space in the 1960s as it helped many leading brands at that time to  : 

  • Prioritize their goals and objectives 
  • Identify the adjustments they need to make 
  • Strengthening their business operations 
  • Setting up the documents & blueprints for organizations’ progress 

Companies abide by their strategic planning to fulfill their objectives and manage different procedures and streamline towards achieving the goals. 

It also helped companies establishing agreements amongst managers and other employees as well. 

Why Is Strategic Planning Important? 

Strategic planning is crucial for a business to move forward with much more efficient and optimized strategies, rather than just trying anything and everything. 

It is about helping companies to thrive, not just survive. 

It offers a detailed, clear, and precise focus creating an organization to be effective and efficient when it comes to their productivity. 

Experts believe without strategic planning in place, you cannot go very far with your businesses. 

Strategic planning smoothens the process and develops communication between the different departments to meet the common objectives. 

An ideal planning strategy is supposed to meet different criteria. 

It must be practical, technically sound, feasible for administrations, and even morally, legally, and ethically withstanding. 

Without a strategic planning mechanism in your business, things are more likely to go all over the place or you will do a lot of things without any specific directions. 

What is Not Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning can be confused with task management, business strategy, marketing strategy, schedule management and a lot of other related areas.

Surprisingly, these are NOT strategic planning, surely some of them are interconnected or interdependent in different ways but not the same, at all. 

So it is also important to understand how to not confuse strategic planning with anything else. 

Let’s dig dive in what is NOT strategic planning : 

  • Strategic planning is not a to-do list or scheduling program.
  • It is more than just following certain steps, and certainly not some ready-made solutions to fix all the issues.
  • Strategic planning is not a business plan as it doesn’t focus on a specific product, program or service, or any other kind of short-term goal. It looks at the big picture. 
  • Strategic planning certainly is not strategic thinking as the latter is about innovation, imagination, and ideas, the earlier one is about executing them.
  • A marketing plan is not the same as a strategic plan as it is about bringing new products to the market and finding ways to promote them. 

When Is The Right Time To Go For Strategic Planning? 

There is no ideal time to do strategic planning for your business. You have to give the credit to the organization for adapting to strategic planning. 

Here are some specific signs when you should do strategic planning for your business : 

  • While you are in preparation for an important new initiative 
  • If you can see your industry changing rapidly
  • At the time of starting a new year or funding period 
  • If you find the industry rules and regulation changing 

What you do need to understand about the timing of strategic planning is not considering thinking as a preceding act of initiation. 

Make sure you don’t take too much time in thinking and planning before implementation. 

You need to be consistent on your toes to adapt and change your strategic planning as you move forward, upgrade it. 

phases create strategic planning for business

Phase 1 : How To Prepare For Strategic Planning? 

There are two major steps you need to take in order to prepare for strategic planning. They are  : 

  • Step 1:  Gather Your Team 
  • Step 2:  Create An Achievable Timeline 
  • Step 3:  Get required background information for your strategic plan
  • Step 4:  Organize your data using the SWOT Analysis  

These steps will guide you towards preparing for the right strategic planning for your business. 

how to prepare for strategic planning

Make sure you take a good amount of time to give for the preparation but it always must be within the deadline. 

Again, you know strategic planning is about looking forward to your business. 

It is about seeing the long-term picture and strategizing accordingly to achieve your long-term goals. 

When you don’t have good strategic planning due to lack of the right preparation, research, or data, you get caught up in the recent future only. 

Step 1:  Gather Your Team Around With Right People In  

To make a strategic plan that is effectively mounted to achieve its set goals and objectives, you need strong leadership involved. 

And that should be the case from the very beginning of creating this strategic plan. 

So, You gather your team from various departments with a leadership position as you have to buy in across your company. 

One of the most important people in your team will be the strategic planner. 

The job of a strategic planner is to align all the ideas and thoughts in the leadership team with essential procedures that the company can use in an execution. 

This strategic planner also helps in developing this cross-functional team involving people from the leadership team and representatives from all different departments such as human resources, sales, finance, and operations. 

Just make sure you are hiring the right people to gather this team together for preparing the strategic plan. 

Step 2:  Create An Achievable Timeline 

Now when you get together an ambitious team in preparation for the strategic planning, the next thing you need to move forward is a timeline. 

The timeline will describe all the procedures that you need to go through to fulfill the strategic plan. 

What you need to remember, is making it reasonable and achievable. It also very much depends upon your prior experience with strategic plans. 

Especially if you are new or just a few years into this, try to be humble with the ambition you try to hop on. 

Just go for 6 months if you have never done a strategic plan before as this will the most realistic possible. 

Remember that if you change your strategic plan every year, you can complete this process in 4 to 5 weeks. 

Step 3: Get required background information for your strategic plan

There are two forms of background information that you will require in order to prepare for the strategic plan. 

Internal Inputs 

Internal inputs tell you about what’s going on in your company. Which area of your business needs more work? What products sell the most? 

You can get information on which particular branch of your business is growing faster than others. 

So now you have the option to either work more on your growing area or help those underperforming ones. 

All the internal inputs help you understand the current situation of your business thoroughly. 

External Inputs 

These inputs are about what and how your business gets affected outside, in the market, amongst your competitors, and in society. 

You can see what competition is doing or what are the changes happening in your industry. 

How external impacts on your business demands change and what you need to make that happen. 

It also defines all kinds of disputes, political unrest, business overseas and whatnot, everything related to your business. 

After gathering these internal and external inputs in the form of quantitative data from different sources. 

Make sure you discuss all this information with your managers and leadership team. They can share their thoughts on this and help you make better decisions with this. 

Converse with your customers, board members, and industry experts to determine the scope of improvements. 

They can also offer you some suggestions allowing you to deal with operations or company culture. 

Phase 2 : How To Create Your Strategic Plan? 

Step 1 :  Establishing Your Mission & Vision Statement 

Whether you have created your mission and mission statement or not, you have to finally establish it at this point of time. 

This step requires you to work or develop your mission and vision statement and confirm it before you get into creating your strategic planning. 

how to create strategic plan

Mission Statement 

Mission Statement is about describing what your company does and how your company is different from organizations in the market. 

Vision Statement 

Your vision statement is about the future state of which your company wants to achieve. 

There are two primary tools that can help you write your missio and vision statements : 

  1. OAS Statement 
  2. Strategic Shifts 

OAS stands for Objective, Advantage and Scope. These concepts will help you apply to your company to create a vision that is more tangible, interactive and more accurate. 

Image Source: CPS

Strategic shifts are another great tool that can help you build vision and mission statements. 

It is the set of various exercises for your leadership team where they are supposed to define their strategic priorivities of today and tomorrow in contrast. 

Step 2 :  Develop The Piority-Driven Framework

Earlier we learned about the Strategic shifts and OAS concepts, that will help you learn about your priorities, objectives and specific goals more accurately. 

But that’s enough! You need to manage all these information or elements to develop your strategy better. 

For that, you need to create and develop a strategy management framework. It will help you to set your priorities in cohesive format or under a structural format. 

What is the Strategic Planning Process? 

Strategic planning is basically a process where it takes time to develop, initiate and come to the effect and even needs consistent changes. 

However, the key to getting successful with it is giving enough to make it effective but then shouldn’t take any longer than it loses the focus and momentum. 

The process is more important than your document of strategic planning as it brings so many aspects of your business into the light. 

Different Ways To Approach Strategic Planning Processes

There are different approaches possible when it comes to strategic planning processes depending upon the varying size of the company. 

Here are some primary approaches you would often notice : 

Goals-Based Planning 

This kind of approach starts focussing on the mission of the organization and its objectives. 

Taking that as a starting point, you move forward with the mission, now backtrack the required strategies to achieve those goals. 

Then, you further assign different roles that are required to complete those objectives, the skills, and the workforce required. 

You can also set particular deadlines for tasks and subtasks into different projects to streamline. 

Organic Planning

Organic planning is a more flexible and fluid kind of planning approach where you get your mission and values defined. 

Then, you start outlining different plans to achieve those visions but still sticking to the values your company holds. 

Issues-Based Planning 

This kind of approach towards the strategic planning process begins by looking at all those issues currently the company is facing. 

Now after addressing these issues, you come up with a required set of actions that need to be taken. 

Elements Of Strategic Planning 

Strategic planning contains different elements defining the aspects of a particular organization internally and externally. 

It contains these four specific elements : 

  • Inputs 
  • Activities 
  • Outputs
  • Outcomes 

Inputs and activities are the elements that are internal to an organization whereas outputs and outcomes are the external ones. 

Inputs 

Inputs are the foundation of every business as it is about where you are at the current state and what are the situations around you. 

It is all the information that needs to be brought in to get more clarity of the situation. All companies have to gather this data from all different sources. 

They also learn about the competition they’re in, about the market, the opportunities, risks, and other aspects as well. 

Inputs come from various sources such as interviews with the executives, studies done in your industry, market research, competition study, values of key stakeholders, and more. 

Activities 

Activities are everything that’s happening in an organization or company. Everything related to communication, collaboration, and events goes on. 

This also includes all the planning procedures that go into the company to recognize the market potential, risks, opportunities, and much more. 

So all the data-gathering and footwork comes under the umbrella of activities. This is the next stage of the input where people look at and respond to the gathered data. 

Outputs 

Output is a different type of element of strategic planning as compared to input and activities.  Strategy planning produces this particular element. 

An output of a strategic planning process is as basic as the planning document itself. 

Outputs can also be the financial statements, budgets, and organization’s strategy which will be used to plan the projects. 

Outcomes 

The outcome is also the output form or element of the Strategic planning process like outputs.  

But it is different from outputs as outcomes, is the implementation of the strategic planning. 

This is the factor to use to find out whether the strategic plan is a success or a failure. 

It determines the quality of outcome depending upon how close they are to set objectives and goals.  

You must also acknowledge the two types of outcomes, that is unplanned and unintended ones.  

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