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What is the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?
Business plans are often confused with strategic plans, but they’re not the same thing. Every company should have both types of plan, and it’s important to know the differences between them so your business to benefit from both.
“A business plan describes the foundations of a company, its owners, its capabilities, the industry and market(s) in which it operates, how it generates revenues and its financial projections,” says Jérôme Côté, a Business Advisor with BDC’s Advisory Services who counsels companies on strategic planning.
“A strategic plan assesses the current environment of a business, both internally and externally. It establishes future goals and targets and describes the strategies it will implement to reach them.”
In other words, a business plan describes a current business or a specific new project. A strategic plan talks about how you want to change your company to grow or be ready for the future.
At a glance: Business plan vs. strategic plan
Many business owners know and understand the value of a business plan. The business plan is a key component of the startup and fundraising process and serves as a foundation for your organization. However, it only tells part of the story. To get the whole picture and have a framework on which to build your business you also need a strategic plan and an operational plan.
What is a business plan?
In its simplest format, a business plan describes the “who” and the “what” of your business. It lays out who is running the business and what the business does. It describes the products and services that your business sells and who the customers are.
What is a strategic plan?
A strategic plan looks beyond the basics of a business plan to explain the “how”. It explains the long-term goals of the business and how it expects to achieve those goals over the long term. A strategic plan explores future products and services that your business might offer and target markets that you might expand into. The plan explains your strategy for long-term growth and expansion.
What is an operational plan?
An operation plan zooms into the details of your business to explain how you are going to achieve your short-term goals . It is the “when” and “where” of your planning process. The operational plan covers the details of marketing campaigns, short-term product development, and more immediate goals and projects that will happen within the next year.
What is the difference between a strategic plan and a business plan?
First, let’s look at the difference between a business and a strategic plan. For review:
A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of the business. The strategic plan gives us long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there, providing a long-term view.
In broader terms, the business plan tells us who by showing us:
- Who is running the business? What makes them qualified? What do they bring to the table that adds value?
- Who is the competition? What do they offer and what makes you different?
- Who is your customer? How big is the market? Where are they? What do they want and how will you give it to them? Also, how will you connect with your market?
The business plan answers the “what” by telling us:
- What the business provides and how it’s provided.
- Product, services, and operations are all explained so that readers understand how customer needs are met.
The strategic plan, on the other hand, outlines long term goals and the “how”, focusing on the following:
- Where will the business be in 3, 5, or even 10 years?
- How will you expand to offer different products and services over time?
- Will your market and industry change over time and how will your business react to those changes?
- How will you grow your market and reach new customers?
- What needs to happen so you can achieve your goals? What resources do you need to get there?
- How will you measure success? What metrics matter and how will you track them?
So, your business plan explains what you are doing right now. Your strategic plan explains long-term aspirations and how you plan to transition your business from where it is today to where you want it to be in the future. The strategic plan helps you look more deeply into the future and explains the key moves you have to make to achieve your vision.
What is the difference between strategic planning and operational planning?
While strategic planning looks at the long term and explains your broad strategies for growth, an operational plan looks at the short term. It explains the details of what your business is going to do and when it’s going to do it over the next twelve months or so. An operational plan covers details like:
- What activities need to happen to achieve your business goals?
- When will each activity take place, who will do it, and when do you need to reach specific milestones?
- How will your business operate? What suppliers will you work with? When do you need to have them in place?
- What marketing campaigns will you run and what will they cost?
- What investments will you make in your products and services this year?
The bottom line, your operational plan is the short-term action plan for your business. It’s the tasks, milestones, and steps needed to drive your business forward. Typically an operational plan provides details for a 1-year period, while a strategic plan looks at a 3-5 year timeline , and sometimes even longer. The operational plan is essentially the roadmap for how you will execute your strategic plan.
How to use your business plan for strategic development and operations
A great business plan can encompass both the basic plans for the business, the long-term strategic plan, and the near-term operational plan. Using a lean planning method, you can tackle all three phases of planning and make the process easy to review and revise as your business grows, changes, and adapts.
Start with a simple plan
The lean planning methodology starts with a simple, 30-minute business plan that outlines the fundamentals of your business: who you are, what you are doing, and who your customers are. It’s a great way to provide a brief overview of your business.
Expand your plan
From there, you can expand your plan to include your longer-term strategy. Adding greater detail to elements of the plan to explain long-term goals, milestones, and how your products and services will change and expand over time to meet changing market conditions.
Finally, your lean plan will cover financial forecasts that include monthly details about the short-term revenue and expenses, as well as longer-term annual summaries of your financial goals, including profitability and potential future loans and investments.
Use your business plan to manage your business
Regardless of the type of plan, you are working on, you need a team of players on hand to help you plan, develop, and execute both the operational and strategic plans. Remember, your business needs both to give it a clear foundation and a sense of direction. As well as to assist you with identifying the detailed work that has to happen to help you reach your long-term goals.
Learn how LivePlan can help you develop a business plan that defines your business, outlines strategic steps, and tracks ongoing operations. You can easily share it with your team and all of the right stakeholders, explore scenarios and update your plan based on real-world results. Everything you need to turn your business plan into a tool for growth.
Noah is currently the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. You can follow Noah on Twitter .
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The Big Lie of Strategic Planning
- Roger L. Martin
A detailed plan may be comforting, but it’s not a strategy.
Strategy making forces executives to confront a future they can only guess at. It’s not surprising, then, that they try to make the task less daunting by preparing a comprehensive plan for how the company will achieve its goal. But good strategy is not the product of endless research and modeling; it’s the result of a simple process of thinking through how to hit a target and whether it’s realistic to try. Discomfort is part of the process. If you are entirely comfortable, you’re probably stuck in one or more of the following traps.
Planning arguably makes for more thorough budgets, but it must not be confused with strategy.
Costs lend themselves wonderfully to planning, because the company controls them. But for revenue, customers are in charge. Planning can’t make revenue magically appear.
Self-referential strategy frameworks.
Even managers who avoid the first two traps may end up using a framework that leads them to design a strategy entirely around what the company controls.
A company can avoid those traps by focusing on customers, recognizing that strategy is about making bets, and articulating the logic behind strategic choices.
All executives know that strategy is important. But almost all also find it scary, because it forces them to confront a future they can only guess at. Worse, actually choosing a strategy entails making decisions that explicitly cut off possibilities and options. An executive may well fear that getting those decisions wrong will wreck his or her career.
The natural reaction is to make the challenge less daunting by turning it into a problem that can be solved with tried and tested tools. That nearly always means spending weeks or even months preparing a comprehensive plan for how the company will invest in existing and new assets and capabilities in order to achieve a target—an increased share of the market, say, or a share in some new one. The plan is typically supported with detailed spreadsheets that project costs and revenue quite far into the future. By the end of the process, everyone feels a lot less scared.
This is a truly terrible way to make strategy. It may be an excellent way to cope with fear of the unknown, but fear and discomfort are an essential part of strategy making. In fact, if you are entirely comfortable with your strategy, there’s a strong chance it isn’t very good. You’re probably stuck in one or more of the traps I’ll discuss in this article. You need to be uncomfortable and apprehensive: True strategy is about placing bets and making hard choices. The objective is not to eliminate risk but to increase the odds of success.
In this worldview, managers accept that good strategy is not the product of hours of careful research and modeling that lead to an inevitable and almost perfect conclusion. Instead, it’s the result of a simple and quite rough-and-ready process of thinking through what it would take to achieve what you want and then assessing whether it’s realistic to try. If executives adopt this definition, then maybe, just maybe, they can keep strategy where it should be: outside the comfort zone.
Comfort Trap 1: Strategic Planning
Virtually every time the word “strategy” is used, it is paired with some form of the word “plan,” as in the process of “strategic planning” or the resulting “strategic plan.” The subtle slide from strategy to planning occurs because planning is a thoroughly doable and comfortable exercise.
Focus your energy on the key choices that influence revenue decision makers—that is, customers.
Strategic plans all tend to look pretty much the same. They usually have three major parts. The first is a vision or mission statement that sets out a relatively lofty and aspirational goal. The second is a list of initiatives—such as product launches, geographic expansions, and construction projects—that the organization will carry out in pursuit of the goal. This part of the strategic plan tends to be very organized but also very long. The length of the list is generally constrained only by affordability.
The third element is the conversion of the initiatives into financials. In this way, the plan dovetails nicely with the annual budget. Strategic plans become the budget’s descriptive front end, often projecting five years of financials in order to appear “strategic.” But management typically commits only to year one; in the context of years two through five, “strategic” actually means “impressionistic.”
This exercise arguably makes for more thoughtful and thorough budgets. However, it must not be confused with strategy. Planning typically isn’t explicit about what the organization chooses not to do and why. It does not question assumptions. And its dominant logic is affordability; the plan consists of whichever initiatives fit the company’s resources.
Mistaking planning for strategy is a common trap. Even board members, who are supposed to be keeping managers honest about strategy, fall into it. They are, after all, primarily current or former managers, who find it safer to supervise planning than to encourage strategic choice. Moreover, Wall Street is more interested in the short-term goals described in plans than in the long-term goals that are the focus of strategy. Analysts pore over plans in order to assess whether companies can meet their quarterly goals.
Comfort Trap 2: Cost-Based Thinking
The focus on planning leads seamlessly to cost-based thinking. Costs lend themselves wonderfully to planning, because by and large they are under the control of the company. For the vast majority of costs, the company plays the role of customer. It decides how many employees to hire, how many square feet of real estate to lease, how many machines to procure, how much advertising to air, and so on. In some cases a company can, like any customer, decide to stop buying a particular good or service, and so even severance or shutdown costs can be under its control. Of course there are exceptions. Government agencies tell companies that they need to remit payroll taxes for each employee and buy a certain amount of compliance services. But the proverbial exceptions prove the rule: Costs imposed on the company by others make up a relatively small fraction of the overall cost picture, and most are derivative of company-controlled costs. (Payroll taxes, for instance, are incurred only when the company decides to hire an employee.)
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Costs are comfortable because they can be planned for with relative precision. This is an important and useful exercise. Many companies are damaged or destroyed when they let their costs get out of control. The trouble is that planning-oriented managers tend to apply familiar, comfortable cost-side approaches to the revenue side as well, treating revenue planning as virtually identical to cost planning and as an equal component of the overall plan and budget. All too often, the result is painstaking work to build up revenue plans salesperson by salesperson, product by product, channel by channel, region by region.
But when the planned revenue doesn’t show up, managers feel confused and even aggrieved. “What more could we have done?” they wonder. “We spent thousands upon thousands of hours planning.”
There’s a simple reason why revenue planning doesn’t have the same desired result as cost planning. For costs, the company makes the decisions. But for revenue, customers are in charge. Except in the rare case of monopolies, customers can decide of their own free will whether to give revenue to the company, to its competitors, or to no one at all. Companies may fool themselves into thinking that revenue is under their control, but because it is neither knowable nor controllable, planning, budgeting, and forecasting it is an impressionistic exercise.
Of course, shorter-term revenue planning is much easier for companies that have long-term contracts with customers. For example, for business information provider Thomson Reuters, the bulk of its revenue each year comes from multiyear subscriptions. The only variable amount in the revenue plan is the difference between new subscription sales and cancellations at the end of existing contracts. Similarly, if a company has long order backlogs, as Boeing does, it will be able to predict revenue more accurately, although the Boeing Dreamliner tribulations demonstrate that even “firm orders” don’t automatically translate into future revenue. Over the longer term, all revenue is controlled by the customer.
Giant Opportunities Encourage Bad Strategy
Companies in many industries prefer a small slice of a huge market to a large slice of a small one. The thinking is, of course, that the former promises unlimited growth potential. And there’s a certain amount of truth to that. But all too often, the size of the opportunity encourages sloppy strategy making. Why choose where to play or how to win when there’s a huge market to conquer? Anybody is a potential customer, so just go out and sell stuff.
But when anyone could be a customer, it is impossible to figure out whom to target and what those people actually want. The results tend to be an offering that is not captivating to anybody and a sales force that doesn’t know where to spend its time. This is when crisp strategy making and clear thinking about opportunities are most important.
When you’re facing a huge growth opportunity, it is smarter to think sequentially: Determine what piece of the overall market to tackle first and target it precisely and relentlessly. Once you’ve achieved a dominant position in that segment, expand from there into the next, and so on.
The bottom line, therefore, is that the predictability of costs is fundamentally different from the predictability of revenue. Planning can’t and won’t make revenue magically appear, and the effort you spend creating revenue plans is a distraction from the strategist’s much harder job: finding ways to acquire and keep customers.
Comfort Trap 3: Self-Referential Strategy Frameworks
This trap is perhaps the most insidious, because it can snare even managers who, having successfully avoided the planning and cost traps, are trying to build a real strategy. In identifying and articulating a strategy, most executives adopt one of a number of standard frameworks. Unfortunately, two of the most popular ones can lead the unwary user to design a strategy entirely around what the company can control.
In 1978 Henry Mintzberg published an influential article in Management Science that introduced emergent strategy, a concept he later popularized for the wider nonacademic business audience in his successful 1994 book, The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning. Mintzberg’s insight was simple but indeed powerful. He distinguished between deliberate strategy, which is intentional, and emergent strategy, which is not based on an original intention but instead consists of the company’s responses to a variety of unanticipated events.
Planning typically isn’t explicit about what the organization chooses not to do and why. It does not question assumptions.
Mintzberg’s thinking was informed by his observation that managers overestimate their ability to predict the future and to plan for it in a precise and technocratic way. By drawing a distinction between deliberate and emergent strategy, he wanted to encourage managers to watch carefully for changes in their environment and make course corrections in their deliberate strategy accordingly. In addition, he warned against the dangers of sticking to a fixed strategy in the face of substantial changes in the competitive environment.
All of this is eminently sensible advice that every manager would be wise to follow. However, most managers do not. Instead, most use the idea that a strategy emerges as events unfold as a justification for declaring the future to be so unpredictable and volatile that it doesn’t make sense to make strategy choices until the future becomes sufficiently clear. Notice how comforting that interpretation is: No longer is there a need to make angst-ridden decisions about unknowable and uncontrollable things.
A little digging into the logic reveals some dangerous flaws in it. If the future is too unpredictable and volatile to make strategic choices, what would lead a manager to believe that it will become significantly less so? And how would that manager recognize the point when predictability is high enough and volatility is low enough to start making choices? Of course the premise is untenable: There won’t be a time when anyone can be sure that the future is predictable.
Bringing Science to the Art of Strategy
- A.G. Lafley, Roger Martin, Jan W. Rivkin, and Nicolaj Siggelkow
Hence, the concept of emergent strategy has simply become a handy excuse for avoiding difficult strategic choices, for replicating as a “fast follower” the choices that appear to be succeeding for others, and for deflecting any criticism for not setting out in a bold direction. Simply following competitors’ choices will never produce a unique or valuable advantage. None of this is what Mintzberg intended, but it is a common outcome of his framework, because it plays into managers’ comfort zone.
In 1984, six years after Mintzberg’s original article introducing emergent strategy, Birger Wernerfelt wrote “A Resource-Based View of the Firm,” which put forth another enthusiastically embraced concept in strategy. But it wasn’t until 1990, when C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel wrote one of the most widely read HBR articles of all time, “The Core Competence of the Corporation,” that Wernerfelt’s resource-based view (RBV) of the firm was widely popularized with managers.
RBV holds that the key to a firm’s competitive advantage is the possession of valuable, rare, inimitable, and non-substitutable capabilities. This concept became extraordinarily appealing to executives, because it seemed to suggest that strategy was the identification and building of “core competencies,” or “strategic capabilities.” Note that this conveniently falls within the realm of the knowable and controllable. Any company can build a technical sales force or a software development lab or a distribution network and declare it a core competence. Executives can comfortably invest in such capabilities and control the entire experience. Within reason, they can guarantee success.
The problem, of course, is that capabilities themselves don’t compel a customer to buy. Only those that produce a superior value equation for a particular set of customers can do that. But customers and context are both unknowable and uncontrollable. Many executives prefer to focus on capabilities that can be built—for certain. And if those don’t produce success, capricious customers or irrational competitors can take the blame.
Escaping the Traps
It’s easy to identify companies that have fallen into these traps. (See the exhibit “Are You Stuck in the Comfort Zone?”) In those companies, boards tend to be highly comfortable with the planners and spend lots of time reviewing and approving their work. Discussion in management and board meetings tends to focus on how to squeeze more profit out of existing revenue rather than how to generate new revenue. The principal metrics concern finance and capabilities; those that deal with customer satisfaction or market share (especially changes in the latter) take the backseat.
Are You Stuck in the Comfort Zone?
Probably: You have a large corporate strategic planning group. Probably Not: If you have a corporate strategy group, it is tiny.
Probably: In addition to profit, your most important performance metrics are cost- and capabilities-based. Probably Not: In addition to profit, your most important performance metrics are customer satisfaction and market share.
Probably: Strategy is presented to the board by your strategic planning staff. Probably Not: Strategy is presented to the board primarily by line executives.
Probably: Board members insist on proof that the strategy will succeed before approving it. Probably Not: Board members ask for a thorough description of the risks involved in a strategy before approving it.
How can a company escape those traps? Because the problem is rooted in people’s natural aversion to discomfort and fear, the only remedy is to adopt a discipline about strategy making that reconciles you to experiencing some angst. This involves ensuring that the strategy-making process conforms to three basic rules. Keeping to the rules isn’t easy—the comfort zone is always alluring—and it won’t necessarily result in a successful strategy. But if you can follow them, you will at least be sure that your strategy won’t be a bad one.
Rule 1: Keep the strategy statement simple.
Focus your energy on the key choices that influence revenue decision makers—that is, customers. They will decide to spend their money with your company if your value proposition is superior to competitors’. Two choices determine success: the where-to-play decision (which specific customers to target) and the how-to-win decision (how to create a compelling value proposition for those customers). If a customer is not in the segment or area where the company chooses to play, she probably won’t even become aware of the availability and nature of its offering. If the company does connect with that customer, the how-to-win choice will determine whether she will find the offering’s targeted value equation compelling.
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If a strategy is about just those two decisions, it won’t need to involve the production of long and tedious planning documents. There is no reason why a company’s strategy choices can’t be summarized in one page with simple words and concepts. Characterizing the key choices as where to play and how to win keeps the discussion grounded and makes it more likely that managers will engage with the strategic challenges the firm faces rather than retreat to their planning comfort zone.
Rule 2: Recognize that strategy is not about perfection.
As noted, managers unconsciously feel that strategy should achieve the accuracy and predictive power of cost planning—in other words, it should be nearly perfect. But given that strategy is primarily about revenue rather than cost, perfection is an impossible standard. At its very best, therefore, strategy shortens the odds of a company’s bets. Managers must internalize that fact if they are not to be intimidated by the strategy-making process.
What Is Strategy?
- Michael E. Porter
For that to happen, boards and regulators need to reinforce rather than undermine the notion that strategy involves a bet. Every time a board asks managers if they are sure about their strategy or regulators make them certify the thoroughness of their strategy decision-making processes, it weakens actual strategy making. As much as boards and regulators may want the world to be knowable and controllable, that’s simply not how it works. Until they accept this, they will get planning instead of strategy—and lots of excuses down the line about why the revenue didn’t show up.
Rule 3: Make the logic explicit.
The only sure way to improve the hit rate of your strategic choices is to test the logic of your thinking: For your choices to make sense, what do you need to believe about customers, about the evolution of your industry, about competition, about your capabilities? It is critical to write down the answers to those questions, because the human mind naturally rewrites history and will declare the world to have unfolded largely as was planned rather than recall how strategic bets were actually made and why. If the logic is recorded and then compared to real events, managers will be able to see quickly when and how the strategy is not producing the desired outcome and will be able to make necessary adjustments—just as Henry Mintzberg envisioned. In addition, by observing with some level of rigor what works and what doesn’t, managers will be able to improve their strategy decision making.
As managers apply these rules, their fear of making strategic choices will diminish. That’s good—but only up to a point. If a company is completely comfortable with its choices, it’s at risk of missing important changes in its environment. I have argued that planning, cost management, and focusing on capabilities are dangerous traps for the strategy maker. Yet those activities are essential; no company can neglect them. For if it’s strategy that compels customers to give the company its revenue, planning, cost control, and capabilities determine whether the revenue can be obtained at a price that is profitable for the company. Human nature being what it is, though, planning and the other activities will always dominate strategy rather than serve it—unless a conscious effort is made to prevent that. If you are comfortable with your company’s strategy, chances are you’re probably not making that effort.
- Roger L. Martin is a former dean of the Rotman School of Management, an adviser to CEOs, and the author of A New Way to Think (Harvard Business Review Press, 2022).
More Like this
What is the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan.
It is not uncommon that the term strategic plan and business plan get confused in the business world. Before beginning your strategy implementation, take a look at the difference between the two terms to ensure you are on the path to success.
While a strategic plan is a type of business plan, there are several important distinctions between the two types that are worth noting.
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A strategic plan vs a business plan.
- A strategic plan is primarily used for implementing and managing the strategic direction of an existing organization. A business plan is used to initially start a business, obtain funding, or direct operations. The two plans cover different time frames as well. A strategic plan generally covers a period of 3 to 5+ years, whereas a business plan is normally no more than one year.
- A strategic plan is for established businesses, organizations and business owners that are serious about growing their organization. Whereas a business plan could be for new businesses and entrepreneurs who are start-ups.
- A strategic plan is used to provide focus, direction and action in order to move the organization from where they are now to where they want to go. Whereas a business plan is used to provide a structure for ideas in order to initially define the business.
- A strategic plan is critical to prioritizing resources (time, money and people) to grow the revenue and increase the return on investment. Whereas a business plan is critical if the business is seeking funding.
- A strategic plan focuses on building a sustainable competitive advantage and is futuristic in nature. Whereas a business plan is used to assess the viability of a business opportunity, and is more tactical in nature.
- A strategic plan is used to communicate the direction of the organization to the staff and stakeholders. However, a business plan is used to present the entrepreneur’s ideas to a bank.
Another way to grasp the difference is by understanding the difference in ‘scale’ between a strategic plan and a business plan. Larger organizations with multiple business units and a wide variety of products frequently start their annual planning process with a corporate-driven strategic plan. It is often followed by departmental plans and marketing plans that work down from the Strategic Plan. Smaller companies and start-up companies typically use only a business plan to develop all aspects of the business on paper, obtain funding and then start the business. Many smaller companies – including start-ups never develop a Strategic Plan.
I agree with your analysis about small companies, but they should do a strategic plan. Just check out how many of the INC 500 companies have an active strategic planning process and they started small. Its about 78%,
Strategic management is a key role of any organization even if belong to small business. it help in growth and also to steam line your values. im agree with kristin.
I agree with what you said, without strategic planning no organization can survive whether it is big or small. Without a clear strategic plan, it is like walking in the darkness.. Best Regards..
Vision, Mission in Business Plan VS Strategic Plan ?
you made a good analysis on strategic plan and Business plan the difference is quite clear now. But on the other hand, it seems that strategic plan and strategic management are similar which I think not correct. Please can you tell us the difference between these two?. Thanks
Thank you. I get points to work on it
super answer Thanking you
Hi. I went through all the discussions, comments and replies. Thanks! I got a very preliminary idea about functions and necessity of Strategic Planning in Business. But currently I am looking for a brief nice, flowery, juicy definition of “Business Strategic Planning” as a whole, which will give anyone a fun and interesting way to understand. Can anyone help me out please? Awaiting replies…… 🙂
that was easy to understand,
Developing a strategic plan either big or small company or organization mostly can’t achieve its goal. A strategic plan or formulation is the first stage of the strategic management plan, therefore, we should be encouraged to develop a strategic management plan. We can develop the best strategic plan but without a clear plan of implementation and evaluation, it will be difficult to achieve goals.
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What is Strategic Business Planning?
The importance of strategic planning, the strategic planning process, six strategic planning examples, elements of strategic planning implementation.
Strategic Business Planning 101
Operating without a strategic plan is like sitting in the passenger seat of your own business. You see it accelerate into overdrive and pass one milestone after another. Eventually, however, you helplessly watch as it swerves aimlessly or, worse, crashes and burns.
Strategic planning puts you behind the steering wheel. It serves as a roadmap that defines the direction a company must travel, and that helps leaders prepare for potential roadblocks. Companies and markets without this foundation and foresight are far more likely to get lost, stuck, or wrecked.
Strategic planning is a systematic process for developing an organization’s direction. It also articulates the objectives and actions required to achieve that future vision, and outlines metrics for measuring success.
By helping you refocus on your foundational purpose, your goals, development and your opportunities, strategic planning reintroduces you to “the big picture.” It’s the basis for business owners to achieve their vision, which they communicate to stakeholders in a strategic business plan and program.
It’s common to confuse a strategic plan with a business plan, which is used to start a business, obtain funding, or direct operations and generally covers one year.
A strategic plan, on the other hand, is about high-level thinking and generally looks at 3 to 5 years. It can be created at any time and should be regularly revisited. Key points to review the plan include whenever a company begins a new venture (like launching a new product), if the economy or competitive landscape changes, or when new regulations or trends affect the business environment.
Taking the time to identify exactly where your business and your executive team are headed (and how you’ll get there) can help mitigate the risks associated with business growth. In fact, the strategic planning process can fuel long-term success by bolstering these five key areas:
Having a clear picture of your company’s future, plus a roadmap to get there, allows your company to be far more proactive. Rather than constantly reacting to outside forces beyond your control, you can strategically make moves designed to help you achieve your long-term objectives.
Strategic planning can even help you anticipate unfavorable scenarios before they happen and take precautions to avoid them. You can keep up with market trends and avoid common industry pain points.
Every company has a finite amount of human and financial resources. By defining exactly what activities are needed to achieve objectives, a strategic plan helps you assess costs and means to allocate resources in the most efficient way.
CEOs must be selective about which new opportunities they invest in and which they avoid. The strategic planning process makes it clear when to spend and when to pass.
The business landscape changes at a rapid pace. CEOs must contend with new government regulations, shifting workforce demographics, technological advances such as Facebook, and economic uncertainty. A strategic plan puts these challenges into perspective.
The process of reviewing your company’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities can help you rise above tricky situations. You’ll be prepared to respond to a competitor’s new product launch, a technology upgrade on your production floor, or an unhappy customer base. This degree of foresight can result in increased profitability and market share.
The strategic plan is essential for communicating your vision to investors, managers, and employees. It ensures that all key stakeholders are on the same page, rather than struggling (perhaps inadvertently) against one another.
Even more than building consensus, the strategic planning process can improve performance. As an example, it may generate ideas for restructuring to help employees reach their full potential. Sharing realistic goals and metrics for measuring them also motivates employees to keep up their efforts.
Running a business is a tumultuous endeavor; many CEOs are familiar with the feast-famine, boom-bust cycle. And organizations that don’t have a solid foundation—like the one a strategic plan provides—are the most likely to struggle.
According to a TAB Pulse Survey , business owners who say they have a high-quality strategic plan are much more likely to forecast sharp increases in profits and sales revenue over the next year than are owners who lack a plan.
How do you build a strategic business plan? There are many different frameworks you can use, but generally the planning process addresses four considerations.
Understand Your Business
Assess where your business is today. This includes reviewing core business information (such as key financial documents), and writing or revisiting your vision, mission statement, and core values. Do they still resonate with your vision? Changes in circumstances, leadership, or the marketplace may require you to rethink the core of your business from time to time. Take time for serious reflection to come up with something truly meaningful. You may also seek input from your staff, business owner advisory board, or a business coach. When writing these core business documents, ditch the jargon. What is the most idealistic version of your business? What are your most ambitious goals? What is the grandest vision for what your company could be?
Analyze Your Strengths, Weaknesses, and Threats
A SWOT analysis is a tool for critically evaluating your company's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can provide insight into where your business should focus its marketing efforts, give you a better understanding of your industry and customers, clue you into your competitive advantages, and give you a heads-up on potential threats to your growth. Examples of the types of questions you might ask during the SWOT process include:
- What do we do well?
- What do our customers identify as our strengths?
- Which emerging trends can we capitalize on?
- Who are our competitors under-serving?
- What are the most common complaints we receive?
- What outdated technologies do we use?
- What external roadblocks are in the way of our progress?
- What are our competitors doing that’s different?
Even if you’ve done a SWOT analysis in the past, it’s useful to do another as part of the strategic planning process. Don’t love the SWOT method? Skip ahead to the next section to learn about a few alternatives.
Define Objectives and Set Goals
Drill down into specific objectives that will help you achieve your vision. These might include things like launching a new product, trying different marketing strategies, re-allocating financial resources, or improving employee culture. Also, determine the specific initiatives required to meet the big-picture goals. Setting goals is only effective if you actually meet them, so you must also establish how you’ll measure success. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the specific metrics you’ll track to determine progress on goals. KPIs can include things like percentage of market share, customer acquisition cost, and average support ticket resolution time.
Put the Plan into Action
Objectives are future focused, so now you need short-term action steps. Unlike goals, tasks should take only a few days or weeks to complete. Break down tasks into the smallest possible steps. Keep asking yourself, “What needs to happen before we can take this next step?” For example, a goal of “upgrade aging equipment” could be broken down into individual tasks like “research suppliers,” “make appointments with reps at the next expo” and “purchase equipment.” Assign a responsible party to each task, set deadlines for completion, and create accountability. Finally, establish a timetable for reviewing your strategic plan (at least once a quarter). Regularly tracking and analyzing your plan ensures you’ll stay on track and make progress toward your goals. Ask hard questions during these reviews to avoid continuing on with an outdated plan.
SWOT is perhaps the most common tool used in the strategic planning process, but it’s not right for everyone. Some critics think it’s too limited in scope and doesn’t encourage deep analysis. That’s why business advisors have created several alternatives, each with its own structure.
- A SOAR analysis is a common, more positive twist on SWOT. It stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results, and the goal is to use appreciative inquiry to focus on what works, rather than perceived weaknesses or potential threats.
- NOISE stands for Needs, Opportunities, Improvements, Strengths, and Exceptions. This solution-focused process looks at what works and what should improve, and also encourages you to explore opportunities you didn’t realize existed.
- The Five Forces framework examines competitive rivalry, supplier power, buyer power, threat of substitution, and threat of new entry. It can help companies assess industry attractiveness, how trends will affect industry competition, which industries a company should compete in, and how companies can position themselves for success.
- Hambrick and Fredrickson’s Strategy Diamond framework consists of five essential parts that together should form a unified whole: Arenas, Vehicles, Differentiators, Staging, and Economic Logic. It’s intended to serve as a concise way to show how the parts of an organization’s strategy fit together.
- STEEPLE is an acronym for Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political, Legal, and Ethical—and each is an external factor you’ll judge using this tool. (There are several similar variations on this external-focused model, including PEST and STEEP).
- A CORE assessment uses a strictly financial perspective to craft a business strategy and long-term plan. It looks at a company's capital investment, site, ownership involvement, risk factors, and exit strategy.
A strategic plan is useless if it sits on a shelf-collecting dust. That’s why implementation is perhaps the most critical step of the planning process. It’s what turns strategies and plans into actions and successes. The plan is the what and why, but implementation is the equally important who, where, when, and how.
Strategic plans fail for many reasons, including lack of ownership or confusion about the plan among stakeholders, lack of accountability or empowerment, not tying strategy to budgeting, not linking employee incentives to strategy.
Success hinges on a quality implementation plan. It starts with the top brass, who should take responsibility for spearheading execution. It’s essential, however, that all stakeholders are involved.
Start by assessing whether you have the appropriate and sufficient budget, people, resources, content and systems in place to execute on the plan. Shore up any weaknesses before trying to put the plan in motion.
As with most things, communication is key. Educate stakeholders about why the company participated in strategic planning, how the plan and specific objectives support the company’s mission and values, and how employees’ day-to-day work affects the company’s success.
Establish responsibility for tasks to the appropriate parties, a scorecard for tracking and monitoring progress, and a performance management and reward system.
Educate managers on how employee work translates into meeting goals, and regularly check in with them on progress. In fact, it should become the norm to hold structured performance conversations throughout the entire company.
Hold quarterly strategic reviews to monitor progress and make small or big adjustments as needed. During annual reviews, revisit all elements of the plan. Conduct new assessments and adjust objectives and KPIs accordingly.
Strategic planning should be an essential part of any company’s decision-making process. No matter how large or successful your organization is, TAB’s StratPro® process can help you to excel when faced with tomorrow’s business challenges.
The StratPro® process provides an effective framework for transforming your personal vision of your company into a clear and concise road map that will help to guide your organization’s response to every new challenge and opportunity.
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Long-term strategic business planning is necessary for company growth and success, explains Entrepreneur magazine . Business plans provide companies with the tools to track growth, establish a budget and prepare for unforeseen changes in the market place. A strategic business plan focuses on long-term growth objectives, rather than near-term operating goals and addresses different business strategy types.
A strategic plan includes many elements a business can utilize to attract financing and manage company objectives. To optimize strategic business planning, businesses must clearly define company goals and conduct extensive research to properly understand industry trends. Looking at different strategic planning models will help you decide how to set long-term goals for your small business.
What is a Strategic Business Plan?
A strategic business plan is a written document that pairs the objectives of a company with the needs of the market place. Although a strategic business plan contains similar elements of a traditional plan, a strategic plan takes planning a step further by not only defining company goals but utilizing those goals to take advantage of available business opportunities.
This is achieved by carefully analyzing a particular business industry and being honest about your company's strength and weakness in meeting the needs of the industry. A strategic business plan is followed by tactical plans to help achieve the strategic goals.
Reasons for Strategics Plans
A strategic business plan is necessary to optimize market research and to attain optimum market share for your business. The plan allows businesses to focus on a particular niche in the marketplace, which makes sales, advertising and customer management more effective. The plan allows a company to know as much as possible about the needs of its customers and gaps in the marketplace that need to be filled. A strategic business plan helps a company provide better, more targeted service to its clients.
Strategy vs. Tactics
A strategic business plan might set a goal of diversification for the business. Tactics for achieving this strategic goal might include acquiring a business with different product lines, or adding new products to the company's line. For example, a tennis racquet manufacturer might decided to add strings to its product line, either acquiring a string maker or sourcing its own strings.
A strategic business plan includes extensive market research, industry trends and competitor analyses. A strategic plan will include the components of a traditional plan, such as an executive summary, marketing analysis and financial statements, but a strategic plan will be more specific on how the company will go about achieving company goals.
For example, a strategic business plan will attempt to identify a target market, narrow it down to a manageable size, and establish a strategy for acquiring those customers.
Benefits of Strategic Business Plans
Writing a strategic business plan has many advantages. The plan can serve as an outline for successful completion of company milestones. Company owners are in a better position to not only understand their business but become experts in their industries.
A strategic plan helps executives understand the direction in which their company is headed by reviewing past progress and making changes to improve and grow. The plan is an organizational tool that helps to keep a company on track to meet growth and financial objectives.
Misconceptions About These Plans
Many small business owners feel that strategic business plans are for large companies and big businesses. However, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a strategic business plan can benefit companies of all sizes and can be a great advantage to small businesses. Small businesses may utilize different types of planning activities to develop the strategies necessary to attract and retain the customers it needs to succeed.
- Entrepreneur.com: Building a Strategy Pyramid
Sherrie Scott is a freelance writer in Las Vegas with articles appearing on various websites. She studied political science at Arizona State University and her education has inspired her to write with integrity and seek precision in all that she does.
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Strategic Planning in Business
Table of Contents
What is business strategic planning, the strategic planning process in 3 steps, what is a business strategic plan, key components of a business strategic plan, business strategic plan example, strategic plan vs. business plan.
Strategic planning is key for success in business. By planning strategically for the future, a business can achieve its goals. It’s easier said than done, but the more you know about strategic planning, the better chance you have at succeeding.
Business strategic planning is the process of creating a business strategy and an accompanying business strategic plan to implement a company’s vision and achieve its goals over time. The main goal of strategic planning is to take a company from its current state to its desired state through a series of business actions.
The business strategic planning process usually consists of defining business goals, doing a SWOT analysis to assess the company’s business environment and developing a business strategy. The leadership team is in charge of business strategic planning, as it has a very important impact on the overall direction of a company.
To oversee the execution of a business strategic plan, managers need to manage time, costs and tasks. ProjectManager is a project planning tool that allows managers to plan, schedule and manage their team’s work. Plan your work with professional tools such as Gantt charts, kanban boards, task lists and calendars. Then track your progress in real time to stick to your strategic plan. Get started for free.
Strategic planning is very important, but it doesn’t need to be overly complex. Let’s simplify this process by breaking it down into three simple steps.
1. Set Business Goals
A business goal is simply an accomplishment that a company wants to achieve in the short, medium or long term. Business goals can take many forms such as increasing sales, revenue, customer satisfaction levels and brand positioning, among many other things.
2. Conduct a SWOT Analysis
The goal of a business strategy is to leverage the strengths of a business and minimize the impact of its weaknesses. Those two things are internal factors. The strengths of a company can become competitive advantages that can lead to business growth. There are many types of business strengths and weaknesses such as scale, speed, or R&D, just to name a few.
Threats and opportunities refer to external factors such as competitors or an untapped market. A successful business strategy considers all of these factors to define how a product or service will be created, marketed and sold, and a SWOT analysis is a great starting point.
3. Develop a Business Strategy & Strategic Plan
Once you’ve completed your SWOT analysis, you can create a business strategy that’s designed to help position your company in the market. Your business strategy guides how you produce, market and sell your product or service based on internal and external analysis.
Then, you’ll need a strategic plan to explain how you plan to execute that business strategy.
A business strategic plan is an implementation plan that’s meant to turn a business strategy into action items that can be executed over time. Business strategic plans are usually executed over the course of 3-5 years.
How to Develop a Strategic Plan
To develop a strategic plan, you should ask yourself the following three questions.
- Where Is the Business Now? Gather as much information on your business as possible including internal operations and what drives its profitability. Compare the business to competitors and note the similarities and differences in detail. This isn’t a day-to-day operational study, but a broader look at the business in context to itself and its environment. But don’t go crazy; stay realistic in terms of your business goals. Be detached and critical in your analysis.
- Where Do You Want to Go? Now it’s time to decide what your top-level objectives are for the future. Start with a vision statement , objectives, values, techniques and goals. Look forward to five years or more to forecast where you want the business to be at that time. This means figuring out what the focus of the business will be in the future. Will that focus differ from what it is now, and what competitive advantages do have you in the marketplace? This is where you build the foundation and initiate changes.
- How Can You Get There? Once you know where you are and where you want to go, it’s time to plan. What are the changes to the structure, financing, etc., necessary for the business to get there? Decide on the best way to implement those changes, the timeframe with deadlines and how to finance it. Remember, this is looking at the business at large, so consider major endeavors such as diversification, existing growth, acquisition and other functional matters. A gap analysis can be a big help here.
Once you’ve answered the above questions and have a way to achieve the long-term goals laid out in the strategic plan, the next step is making sure you have the right person to manage all of its moving parts. They must be analytical, a creative thinker and able to grasp operational detail.
That doesn’t mean the strategic plan is led by one person. It’s best to not do it alone; seek other opinions. The people in your organization, from bottom to top, are all great resources to offer perspectives from their standpoints. Don’t forget to take in the advice of stakeholders, including customers, clients, advisors and consultants.
To create a strong strategic plan, one must first have a strong understanding of the business that is to expand. How does the business work? Where does the business stand in relation to competitors in the marketplace? A strategic plan is built on the bones of the following foundational elements:
- Mission Statement: The mission statement describes what your company does.
- Vision Statement: The vision statement explains where your company expects to be in the future.
- Core Values: Guiding principles that shape your company’s organizational culture.
- Business Objectives: Consider using the SMART goal-setting technique . This simply means setting up specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound objectives that your company wants to achieve.
- SWOT Analysis: External and internal factors that make up your company’s business competitive environment.
- Action Plan: A plan outlining steps that will be taken to achieve the business objectives of your organization.
- Financials: A section that shows the financial performance expectations and the resources that will be required to implement the action plan.
- Performance Measurements: Performance indicators that will be used to measure the effectiveness of the action plan.
Never forget to check your strategic plan against reality. In addition to being achievable, it must be practical for your business environment, resources and marketplace.
Now let’s look at a simple business strategic plan example. This is a strategic plan for a small construction company.
1. Mission, Vision & Core Values
- Mission Statement: To build residential spaces that provide wellbeing for our clients.
- Vision Statement: To offer the best construction experience for our clients and expand our brand throughout the globe.
- Core Values: Sustainable innovation and respect for the environment.
2. Business Objectives
- Business Objective 1: Grow operating margin from 15% to 20% over the next year.
- Business Objective 2: Reduce operating costs by 5% over the next quarter
- Business Objective 3: Increase the number of new contracts generated by 10% over the next year
3. SWOT Analysis
- Strengths: Available financing, brand visibility and know-how.
- Weaknesses: Lack of PPE, human capital and expertise in construction areas such as plumbing, electrical work and masonry, which requires subcontractors.
- Opportunities: Lack of environmentally-friendly construction companies in the market.
- Threats: Larger construction companies compete for contracts in the area.
4. Action Plan
- Business Objective 1: To grow operating margin, new employees with plumbing, electrical work and masonry experience will be hired to cut down subcontractor costs. This must be done by the end of the first quarter.
- Business Objective 2: To reduce operating costs, the company will acquire property, plant and equipment. By doing this, the company will no longer rent equipment from third parties, which will reduce operating costs significantly in the medium and long term.
- Business Objective 3: To increase the number of new contracts generated, the leadership team will invest more in the PR, marketing and advertising departments. The company will also invest in key positions for the construction bidding process such as contract estimators.
- Financials: This section will explain in detail what are the costs associated with the work items in the action plan as well as the expected financial benefits for the company.
Strategic Plan Template
Our free strategic plan template helps leadership teams gather important information about their business strategy, which makes it the perfect tool to start shaping a strategic plan for your business or project.
A strategic plan is a type of business plan, but there are distinctions between the two. Whereas a strategic plan is for implementing and managing the strategic direction of a business, a business plan is more often the document that starts a business.
A business plan is used primarily to get funding for the venture or direct the operation, and the two plans target different timeframes in business history. A strategic plan is used to investigate a future period, usually between three-to-five years. A business plan is more routinely a year out.
A Different Intent
A strategic plan offers a business focus, direction and action to help the business grow from the point it presently resides to a greater market share in the future. A business plan, on the other hand, is more focused on offering a structure to capture and implement ideas that initially define a business.
With a strategic plan, existing resources are prioritized to increase revenue and return on investment. The business plan is different in that it’s seeking funding for a venture that doesn’t yet exist. Where a strategic plan is building a sustainable competitive advantage in the future, a business plan is designed to take advantage of a current business opportunity.
So, a strategic plan is communicating direction to teams and stakeholders in order to achieve future goals. A business plan isn’t talking to staff, which is likely nonexistent or minimal at this point. It’s speaking to banks and other financial supporters.
Strategic planning, like any planning, requires keeping a lot of balls in the air. That means having the right tool to plan, monitor and report on all the various tasks and resources. ProjectManager is online project management software that gives you control over every aspect of creating and implementing a strategic plan. Try it today with this free 30-day trial.
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What is the Difference Between a Strategic Plan and a Business Plan?
Unfortunately, these two terms are often used interchangeably, and they should not be. Even worse, many consultants pass off what is really a business plan when an organization is really seeking a true strategic plan. In their simplest terms, a Strategic Plan is the organization’s way to communicate its direction, plans, and goals. Whereas, a Business Plan is a written document describing the company’s core business activities, objectives, and how it will achieve its goals. So what does this really mean for your organization? How do these documents really differ in form and application? Let’s take a look.
A business plan is more focused than a strategic plan, it should be a detailed report on the operations of the core business activities of the business or nonprofit. These efforts should outline everything from production to sales. It should include detailed information on costs, sales figures, suppliers, customer data, etc. A few things can be incredibly helpful in developing a business plan that are not typically seen in a strategic plan, one that we like to utilize in business plans is customer personas. Customer Personas allow us to gain an understanding of what type of person purchases our product or service and provides general information about how they make those purchases, where or who influences those purchases, etc. It’s a good idea when utilizing a persona to identify the different groups interested in your product or service and then to build the personas around those groups. As an example, imagine an Executive Director of a museum that is a potential client of NMBL Strategies, we would then source profiles on several Executive Directors and build a persona around them, average age, gender, social media profiles, who they engage with on social, where they gather information from, who sits on their board, and who reports to them. By building as detailed of a profile as possible we have a better chance of building a relationship with them and eventually developing them into a client.
It’s not to say that client personas couldn’t be in a strategic plan, in some instances we have clients that want to know this information, but it isn’t as common to get this granular in a strategic plan. Likewise, we may create the client profiles as a part of a strategic plan, but applying them to a sales process is unlikely to occur. Ideally, within the business plan, you can use these personas to identify who is purchasing, how big that group is, how you will reach them, and your sales conversion percentage.
There are other examples of how a business plan is more focused, but the customer personas give a good idea of the depth between the two documents.
Want to learn more about developing customer personas? Check out our blogs on developing personas:
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Higher Level/More Visionary
Just as the business plan is more focused, the strategic plan is high-level and more visionary. Perhaps the best example of this is the Strategic Positioning section of a strategic plan. At NMBL, we continue to grow and adapt to create new best practices. We’ve currently adapted our strategic visioning portion of the strategic planning process to include six pieces, mission, vision, and elevator pitch were always a part of our process here. In the last several months, we’ve added Initiatives, Commitment, and Toolkit to this group, or in other words, what we do (initiatives), why we do it (commitment), and how we do it (initiatives). Turning this into a graphic to cover these six sections gives a very holistic view of the high level of the organization. These items may be mentioned in a business plan, but are unlikely to be part of the development of a business plan (meaning these should be developed prior to engaging in a business plan). Or looked at another way, after going through a strategic plan an organization may develop a business plan for one of their initiatives. This is actually a great way of looking at how you can utilize a business plan and strategic plan together.
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Best of Both Worlds
We’ll be the first to admit, our Strategic Plans include more of a business plan than almost any other we see in the industry. We do this because we believe that if we leave something too high level it is unlikely to be utilized, understood, or become anything more than a document on a bookshelf. In fact, we find there are five primary reasons why a strategic plan never gets executed (being too high level is one of the most common reasons for non-execution). In an effort to make the strategic plan more executable, our planning sections create a lot of detail around how an organization will operate.
If undertaking both plans, it is highly recommended an organization start with the strategic plan, develop the 30,000 foot view before identifying the details of the business plan. The good news is there should be a lot of overlap, and if you do undertake both, the business planning portion should go a lot quicker because you already have a lot of the information at your disposal.
Does your organization need help to determine what is the right plan for you? Think you need a business, strategic, or both plans? Reach out to NMBL Strategies today to find out how we can help you get from strategy to execution.
About NMBL Strategies
NMBL Strategies seeks to empower small businesses, nonprofits and public-private enterprises through trusted consulting partnerships. Our consultants have real world experience and significant tenure within their fields and are able to deliver the best and most strategic return on investment. We strive to grow our business with the same dedication and decisiveness we offer to our broad range of clients.
NMBL Strategies is a strategic, decisive partner trusted to deliver the best ROI when needed most.
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Why Is Strategic Planning Important?
- 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.
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.
In other words, a business plan describes a current business or a specific new project. A strategic plan talks about how you want to change your company to grow
Existing companies use the strategic plan to grow their business, while entrepreneurs use business plans to start a company. There is also a
A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of the business. The strategic plan gives us long-term goals and explains “how” the business will
They usually have three major parts. The first is a vision or mission statement that sets out a relatively lofty and aspirational goal. The second is a list of
A strategic plan is primarily used for implementing and managing the strategic direction of an existing organization. A business plan is used to
Strategic planning is a systematic process for developing an organization's direction. It also articulates the objectives and actions required to achieve that
Business plans provide companies with the tools to track growth, establish a budget and prepare for unforeseen changes in the market place. A strategic business
Business strategic planning is the process of creating a business strategy and an accompanying business strategic plan to implement a
In their simplest terms, a Strategic Plan is the organization's way to communicate its direction, plans, and goals. Whereas, a Business Plan is
Strategic planning is the ongoing organizational process of using available knowledge to document a business's intended direction. This process