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How to Create a Strategic Plan

Looking for a way to take your company in a new and profitable direction? It starts with strategic planning. Keep reading to learn what a strategic plan is, why you need it and how you can strategically create one.

What Is a Strategic Plan?

When it comes to business and finance, strategic planning will help you allocate your resources, energy and assets. When implemented, a strategic plan will begin to move your operations in a more profitable direction. The primary goal of the plan is to ensure you and any other stakeholders are on the same page and striving to reach the same goal.

Creating a strategic plan requires a disciplined effort. Once you put the plan into action, it will influence the segment of customers that you target, how you serve those customers and the experience those customers have.

Assess the Current Infrastructure and Operations

The first step in creating a strategic plan is to carefully assess your existing infrastructure and operations. You can do this through a SWOT analysis, which is an analysis of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The goal here is to pinpoint the resources that you use to carry out your day-to-day operations, to look at your monthly revenue patterns, to list any company challenges related to the customer experience and, most importantly, to look at your marketing methods and ways to improve the overall customer experience.

Creation of Mission Statement and Objectives

The next step is to create a mission statement. You may already have one, but it’s important to note your mission at the top of the strategic plan document you create. This ensures everyone is focused on the same goal. Your mission statement should cover why you started the company and what you intend to accomplish through the products and services that you offer.

In addition to the mission statement, make sure to outline both short- and long-term objectives. List the objectives according to their priority and designate certain managers or employees to be responsible for each one. Also, jot down the resources that will be used to achieve each objective.

Measure Performance

Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve and who is responsible for each goal, it’s time to deploy the plan and measure its progress. A weekly meeting is extremely important for all managers and stakeholders provide feedback. Your goal is to determine if the company is headed in the right direction. If not, you’ll need to revise the strategic plan accordingly.

Strategic Plans Are Ongoing

Once your strategic plan helps you achieve several objectives, it’s smart to regroup and set new objectives. As your company grows, you can set new goals to ensure the company keeps moving forward. You can share the success of your strategic plan with potential investors as a way to tap into new capital funding.


jsw model of strategic planning example

4 Strategic Planning Tools and Models for 2021 and Beyond

By: Andrew Conrad on December 22, 2020

Let’s take a hypothetical trip back in time to January of 2020. Your house cleaning business revenue has been steadily growing for three years and the forecasting tool in your financial software tells you that you should expect your best year yet. You increase sales goals, plan to invest in new vacuums and vehicles, and hire 20 new employees throughout the year. Through the first month, everything is going according to plan.

Then, on March 11, the World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a global pandemic, much of the world shuts down, and your strategic planning for the year loses all meaning.

Last March, we surveyed more than 300 small business leaders and found that nearly 75% would be altering their strategic plan due to COVID-19, with nearly 20% anticipating “significant” changes (methodology below).

Donut chart showing that nearly 75% of business leaders anticipated changes to their strategic plan due to COVID-19

Even in a relatively stable year, the traditional approach to strategic planning—reviewing last year’s results, making incremental adjustments, setting targets, then budgeting, communicating, and executing the new plan—is woefully ill-suited for rapidly evolving markets.

Gartner research has found that executives believe more than half of their time spent in strategic planning is wasted, and the quality of those plans fail to meet expectations.

“Strategic assumptions are often sound when they are first formed, but in today’s environment (they) are more vulnerable to becoming outdated or obsolete due to a rapid increase in the pace of change,” says Matt Shinkman, vice president with Gartner’s Risk and Audit Practice.

While it’s unfair to suggest that any business should’ve been ready for COVID-19, there are strategic planning tools and models that would have been more adaptable when the market was turned on its head.

Let’s take a look at four different approaches that you can use so you’re ready the next time the market takes an unexpected turn.

What are strategic planning tools?

Strategic planning tools are techniques and models that business leaders use to determine where their business is at present, where they want it to be in the future, and which key metrics and initiatives they should track and pursue to achieve that target state.

A few common examples of strategic planning tools include:

Let’s take a closer look, along with strategies for making these tools more adaptable to changing conditions.

1. SWOT analysis

How does it work? In SWOT analysis, strategic planning teams brainstorm to come up with several strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for their business, then list those items in four quadrants.

jsw model of strategic planning example

Source: Most Popular Decision-Making Frameworks Among Project Managers

Teams can then look for connections between the quadrants (especially connections between strengths and opportunities) to inform their strategy.

How can it be adapted for a post COVID-19 market? The great thing about SWOT analysis is that it can be used for annual strategic planning, or everyday decision making. Adapt SWOT analysis to a rapidly evolving market by using it at the individual project level.

For example, say your office cleaning service was considering expanding just before COVID-19. Using SWOT, you could come up with the following assessment:

In this case, the business could match their strength to the opportunity to expand and leverage their experienced teams to make headway in an already competitive market.

What type of businesses should use this? While SWOT analysis can be adapted for a variety of situations, it is ideally suited for growth businesses that are able to make significant changes to their strategy in order to take advantage of market opportunities. These businesses might include startups and solopreneur operations.

2. Objectives and Key Results

How does it work: Famously used for strategic planning by Google, Microsoft, and Intel, OKRs work by establishing a clearly defined goal (the objective) along with a handful of key results —that is, measurable checkpoints that build toward the target goal.

Ideally, teams should only have about a 70% success rate on key results. If teams are constantly hitting 100%, it likely means that the ultimate goal was not ambitious enough.

How can it be adapted for a post COVID-19 market? One strength of OKRs is that they are highly adjustable. For example, if your goal at the beginning of the year is to double the size of your business, and key results include increasing revenue by $150k, hiring 10 new employees, and adding three new high-value clients, you can scale those numbers to account for the market changes. Say, increasing the size of your business by 150%, increasing revenue by $100k, hiring 7 new employees, and adding two new high-value clients.

What type of businesses should use this? OKRs are a good fit for established, profitable businesses that might need to make incremental adjustments to continue growing without throwing off a successful formula.

3. PEST analysis

How does it work: With PEST (political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological) analysis, strategic planning teams weigh socioeconomic factors into their business forecasting. PEST analysis is also frequently modified to include legal and environmental factors (PESTLE analysis). For PEST analysis to be used effectively, it helps to have representatives on the strategic planning team with a working knowledge of the component factors.

How can it be adapted for a post COVID-19 market? PEST analysis is somewhat complex, due to the breadth and depth of the factors it accounts for.

On one hand, this necessitates an experienced strategic planning team to effectively use PEST analysis. On the other hand, this makes PEST adaptable for changing conditions. Think of each of the factors that make up PEST as levers. When the market changes, you may have to pull one or more of those levers to adjust your planning.

For example, when COVID-19 struck, you likely had to make major adjustments to your economic and political strategic planning, while your socio-cultural and technological levers might have only needed minor tweaks.

What type of businesses should use this? Due to its complexity and the experience required to use PEST analysis effectively, it is best suited for larger, established businesses with sufficient resources.

4. Balanced scorecard

How does it work: Balanced scorecard is a strategic planning model designed to incorporate both financial and non-financial (customer, internal, innovation) measures. Its precise origins aren’t clearly defined, but it was popularized in a 1992 article by Robert Kaplan and David Norton published in the Harvard Business Review .

To use the balanced scorecard, strategic planning teams seek to answer the following four questions:

Teams should answer those questions in four quadrants, linking them together where possible (similar to SWOT analysis), then translate those answers into operational strategy, individual performance goals, and business planning.

How can it be adapted for the post COVID-19 market? The balanced scorecard can be adapted for the post COVID-19 market by looking at it through an agile lens, that is by communicating about your strategy, making iterative improvements, and responding to changing needs regularly. For more on incorporating an agile mindset into your strategic planning, read the next section.

What type of businesses should use this? The balanced scorecard is open-ended enough to be used by almost any type of business , including automotive, financial, healthcare, manufacturing, technology, education, and almost anything in between.

If you’d like a more guided approach, we have trained advisors standing by and ready to help you choose the perfect strategic planning software for your business. Best of all, it’s free for you and you can get started right away. Click here to schedule an appointment for a phone call or start a live chat here .

A screenshot of the strategic planning software guide on Software Advice

The strategic planning software guide on Software Advice ( Source )

When in doubt, try agile strategic planning

What better way to prepare for an unpredictable market than to use agile planning? It’s not enough to just take the principles of agile project management –communication, iteration, responsiveness–and slap them onto your planning process, though. It helps to have a strategy.

Here are a few key points, from our guide on strategic planning for small businesses :

Want to learn more about agile decision making? Read our complete guide , with tips on:


The Software Advice COVID-19 Reactions survey was conducted via Amazon Mechanical Turk in March 2020 and involved nearly 1,000 respondents all based in the United States. The number of respondents varied by question. The questions were worded to ensure each respondent fully understood the meaning and topic at hand. The information contained in this article has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.

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Chapter 1: The nature of strategic business analysis

Chapter learning objectives

Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:

1 The common language of strategic planning

This chapter introduces some of the main terms used in discussionsabout strategy. It also looks at the meanings of the word 'strategy' andasks to what extent strategic planning is useful.

Strategic planning

'Strategic planning' can also be known as 'long-term planning' or'corporate planning'. Those alternative names give some insight into thenature of strategic planning. It:

Other characteristics of strategic planning are that:

There is no universally accepted definition of strategy, and theword is used in different contexts to mean different things. Thefollowing definition is as useful as any.

Why bother?

Studies show that companies that plan are more successful thanthose that do not. Strategic planning can have the following potentialadvantages:

Strategic planning is particularly important when:

jsw model of strategic planning example

Illustration – Introduction

In the 1970s IBM was one of the most successful and profitablecompanies in the world. It made most of its profits by selling large,main-frame computers to corporations and governments. Substantialrevenues were also earned in providing maintenance and support fornon-user friendly hardware and operating systems. Success continued intothe early 1980s, but soon IBM reported the largest corporate loss evermade. What led to the rapid turnaround?

The following are often cited as reasons.

IBM did not correctly predict the revolutionary effect that PCswould have on manufacturing and consumers. The market for main-framecomputers declined rapidly and IBM was left with very high overheads andover-manning.

Why were these developments not predicted more accurately? Perhapswhen a company is very dominant, it begins to think itself invincibleand immune to outside developments. Long periods of success may lead toassumptions about future success. Who in management might be braveenough to say that a company might have to change radically if successis to continue in the future?

IBM has now changed from being predominantly a hardwaremanufacturer to being a provider of consultancy services. Recently, itsold its laptop business to Lenovo, a company based in China. IBM foundthat the market for PCs was a commodity market in which it was difficultto add value to enable profits to be made.

Mark-ups are better in consultancy, the provision of skilledservices are more difficult for others to copy and consultancy servicesare almost immune from threats from cheap overseas suppliers.

jsw model of strategic planning example

How important is strategic planning likely to be to the following organisations?

(a) A health service.

(b) A small building contractor.

2 The rational 'top down' approach to strategic planning

The traditional approach

This approach breaks down the process of strategic planning into three distinct steps:

This can be represented in the diagram on the following page.Broadly, information about the organisation and its environment iscollected and rational decisions are made about future courses ofaction.

The Johnson, Scholes and Whittington (JSW) model of strategicplanning is a modern development of the rational planning model. Itconsists of the three elements already discussed (analysis, choice,implementation) but instead of presenting these linearly, it recognisesinterdependencies. For example, it might only be at the strategy intoaction (implementation) stage that an organisation discovers somethingthat sheds light on its strategic position. The other key difference isthat Johnson, Scholes and Whittington argue that strategic planning canbegin at any point. For example, firms might decide that they willlaunch an internet sales division without first carrying out anystrategic analysis or choosing how the new strategy might compete. Theexaminer believes that this is a key exam model and the bulk of thesyllabus is built around it.

The strategic position/analysis

Assessing the strategic position consists of analysing:

The aim of strategic analysis is to form a view of the maininfluences on the present and future well-being of the organisation.This will obviously affect the strategy choice.

Strategic analysis would cover the following areas.

The environmental variables – Since strategy is concernedwith the position a business takes in relation to its environment, anunderstanding of the environment's effects on an organisation is ofcentral importance to strategic analysis. The historical andenvironmental effects on the business must be considered, as well as thepresent effects and the expected changes in environmental variables.This is a major task because the range of environmental variables is sogreat. Many of those variables will give rise to opportunities of somesort, and many will exert threats upon the organisation. The two mainproblems that have to be faced are, first, to distil out of thiscomplexity a view of the main or overall environmental impacts for thepurpose of strategic choice; and second, the fact that the range ofvariables is likely to be so great that it may not be possible orrealistic to identify and analyse each one.

The resources of the organisation – There are internalinfluences as well as outside influences on the firm and its choice ofstrategies. One of the ways of thinking about the strategic capabilityof an organisation is to consider its strengths and weaknesses (what itis good or not so good at doing, or where it is at a competitiveadvantage or disadvantage, for example). Considering the resource areasof a business such as its physical plant, its management, its financialstructure and its products may identify these strengths and weaknesses.Again, the aim is to form a view of the internal influences andconstraints on strategic choice. The expectations of differentstakeholders are important because they will affect what will be seen asacceptable in terms of the strategies advanced by management. However,the beliefs and assumptions that make up the culture of an organisation,though less explicit, will also have an important influence.

Expectations and influence of stakeholders – A stakeholdercan be defined as someone who has an interest in the well-being of theorganisation. A typical list of stakeholders for a large company wouldinclude shareholders, employees, managers, customers, locality,suppliers, government and society at large.

Strategic planning and management cannot be achieved without regard to stakeholders.

The beliefs and assumptions within an organisation –affect the interpretation of the environmental and resource influences;so two groups of managers, perhaps working in different divisions of anorganisation, may come to different conclusions about strategy, althoughthey are faced with similar environmental and resource implications.Which influence prevails is likely to depend on which group has thegreater power, and understanding this can be of great importance inrecognising why an organisation follows, or is likely to follow, thestrategy it does.

A consideration of all relevant features – theenvironment, resources, expectations and objectives within the culturaland political framework of the organisation – provides the basis forstrategic analysis of that organisation. However, to understand itsstrategic position, it is also necessary to examine the extent to whichthe direction and implications of the current strategy and objectivesthat it is following are in line with, and can cope with, theimplications of the strategic analysis.

Strategic choice

Strategic choice follows strategic analysis and is based upon the following three elements.

In addition to deciding the scope and direction of an organisation,choices also need to be made about how to achieve the goal. Broadly,there are two ways in which a strategy can be pursued:

Generation of strategic options

There may be several possible courses of action open to theorganisation. For example, an international retailer may need to decideon areas such as:

All of these considerations are important and need carefulconsideration: indeed, in developing strategies, a potential danger isthat managers do not consider any but the most obvious course of action– and the most obvious is not necessarily the best. A helpful step instrategic choice can be to generate strategic options.

Strategic options generation is the process of establishing achoice of possible future strategies. There are three main areas toconsider.

Porter describes certain generic competitive strategies (lowestcost or differentiation) that an organisation may pursue for competitiveadvantage­. They determine how you compete.

Ansoff describes product-market strategies (which markets youshould enter or leave). They determine where you compete and thedirection of growth.

Institutional strategies (i.e. relationships with other organisations) determine the method of growth.

Evaluation of the options

Strategic options can be examined in the context of the strategicanalysis to assess their relative merits. In deciding on any of theoptions that they face, the organisation might want to know whether theyare suitable to the firm's existing position. They need to know whichof these options builds upon strengths, overcomes weaknesses and takesadvantage of opportunities, while minimising or circumventing thethreats the business faces. This is called the search for strategic fitor suitability of the strategy. However, a second set of questions isimportant.

These are questions of feasibility.

Even if these criteria could be met, management would still need toknow whether the choice would be acceptable to the stakeholders.

A variety of techniques are used to assess the value of strategies.Some strategies will be assessed on financial criteria (such as netpresent value). Where this is not possible, or where the uncertainty inthe environment is great, more sophisticated models are used.

Selection of the strategy or option

This is the process of selecting those options that theorganisation will pursue. There could be just one strategy chosen orseveral. There is unlikely to be a clear-cut 'right' or 'wrong' choicebecause any strategy must inevitably have some dangers or disadvantages.So in the end, choice is likely to be a matter of management judgement.It is important to understand that the selection process cannot alwaysbe viewed or understood as a purely objective, logical act. It isstrongly influenced by the values of managers and other groups withinterest in the organisation, and ultimately may very much reflect thepower structure in the organisation.

Strategy into action/implementation

Implementing a strategy has three elements.

It is likely that changes in organisational structure will beneeded to carry through the strategy and there is also likely to be aneed to adapt the systems used to manage the organisation.

Organisation structure – lines of authority and communicationmust be established that are appropriate to the way the strategy isbroken down into detailed targets. Systems are necessary to provide thenecessary strategic information, as well as essential operationalprocedures. Control systems are used to assess performance. The type ofquestions that will need answering include:

Implementation involves devising sub-strategies for products and markets, human resources and so on.

Resource planning

Resource planning covers finance, human resource management andphysical resources such as land and buildings. It involves assessing thekey tasks to satisfy the critical success factors, and the resources tobe allocated to the key tasks. It is concerned with the followingquestions.

Managing change

Successful implementation will rely on the successful management ofthe change to the new strategy. This will involve not only themanagement of the systems and structures of the organisation, but alsothe management of its people and routines. This will involve twoelements:

Illustration – Johnson, Scholes and Whittington model of strategic planning

A full-price airline is considering setting up a 'no frills',low-fare subsidiary. The strategic planning process would include thefollowing elements.

Strategic position : competitor action, oil price forecasts,passenger volume forecasts, availability of cheap landing rights, publicconcern for environmental damage, effect on the main brand.

Strategic choices : which routes to launch? Set up a servicefrom scratch or buy an existing cheap airline? Which planes to use, whaton-board services to offer?

Strategic implementation : how autonomous should the newairline be? How to recruit and train staff? Implementation of theinternet booking system. Acquisition of aircraft. Obtaining landingslots.

A health provider has only large, edge of town, hospitals. It isconsidering setting up additional small city centre clinics capable oftreating less-serious day cases.

Give examples of what the provider should consider under theheadings of strategic position, strategic choices and strategicimplementation.

3 Alternative approaches

Emergent strategies

The research of Mintzberg (1987) suggests that few of thestrategies followed by organisations in the real world are asconsciously planned as the approaches above suggest.

He believes this to be an unrealistic view of strategic planning,believing instead that strategies evolve over time (emerge) rather thanresult from an in-depth analysis of every aspect of the environment andan impartial evaluation of every possible alternative.

Emergent strategies do not arise out of conscious strategicplanning, but result from a number of ad hoc choices, perhaps made lowerdown the hierarchy. In this view, the final objective of the strategyis unclear and elements still develop as the strategy proceeds,continuously adapting to human needs – the emergent strategy isevolving, incremental and continuous. Emergent strategies develop frompatterns of behaviour; one idea leads to another, until a new pattern isformed and a new strategy has emerged. For example, a salesman visits acustomer out in the field. The product isn't right, and together theywork out some modifications. The salesman returns to the company andputs the changes through; after two or three more rounds, they finallyget it right. A new product emerges, which eventually opens up a newmarket. The company has changed strategic course.


Lindblom did not believe in the rational model to decisionmaking as he suggested that in the real world it was not used, citingthe following reasons.

Lindblom believed that strategy making involving small scaleextensions of past practices would be more successful as it was likelyto be more acceptable as consultation, compromise and accommodation werebuilt into the process. He believed that comprehensive rationalplanning was impossible and likely to result in disaster if activelypursued.

Freewheeling opportunism

McNamee states that 'strategic management ……… isconsidered to be that type of management through which an organisationtries to obtain a good fit with its environment'.

This approach has been characterised as 'proactive'.

There are many successful organisations that do not undertakestrategic planning. This approach has been characterised as 'reactive'or sometimes 'freewheeling opportunism'.

Explain the essential characteristics of the two approaches(strategic planning and freewheeling opportunism) mentioned above. Whatare the advantages and disadvantages of the two approaches? Explain inwhat circumstances you would recommend an organisation to adopt eachapproach.

Corporate, business functional levels

What business is the firm in? What businesses should it be in?

These activities need to be matched to the firm's environment, its resource capabilities and the values and expectations of stakeholders.

How integrated should these businesses be?

Looks at how each strategic business unit (SBU) attempts to achieve its mission within its chosen area of activity.

Which products should be developed?

What approach should be taken to gain a competitive advantage?

Which markets to enter?

Looks at how the different functions of the business support the corporate and business strategies.

Note that it is not always clear and rarely important whether a decision is classified as corporate, business or functional.


The strategies at the different levels should be consistent.There's no point having a corporate strategy that says that theorganisation should move up-market, if the business strategy is to stayin cheap markets and operations provide low-quality products andservices.

Strategic choices need to be made at every level, though obviouslychoices made at any particular level can influence choices at otherlevels.

Illustration – Levels of strategic planning

Gap is an international clothing retailer. Classification of different levels of strategic planning could be:

Functional / operational

A full-service airline is making the following decisions.

(a) Should a 'no-frills', low-fare subsidiary be set up?

(b) If it is set up, how should cabin staff be recruited?

Are these likely to be strategic, business or operational decisions?

Strategic management in different contexts

The different elements of the strategic planning process will varyin importance, depending on the type of organisation concerned.

4 The strategy lenses

A university in a developing country wants to introduce newproducts via the medium of e-learning (where products are delivered overthe internet and students study at home). The country has poorinfrastructure and a cultural aversion to social mobility. But itsgovernment are planning (with the help of international investment) amajor investment in technology over the next five years. This will allowover 75% of the country to have access to high speed WiMax internet atvery low costs.

Let's look at how the university's strategy might develop:

Strategy as design

The environmental changes that the university is experiencing aresignificant and it will be important that the university react to these.Through the use of environmental analysis in combination with resourceanalysis etc. the design process will begin. It will then move on tostrategic choices such as the decision to move onto to e-learningproduct development.

The design will be developed logically with carefully plannedsteps. Middle and lower management will play a role in theimplementation of the strategy and it will have clear goals andobjectives.

Strategy as experience

But the strategy is likely to be adapted over time, possibly due tothe influence of all levels of management. They will have cleartaken-for-granted assumptions about how strategy should proceed, basedmainly on what has worked and not worked in the past. They may alter thedetailed plans due to their own ideas about what will work and whatwon't.

But the strategy will be added to as well from these experiences.For example, the middle line managers might know from past experiencethat when students study at home they require a higher level of servicein areas such as tutor feedback, exam marking and material delivery.This might lead to the strategy to be adapted to incorporate plans suchas dedicated support staff etc. and a deliberate choice to focus on amore differentiated service from rivals who might launch low costalternatives.

Strategy as ideas

The university's environment is not static and it will continue toevolve. A five year plan cannot therefore be static and it also shouldevolve as the environment evolves.

For example, if telecommunications infrastructure were to grow asother technologies grow it may well be that citizens of the countrymight begin to own mobile 'smartphones' (especially those in theuniversity's target age group). This might provide an idea for providingsome product aspects (such as mini exam questions) as mobile phoneapplications. This is unlikely to be part of the original strategicdesign, but as such ideas arise they will be built into the strategyover time.

Illustration – The strategy lenses

At the start of this chapter, a brief history of IBM was set out,describing how the rise of the personal computing and new electronicstechnology caused IBM to swiftly change from being one of the world'smost successful companies to one that posted one of the largest everlosses.

It can be argued that IBM certainly saw strategy as a matter ofdesign and probably one of experience. The company was large,conservative, conventionally organised and highly centralised. The mainboard would certainly have kept tight control of corporate strategy andthe company would have progressed incrementally, based on its experienceand constrained by a strong conservative corporate culture.

Perhaps if someone had been able to draw attention to the challengeto IBM arising from personal computers, and top management in thecompany had been willing to take this challenge more seriously, IBMmight not have had the problems it had, or to the extent it had.

5 Chapter summary

Test your understanding answers

(a) Health service

Strategic planning is vital. Hospitals arehugely expensive and take years to plan and build and their provisionmust be closely aligned with population trends and treatment advances.Training medical staff is also a long-term process. If hospital andother health service facilities are inadequate, many people will beadversely affected.

(b) A small building contractor

Relatively little long-term planning isneeded. If the builder buys and develops land, then some planning willbe needed to ensure that land and planning permission can be acquired.Otherwise, many builders work from job to job using a high proportion ofsub-contractors.

Suggestions are:

Strategic position : likely demand. Some type of cost/benefitanalysis to show that the strategy is worthwhile. Safety of patientsbeing treated in less well-resourced environments. Acceptability topatients. Acceptability to staff.

Strategic choices : which illnesses to treat? Where should the clinics be? How should the clinics be staffed? Opening hours?

Strategic implementation : acquiring and fitting out clinics.Hiring and/or transferring staff. Publicity, so that patients knowwhere and when to go. Liaison with general practitioners and the mainhospitals.

This is a formal planning process that has clearly definedobjectives, which will have been agreed by its stakeholders. Strategicplanning operates within a logical set of procedures, which give it aneasily understood structure.

Strategic planning is a long-term planning process with a timehorizon of several years. It relates to the whole undertaking andrecognises that an organisation is an open system continuouslyinteracting with its external environment.

Strategic planning advantages:

Some disadvantages of strategic planning include:

This is the short-term identification and exploitation ofopportunities. It only looks at the present and immediate future anduses an ad hoc approach to management, reacting to situations as theydevelop.

Freewheeling opportunism relies on the individual entrepreneurialskills of the organisation's proprietors or managers. It is informal andhas no set procedures that must be followed.

Some of the advantages claimed by supporters of freewheeling opportunism are:

Some disadvantages of freewheeling opportunism are:

Recommended approach

The method of planning used in an organisation will depend on many factors, including:

Formal strategic planning should be used in larger organisationsthat are established and have a degree of centralised control. It isunlikely that organisations such as government institutions and publiclimited companies, would survive without strategic planning in today'scompetitive world.

Freewheeling opportunism might be justified in very smallundertakings in which responsibility for management is vested in theproprietors who have considerable entrepreneurial skills, such as a abusiness operatingin a turbulent, creative market.

(a) There will be very high costsinvolved, careful planning is needed to ensure that the cheap flights donot cannibalise the expensive service. This is a decision that would bemade by the main board and is strategic.

(b) The nature of this decision is lessclear. It's probably a business-level decision that would be delegatedto the management team of the new subsidiary.


This Product includes content from the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) and the International Ethics Standards Board for

Accountants (IESBA), published by the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) in December 2012 and is used with permission of IFAC.

The global body for professional accountants

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The strategic planning process – part 2

The second of two articles that focus on applying your knowledge of management and strategy to a scenario situation.

Introduction, strategic choice.

Strategic implementation

Part 1 considered the complexities of strategic planning and how they can be broken down into three main areas. Part 2 adopts a similar simplification approach to the issues of strategic choice and strategic implementation.

Back to top

Johnson and Scholes break down the issue of strategic choice into three distinct subheadings, which are:

On what basis do we decide to compete? 

A useful framework to use here is Porter’s generic strategies. Michael Porter stated that a firm that is wishing to obtain competitive advantage over its rivals is faced with two choices:

Choice 1 : Is the company seeking to compete by achieving lower costs than its rivals achieve and by charging similar prices for the products and services that it offers, thereby achieving advantage via superior profitability? Or…

Is the company wishing to differentiate itself and the customer is prepared to pay a premium price for the added value which the customer perceives in the product, and thereby enjoys greater margin than the undifferentiated product?

Choice 2 : What is the scope of the area in which the company wishes to obtain competitive advantage? Is it industry-wide or is it restricted to a specific niche?

The answers to these two choices leave the organisation faced with three generic strategies, which are defined as:

1. Cost leadership Set out to be the lowest cost producer in an industry. By producing at the lowest possible cost, the manufacturer can compete on price with every other producer in the industry and earn the highest unit profits.

In order to achieve cost leadership, some of the following need to be in place:

One should also be aware of the drawbacks of such a strategy, such as the need to continually keep up to date with potential changes in technology or consumer tastes.

2. Differentiation A firm differentiates itself from its competitors when it provides something unique that is valuable to buyers. Differentiation occurs when the differentiated product is able to obtain a price premium in the market that is above the cost incurred to create the differentiation.

As a consequence of differentiation being about uniqueness, it is not really possible to give an exhaustive list detailing how a firm may differentiate itself. To truly differentiate yourself we must understand the product or service offered and the customer to whom you are selling it.

Ways of achieving differentiation:

3. Focus A focus strategy is based on fragmenting the market and focusing on a particular market niche. The firm will not market its products industry-wide but will concentrate on a particular type of buyer or geographical area.

Cost focus : This involves selecting a particular niche in the market and focusing on providing products for that niche. By concentrating on a limited range of products or a small geographical area, the costs can be kept low.

Differentiation focus : Select a particular niche and concentrate on competing in that niche on the basis of differentiation – for example, luxury goods.

This can be summarised in the following diagram:

We stated that the alternative directions available to a business could be described in general terms as follows:

Do nothing This involves following the current strategy while events around change and can often prove to be a successful short-term strategy. Basically, if an organisation is exposed to some form of competitive threat, its short-term objective is to not react and, hence, get involved in what could be an expensive decision.

Sell out/withdraw from the market This may be followed so as to maximise the return on a business that may be at the top of its cycle and, hence, will be in line with the goal of maximisation of cash flows. Withdrawal from a business sector may be chosen to give the business more focus – for example, Richard Branson’s decision to sell his original business Virgin Records to concentrate on the airlines business.

Market penetration This involves increasing the market share in the current market with the current product. Market share can be enhanced by such techniques as improved quality, productivity or increased marketing activity.

Product development This involves introducing a new product into the current market. The product change is often the result of changes and modifications to an existing successful product – for example, Mars ice cream. This is an alternative to the present product and builds on present knowledge and skills.

Market development In this case the organisation keeps its tried and tested products but aims to apply them to different market segments. This strategy maintains the security of the present product while enabling extra revenue to be generated from new segments – for example, McDonald’s and its geographic market development.

Diversification This is the most risky of the product market strategies as it involves the introduction of a totally new product in a new market. Diversification can either be related or unrelated.

Related diversification

This involves development of the product and market but still remaining within the broad confines of the industry. There are three main types.

Unrelated diversification

This involves movement into industries that bear little relationship to the present one and is often the result of a profit motive.

Ansoff represented the last four choices in his product/market matrix.

The final problem that must be overcome is to decide how the chosen strategic option should be undertaken.

The options available are:

Internal development Reasons Often undertaken to maintain the present equilibrium within the company as it is much less disruptive than an acquisition. Another reason may be that there is not sufficient finance available for an acquisition or that the government may prevent acquisition/merger through legislation.


Joint development A formal agreement between two or more organisations to undertake a new venture together – for example, Airbus (spreading of cost).

Methods of joint development

Once all the alternative options have been generated we need to evaluate their appropriateness before making a choice. A useful framework to apply when considering the appropriateness of an option is:

Suitability Suitability identifies the extent to which the proposed strategy enhances the situation identified in the strategic analysis. The following questions need to be addressed about the strategic options:

Feasibility The issue of feasibility evaluates whether the chosen strategy can be implemented successfully. The resources the organisation has at its disposal will obviously determine this. To save time, simply think about the 6Ms.

Acceptability The final issue to address is whether the selected strategy will meet the expectations of the key stakeholders in the firm and typical issues to be looked at would include the level of risk and return resulting from the option.

Remember that in the exam it is unlikely that you are going to get a question that asks you to regurgitate the information on strategic choice in the way in which I have just explained to you. Questions will normally touch on some part of the process we have described and if you have an in-depth understanding of everything that we have covered you will be able to construct much more comprehensive arguments in the exam. We will show this in a previous exam question later.

The area of strategic implementation covers many areas from project management to structure. However, as with strategic analysis and strategic choice, it is possible to simplify the issues into a number of key sub-headings:

Resource management This will ensure that the 6Ms are working for you in the best way possible. Budgets and other performance management tools are likely to be used here.

Organisational structure This will deal with issues regarding the levels of centralisation and decentralisation, together with structural form and style of management.

Management of change The scope, speed and style of the changes need to be carefully reviewed in order to obtain full commitment to them. A useful model of change to remember is Kurt Lewins’ three-step model, which involved:

Unfreeze  For the change to take place the existing equilibrium must be broken down before a new one can be adopted.

Change  This is the second stage, mainly concerned with identifying what the new, desirable behaviour or norm should be, communicating it and encouraging individuals and groups to ‘own’ the new attitude or behaviour. To be successful, one should consider the adoption of the following management styles to improve the acceptance of the change:

Refreeze  This is the final stage, implying consolidation or reinforcement of the new behaviour. Positive reinforcement (praise, reward, etc) or negative reinforcement (sanctions applied to those who deviate from the new behaviour) may be used. You should also look at the Change Kaleidoscope and Cultural Web.

Therefore, to summarise what we have just said:

Strategic choice 

Let us see how we can expect to get questioned in this area in the exam.

Question 1  Sample ACCA exam   Jerome Gulsand is the owner and chief executive of a chain of 20 sports equipment shops, Sportak. These shops are clustered in the south of the country. The company is privately owned by the family and the freeholds of these shops, which the company owns and which are on prime retail sites, account for the majority of the assets of Sportak. The company sells a wide range of sports equipment such as golf clubs, tennis, skiing equipment, soccer and other sports equipment. Recently it has expanded its range to include certain types of designer sports clothing.

The company was founded by Jerome’s father a quarter of a century earlier when he opened his first small shop. Over the next 25 years the company grew steadily. A major reason for this successful development lay with the philosophy of Jerome’s father who delegated much of the decision-making to the individual shop managers. He believed that this gave the local managers a higher degree of motivation. It also allowed them to respond to local demand conditions as stock ordering was carried out by each shop and was not organised at the head office. The managers were also permitted to develop local marketing activities, using sales promotions and publicity as they felt appropriate. These shop managers were remunerated partly by a basic salary and partly by a sales-related performance bonus, which could be up to 40% of their basic salary. These methods of operation were satisfactory while the company was operating in a steady growth environment. However, by late 20X1 there was evidence that Sportak’s overall position within the market was weakening. Sales had stabilised but, even more importantly, competition was growing from a number of discount traders who were prepared to operate on low profit margins but with larger volumes. It was at this time that Jerome took over the company from his father. Jerome was impatient with the lack of growth. By nature, he was an entrepreneur who sought growth. He was not sure that the steady organic growth was appropriate to these conditions. His father’s policy had been to open a store each year, funding this growth out of current earnings. Jerome saw that the market was becoming so competitive that even small and specialist markets were proving to be vulnerable. He believed that only the big, nationwide retail chains would survive and that the smaller sized groups would be taken over by the larger chains of sports goods retailers who were more profitable and had greater capability to raise finance. He decided that a ‘dash for growth’ was required if the company was to achieve the critical size to survive in the market place. It had been suggested to him that the franchising of the Sportak brand name would be a reasonable and relatively risk-free method of expansion. Growth, using other people’s money, has its advantages, but it did not appeal to Jerome. He wanted a more ‘hands-on’ approach. At about this time another chain of 15 sports shops became available for purchase. This group was in a distinctly separate area of the country – about 150 miles from Sportak’s current area of operations. As the overall sports equipment and sportswear market was still growing, the price being asked for this acquisition was rather high. However, Jerome was convinced that this was too good an opportunity to miss. He believed that Sportak needed this expansion so as to take advantage of the profitable sales still available in this sector. However, for an acquisition of this size, it was obvious that the growth could not be funded internally. Jerome assumed that he might use the freeholds of the properties Sportak owned as securities for the finance the company needed to borrow. Before approaching the bank Jerome discussed this issue with his accountant and offered the following ideas for his proposed expansion. In anticipating this proposed expansion and the need to manage an enlarged group, Jerome believes that it is time for a strong and centralising leader. Recognising that the current system of product ordering is delegated to individual store managers, he proposes to provide a centralised purchasing function based upon a warehouse owned and controlled by Sportak. Individual shop managers will be permitted to decide upon their stock range, but they will have to order from the central warehouse set up by Sportak. Jerome has also decided to tackle the problem of marketing and, in particular, promotion. The decentralised approach adopted by his father has not brought about the development of a well-known image and, therefore, the brand of Sportak needs to be strengthened. Under Jerome’s plan it is proposed to allocate a substantial budget – 15% of sales – to spend on press advertising and on public relations, and this level of commitment will continue for the foreseeable future. Sports personalities will be paid to appear in all stores, which will have to be re-equipped. By a competent use of merchandising, it is hoped that these stores will increasingly be recognised as centres for influencing the fashion of both sports equipment and clothing. The shop managers will also be encouraged to stock more expensive lines of products where the margins will be higher and, in addition, they will be expected to hold much more stock. A criticism of the stores when Jerome’s father was in charge was that they were often short of stock. Most customers were unwilling to wait for the product to be ordered and they therefore bought from competitors’ shops. Jerome recognised that during this period of change Sportak might lose a number of its key shop managers. These people have enjoyed substantial autonomy, and although they will still have some freedom on the stock range that they offer, they might increasingly see their freedom to act as managers being eroded. In appreciating that these shop managers provide much goodwill and their loss would be damaging to the company, Jerome is proposing to increase their sales-related bonuses as an inducement to stay. Jerome fully understands that the costs incurred in the proposed acquisition involve more than the purchase of the new shops. Store modernisation programmes for all the shops, as well as upgrading stock with a wider and more sophisticated range of products, will also require funding. Forecasts of immediate future sales appear to be attractive. Jerome anticipates that sales per store will rise by about 8% over the next year. He believes that this growth in sales, accompanied by his more aggressive approach to retailing, will enable his bold expansion plans for Sportak to be achieved. Above all, Jerome wishes to see his company, Sportak, become a national company, no longer having to operate as a regional retailer does. In Table 1 is a summary of the figures that have been prepared by Jerome’s accountant for discussion. Part of the data has been obtained from trade association statistics as well as government forecasts.


(a) Jerome Gulsand’s father was a great believer in the decentralisation of both operations and decision making. To what extent has this process harmed or benefited Sportak? Provide examples to justify your arguments.

(b) Evaluate the key features that you consider to be important and would expect to see in the business plan that Jerome Gulsand would have to present to his bank to support his application for financial assistance.

(c) Acting in the position of Jerome Gulsand’s accountant, and using the financial data provided and the intentions developed by Jerome, assess the viability of the strategy that has been proposed by him.

(d) Discuss whether a franchise operation would have been a better option for expansion than an acquisition.

Swipe to view table

Part (a) examines your knowledge of the implementation stage by asking a specific question on structure and whether you believe decentralisation has had any detrimental effect on Sportak. If you were to brainstorm the main issues regarding centralisation and decentralisation, and then see which apply in the context of the case, a comprehensive answer would be able to be obtained.

Part (b) would be best answered by mixing common sense with the key issues from strategic analysis, strategic choice and strategic implementation. Common sense would tell you that the business plan should include an overview of Sportak’s business. More detailed information should be provided on the organisation’s resources (6Ms), together with an overview of the business environment in which it exists (use PESTEL and five forces for inspiration). A clear description of the basis on which Sportak intended to compete should also be included (use Porter’s generic strategies and Ansoff’s product market matrix for inspiration) together with the likely returns the business is to make from the chosen strategy. Part (c) requires you to apply the financial skills you have learned throughout your ACCA studies to give an overview of how viable Jerome’s plans are. Part (d) again would have been easily answered if you approach your studies in a logical way as suggested earlier. Part (d) specifically deals with the ‘how?’ part of the strategic choice stage. (Use the internal, external or joint venture model for inspiration).

Hopefully you are now able to overview the strategic planning part of the syllabus in a more systematic and logical way. All you need to remember is the key steps of strategic analysis, choice and implementation. This should then set off another chain of words in your head, such as:

All that is necessary now is to use the framework in an applied way relevant to the question asked.

Adapted from an article originally written by Sean Purcell BA ACMA (a leading freelance lecturer)

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20 strategic planning models to consider, missing a piece of your strategic puzzle these planning models are sure to help..

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Ted Jackson


In this article, 1. balanced scorecard, 2. strategy map, 3. swot analysis, 4. pest model, 5. gap planning, 6. blue ocean strategy, 7. porter’s five forces, 8. vrio framework, 9. baldrige framework, 10. okrs (objectives and key results), 11. hoshin planning, 12. issue-based strategic planning, 13. goal-based strategic planning, 14. alignment strategic planning model, 15. organic model of strategic planning, 16. real-time strategic planning, 17. scenario planning, 18. ansoff matrix, 19. 7s model, 20. constraints analysis (theory of constraints), is one strategic planning model better than the others, is there ever a need to switch strategic planning models, using clearpoint to track your strategic planning models.

Strategic planning models are designed to help organizations develop an action plan to achieve their goals. There are a lot of strategic planning models out there. We know. Which is why we pulled together a list of 20 of the most popular ones and describe the scenario that they are most useful.

I’m willing to bet one of these situations sounds familiar:

If you can identify with one of these scenarios, this article is for you!

Read through each of the models or find the ones you're looking for from the list below and jump right to them. Then stick around for some insight on how you can make the most of whatever strategic planning model you choose—and increase the likelihood of its success. (Hint: It’s all about performance tracking.)

The Balanced Scorecard is a strategy management framework created by Drs. Robert Kaplan and David Norton. It takes into account your:

There are many ways you can create a Balanced Scorecard, including using a program like Excel , Google Sheets, or PowerPoint or using reporting software. For the sake of example, the screenshot below is from ClearPoint’s reporting software.

Balanced Scorecard example, strategic planning model, strategic planning process model

This is just one of the many “views” you’d be able to see in scorecard software once your BSC was complete. It gives you high-level details into your measures and initiatives and allows you to drill down into each by clicking on them. At a glance, you can tell what the RAG status of each objective, measure, or initiative is. (Green indicates everything is going as planned, while yellow and red indicate that there are various degrees of trouble with whatever is being looked at.)

All in all, a Balanced Scorecard is an effective, proven way to get your team on the same page with your strategy.

See Also: A Full & Exhaustive Balanced Scorecard Example

A strategy map is a visual tool designed to clearly communicate a strategic plan and achieve high-level business goals. Strategy mapping is a major part of the Balanced Scorecard (though it isn’t exclusive to the BSC) and offers an excellent way to communicate the high-level information across your organization in an easily-digestible format.

Balanced Scorecard strategy map, strategic planning model, strategic planning process model

A strategy map offers a host of benefits:

See Also: A Strategy Map Template For Medium-Sized Companies

A SWOT analysis (or SWOT matrix) is a high-level model used at the beginning of an organization’s strategic planning. It is an acronym for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.” Strengths and weaknesses are considered internal factors , and opportunities and threats are considered external factors .

Below is an example SWOT analysis from the Queensland, Australia, government:

SWOT analysis example, strategic planning model, strategic planning process model

Using a SWOT analysis as part of your strategic business model helps an organization identify where they’re doing well and in what areas they can improve. If you’re interested in reading more, this Business News Daily article offers some additional details about each area of the SWOT analysis and what to look for when you create one.

See Also: SWOT Analysis Template (+ Seven Other Strategic Planning Templates)

Like SWOT, PEST is also an acronym—it stands for “political, economic, sociocultural, and technological.” Each of these factors is used to look at an industry or business environment, and determine what could affect an organization’s health. The PEST model is often used in conjunction with the external factors of a SWOT analysis. You may also run into Porter’s Five Forces (see #7 below), which is a similar take on examining your business from various angles.

PEST analysis model example, strategic planning model, strategic planning process model

You’ll occasionally see the PEST model with a few extra letters added on. For example, PESTEL (or PESTLE) indicates an organization is also considering “environmental” and “legal” factors. STEEPLED is another variation, which stands for “sociocultural, technological economic, environmental, political, legal, education, and demographic.”

See Also: PEST Analysis Template (+ Seven Other Strategic Planning Templates)

Gap planning is also referred to as a “Need-Gap Analysis,” “Need Assessment,” or “the Strategic-Planning Gap.” It is used to compare where an organization is now, where it wants to be, and how to bridge the gap between. It is primarily used to identify specific internal deficiencies.

In your gap planning research, you may also hear about a “change agenda” or “shift chart.” These are similar to gap planning, as they both take into consideration the difference between where you are now and where you want to be along various axes. From there, your planning process is about how to ‘close the gap.’

The chart below, for example, demonstrates the difference between the projected and desired sales of a mock company:

The strategic-planning gap, strategic planning model, strategic planning process model

See Also: Gap Planning Template (+ Seven Other Strategic Planning Templates)

Blue Ocean Strategy is a strategic planning model that emerged in a book by the same name in 2005. The book—titled “Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant”—was written by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, professors at the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD).

The idea behind Blue Ocean Strategy is for organizations to develop in “uncontested market space” (e.g. a blue ocean) instead of a market space that is either developed or saturated (e.g. a red ocean). If your organization is able to create a blue ocean, it can mean a massive value boost for your company, its buyers, and its employees.

For example, Kim and Mauborgne explain via their 2004 Harvard Business Review article how Cirque du Soleil didn’t attempt to operate as a normal circus, and instead carved out a niche for itself that no other circus had ever tried.

Below is a simple comparison chart from the Blue Ocean Strategy website that will help you understand if you’re working in a blue ocean or a red ocean:

Red ocean strategy vs. blue ocean strategy, strategic planning model, strategic planning process model

See Also: Blue Ocean Analysis Template (+ Seven Other Strategic Planning Templates)

Porter’s Five Forces is an older strategy execution framework (created by Michael Porter in 1979) built around the forces that impact the profitability of an industry or a market. The five forces it examines are:

The amount of pressure on each of these forces can help you determine how future events will impact the future of your company.

Porter’s Five Forces, strategic planning model, strategic planning process model

See Also: Porter’s Five Forces Template (+ Seven Other Strategic Planning Templates)

The VRIO framework is an acronym for “ v alue, r arity, i mitability, o rganization.” This strategic planning process relates more to your vision statement than your overall strategy. The ultimate goal in implementing the VRIO model is that it will result in a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Here’s how to think of each of the four VRIO components:

Once you answer these four questions, you’ll be able to formulate a more precise vision statement to help carry you through all the additional strategic elements in your plan.

See Also: VRIO Analysis Template (+ Seven Other Strategic Planning Templates)

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is “the highest level of national recognition for performance excellence that a U.S. organization can receive.” Created in 1987, the goal of Baldrige is to help organizations innovate and improve, while achieving their mission and vision. The award is currently open to manufacturing, service, small business, nonprofit, government, education, and healthcare sectors.

When applying to win the Baldrige award at the national level, organizations undergo a competitive process that involves the implementation of the Baldrige framework. The framework outlines the “Baldrige Criteria For Performance Excellence,” where organizations must demonstrate achievement and improvement to an independent board of examiners in these seven areas:

To implement the Baldrige framework in your organization, start with two questionnaires that help you self-assess based on the seven Baldrige Criteria categories, and get a snapshot of your strengths and opportunities for improvement.

Baldrige framework example, strategic planning model, strategic planning process model

The strategic planning model of choice for Google, Intel, Spotify, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many other Silicon Valley successes, the OKR framework , is one of the more straightforward strategic planning tools. It’s designed to create alignment and engagement around measurable goals by clearly defining:

The strategic planning model of choice for many businesses—including Google, Intel, Spotify, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many other Silicon Valley successes— the OKR framework is also effective because goals are continually set, tracked, and re-evaluated so organizations can quickly adapt when needed. This is a fast-paced, iterative approach that flips the traditional top-down strategic models. The RACI matrix is a helpful visual for defining the role each person in your organization has for projects and processes, ensuring it aligns with their OKRs.

Objective and Key Results OKR definition, strategic planning model, strategic planning process model

See a strategic planning model fits your business? Download one of these free templates to put your planning process in play instantly.

The Hoshin Planning approach aligns your strategic goals with your projects and tasks to ensure that efforts are coordinated. This strategic management model is less focused on measures and more on goals and initiatives.

Some sources cite up to seven steps in the Hoshin Planning model, but the four most critical are:

You visualize your objectives, measures and targets, measure programs, and action items in a Hoshin Planning matrix. Four directional quadrants (north, south, east, west) inform each other and demonstrate alignment.

Hoshin Planning matrix example, strategic planning model, strategic planning process model

The issue-based strategic model is oriented in the present and projects into the future. It aims to identify the major challenges your organization faces now —in other words, you start with the problems to iron out issues before expanding, shifting your strategy, etc. This is typically a short-term (6-12 months), internally-focused process. Issue-based planning is ideal for young or resource-restricted organizations.

The leadership team or stakeholders identify the major issues and goals as a first step. Next, your organization will create action plans to address the issues, including budget allocation. From there, you will execute and track progress. After an issues-based plan has been implemented and the major issues you identified are resolved, then your organization might consider shifting to a broader, more complex strategic management model.

Issue-based strategic planning, strategic planning model, strategic planning process model

Goal-based strategic planning is the reverse of issue-based. This approach works backward from the future to the present. It all starts with your organization’s vision.

By nature, vision statements are aspirational and forward-thinking, but they need specifics in order to be realized. Goal-based planning tackles that challenge by setting measurable goals that align with your vision and strategic plan. Next, you define time frames for goal achievement. This is a long-term strategic planning tool, so goal time frames are typically about three to five years. From there, stakeholders will create action plans for each goal and begin tracking and measuring progress.

You want your department to be able to see their goals and the steps to achieve them. Use a Department Business Plan Dashboard

Similar to issue-based planning, the alignment model focuses on first looking internally to develop a strategy. This model is designed to sync the organization’s internal operations with its strategic goals.

Your strategic planning will start by identifying a goal and analyzing which operations or resources need to be aligned with that goal. Then you’ll identify which parts of operations are working well and which are not, brainstorming ideas from the successful aspects on how to address problems. Finally, you’ll create a series of proposed changes to operations or processes to achieve goals that will create the desired strategic alignment. The alignment strategic planning model is particularly useful when a company needs to refine its objectives or address ongoing challenges or inefficiencies that are blocking progress.

The organic model takes an unconventional approach because it focuses on the organization’s vision and values, versus plans and processes. With this model, a company uses “natural,” self-organizing systems that originate from its values and then leverages its own resources to achieve goals, conserve funds, and operate effectively.

The organic model takes an unconventional approach because it focuses on the organization’s vision and values, versus plans and processes. Click To Tweet

In the simplest form, there are three basic steps to follow when implementing the organic model of strategic planning:

What type of company would the organic strategic planning model work best for? If your organization has a large, diverse group of stakeholders that need to find common ground, a vision that will take a long time to achieve, and a strong strategic emphasis on vision and values (instead of structure and procedures), this may be the right model for you. It would also be beneficial for younger organizations that need to gain funding without presenting a formal strategic plan.

Similar to the organic model, real-time strategic planning is a fluid, nontraditional system. It’s primarily used by organizations that need to be more reactive, and perform strategic planning in “real time.” For these companies, detailed, long-term plans tend to become irrelevant within the typical three- to five-year planning cycle because the environment they operate in rapidly changes. Many nonprofits use this model—for example, a disaster relief agency needs the ability to respond quickly and adapt its strategy to immediately address a crisis.

Real-time strategic planning involves three levels of strategy: organizational, programmatic, and operational. For the first level, you’ll define the organization’s mission, vision, market position, competitors, trends, etc. Then, the programmatic strategy requires research into the external environment to identify approaches and offerings that would help the organization achieve its mission. The research should cover opportunities, threats, competitive advantages, and other points to spur strategic brainstorming.

The final operational level analyzes internal processes, systems, and personnel to develop a strategy that addresses “in-house” strengths and weaknesses. Looking at all three levels as a whole, strategy leaders can form criteria for developing, testing, implementing, and adapting strategies on an ongoing basis, allowing for quick and thoughtful responses when needed.

Real-time strategic planning, strategic planning model, strategic planning process model

In planning for their own future, too few organizations take the time to consider the multitude of external changes that could take place that would impact their plans. A healthcare company that fails to anticipate certain regulatory actions, an energy company that ignores the possibility of rising oil prices, and a global organization that hasn’t examined the potential for supply chain disruptions may all be impacted by those changes to some degree if they happened. And it isn’t just about mitigating the possible risks; it’s also about pursuing potential opportunities.

Scenario planning involves examining the variable elements of your environment, evaluating them for plausibility and impact, and factoring those scenarios that are most relevant into your decision-making. Two to five scenarios is the ideal number—this lets you explore a variety of themes without getting mired down in too many possibilities. Other frameworks (like SWOT or PESTLE) can be useful in developing those scenarios.

You can use scenario planning at the individual and departmental levels, but it is especially useful for organizational strategy planning. If your company is part of an industry that tends to be volatile or your organization itself has had to navigate costly, unexpected changes in the past, scenario planning is an excellent tool for developing your strategic vision. It can also be used to foster managerial thinking, encouraging leaders to consider the broadest range of future possibilities, and provide guidance when evaluating new projects or investment proposals.

Scenario planning - ClearPoint Strategy

(Image Source SME Strategy )

The Ansoff Matrix was developed to help organizations plan their strategies for growth. It is a 2x2 matrix with product on one axis and markets on the other axis. Depending on the box you are in, you may choose a different strategy for growth:

The level of risk increases with each strategy, with market penetration being the least risky and diversification being the most risky.

The Ansoff Matrix is useful for organizations that are actively trying to grow. Not only does it help you analyze and clarify your current strategy, but it also helps evaluate the risks associated with moving to a new strategy. SWOT and PEST are often used in combination with the Ansoff Matrix; business strengths and weaknesses as well as external factors should all play into your choice of growth strategy.

Ansoff matrix - Scenario planning models - ClearPoint Strategy

Developed by McKinsey consultants, this strategic business planning model emphasizes the importance of aligning an organization’s key internal elements to achieve strategy. Those key elements are:

The first step in applying the 7S model is to examine the current interconnectedness of these elements within your own organization; are there areas of weakness or inconsistencies? For example, you might discover that your skills training for employees is hindered by antiquated workflows and technology. Once you understand the relationships between these elements, you can work toward creating synergies that better support your strategy, whatever it may be.

The 7S model is best used during a strategy change, or whenever a major shift is occurring in any one of the seven areas.

7s model - Scenario planning models - ClearPoint Strategy

Constraints analysis is predicated on the idea that there are clear obstacles to strategy execution within your organization. Eliminating the weak link (or at least improving performance in that area) is the key to better results.

To apply constraints analysis correctly, you must first identify the constraint, or the main factor that limits your success. Process bottlenecks, faulty thinking, labor shortages, an unhealthy company culture, market conditions, or any number of other issues could be the culprit. While you might identify more than one problem area, constraints analysis focuses on improving one area at a time to achieve quick, impactful results.

That’s a great question—and the answer isn’t cut and dried. Some of these frameworks have been around longer than others, or have been used in various case studies in different ways. And sometimes managers are more comfortable with one over another, for any number of reasons.

We recommend determining which of these strategic planning models applies most to your organization’s way of thinking. For example, if you still need to work out your vision statement, it may be wise to begin with the VRIO framework and then move to something like the Balanced Scorecard to track and manage your ongoing strategy.

If you are set on pitching a particular strategic planning model to management, be prepared to give your boss or board of directors an example of another successful company that has utilized that particular model. An actual demonstration of success will make a somewhat abstract concept become more concrete.

If you are evaluating different approaches, I would recommend thinking about both creating your strategic plan and also executing on your plan. It doesn’t do you any good to have a strategic plan and not put it to use.

Yes. As your organization grows and changes, the frameworks you use to manage your strategy will change too. There are a lot of options out there—even more than the 20 we’ve explored above! It’s reasonable to expect that the framework you use today won't necessarily match your organization’s needs 10 or even five years from now. The added complexities of a growing business may make it necessary to rethink your approach to strategy planning. For example, the Balanced Scorecard might work well for tracking organizational and departmental plans, but you may eventually want a system that easily extends to the individual level. For that, you might add OKRs to your management framework.

You can also combine strategic planning models. Some organizations use elements of two or more frameworks to create a custom approach. Great! Every organization manages differently; your planning model should reflect your approach. But it’s always easier to have a starting point, which is why these frameworks exist in the first place.

Framework choices—and even strategies themselves—are flexible, but what’s not flexible is the need for software to track your performance.

Tracking is the only way to know if your strategic plan is working—if the data shows your actions aren’t making an impact, you need to make a change. While most organizations understand that tracking itself is a necessity, they’re using the wrong tools to do it.

The most common alternative to strategy software is Excel. Excel may be a familiar and affordable tool, but it’s costing your organization dearly in ways you may not have thought of:

For decision-makers, Excel-based reports are difficult to digest, which negatively impacts decision-making. Excel was built for numbers but it wasn’t built to easily show analysis and recommendations or real-time data, all of which are essential components of tracking. On top of that, spreadsheets simply make it harder to understand performance data. As a result, your leadership team isn’t getting all the information they need to make strategic decisions.

For the strategy and reporting teams, the use of spreadsheets and the manual collection and updating they require is a tremendous waste of time and a constant headache. There is also inherent risk—even with the most meticulous and careful management—in manual updating and version control across large and elaborate spreadsheets.

No doubt about it, Excel is, in fact, a somewhat costly tool. There is a better way—software exists that automates data updating and collects everything in one place for faster, safer, and better reporting.

Strategy software like ClearPoint was built exclusively for strategy performance reporting. So not only does it solve the above issues but it actually improves the likelihood of executing your strategy successfully. Here’s why:

Strategic planning models - Executive dashboard template

Another important benefit: ClearPoint will improve your strategy team’s productivity by simplifying the strategy reporting process. (One ClearPoint customer was able to reduce the cost of its monthly management board reporting by 70%!) To learn more about how ClearPoint addresses the day-to-day challenges of strategy reporting, read our Ultimate Guide on the subject.

If you’d like to learn more about ClearPoint, we’d love to talk with you! ClearPoint works with any and all of the strategic planning models mentioned above (the same can’t be said for other strategy software tools), so no matter which direction you’re planning to go, we can go with you. See how ClearPoint can help you achieve more— reach out to us today!

20 Strategic Planning Models To Consider

Balanced Scorecard — 8 min read

The Balanced Scorecard: What Is It? (Definition + Examples)

The Balanced Scorecard: What Is It? (Definition + Examples)

Balanced scorecard — 13 min read, how to effectively communicate your strategic plan to employees.

By Andreas Hofmann

Balanced Scorecard — 9 min read

ClearPoint’s 15 Most Popular Strategic Planning Templates

ClearPoint’s 15 Most Popular Strategic Planning Templates

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Strategy Frameworks

Strategic Planning Models: The 5 Best Strategy Models

by Tom Wright, on Nov 25, 2022

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Table of Contents

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New business models, global disruptions, and a need for rapid changes inspired various approaches to strategic planning, also known as strategic planning models. 

What all planning models have in common is that they help you translate strategies into action and aim to provide you with structure in the process of creating a strategic plan. But there are now countless frameworks, each with its own approach.

We summarized the 5 most popular strategic planning models in one place so you can start building your own strategic plan in no time.

To get there, let’s explore: 

The Cascade Model

The hoshin kanri model, balanced scorecard.

Strategic Planning Process Model vs Strategic Frameworks

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What is a Strategic Planning Model? 

A strategic planning model is a collective term for several elements contributing to the strategic planning process. The core components of a strategic planning model include:

You can think of strategic planning models as “templates” into which you can drop your own ideas. In the end, you'll come out with a strategic plan which is sensibly structured and gives you a clear roadmap to hit your business goals. 

Now that we've defined what a strategic planning model actually is, let's look a bit deeper into each element that one should contain.

2 essential elements of any effective strategic planning model

Planning or strategy: Where to start? 

Before we move into the planning section of this article, let’s clarify a common confusion around strategy and strategic planning. What’s the difference and what comes first?  

First, do not mistake strategy for a plan. In short, strategy is the act of making strategic choices, while a plan is a roadmap with timelines, owners, and deliverables. 

Before laying out your plan, you should get a better understanding of your internal and external business environment so you can make strategic choices and prioritize initiatives. 

“ The heart of the strategy is the matched pair of Where-to-Play and How-to-Win. ” - Roger Martin , Bestselling Author and Strategy Advisor

You should always start with strategic analysis. Through this process, you will be able to identify competitive advantage, assess organizational capacity, analyze external factors that might impact your strategy, and find other opportunities you could exploit.  

Feel free to use multiple strategic analysis tools since each has its own purpose. 

📚Here’s a list of the most popular strategic tools and frameworks that can help you brainstorm your strategy:  

Once you have a clear picture of where you want your organization to be in the short-term and long-term future (and where you do NOT want it to be), you can start building a strategic plan that will take you to your destination. And this is where strategic planning models come into play.  

Note: Every organization is unique and has different stakeholder needs. Thus, every strategic plan is unique. The goal here is to give you perspective on how you can approach your planning before you dive into the details.

Below, you’ll find examples of strategic planning models that include both Structure & Governance since both are critical to implementing your strategic plan. Because, what's the point in having an awesome strategy on paper if you have no effective way to actually execute it?

The Cascade model is hands-down the most effective example of a strategic planning model that you can find. 

It is simple to understand and easy to implement, facilitating the execution of your strategy. Its straightforward structure is suitable for organizations and teams of any size and industry. 

Here's a snippet of the structure:

the cascade strategic planning model

Let's dive into the key elements of the Cascade Strategic Planning Model, its structure and governance.

The structural elements of the Cascade strategic model:

The governance elements of the Cascade strategic model:

dashboard cascade (1)-1

When you combine the goal and the governance elements of this strategic planning model, you get a comprehensive set of tools that you can use not just for creating your plan but also for executing it.

📚 Recommened reading: 

The Hoshin Kanri model is a strategic planning model that organizations use to drive a consistent focus throughout many levels of their structure.

This makes it ideal for large organizations with different layers of management, including “top-level” executive management, “middle managers,” and “front-line” staff.

Much of the work we did to create the Cascade Strategic Model was inspired by Hoshin Kanri.

So it's certainly a strategic planning model that we respect and admire here at Cascade. Let's dive into the detail of the Hoshin strategic planning model with a quick visual:

Strategic Planning Models_Hoshin Kanri (1)

The structural elements of the Hoshin Kanri strategic model:

The governance elements of the Hoshin Kanri strategic model:

There are many different ways to implement the Hoshin Kanri strategic planning model. Above is a simplified explanation that covers most of the core elements.

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results)

The OKR model is a goal-setting and planning framework that focuses on quarterly sets of OKRs and is reviewed by every management level in the organization. 

The basic structure of the OKR strategic planning model looks something like this:

Strategic Planning Models_OKR (1)

As with the Cascade Strategic Planning Model and Hoshin Kanri, the OKR strategy model has the following key elements.

The structural elements of the OKRs strategic model:

The governance elements of the OKRs strategic model:

Balanced scorecard (also known as BSC) helps organizations drive and assess business performance by organizing key performance indicators (KPIs) into four focus areas: Financial, Customer, Internal Processes, and Learning & Growth.  

Here is an example of a basic Balanced Scorecard structure:

Strategic Planning Models_The Balanced Scorecard

The structural elements of the Balanced Scorecard:

The governance elements of Balanced Scorecard: 

📚Recommended reading: 

V2MOM is one of the most simple strategic planning and alignment models out there. Developed by Salesforce's cofounder, Marc Benioff, it helps you implement and drive alignment across your organization. 

The model can be used in a variety of organizations, including small businesses, startups, and nonprofits.

As a top-down approach, V2MOM scales across your organization at all levels, including the business unit, department, team, or individual. However, this model won't work if your organization is siloed, as each V2MOM document should be aligned with the top-level V2MOM plan.

An example of a basic V2MOM structure would look like this:

Strategic Planning Models_V2MOM

The structural elements of the V2MOM:

The governance elements of V2MOM: 

The original V2MOM approach only outlines the structure, but it does not offer a solution to track and measure performance. To meet the needs of our clients, we leveled up V2MOM to help teams measure their performance against set goals in a strategy execution platform : 

An example of a report in Cascade

📚 Recommended reading: 

It's important to distinguish between strategy frameworks and strategic planning models before you jump into the strategic planning process. Online resources use these terms interchangeably, but they are in fact quite different.

Strategic planning models provide a way to structure the information of your strategy and the content of your strategic plan. 

Strategic frameworks , including analysis tools, provide the context that surrounds your strategic plan, and the information that helps you define your strategy. 

There are a few different views on this subject, but here is what we think makes the most sense:

A model of the airport would show you at a high level how the approach roads connect to the departure hall and how the departure hall connects to immigration, which then connects to the terminals, the runways, etc.

A strategic planning model functions much the same way in that it describes each of the elements of a coherent strategy: what they do, how they fit together, and in what order.

Strategy Model: Which One Is Right For You? 👀

The examples of strategic planning models we've picked have a lot in common. There's a good reason for it.

The best strategic planning models are simple, contain all the right elements, and combine goal setting with governance. 

As a result, they serve you well when it comes to building a highly effective strategic management process and executing your strategy.

You can't really go wrong with any of the strategic planning model examples we've outlined above: Cascade Model, Balanced Scorecard,  V2MOM, Hoshin Kanri, or OKRs. 

In the Cascade strategy execution platform , you can import or create a strategic plan no matter the model you use since our strategic planning tool is sophisticated enough to customize it to your way of doing strategy.  

Interested in seeing Cascade in action? Start building your strategic plan for free or book a demo with a Cascade expert.

What is the difference between strategic planning and strategic management?

The main difference between strategic planning and strategic management is that strategic planning is just a stage within the strategic management process. 

What are the 5 models of strategic management? 

There are more than five models of strategic management. A strategic management process involves multiple stages, including strategic analysis, strategy formulation, strategy execution, and strategy evaluation. There are multiple models and frameworks suitable for each stage of the strategic process. 

Get more insights into all things strategy

Related posts to get you reading, what is a strategy model.

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9 Strategic Planning Models and Tools for the Customer-Focused Business

Meredith Hart

Updated: September 06, 2022

Published: June 23, 2021

What's a plan without a strategy?

jsw model of strategic planning example

As the economist and business strategy guru, Michael Porter, says, "The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do."

With strategic planning , businesses identify their strengths and weaknesses, choose what not to do, and determine which opportunities should be pursued. In sales operations, having a clearly defined strategy will help your organization plan for the future, set viable goals, and achieve them.

So, how do you get started with strategic planning? You'll begin with strategic planning models and tools. Let's take a look at nine of the most prominent ones here. 

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Strategic Planning Models

Strategic planning is used to set up long-term goals and priorities for an organization. A strategic plan is a written document that outlines these goals.

Don't confuse strategic planning and tactical planning . Strategic planning is focused on long-term goals, while tactical planning is focused on the short-term.

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Here are a few strategic planning models you can use to get started.

1. The Balanced Scorecard

The Balanced Scorecard is one of the most prominent strategic planning models, tailored to give managers a comprehensive overview of their companies' operations on tight timelines. It considers both financial and operational metrics to provide valuable context about how a business has performed previously, is currently performing, and is likely to perform in the future.

The model plays on four concerns: time, quality, performance and service, and cost. The sum of those components amount to four specific reference points for goal-setting and performance measurement:

Those four categories can inform more thoughtful, focused goals and the most appropriate metrics you can use to track them. But the elements you choose to pursue and measure are ultimately up to you. They will vary from organization to organization — there's no definitive list.

That being said, there's a universally applicable technique you can use when leveraging the model — creating a literal scorecard. It's a document that keeps track of your goals and how you apply them. Here's an example of what that might look like:

Strategic Planning Model Balanced Scorecard

Image Source: IntraFocus

The Balanced Scorecard is ideal for businesses looking to break up higher-level goals into more specific, measurable objectives. If you're interested in translating your big-picture ambitions into actionable projects, consider looking into it.

Example of the Balanced Scorecard

Let's imagine a B2B SaaS company that sells a construction management solution. It's been running into trouble from virtually all angles. It's struggling with customer retention and, in turn, is hemorrhaging revenue. The company's sales reps are working with very few qualified leads and the organization's tech stack is limiting growth and innovation.

The business decides to leverage a Balanced Scorecard approach to remedy its various issues. In this case, the full strategic plan — developed according to this model — might look like this:

The elements listed above address key flaws in the company's customer perception, internal processes, financial situation, and organizational capacity. Every improvement the business is hoping to make involves a concrete goal with clearly outlined metrics and definitive figures to gauge each one's success. Taken together, the organization's plan abides by the Balanced Scorecard model.

2. Objectives and Key Results

As its name implies, this model revolves around translating broader organizational goals into objectives and tracking their key results. The framework rests on identifying three to five attainable objectives and three to five results that should stem from each of them. Once you have those in place, you plan initiatives around those results.

After you've figured out those reference points, you determine the most appropriate metrics for measuring their success. And once you've carried out the projects informed by those ideal results, you gauge their success by giving a score on a scale from 0 to 1 or 0%-100%.

For instance, your goal might be developing relationships with 100 new targets or named accounts in a specific region. If you only were able to develop 95, you would have a score of .95 or 95%. Here's an example of what an OKR model might look like:

Strategic Planning Model Objectives and Key Results

Image Source: Perdoo

It's recommended that you structure your targets to land at a score of around 70% — taking some strain off workers while offering them a definitive ideal outcome. The OKR model is relatively straightforward and near-universally applicable. If your business is interested in a way to work towards firmly established, readily visible standards this model could work for you.

Example of the Objectives and Key Results

Let's consider a hypothetical company that makes educational curriculum and schedule planning for higher-education institutions. The company decides it would like to expand its presence in the community college system in California — something that constitutes an objective.

But what will it take to accomplish that? And how will the company know if it's successful? Well, in this instance, leadership at the business would get there by establishing three to five results they would like to see. Those could be:

Those results would lead to initiatives like setting standards for lead qualification and training reps at the top of the funnel on how to use them appropriately, revamping sales messaging for discovery calls, and conducting research to better tailor the demo process to the needs of community colleges.

Leveraging this model generally entails repeating that process between two and four more times — ultimately leading to a sizable crop of thorough, actionable, ambitious, measurable, realistic plans.

3. Theory of Change (TOC)

The Theory of Change (TOC) model revolves around organizations establishing long-term goals and essentially "working backward" to accomplish them. When leveraging the strategy, you start by setting a larger, big-picture goal.

Then, you identify the intermediate-term adjustments and plans you need to make to achieve your desired outcome. Finally, you work down a level and plan the various short-term changes you need to make to realize the intermediate ones. More specifically, you need to take these strides:

Here's another visualization of what that looks like.

Strategic Planning Model Theory of Change

Image Source: Wageningen University and Research

This planning model works best for organizations interested in taking on endeavors like building a team, planning an initiative, or developing an action plan. It's distinct from other models in its ability to help you differentiate between desired and actual outcomes. It also makes stakeholders more actively involved in the planning process by making them model exactly what they want out of a project.

It relies on more pointed detail than similar models. Stakeholders generally need to lay out several specifics, including information related to the company's target population, how success will be identified, and a definitive timeline for every action and intervention planned. Again, virtually any organization — be it public, corporate, nonprofit, or anything else — can get a lot out of this strategy model.

Example of the Theory of Change

For the sake of this example, imagine a business that makes HR Payroll Software — one that's not doing too well as of late. Leadership at the company feels directionless. They think it's time to buckle down and put some firm plans in motion, but as of right now, they have some big picture outcomes in mind for the company without a feel for how they're going to get there.

In this case, the business might benefit from leveraging the Theory of Change model. Let's say its ultimate goal is to expand its market share. Leadership would then consider the preconditions that would ultimately lead to that goal and why they're relevant.

For instance, one of those preconditions might be tapping into a new customer base without alienating its current one. The company could make an assumption like, "We currently cater to mid-size businesses almost exclusively, and we lack the resources to expand up-market to enterprise-level prospects. We need to find a way to more effectively appeal to small businesses."

Now, the company can start looking into the specific initiatives it can take to remedy its overarching problem. Let's say it only sells its product at a fixed price point — one that suits midsize businesses much more than smaller ones. So the company decides that it should leverage a tiered pricing structure that offers a limited suite of features at a price that small businesses and startups can afford.

The factors the company elects to use as reference points for the plan's success are customer retention and new user acquisition. Once those have been established, leadership would explain why the goals, plans, and metrics it has outlined make sense.

If you track the process I've just plotted, you'll see the Theory of Change in motion — it starts with a big-picture goal and works its way down to specific initiatives and ways to gauge their effectiveness.

4. Hoshin Planning

The Hoshin Planning model is a process that aims to reduce friction and inefficiency by promoting active and open communication throughout an organization. In this model, everyone within an organization — regardless of department or seniority — is made aware of the company's goals.

Hoshin Planning rests on the notion that thorough communication creates cohesion, but that takes more than contributions from leadership. This model requires that results from every level be shared with management — from the shop floor up.

The ideal outcomes set according to this model are also conceived of by committee — to a certain extent. Hoshin Planning involves management hearing and considering feedback from subordinates to come up with reasonable, realistic, and mutually understood goals.

Strategic Planning Model Hoshin Planning

Image Source: i-nexus

The model is typically partitioned into seven steps: establishing a vision, developing breakthrough objectives, developing annual objectives, deploying annual objectives, implementing annual objectives, conducting monthly and quarterly reviews, and conducting an annual review.

The first three steps are referred to as the "catchball process." It's where company leadership sets goals and establishes strategic plans to send down the food chain for feedback and new ideas. That stage is what really separates Hoshin Planning from other models.

Example of Hoshin Planning

For this example, let's imagine a company that manufactures commercial screen printing machines. The business has seen success with smaller-scale, retail printing operations — but it's realized that selling almost exclusively to that market won't make for long-term, sustainable growth.

Leadership at the company decides that it's interested in making an aggressive push to move up-market towards larger enterprise companies — but before they can establish that vision, they want to ensure that the entire company is willing and able to work with them to reach those goals.

Once they've set a tentative vision, they begin to establish more concrete objectives and send them down the management hierarchy. One of the most pressing activities they're interested in pursuing is a near-comprehensive product redesign to make their machines better suited for higher volume orders.

They communicate those goals throughout the organization and ask for feedback along the way. After the product team hears their ideal plans, it relays that the product overhaul that leadership is looking into isn't viable within the timeframe they've provided. Leadership hears this and adjusts their expectations before doling out any sort of demands for the redesign.

Once both parties agree on a feasible timeline, they begin to set more definitive objectives that suit both the company's ambitions and the product team's capabilities.

Strategic Planning Tools

There are additional resources you can use to support whatever strategic planning model you put in place. Here are some of those:

1. SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool and acronym for s trengths, w eaknesses, o pportunities, and t hreats. It's used to identify each of these elements in relation to your business.

This strategic planning tool allows you to determine new opportunities and which areas of your business need improvement. You'll also identify any factors or threats that might negatively impact your business or success.

Image Source: HubSpot

2. Porter's Five Forces

Use Porter's Five Forces as a strategic planning tool to identify the economic forces that impact your industry and determine your business' competitive position. The five forces include:

To learn more, check out this comprehensive guide to using Porter's Five Forces .

Strategic Planning Tools Porter's Five Forces

3. PESTLE Analysis

The PESTLE analysis is another strategic planning tool you can use. It stands for:

Each of these elements allow an organization to take stock of the business environment they're operating in, which helps them develop a strategy for success. Use a PESTLE Analysis template to help you get started.

4. Visioning

Visioning is a goal-setting strategy used in strategic planning. It helps your organization develop a vision for the future and the outcomes you'd like to achieve.

Once you reflect on the goals you'd like to reach within the next five years or more, you and your team can identify the steps you need to take to get where you'd like to be. From there, you can create your strategic plan.

5. VRIO Framework

The VRIO framework is another strategic planning tool that's used to identify the competitive advantages of your product or service. It's composed of four different elements:

By analyzing each of these areas in your business, you'll be able to create a strategic plan that helps you cater to the needs of your customer.

With these strategic planning models and tools, you'll be able to create a comprehensive and effective strategic plan. To learn more, check out the ultimate guide to strategic planning next.

Editor's note: This post was originally published on May 17, 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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7 strategic planning models, plus 8 frameworks to help you get started

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Strategic planning is vital in defining where your business is going in the next three to five years. With the right strategic planning models and frameworks, you can uncover opportunities, identify risks, and create a strategic plan to fuel your organization’s success. We list the most popular models and frameworks and explain how you can combine them to create a strategic plan that fits your business.

A strategic plan is a great tool to help you hit your business goals . But sometimes, this tool needs to be updated to reflect new business priorities or changing market conditions. If you decide to use a model that already exists, you can benefit from a roadmap that’s already created. The model you choose can improve your knowledge of what works best in your organization, uncover unknown strengths and weaknesses, or help you find out how you can outpace your competitors.

In this article, we cover the most common strategic planning models and frameworks and explain when to use which one. Plus, get tips on how to apply them and which models and frameworks work well together. 

Strategic planning models vs. frameworks

First off: This is not a one-or-nothing scenario. You can use as many or as few strategic planning models and frameworks as you like. 

When your organization undergoes a strategic planning phase, you should first pick a model or two that you want to apply. This will provide you with a basic outline of the steps to take during the strategic planning process.

[Inline illustration] Strategic planning models vs. frameworks (Infographic)

During that process, think of strategic planning frameworks as the tools in your toolbox. Many models suggest starting with a SWOT analysis or defining your vision and mission statements first. Depending on your goals, though, you may want to apply several different frameworks throughout the strategic planning process.

For example, if you’re applying a scenario-based strategic plan, you could start with a SWOT and PEST(LE) analysis to get a better overview of your current standing. If one of the weaknesses you identify has to do with your manufacturing process, you could apply the theory of constraints to improve bottlenecks and mitigate risks. 

Now that you know the difference between the two, learn more about the seven strategic planning models, as well as the eight most commonly used frameworks that go along with them.

[Inline illustration] The seven strategic planning models (Infographic)

1. Basic model

The basic strategic planning model is ideal for establishing your company’s vision, mission, business objectives, and values. This model helps you outline the specific steps you need to take to reach your goals, monitor progress to keep everyone on target, and address issues as they arise.

If it’s your first strategic planning session, the basic model is the way to go. Later on, you can embellish it with other models to adjust or rewrite your business strategy as needed. Let’s take a look at what kinds of businesses can benefit from this strategic planning model and how to apply it.

Small businesses or organizations

Companies with little to no strategic planning experience

Organizations with few resources 

Write your mission statement. Gather your planning team and have a brainstorming session. The more ideas you can collect early in this step, the more fun and rewarding the analysis phase will feel.

Identify your organization’s goals . Setting clear business goals will increase your team’s performance and positively impact their motivation.

Outline strategies that will help you reach your goals. Ask yourself what steps you have to take in order to reach these goals and break them down into long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals .

Create action plans to implement each of the strategies above. Action plans will keep teams motivated and your organization on target.

Monitor and revise the plan as you go . As with any strategic plan, it’s important to closely monitor if your company is implementing it successfully and how you can adjust it for a better outcome.

2. Issue-based model

Also called goal-based planning model, this is essentially an extension of the basic strategic planning model. It’s a bit more dynamic and very popular for companies that want to create a more comprehensive plan.

Organizations with basic strategic planning experience

Businesses that are looking for a more comprehensive plan

Conduct a SWOT analysis . Assess your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with a SWOT analysis to get a better overview of what your strategic plan should focus on. We’ll give into how to conduct a SWOT analysis when we get into the strategic planning frameworks below.

Identify and prioritize major issues and/or goals. Based on your SWOT analysis, identify and prioritize what your strategic plan should focus on this time around.

Develop your main strategies that address these issues and/or goals. Aim to develop one overarching strategy that addresses your highest-priority goal and/or issue to keep this process as simple as possible.

Update or create a mission and vision statement . Make sure that your business’s statements align with your new or updated strategy. If you haven’t already, this is also a chance for you to define your organization’s values.

Create action plans. These will help you address your organization’s goals, resource needs, roles, and responsibilities. 

Develop a yearly operational plan document. This model works best if your business repeats the strategic plan implementation process on an annual basis, so use a yearly operational plan to capture your goals, progress, and opportunities for next time.

Allocate resources for your year-one operational plan. Whether you need funding or dedicated team members to implement your first strategic plan, now is the time to allocate all the resources you’ll need.

Monitor and revise the strategic plan. Record your lessons learned in the operational plan so you can revisit and improve it for the next strategic planning phase.

The issue-based plan can repeat on an annual basis (or less often once you resolve the issues). It’s important to update the plan every time it’s in action to ensure it’s still doing the best it can for your organization.

You don’t have to repeat the full process every year—rather, focus on what’s a priority during this run.

3. Alignment model

This model is also called strategic alignment model (SAM) and is one of the most popular strategic planning models. It helps you align your business and IT strategies with your organization’s strategic goals. 

You’ll have to consider four equally important, yet different perspectives when applying the alignment strategic planning model:

Strategy execution: The business strategy driving the model

Technology potential: The IT strategy supporting the business strategy

Competitive potential: Emerging IT capabilities that can create new products and services

Service level: Team members dedicated to creating the best IT system in the organization

Ideally, your strategy will check off all the criteria above—however, it’s more likely you’ll have to find a compromise. 

Here’s how to create a strategic plan using the alignment model and what kinds of companies can benefit from it.

Organizations that need to fine-tune their strategies

Businesses that want to uncover issues that prevent them from aligning with their mission

Companies that want to reassess objectives or correct problem areas that prevent them from growing

Outline your organization’s mission, programs, resources, and where support is needed. Before you can improve your statements and approaches, you need to define what exactly they are.

Identify what internal processes are working and which ones aren’t. Pinpoint which processes are causing problems, creating bottlenecks , or could otherwise use improving. Then prioritize which internal processes will have the biggest positive impact on your business.

Identify solutions. Work with the respective teams when you’re creating a new strategy to benefit from their experience and perspective on the current situation.

Update your strategic plan with the solutions. Update your strategic plan and monitor if implementing it is setting your business up for improvement or growth. If not, you may have to return to the drawing board and update your strategic plan with new solutions.

4. Scenario model

The scenario model works great if you combine it with other models like the basic or issue-based model. This model is particularly helpful if you need to consider external factors as well. These can be government regulations, technical, or demographic changes that may impact your business.

Organizations trying to identify strategic issues and goals caused by external factors

Identify external factors that influence your organization. For example, you should consider demographic, regulation, or environmental factors.

Review the worst case scenario the above factors could have on your organization. If you know what the worst case scenario for your business looks like, it’ll be much easier to prepare for it. Besides, it’ll take some of the pressure and surprise out of the mix, should a scenario similar to the one you create actually occur.

Identify and discuss two additional hypothetical organizational scenarios. On top of your worst case scenario, you’ll also want to define the best case and average case scenarios. Keep in mind that the worst case scenario from the previous step can often provoke strong motivation to change your organization for the better. However, discussing the other two will allow you to focus on the positive—the opportunities your business may have ahead.

Identify and suggest potential strategies or solutions. Everyone on the team should now brainstorm different ways your business could potentially respond to each of the three scenarios. Discuss the proposed strategies as a team afterward.

Uncover common considerations or strategies for your organization. There’s a good chance that your teammates come up with similar solutions. Decide which ones you like best as a team or create a new one together.

Identify the most likely scenario and the most reasonable strategy. Finally, examine which of the three scenarios is most likely to occur in the next three to five years and how your business should respond to potential changes.

5. Self-organizing model

Also called the organic planning model, the self-organizing model is a bit different from the linear approaches of the other models. You’ll have to be very patient with this method. 

This strategic planning model is all about focusing on the learning and growing process rather than achieving a specific goal. Since the organic model concentrates on continuous improvement , the process is never really over.

Large organizations that can afford to take their time

Businesses that prefer a more naturalistic, organic planning approach that revolves around common values, communication, and shared reflection

Companies that have a clear understanding of their vision

Define and communicate your organization’s cultural values . Your team can only think clearly and with solutions in mind when they have a clear understanding of your organization's values.

Communicate the planning group’s vision for the organization. Define and communicate the vision with everyone involved in the strategic planning process. This will align everyone’s ideas with your company’s vision.

Discuss what processes will help realize the organization’s vision on a regular basis. Meet every quarter to discuss strategies or tactics that will move your organization closer to realizing your vision.

6. Real-time model

This fluid model can help organizations that deal with rapid changes to their work environment. There are three levels of success in the real-time model: 

Organizational: At the organizational level, you’re forming strategies in response to opportunities or trends.

Programmatic: At the programmatic level, you have to decide how to respond to specific outcomes or environmental changes.

Operational: On the operational level, you will study internal systems, policies, and people to develop a strategy for your company.

Figuring out your competitive advantage can be difficult, but this is absolutely crucial to ensure success. Whether it’s a unique asset or strength your organization has or an outstanding execution of services or programs—it’s important that you can set yourself apart from others in the industry to succeed.

Companies that need to react quickly to changing environments

Businesses that are seeking new tools to help them align with their organizational strategy

Define your mission and vision statement. If you ever feel stuck formulating your company’s mission or vision statement, take a look at those of others. Maybe Asana’s vision statement sparks some inspiration.

Research, understand, and learn from competitor strategy and market trends. Pick a handful of competitors in your industry and find out how they’ve created success for themselves. How did they handle setbacks or challenges? What kinds of challenges did they even encounter? Are these common scenarios in the market? Learn from your competitors by finding out as much as you can about them.

Study external environments. At this point, you can combine the real-time model with the scenario model to find solutions to threats and opportunities outside of your control.

Conduct a SWOT analysis of your internal processes, systems, and resources. Besides the external factors your team has to consider, it’s also important to look at your company’s internal environment and how well you’re prepared for different scenarios.

Develop a strategy. Discuss the results of your SWOT analysis to develop a business strategy that builds toward organizational, programmatic, and operational success.

Rinse and repeat. Monitor how well the new strategy is working for your organization and repeat the planning process as needed to ensure you’re on top or, perhaps, ahead of the game. 

7. Inspirational model

This last strategic planning model is perfect to inspire and energize your team as they work toward your organization’s goals. It’s also a great way to introduce or reconnect your employees to your business strategy after a merger or acquisition.

Businesses with a dynamic and inspired start-up culture

Organizations looking for inspiration to reinvigorate the creative process

Companies looking for quick solutions and strategy shifts

Gather your team to discuss an inspirational vision for your organization. The more people you can gather for this process, the more input you will receive.

Brainstorm big, hairy audacious goals and ideas. Encouraging your team not to hold back with ideas that may seem ridiculous will do two things: for one, it will mitigate the fear of contributing bad ideas. But more importantly, it may lead to a genius idea or suggestion that your team wouldn’t have thought of if they felt like they had to think inside of the box.

Assess your organization’s resources. Find out if your company has the resources to implement your new ideas. If they don’t, you’ll have to either adjust your strategy or allocate more resources.

Develop a strategy balancing your resources and brainstorming ideas. Far-fetched ideas can grow into amazing opportunities but they can also bear great risk. Make sure to balance ideas with your strategic direction. 

Now, let’s dive into the most commonly used strategic frameworks.

8. SWOT analysis framework

One of the most popular strategic planning frameworks is the SWOT analysis . A SWOT analysis is a great first step in identifying areas of opportunity and risk—which can help you create a strategic plan that accounts for growth and prepares for threats.

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Here’s an example:

[Inline illustration] SWOT analysis (Example)

9. OKRs framework

A big part of strategic planning is setting goals for your company. That’s where OKRs come into play. 

OKRs stand for objective and key results—this goal-setting framework helps your organization set and achieve goals. It provides a somewhat holistic approach that you can use to connect your team’s work to your organization’s big-picture goals.  When team members understand how their individual work contributes to the organization’s success, they tend to be more motivated and produce better results

10. Balanced scorecard (BSC) framework

The balanced scorecard is a popular strategic framework for businesses that want to take a more holistic approach rather than just focus on their financial performance. It was designed by David Norton and Robert Kaplan in the 1990s, it’s used by companies around the globe to: 

Communicate goals

Align their team’s daily work with their company’s strategy

Prioritize products, services, and projects

Monitor their progress toward their strategic goals

Your balanced scorecard will outline four main business perspectives:

Customers or clients , meaning their value, satisfaction, and/or retention

Financial , meaning your effectiveness in using resources and your financial performance

Internal process , meaning your business’s quality and efficiency

Organizational capacity , meaning your organizational culture, infrastructure and technology, and human resources

With the help of a strategy map, you can visualize and communicate how your company is creating value. A strategy map is a simple graphic that shows cause-and-effect connections between strategic objectives. 

The balanced scorecard framework is an amazing tool to use from outlining your mission, vision, and values all the way to implementing your strategic plan .

You can use an integration like Lucidchart to create strategy maps for your business in Asana.

11. Porter’s Five Forces framework

If you’re using the real-time strategic planning model, Porter’s Five Forces are a great framework to apply. You can use it to find out what your product’s or service’s competitive advantage is before entering the market.

Developed by Michael E. Porter , the framework outlines five forces you have to be aware of and monitor:

[Inline illustration] Porter’s Five Forces framework (Infographic)

Threat of new industry entrants: Any new entry into the market results in increased pressure on prices and costs. 

Competition in the industry: The more competitors that exist, the more difficult it will be for you to create value in the market with your product or service.

Bargaining power of suppliers: Suppliers can wield more power if there are less alternatives for buyers or it’s expensive, time consuming, or difficult to switch to a different supplier.

Bargaining power of buyers: Buyers can wield more power if the same product or service is available elsewhere with little to no difference in quality.

Threat of substitutes: If another company already covers the market’s needs, you’ll have to create a better product or service or make it available for a lower price at the same quality in order to compete.

Remember, industry structures aren’t static. The more dynamic your strategic plan is, the better you’ll be able to compete in a market.

12. VRIO framework

The VRIO framework is another strategic planning tool designed to help you evaluate your competitive advantage. VRIO stands for value, rarity, imitability, and organization.

It’s a resource-based theory developed by Jay Barney. With this framework, you can study your firmed resources and find out whether or not your company can transform them into sustained competitive advantages. 

Firmed resources can be tangible (e.g., cash, tools, inventory, etc.) or intangible (e.g., copyrights, trademarks, organizational culture, etc.). Whether these resources will actually help your business once you enter the market depends on four qualities:

Valuable : Will this resource either increase your revenue or decrease your costs and thereby create value for your business?

Rare : Are the resources you’re using rare or can others use your resources as well and therefore easily provide the same product or service?

Inimitable : Are your resources either inimitable or non-substitutable? In other words, how unique and complex are your resources?

Organizational: Are you organized enough to use your resources in a way that captures their value, rarity, and inimitability?

It’s important that your resources check all the boxes above so you can ensure that you have sustained competitive advantage over others in the industry.

13. Theory of Constraints (TOC) framework

If the reason you’re currently in a strategic planning process is because you’re trying to mitigate risks or uncover issues that could hurt your business—this framework should be in your toolkit.

The theory of constraints (TOC) is a problem-solving framework that can help you identify limiting factors or bottlenecks preventing your organization from hitting OKRs or KPIs . 

Whether it’s a policy, market, or recourse constraint—you can apply the theory of constraints to solve potential problems, respond to issues, and empower your team to improve their work with the resources they have.

14. PEST/PESTLE analysis framework

The idea of the PEST analysis is similar to that of the SWOT analysis except that you’re focusing on external factors and solutions. It’s a great framework to combine with the scenario-based strategic planning model as it helps you define external factors connected to your business’s success.

PEST stands for political, economic, sociological, and technological factors. Depending on your business model, you may want to expand this framework to include legal and environmental factors as well (PESTLE). These are the most common factors you can include in a PESTLE analysis:

Political: Taxes, trade tariffs, conflicts

Economic: Interest and inflation rate, economic growth patterns, unemployment rate

Social: Demographics, education, media, health

Technological: Communication, information technology, research and development, patents

Legal: Regulatory bodies, environmental regulations, consumer protection

Environmental: Climate, geographical location, environmental offsets

15. Hoshin Kanri framework

Hoshin Kanri is a great tool to communicate and implement strategic goals. It’s a planning system that involves the entire organization in the strategic planning process. The term is Japanese and stands for “compass management” and is also known as policy management. 

This strategic planning framework is a top-down approach that starts with your leadership team defining long-term goals which are then aligned and communicated with every team member in the company. 

You should hold regular meetings to monitor progress and update the timeline to ensure that every teammate’s contributions are aligned with the overarching company goals.

Stick to your strategic goals

Whether you’re a small business just starting out or a nonprofit organization with decades of experience, strategic planning is a crucial step in your journey to success. 

If you’re looking for a tool that can help you and your team define, organize, and implement your strategic goals, Asana is here to help. Our goal-setting software allows you to connect all of your team members in one place, visualize progress, and stay on target.

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