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the business strategic planning process

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  • What is strategic planning? A 5-step gu ...

What is strategic planning? A 5-step guide

Julia Martins contributor headshot

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

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

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

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

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What is strategic planning?

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

What is a strategic plan?

[inline illustration] Strategic plan elements (infographic)

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

Typically, your strategic plan should include: 

Your company’s mission statement

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

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

What are the benefits of strategic planning?

Strategic planning can help with goal setting and decision-making by allowing you to map out how your company will move toward your organization’s vision and mission statements in the next three to five years. Let’s circle back to our map metaphor. If you think of your company trajectory as a line on a map, a strategic plan can help you better quantify how you’ll get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be in a few years).

When you create and share a clear strategic plan with your team, you can:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the 5 steps in strategic planning?

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

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

Step 1: Assess your current business strategy and business environment

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

To do this, your management committee should collect a variety of information from additional stakeholders, like employees and customers. In particular, plan to gather:

Relevant industry and market data to inform any market opportunities, as well as any potential upcoming threats in the near future.

Customer insights to understand what your customers want from your company—like product improvements or additional services.

Employee feedback that needs to be addressed—whether about the product, business practices, or the day-to-day company culture.

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

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

A SWOT analysis to help you assess both current and future potential for the business (you’ll return to this analysis periodically during the strategic planning process). 

To fill out each letter in the SWOT acronym, your management committee will answer a series of questions:

What does your organization currently do well?

What separates you from your competitors?

What are your most valuable internal resources?

What tangible assets do you have?

What is your biggest strength? 


What does your organization do poorly?

What do you currently lack (whether that’s a product, resource, or process)?

What do your competitors do better than you?

What, if any, limitations are holding your organization back?

What processes or products need improvement? 


What opportunities does your organization have?

How can you leverage your unique company strengths?

Are there any trends that you can take advantage of?

How can you capitalize on marketing or press opportunities?

Is there an emerging need for your product or service? 

What emerging competitors should you keep an eye on?

Are there any weaknesses that expose your organization to risk?

Have you or could you experience negative press that could reduce market share?

Is there a chance of changing customer attitudes towards your company? 

Step 2: Identify your company’s goals and objectives

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

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

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

Your mission statement, to understand how you can continue moving towards your organization’s core purpose.

Your vision statement, to clarify how your strategic plan fits into your long-term vision.

Your company values, to guide you towards what matters most towards your company.

Your competitive advantages, to understand what unique benefit you offer to the market.

Your long-term goals, to track where you want to be in five or 10 years.

Your financial forecast and projection, to understand where you expect your financials to be in the next three years, what your expected cash flow is, and what new opportunities you will likely be able to invest in.

Step 3: Develop your strategic plan and determine performance metrics

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

As you build your strategic plan, you should define:

Company priorities for the next three to five years, based on your SWOT analysis and strategy.

Yearly objectives for the first year. You don’t need to define your objectives for every year of the strategic plan. As the years go on, create new yearly objectives that connect back to your overall strategic goals . 

Related key results and KPIs. Some of these should be set by the management committee, and some should be set by specific teams that are closer to the work. Make sure your key results and KPIs are measurable and actionable. These KPIs will help you track progress and ensure you’re moving in the right direction.

Budget for the next year or few years. This should be based on your financial forecast as well as your direction. Do you need to spend aggressively to develop your product? Build your team? Make a dent with marketing? Clarify your most important initiatives and how you’ll budget for those.

A high-level project roadmap . A project roadmap is a tool in project management that helps you visualize the timeline of a complex initiative, but you can also create a very high-level project roadmap for your strategic plan. Outline what you expect to be working on in certain quarters or years to make the plan more actionable and understandable.

Step 4: Implement and share your plan

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

Make sure your team (especially senior leadership) has access to the strategic plan, so they can understand how their work contributes to company priorities and the overall strategy map. We recommend sharing your plan in the same tool you use to manage and track work, so you can more easily connect high-level objectives to daily work. If you don’t already, consider using a work management platform .  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 5: Revise and restructure as needed

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

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

Keep in mind that your plan won’t last forever, even if you do update it frequently. A successful strategic plan evolves with your company’s long-term goals. When you’ve achieved most of your strategic goals, or if your strategy has evolved significantly since you first made your plan, it might be time to create a new one.

Build a smarter strategic plan with a work management platform

To turn your company strategy into a plan—and ultimately, impact—make sure you’re proactively connecting company objectives to daily work. When you can clarify this connection, you’re giving your team members the context they need to get their best work done. 

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

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

Strategic planning FAQs

Still have questions about strategic planning? We have answers.

Why do I need a strategic plan?

A strategic plan is one of many tools you can use to plan and hit your goals. It helps map out strategic objectives and growth metrics that will help your company be successful.

When should I create a strategic plan?

You should aim to create a strategic plan every three to five years, depending on your organization’s growth speed.

Since the point of a strategic plan is to map out your long-term goals and how you’ll get there, you should create a strategic plan when you’ve met most or all of them. You should also create a strategic plan any time you’re going to make a large pivot in your organization’s mission or enter new markets. 

What is a strategic planning template?

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

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

A business plan can help you document your strategy as you’re getting started so every team member is on the same page about your core business priorities and goals. This tool can help you document and share your strategy with key investors or stakeholders as you get your business up and running.

You should create a business plan when you’re: 

Just starting your business

Significantly restructuring your business

If your business is already established, you should create a strategic plan instead of a business plan. Even if you’re working at a relatively young company, your strategic plan can build on your business plan to help you move in the right direction. During the strategic planning process, you’ll draw from a lot of the fundamental business elements you built early on to establish your strategy for the next three to five years.

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. mission and vision statements?

Your strategic plan, mission statement, and vision statements are all closely connected. In fact, during the strategic planning process, you will take inspiration from your mission and vision statements in order to build out your strategic plan.

Simply put: 

A mission statement summarizes your company’s purpose.

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

A strategic plan pulls in inspiration from your mission and vision statements and outlines what actions you’re going to take to move in the right direction. 

For example, if your company produces pet safety equipment, here’s how your mission statement, vision statement, and strategic plan might shake out:

Mission statement: “To ensure the safety of the world’s animals.” 

Vision statement: “To create pet safety and tracking products that are effortless to use.” 

Your strategic plan would outline the steps you’re going to take in the next few years to bring your company closer to your mission and vision. For example, you develop a new pet tracking smart collar or improve the microchipping experience for pet owners. 

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. company objectives?

Company objectives are broad goals. You should set these on a yearly or quarterly basis (if your organization moves quickly). These objectives give your team a clear sense of what you intend to accomplish for a set period of time. 

Your strategic plan is more forward-thinking than your company goals, and it should cover more than one year of work. Think of it this way: your company objectives will move the needle towards your overall strategy—but your strategic plan should be bigger than company objectives because it spans multiple years.

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. a business case?

A business case is a document to help you pitch a significant investment or initiative for your company. When you create a business case, you’re outlining why this investment is a good idea, and how this large-scale project will positively impact the business. 

You might end up building business cases for things on your strategic plan’s roadmap—but your strategic plan should be bigger than that. This tool should encompass multiple years of your roadmap, across your entire company—not just one initiative.

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

A strategic plan is a company-wide, multi-year plan of what you want to accomplish in the next three to five years and how you plan to accomplish that. A project plan, on the other hand, outlines how you’re going to accomplish a specific project. This project could be one of many initiatives that contribute to a specific company objective which, in turn, is one of many objectives that contribute to your strategic plan. 

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

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

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

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The 5 steps of the strategic planning process

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

Starting a project without a strategy is like trying to bake a cake without a recipe — you might have all the ingredients you need, but without a plan for how to combine them, or a vision for what the finished product will look like, you’re likely to end up with a mess. This is especially true when working with a team — it’s crucial to have a shared plan that can serve as a map on the pathway to success.

Creating a strategic plan not only provides a useful document for the future, but also helps you define what you have right now, and think through and outline all of the steps and considerations you’ll need to succeed.

What is strategic planning?

While there is no single approach to creating a strategic plan, most approaches can be boiled down to five overarching steps:

  • Define your vision
  • Assess where you are
  • Determine your priorities and objectives
  • Define responsibilities
  • Measure and evaluate results

Each step requires close collaboration as you build a shared vision, strategy for implementation, and system for understanding performance.

Related: Learn how to hold an effective strategic planning meeting

Why do I need a strategic plan?

Building a strategic plan is the best way to ensure that your whole team is on the same page, from the initial vision and the metrics for success to evaluating outcomes and adjusting (if necessary) for the future. Even if you’re an expert baker, working with a team to bake a cake means having a collaborative approach and clearly defined steps so that the result reflects the strategic goals you laid out at the beginning.

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

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

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

Before you begin: Pick a brainstorming method

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

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

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

Using a platform like Mural, you can easily capture and organize your team’s ideas through sticky notes, diagrams, text, or even images and videos. These features allow you to build actionable next steps immediately (and in the same place) through color coding and tagging. 

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

Related: Brainstorming and ideation template

1. Define your vision

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

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

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

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

This can be done in real time or asynchronously , whether in person, hybrid, or remote. By leveraging a shared digital space , everyone has a voice in the process and room to add their thoughts, comments, and feedback. 

Related: Vision board template

2. Assess where you are

The next step in creating a strategic plan is to conduct an assessment of where you stand in terms of your own initiatives, as well as the greater marketplace. Start by conducting a resource assessment. Figure out which financial, human, and/or technological resources you have available and if there are any limitations. You can do this using a SWOT analysis.

What is SWOT analysis?

SWOT analysis is an exercise where you define:

  • Strengths: What are your unique strengths for this initiative or this product? In what ways are you a leader?
  • Weaknesses: What weaknesses can you identify in your offering? How does your product compare to others in the marketplace?
  • Opportunities: Are there areas for improvement that'd help differentiate your business?
  • Threats: Beyond weaknesses, are there existing potential threats to your idea that could limit or prevent its success? How can those be anticipated?

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

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

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

Related: SWOT analysis template

3. Determine your priorities and objectives

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

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

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

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

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

Related: Project kickoff template

4. Define tactics and responsibilities

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

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

One of the more common ways to define tactics and metrics is to use the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) method. By outlining your OKRs, you’ll know exactly what key performance indicators (KPIs) to track and have a framework for analyzing the results once you begin to accumulate relevant data. 

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

Related: OKR planning template  

5. Manage, measure, and evaluate

Once your plan is set into motion, it’s important to actively manage (and measure) progress. Before launching your plan, settle on a management process that allows you to measure success or failure. In this way, everyone is aligned on progress and can come together to evaluate your strategy execution at regular intervals.

Determine the milestones at which you’ll come together and go over results — this can take place weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on the nature of the project.

One of the best ways to evaluate progress is through agile retrospectives (or retros) , which can be done in real time or asynchronously. During this process, gather and organize feedback about the key elements that played a role in your strategy. 

Related: Retrospective radar template

Retrospectives are typically divided into three parts:

  • What went well.
  • What didn’t go well.
  • New opportunities for improvement.

This structure is also sometimes called the “ rose, thorn, bud ” framework. By using this approach, team members can collectively brainstorm and categorize their feedback, making the next steps clear and actionable. Creating an action plan during a post-mortem meeting is a crucial step in ensuring that lessons learned from past projects or events are effectively translated into tangible improvements. 

Another method for reviewing progress is the quarterly business review (QBR). Like the agile retrospective, it allows you to collect feedback and adjust accordingly. In the case of QBRs, however, we recommend dividing your feedback into four categories:

  • Start (what new items should be launched?).
  • Stop (what items need to be paused?).
  • Continue (what is going well?).
  • Change (what could be modified to perform better?).

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

Related: Quarterly business review template


The beauty of the strategic plan is that it can be applied from the campaign level all the way up to organizational vision. Using the strategic planning framework, you build buy-in , trust, and transparency by collaboratively creating a vision for success, and mapping out the steps together on the road to your goals.

Also, in so doing, you build in an ability to adapt effectively on the fly in response to data through measurement and evaluation, making your plan both flexible and resilient.

Related: 5 Tips for Holding Effective Post-mortems

Why Mural for strategic planning

Mural unlocks collaborative strategic planning through a shared digital space with an intuitive interface, a library of pre-fab templates, and methodologies based on design thinking principles.

Outline goals, identify key metrics, and track progress with a platform built for any enterprise.

Learn more about strategic planning with Mural.

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

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Strategic Planning Process Definition, Steps and Examples

Published: 03 January, 2024

Social Share:

Stefan F.Dieffenbacher

Digital Strategy

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Table of Contents

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

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

What is a Strategic Plan

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

What is the Strategic Planning Process

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

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

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

Innovation Strategy Execution Framework

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

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

Step One: Analyze your Business Environment

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

Step Two: Set your Strategic Direction

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

Step Three: Set and develop Strategic Goals and Strategic Objectives

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

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

Step Four: Drill down to Department-Level Objectives

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

Step Five: Manage and Analyze Performance

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

Step Six: Review and develop your Strategic Plan

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

Strategic Planning Process Examples

1) apple strategic plan process.

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

2) Tesla Strategic Plan Process

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

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

Tactical vs. Strategic Planning Process

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

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

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

Strategic Planning vs. Your Business Purpose

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

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

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

Strategic Planning vs Business Planning

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

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

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

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

Why is Strategic Planning Important?

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

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

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

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

When Do You Create a Strategic Plan?

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

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

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

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

The Benefits of Strategic Planning

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

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

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

What prepares you to pounce?

Your Strategic Planning and the processes that make it possible.

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The Strategic Planning Process in 4 Steps

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

Free Strategic Planning Guide

What is Strategic Planning?

Strategic Planning is when a process where organizations define a bold vision and create a plan with objectives and goals to reach that future. A great strategic plan defines where your organization is going, how you’ll win, who must do what, and how you’ll review and adapt your strategy development.

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

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

Strategic Planning Video - What is Strategic Planning?

Overview of the Strategic Planning Process:

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

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

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

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

Strategic Planning Guide and Process

Questions to Ask:

  • Who is on your Planning Team? What senior leadership members and key stakeholders are included? Checkout these links you need help finding a strategic planning consultant , someone to facilitate strategic planning , or expert AI strategy consulting .
  • Who will be the business process owner (Strategy Director) of planning in your organization?
  • Fast forward 12 months from now, what do you want to see differently in your organization as a result of your strategic plan and implementation?
  • Planning team members are informed of their roles and responsibilities.
  • A strategic planning schedule is established.
  • Existing planning information and secondary data collected.

Action Grid:

Overview of the Strategic Planning Process

Step 1: Determine Organizational Readiness

Set up your plan for success – questions to ask:

  • Are the conditions and criteria for successful planning in place at the current time? Can certain pitfalls be avoided?
  • Is this the appropriate time for your organization to initiate a planning process? Yes or no? If no, where do you go from here?

Step 2: Develop Your Team & Schedule

Who is going to be on your planning team? You need to choose someone to oversee the strategy implementation (Chief Strategy Officer or Strategy Director) and strategic management of your plan? You need some of the key individuals and decision makers for this team. It should be a small group of approximately 12-15 people.

OnStrategy is the leader in strategic planning and performance management. Our cloud-based software and hands-on services closes the gap between strategy and execution. Learn more about OnStrategy here .

Step 3: Collect Current Data

All strategic plans are developed using the following information:

  • The last strategic plan, even if it is not current
  • Mission statement, vision statement, values statement
  • Past or current Business plan
  • Financial records for the last few years
  • Marketing plan
  • Other information, such as last year’s SWOT, sales figures and projections

Step 4: Review Collected Data

Review the data collected in the last action with your strategy director and facilitator.

  • What trends do you see?
  • Are there areas of obvious weakness or strengths?
  • Have you been following a plan or have you just been going along with the market?

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

Strategic Planning Pyramid

Strategic Planning Phase 1: Determine Your Strategic Position

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

Action Grid

Step 1: identify strategic issues.

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

  • How will we grow, stabilize, or retrench in order to sustain our organization into the future?
  • How will we diversify our revenue to reduce our dependence on a major customer?
  • What must we do to improve our cost structure and stay competitive?
  • How and where must we innovate our products and services?

Step 2: Conduct an Environmental Scan

Conducting an environmental scan will help you understand your operating environment. An environmental scan is called a PEST analysis, an acronym for Political, Economic, Social, and Technological trends. Sometimes, it is helpful to include Ecological and Legal trends as well. All of these trends play a part in determining the overall business environment.

Step 3: Conduct a Competitive Analysis

The reason to do a competitive analysis is to assess the opportunities and threats that may occur from those organizations competing for the same business you are. You need to understand what your competitors are or aren’t offering your potential customers. Here are a few other key ways a competitive analysis fits into strategic planning:

  • To help you assess whether your competitive advantage is really an advantage.
  • To understand what your competitors’ current and future strategies are so you can plan accordingly.
  • To provide information that will help you evaluate your strategic decisions against what your competitors may or may not be doing.

Learn more on how to conduct a competitive analysis here .

Step 4: Identify Opportunities and Threats

Opportunities are situations that exist but must be acted on if the business is to benefit from them.

What do you want to capitalize on?

  • What new needs of customers could you meet?
  • What are the economic trends that benefit you?
  • What are the emerging political and social opportunities?
  • What niches have your competitors missed?

Threats refer to external conditions or barriers preventing a company from reaching its objectives.

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

Questions to Answer:

  • What are the negative economic trends?
  • What are the negative political and social trends?
  • Where are competitors about to bite you?
  • Where are you vulnerable?

Step 5: Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths refer to what your company does well.

What do you want to build on?

  • What do you do well (in sales, marketing, operations, management)?
  • What are your core competencies?
  • What differentiates you from your competitors?
  • Why do your customers buy from you?

Weaknesses refer to any limitations a company faces in developing or implementing a strategy.

What do you need to shore up?

  • Where do you lack resources?
  • What can you do better?
  • Where are you losing money?
  • In what areas do your competitors have an edge?

Step 6: Customer Segments

How to Segment Your Customers

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

  • What needs or wants define your ideal customer?
  • What characteristics describe your typical customer?
  • Can you sort your customers into different profiles using their needs, wants and characteristics?
  • Can you reach this segment through clear communication channels?

Step 7: Develop Your SWOT

How to Perform a SWOT

A SWOT analysis is a quick way of examining your organization by looking at the internal strengths and weaknesses in relation to the external opportunities and threats. Creating a SWOT analysis lets you see all the important factors affecting your organization together in one place.

It’s easy to read, easy to communicate, and easy to create. Take the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats you developed earlier, review, prioritize, and combine like terms. The SWOT analysis helps you ask and answer the following questions: “How do you….”

  • Build on your strengths
  • Shore up your weaknesses
  • Capitalize on your opportunities
  • Manage your threats

How to Write a Mission Statment

Strategic Planning Process Phase 2: Developing Strategy

Want More? Deep Dive Into the “Developing Your Strategy” How-To Guide.

Step 1: Develop Your Mission Statement

The mission statement describes an organization’s purpose or reason for existing.

What is our purpose? Why do we exist? What do we do?

  • What are your organization’s goals? What does your organization intend to accomplish?
  • Why do you work here? Why is it special to work here?
  • What would happen if we were not here?

Outcome: A short, concise, concrete statement that clearly defines the scope of the organization.

Step 2: discover your values.

Your values statement clarifies what your organization stands for, believes in and the behaviors you expect to see as a result. Check our the post on great what are core values and examples of core values .

How will we behave?

  • What are the key non-negotiables that are critical to the company’s success?
  • What guiding principles are core to how we operate in this organization?
  • What behaviors do you expect to see?
  • If the circumstances changed and penalized us for holding this core value, would we still keep it?

Outcome: Short list of 5-7 core values.

Step 3: casting your vision statement.

How to Write Core Values

A Vision Statement defines your desired future state and directs where we are going as an organization.

Where are we going?

  • What will our organization look like 5–10 years from now?
  • What does success look like?
  • What are we aspiring to achieve?
  • What mountain are you climbing and why?

Outcome: A picture of the future.

Step 4: identify your competitive advantages.

How to Write a Vision Statment

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

What are we best at?

  • What are your unique strengths?
  • What are you best at in your market?
  • Do your customers still value what is being delivered? Ask them.
  • How do your value propositions stack up in the marketplace?

Outcome: A list of 2 or 3 items that honestly express the organization’s foundation for winning.

Step 5: crafting your organization-wide strategies.

What is a Competitive Advantage

Your competitive strategy is the general methods you intend to use to reach your vision. Regardless of the level, a strategy answers the question “how.”

How will we succeed?

  • Broad: market scope; a relatively wide market emphasis.
  • Narrow: limited to only one or few segments in the market
  • Does your competitive position focus on lowest total cost or product/service differentiation or both?

Outcome: Establish the general, umbrella methods you intend to use to reach your vision.

How to Develop a Growth Strategy

Phase 3: Strategic Plan Development

Want More? Deep Dive Into the “Build Your Plan” How-To Guide.

Strategic Planning Process Step 1: Use Your SWOT to Set Priorities

If your team wants to take the next step in the SWOT analysis, apply the TOWS Strategic Alternatives Matrix to your strategy map to help you think about the options you could pursue. To do this, match external opportunities and threats with your internal strengths and weaknesses, as illustrated in the matrix below:

TOWS Strategic Alternatives Matrix

Evaluate the options you’ve generated, and identify the ones that give the greatest benefit, and that best achieve the mission and vision of your organization. Add these to the other strategic options that you’re considering.

Step 2: Define Long-Term Strategic Objectives

Long-Term Strategic Objectives are long-term, broad, continuous statements that holistically address all areas of your organization. What must we focus on to achieve our vision? Check out examples of strategic objectives here. What are the “big rocks”?

Questions to ask:

  • What are our shareholders or stakeholders expectations for our financial performance or social outcomes?
  • To reach our outcomes, what value must we provide to our customers? What is our value proposition?
  • To provide value, what process must we excel at to deliver our products and services?
  • To drive our processes, what skills, capabilities and organizational structure must we have?

Outcome: Framework for your plan – no more than 6. You can use the balanced scorecard framework, OKRs, or whatever methodology works best for you. Just don’t exceed 6 long-term objectives.

Strategy Map

Step 3: Setting Organization-Wide Goals and Measures

How to Set SMART Goals

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

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

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

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

Outcome: clear outcomes for the current year..

Strategic Planning Outcomes Table

Step 4: Select KPIs

How to Develop KPIs for Strategic Planning

Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are the key measures that will have the most impact in moving your organization forward. We recommend you guide your organization with measures that matter. See examples of KPIs here.

How will we measure our success?

Outcome: 5-7 measures that help you keep the pulse on your performance. When selecting your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), ask, “What are the key performance measures we need to track to monitor if we are achieving our goals?” These KPIs include the key goals you want to measure that will have the most impact on moving your organization forward.

Step 5: Cascade Your Strategies to Operations

Cascade Your Strategy to Acton Plans

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

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

Questions to Ask

  • How are we going to get there at a functional level?
  • Who must do what by when to accomplish and drive the organizational goals?
  • What strategic questions still remain and need to be solved?

Department/functional goals, actions, measures and targets for the next 12-24 months

Step 6: Cascading Goals to Departments and Team Members

Now in your Departments / Teams, you need to create goals to support the organization-wide goals. These goals should still be SMART and are generally (short-term) something to be done in the next 12-18 months. Finally, you should develop an action plan for each goal.

Keep the acronym SMART in mind again when setting action items, and make sure they include start and end dates and have someone assigned their responsibility. Since these action items support your previously established goals, it may be helpful to consider action items your immediate plans on the way to achieving your (short-term) goals. In other words, identify all the actions that need to occur in the next 90 days and continue this same process every 90 days until the goal is achieved.

Examples of Cascading Goals:

Build a Strategic Plan You Can Implement

Phase 4: Executing Strategy and Managing Performance

Want more? Dive Into the “Managing Performance” How-To Guide.

Step 1: Strategic Plan Implementation Schedule

Implementation is the process that turns strategies and plans into actions in order to accomplish strategic objectives and goals.

How will we use the plan as a management tool?

  • Communication Schedule: How and when will you roll-out your plan to your staff? How frequently will you send out updates?
  • Process Leader: Who is your strategy director?
  • Structure: What are the dates for your strategy reviews (we recommend at least quarterly)?
  • System & Reports: What are you expecting each staff member to come prepared with to those strategy review sessions?

Outcome: Syncing your plan into the “rhythm of your business.”

Once your resources are in place, you can set your implementation schedule. Use the following steps as your base implementation plan:

  • Establish your performance management and reward system.
  • Set up monthly and quarterly strategy meetings with established reporting procedures.
  • Set up annual strategic review dates including new assessments and a large group meeting for an annual plan review.

Now you’re ready to start plan roll-out. Below are sample implementation schedules, which double for a full strategic management process timeline.

Strategic Planning Calendar

Step 2: Tracking Goals & Actions

Monthly strategy meetings don’t need to take a lot of time – 30 to 60 minutes should suffice. But it is important that key team members report on their progress toward the goals they are responsible for – including reporting on metrics in the scorecard they have been assigned.

By using the measurements already established, it’s easy to make course corrections if necessary. You should also commit to reviewing your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) during these regular meetings. Need help comparing strategic planning software ? Check out our guide.

Effective Strategic Planning: Your Bi-Annual Checklist

Is it strategic?

Never lose sight of the fact that strategic plans are guidelines, not rules. Every six months or so, you should evaluate your strategy execution and strategic plan implementation by asking these key questions:

  • Will your goals be achieved within the time frame of the plan? If not, why?
  • Should the deadlines be modified? (Before you modify deadlines, figure out why you’re behind schedule.)
  • Are your goals and action items still realistic?
  • Should the organization’s focus be changed to put more emphasis on achieving your goals?
  • Should your goals be changed? (Be careful about making these changes – know why efforts aren’t achieving the goals before changing the goals.)
  • What can be gathered from an adaptation to improve future planning activities?

Why Track Your Goals?

  • Ownership: Having a stake and responsibility in the plan makes you feel part of it and leads you to drive your goals forward.
  • Culture: Successful plans tie tracking and updating goals into organizational culture.
  • Implementation: If you don’t review and update your strategic goals, they are just good intentions
  • Accountability: Accountability and high visibility help drive change. This means that each measure, objective, data source and initiative must have an owner.
  • Empowerment: Changing goals from In Progress to Complete just feels good!

Step 3: Review & Adapt

Guidelines for your strategy review.

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

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

Strategy Review Session Questions:

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

Strategic planning is when organizations define a bold vision and create a plan with objectives and goals to reach that future. A great strategic plan defines where your organization is going, how you’ll win, who must do what, and how you’ll review and adapt your strategy..

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

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

There are four overarching phases to the strategic planning process that include: determining position, developing your strategy, building your plan, and managing performance. Each phase plays a unique but distinctly crucial role in the strategic planning process.

Prior to starting your strategic plan, you must go through this pre-planning process to determine your organization’s readiness by following these steps:

Ask yourself these questions: Are the conditions and criteria for successful planning in place now? Can we foresee any pitfalls that we can avoid? Is there an appropriate time for our organization to initiate this process?

Develop your team and schedule. Who will oversee the implementation as Chief Strategy Officer or Director? Do we have at least 12-15 other key individuals on our team?

Research and Collect Current Data. Find the following resources that your organization may have used in the past to assist you with your new plan: last strategic plan, mission, vision, and values statement, business plan, financial records, marketing plan, SWOT, sales figures, or projections.

Finally, review the data with your strategy director and facilitator and ask these questions: What trends do we see? Any obvious strengths or weaknesses? Have we been following a plan or just going along with the market?

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the business strategic planning process

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

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

What to read next:

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

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

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

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

Strategic planning frameworks

  • Best practices supporting the strategic planning process  

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

What is strategic planning?

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

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

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

7 key elements of strategic planning 

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

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

Why is the strategic planning process important?

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

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

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

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

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

What are the 7 stages of the strategic planning process?

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

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

1. Clarify your vision, mission, and values 

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

Questions to ask:

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

Read more: What is Mission vs. Vision  

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

2. Conduct an environmental scan

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

Internal factors 

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

External factors

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

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

3. Define strategic priorities

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

These categories can help you rank your strategic priorities:  

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

4. Develop goals and metrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Derive a strategic plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Write and communicate your strategic plan

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

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

7. Implement, monitor, and revise performance 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

different strategic planning frameworks

Common problems with strategic planning and how to overcome them

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

Static nature

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

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

Disconnect between strategic plan and execution

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

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

Lack of real-time insights

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

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

Failure to close the feedback loop

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

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

Best practices during the strategic planning process

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

1. Keep the planning process flexible

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

2. Pull together a diverse group of stakeholders

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

3. Document the process

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

4. Make data-driven decisions

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

5. Align your company culture with the strategic plan 

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

6. Leverage AI 

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

The strategic planning process in a nutshell

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

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

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

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

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

Additional resources

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

Essential Guide to the Strategic Planning Process

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

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

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

What Is Strategic Planning?

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

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

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

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

John Bryson

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

What Strategic Planning Is Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Is Strategic Planning Important?

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

Stefan Hofmeyer

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

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

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

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

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

When Is the Time to Do Strategic Planning?

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

If your industry is changing rapidly

When an organization is launching

At the start of a new year or funding period

In preparation for a major new initiative

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

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

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

What Is the Strategic Planning Process?

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

Jim Stockmal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Participates in the Strategic Planning Process?

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

Below are suggestions on who to include:

Senior leadership

Strategic planners


People who will be responsible for implementing the plan

People to identify gaps in the plan

Members of the board of directors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Is in a Strategic Plan?

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

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

One-Page Strategic Planning Template

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

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

One Page Strategic Planning Template

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

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

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

For help with creating executive summaries, see these templates .

Other parts of a strategic plan can include the following:

Description: A description of the company or organization.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basics of Strategic Planning

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

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

Hofmeyer summarizes what goes into strategic planning:

Understand the stakeholders and involve them from the beginning.

Agree on a vision.

Hold successful meetings and sessions.

Summarize and present the plan to stakeholders.

Identify and check metrics.

Make periodic adjustments.

Items That Go into Strategic Planning

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

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

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

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

Data should come from the following sources:

Interviews with executives

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

Primary research by visiting or observing competitors

Studies of your industry

The values of key stakeholders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Is Strategic Management?

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

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

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

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

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

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Strategic planning: Read this before it's that time again

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What is strategic planning?

What is strategic plan management?

Benefits of robust strategic planning and management

10 steps in the strategic planning process.

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

It’s that time again. 

Every three to five years, most larger organizations periodically plan for the future. Many times strategic planning documents are shelved and forgotten until the next cycle begins. On the other hand, many smaller and newer organizations, propelled by urgency, may not devote the necessary time and energy to the strategic planning process. 

Only 63% of businesses plan more than a year out. They fail to see that — contrary to Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire cat — “any way” does not take you there. 

For all organizations, a more rigorous annual planning process is critical for driving future success, profitability, value, and impact.

John Kotter, a former professor at Harvard Business School and noted expert on innovation says, “ Strategy should be viewed as a dynamic force that constantly seeks opportunities, identifies initiatives that will capitalize on them, and completes those initiatives swiftly and efficiently.”

There’s hardly a better case that can be made for dynamic planning than in the tech industry, where mergers and acquisitions are accelerating exponentially. Companies need to be nimble enough to navigate rapid change . In this case, planning should occur quarterly.

Strategic planning is an ongoing process by which an organization sets its forward course by bringing all of its stakeholders together to examine current realities and define its vision for the future.

It examines its strengths and weaknesses, resources available, and opportunities. Strategic planning seeks to anticipate future industry trends .  During the process, the organization creates a vision, articulates its purpose, and sets strategic goals that are long-term and forward-focused. 

Those strategic goals inform operational goals and incremental milestones that need to be reached. The operational plan has clear objectives and supporting initiatives tied to metrics to which everyone is accountable . The plan should be agile enough to allow for recalibrating when necessary and redistributing resources based on internal and external forces.

The output of the planning process is a document that is shared across the enterprise. 

Strategic planning for individuals

Strategic planning isn’t just for companies. At BetterUp, strategic planning is one of the skills that we identify, track, and develop within the Whole Person Model . For individuals, strategic planning is the ability to think through ways to achieve desired outcomes. Just as strategic planning helps organizations realize their goals for the future, it helps individuals grow and achieve goals in a unified direction. 

Working backward from the desired outcome, effective strategic planning consists of coming up with the steps we need to take today in order to get where we want to be tomorrow. 

While no plan is infallible, people who develop this skill are good at checking to make sure that their actions are in alignment with the outcomes that they want to see in the future. Even when things don’t go according to plan, their long-term goals act as a “North star” to get them back on course. In addition, envisioning desired future states and figuring out how to turn them into reality enhances an individual’s sense of personal meaning and motivation. 

Whether we’re talking about strategic planning for the company or the individual, strategic plans can go awry in a variety of ways including: 

  • Unrealistic goals and too many priorities
  • Poor communication
  • Using the wrong measures
  • Lack of leadership

The extent to which that document is shelved until the next planning cycle or becomes a dynamic map of the future depends on the people responsible for overseeing the execution of the plan.


What is strategic plan management? 

"Most people think of strategy as an event, but that’s not the way the world works," according to Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen. "When we run into unanticipated opportunities and threats, we have to respond. Sometimes we respond successfully; sometimes we don’t. But most strategies develop through this process. More often than not, the strategy that leads to success emerges through a process that works 24/7 in almost every industry."

Strategic business management is the ongoing process by which an organization creates and sustains a successful roadmap that moves the company in the direction it needs to move, year after year, for long-term success. It spans from research and formulation to execution, evaluation, and adjustment. Given the pace of change, strategic management is more relevant and important than ever for assigning measurable goals and action steps

Many organizations fail because they don’t have the strategic management team at the table right from the beginning of the planning process. A strategic plan is only as good as its ability to be executed and sustained. 

A strategic management initiative might be driven by an internal group — many companies have an internal strategy team — or an outside consulting firm. Ultimately company leaders need to own executing and sustaining the strategy. 

Strategic management teams

In this Harvard Business Review article, Ron Carucci from consulting firm Navalent reports that 61% of executives in a 10-year longitudinal study felt they were not prepared for the strategic challenges they faced upon being appointed to senior leadership roles. Lack of commitment to the plan is also a contributing factor. In addition, leaders attending to quarterly targets, crisis management , and reconciling budgets often consider the execution of a long-term strategy a low priority.

A dedicated strategic management team works with those senior leaders and managers throughout the organization to communicate, coordinate and evaluate progress against goals. They tie strategic objectives to day-to-day operational metrics throughout the enterprise. 

A good strategic management group can assist in creating a culture of empowerment and learning . It holds regular meetings with employees. It sets a clear agenda and expectations to make the strategic plan real and compelling to the organization through concrete objectives, results, and timelines. 

Strategy development is a lot of work, but the benefits are lasting. After all, as the saying goes, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Taking the time for review and planning activities has the following benefits:

  • Organizations and people are set up to succeed
  • Increased likelihood of staying on track
  • Decreased likelihood of being distracted or derailed
  • Progress through the plan is communicated throughout the organization
  • Metrics facilitate course correction
  • Budgets enterprise-wide are based on strategy
  • Cross-organization alignment
  • Robust employee performance and compensation plans
  • Commitment to learning and training
  • A robust strategic planning process gets everyone involved and invested in the organizations
  • Employees inform management about what’s working or not working at the operational level
  • Innovation is encouraged and rewarded
  • Increased productivity

1. Define mission and vision  

Begin by articulating the organization's vision for the future. Ask, "What would success look like in five years?" Create a mission statement describing organizational values and how you intend to reach the vision. What values inform and determine mission, vision, and purpose?

Purpose-driven strategic goals articulate the “why” of what the corporation is doing. It connects the vision statement to specific objectives, drawing a line between the larger goals and the work that teams and individuals do.

2. Conduct a comprehensive assessment  

This stage includes identifying an organization’s strategic position.

Gathering data from internal and external environments and respective stakeholders takes place at this time. Involving employees and customers in the research.

The task is to gather market data through research. One of the most critical components of this stage is a comprehensive SWOT analysis that involves gathering people and bringing perspectives from all stakeholders to determine:

  • W eaknesses
  • O pportunities

Strengths and weaknesses  — In this stage, planners identify the company’s assets that contribute to its current competitive advantage and/or the likelihood of a significant increase in the organization’s market share in the future. It should be an objective assessment rather than an inflated perspective of its strengths. 

An accurate assessment of weaknesses requires looking outward at external forces that can reveal new opportunities as well as threats. Consider the massive shift in multiple industries whose strategy has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While it was disastrous to the airline and restaurant industries’ business models , tech companies were able to seize the opportunity and address the demands of remote work. 

Michael Porter’s book Competetive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors claims that there are five forces at work in an industry that influence that industry’s ability to develop a competitive strategy. Since the book was published in 1979, organizations have turned to Porter’s theory to create their strategic framework. 

Here are the 5 forces (and key questions) that determine the competitive strategy for most industries.

  • Competitive rivalry : When considering the strengths of an organization’s competitors it’s important to ask: How do our products/services hold up to our competition? If the rivalry is intense, companies need to consider what capacity they have to gain leverage through price cuts or bold marketing strategies. If there is little competition, the organization has a substantial gain in the market.
  • Supplier power: How might suppliers influence strategy? For example, what if suppliers raised their prices? To what extent would a company need a particular supplier for our product(s)? Is it possible to switch suppliers in a way that is more cost effective and efficient? The number of suppliers that exist will determine your ability to keep costs low.
  • Buyer power: To what extent do buyers have the ability to shop around right into the hands of your competitors? How much power does your customer base have in determining price? A small number of well-informed buyers shifts the power in their direction while a large pool may give you the strategic advantage
  • Threat of substitution:  What is the threat of a company’s buyer substituting your services/products from the competition? What if the buyer figures out another way to access the services/products that it offers?
  • Threat of new entry:  How easy is it for newcomers to enter the organization’s market?


3. Forecast  

Considering the factors above, determine the company’s value through financial forecasting . While almost certainly to become a moving target influenced by the five forces, a forecast can assign initial anticipated measurable results expected in the plan or ROI: profits/cost of investment.

4. Set the organizational direction of the business

The above research and assessment will help an organization to set goals and priorities. Too often an organization’s strategic plan is too broad and over-ambitious. Planners need to ask, ”What kind of impact are we seeking to have, and in what time frame?” They need to drill down to objectives that will have the most impact. 

5. Create strategic objectives

This next phase of operational planning consists of creating strategic objectives and initiatives. Kaplan and Norton posit in their balanced scorecard methodology that there are four perspectives for consideration in identifying the conditions for success. They are interrelated and must be evaluated simultaneously.

  • Financial : Such considerations as growing shareholder value, increasing revenue, managing cost, profitability, or financial stability inform strategic initiatives. 
  • Customer-satisfaction:  Objectives can be determined by identifying targets related to one or some of the following: value for the cost, best service, increased market share, or providing customers with solutions.
  • Internal processes such as operational processes and efficiencies, investment in innovation, investment in total quality and performance management , cost reduction, improvement of workplace safety, or streamlining processes.
  • Learning and growth: Organizations must ask: Are initiatives in place in terms of human capital and learning and growth to sustain change? Objectives may include employee retention, productivity, building high-performing teams, or creating a pipeline for future leaders .

6. Align with key stakeholders

It’s a team effort. The success of the plan is in direct proportion to the organization’s commitment to inform and engage the entire workforce in strategy execution. People will only be committed to strategy implementation when they're connected to the organization's goals. With everyone pulling in the same direction, cross-functional decision-making becomes easier and more aligned.

7. Begin strategy mapping

A strategy map is a powerful tool for illustrating the cause-effect of those perspectives and connecting them to between 12 and 18 strategic objectives. Since most people are visual learners, the map provides an easy-to-understand diagram for everyone in the organization creating shared knowledge at all levels.

8. Determine strategic initiatives

Following the development of strategic objectives, strategic initiatives are determined. These are the actions the organization will take to reach those objectives. They may relate initiatives related to factors such as scope, budget, raising brand awareness, product development, and employee training.

9. Benchmark performance measures and analysis

Strategic initiatives inform SMART goals to which metrics are assigned to evaluate performance. These measures cascade from senior management to management to front-line workers. At this stage, the task is to create goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based informing the operational plan.

Benchmarks are established against so that performance can be measures, and a time frame is created. Key performance indicators (KPI’s) are assigned based on organizational goals. These indicators align workers’ performance and productivity with long-term strategic objectives. 

10. Performance evaluation

Assessment of whether the plan has been successful . It measures activities and progress toward objectives and allows for the creation of improved plans and objectives in order to improve overall performance . 

Think of strategic planning as a circular process beginning and ending with evaluation. Adjust a  plan as necessary. The pace at which review of the plan is necessary may be once a year for many organizations or quarterly for organizations in rapidly evolving industries. 

Prioritizing the strategic planning process

The strategic planning meeting may have a reputation for being just another to-do, but it might be time to take a second look. With the right action plan and a little strategic thinking, you can reinvigorate your business environment and start planning for success.

It's that time to get excited about the future again.

Elevate your strategic planning

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strategic planning process

5 steps of the strategic planning process

Lucid Content

Reading time: about 6 min

  • Process improvement

Strategic planning process steps

  • Determine your strategic position.
  • Prioritize your objectives.
  • Develop a strategic plan.
  • Execute and manage your plan.
  • Review and revise the plan.

Because so many businesses lack in these regards, you can get ahead of the game by using strategic planning. In this article, we will explain what the strategic planning process looks like and the steps involved.

Strategic planning process

What is the strategic planning process?

In the simplest terms, the strategic planning process is the method that organizations use to develop plans to achieve overall, long-term goals.

This process differs from the project planning  process, which is used to scope and assign tasks for individual projects, or strategy mapping , which helps you determine your mission, vision, and goals.

The strategic planning process is broad—it helps you create a roadmap for which strategic objectives you should put effort into achieving and which initiatives would be less helpful to the business. 

Before you begin the strategic planning process, it is important to review some steps to set you and your organization up for success.

1. Determine your strategic position

This preparation phase sets the foundation for all work going forward. You need to know where you are to determine where you need to go and how you will get there.

Involve the right stakeholders from the start, considering both internal and external sources. Identify key strategic issues by talking with executives at your company, pulling in customer insights, and collecting industry and market data. This will give you a clear picture of your position in the market and customer insight.

It can also be helpful to review—or create if you don’t have them already—your company’s mission and vision statements to give yourself and your team a clear image of what success looks like for your business. In addition, review your company’s core values to remind yourself about how your company plans to achieve these objectives.

To get started, use industry and market data, including customer insights and current/future demands, to identify the issues that need to be addressed. Document your organization's internal strengths and weaknesses, along with external opportunities (ways your organization can grow in order to fill needs that the market does not currently fill) and threats (your competition). 

As a framework for your initial analysis, use a SWOT diagram. With input from executives, customers, and external market data, you can quickly categorize your findings as Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) to clarify your current position.

SWOT analysis example

An alternative to a SWOT is PEST analysis. Standing for Political, Economic, Socio-cultural, and Technological, PEST is a strategic tool used to clarify threats and opportunities for your business. 

PEST Analysis

As you synthesize this information, your unique strategic position in the market will become clear, and you can start solidifying a few key strategic objectives. Often, these objectives are set with a three- to five-year horizon in mind.

strategic planning

Use PEST analysis for additional help with strategic planning.

2. Prioritize your objectives

Once you have identified your current position in the market, it is time to determine objectives that will help you achieve your goals. Your objectives should align with your company mission and vision.

Prioritize your objectives by asking important questions such as:

  • Which of these initiatives will have the greatest impact on achieving our company mission/vision and improving our position in the market?
  • What types of impact are most important (e.g. customer acquisition vs. revenue)?
  • How will the competition react?
  • Which initiatives are most urgent?
  • What will we need to do to accomplish our goals?
  • How will we measure our progress and determine whether we achieved our goals?

Objectives should be distinct and measurable to help you reach your long-term strategic goals and initiatives outlined in step one. Potential objectives can be updating website content, improving email open rates, and generating new leads in the pipeline.

3. Develop a plan

Now it's time to create a strategic plan to reach your goals successfully. This step requires determining the tactics necessary to attain your objectives and designating a timeline and clearly communicating responsibilities. 

Strategy mapping is an effective tool to visualize your entire plan. Working from the top-down, strategy maps make it simple to view business processes and identify gaps for improvement.

strategy map example

Truly strategic choices usually involve a trade-off in opportunity cost. For example, your company may decide not to put as much funding behind customer support, so that it can put more funding into creating an intuitive user experience.

Be prepared to use your values, mission statement, and established priorities to say “no” to initiatives that won’t enhance your long-term strategic position.  

4. Execute and manage the plan

Once you have the plan, you’re ready to implement it. First, communicate the plan to the organization by sharing relevant documentation. Then, the actual work begins.

Turn your broader strategy into a concrete plan by mapping your processes. Use key performance indicator (KPI) dashboards to communicate team responsibilities clearly. This granular approach illustrates the completion process and ownership for each step of the way. 

Set up regular reviews with individual contributors and their managers and determine check-in points to ensure you’re on track.

5. Review and revise the plan

The final stage of the plan—to review and revise—gives you an opportunity to reevaluate your priorities and course-correct based on past successes or failures.

On a quarterly basis, determine which KPIs your team has met and how you can continue to meet them, adapting your plan as necessary. On an annual basis, it’s important to reevaluate your priorities and strategic position to ensure that you stay on track for success in the long run.

Track your progress using balanced scorecards to comprehensively understand of your business's performance and execute strategic goals. 

balanced scorecard template

Over time you may find that your mission and vision need to change — an annual evaluation is a good time to consider those changes, prepare a new plan, and implement again. 

strategic planning

Achieve your goals and monitor your progress with balanced scorecards.

Master the strategic planning process steps

As you continue to implement the strategic planning process, repeating each step regularly, you will start to make measurable progress toward achieving your company’s vision.

Instead of constantly putting out fires, reacting to the competition, or focusing on the latest hot-button initiative, you’ll be able to maintain a long-term perspective and make decisions that will keep you on the path to success for years to come.

strategic planning

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

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Strategic planning — what it is and how to do it well

Strategic planning guide

It can be difficult to reach your business goals and ambitions, regardless of what preparation you’ve done. But if you have a strategic plan in place, you’ll be more likely to achieve a favorable outcome.

This post will explain the importance of strategic planning, when and how to make a strategic plan, and how to manage it and stay on course. It will allow the audience to move forward with their planning efforts.

Read on to learn:

  • What strategic planning is

Benefits of strategic planning

  • When you should do strategic planning

Steps in strategic planning

  • What strategic management is

Strategic mapping

What is strategic planning.

Strategic planning is the process of defining your business’s direction and outlining a path toward a preferred future. The goal of a strategic plan is to capture an organization’s mission and core principles — to envision the fulfillment of these ideals. Strategic planning is both conceptual and practical, as it presents both high-level goals and specific approaches to achieve them.

A strategic plan needs to answer the following questions:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where are we going?
  • How do we get there?

Strategic planning helps businesses set and maintain a clear vision and ensure they’re moving in the right direction. Once the plan has been put in place, it helps maintain alignment between various stakeholders and teams within your business. This plan can make resource allocation simpler — by determining if certain resources are being used in ways that don’t align with the broader strategic plan.

Running a business without a strategic plan is like planning a vacation with no destination in mind. How will you get there? What do you need to bring with you? The same applies to planning for your business. Strategic planning:

  • Gives a sense of purpose and direction. A strategic plan provides a clear goal and end result so all other business functions can work to get you closer to that outcome. This clarity helps keep employees aligned on their efforts, make better decisions, and work towards a shared goal.
  • Makes you aware of opportunities for success. Tying your plans to strategy helps your organization identify opportunities that you discover along your journey. If you find an opportunity that aligns with your strategy — and desired outcomes — you can more easily adapt to take advantage of the situation.
  • Alerts you to risks to avoid. Part of the strategic planning process is scanning the external environment and competitive landscape, which allows you to identify potential roadblocks you may encounter.
  • Helps you understand what resources you will need. When you have a strategic plan in place, you can more effectively allocate your resources. By aligning resources with strategic goals, businesses can focus on the initiatives, projects, and investments that maximize their ROI.
  • Helps prioritize critical tasks. When deciding which tasks are most important and which can be put on hold, a strategic plan streamlines that decision making. Tasks that don’t contribute to your mission can wait, while mission-critical tasks get prioritized.
  • Fosters teamwork and communication. Without a strategic plan, team members can feel isolated and siloed. However, when that strategic plan is clearly communicated to everyone, your team will feel more connected as they work towards a common goal.
  • Increases motivation. And when your team understands the desired outcomes and bigger goals behind their daily tasks, they’ll be more motivated to do high-quality work in a timely manner.
  • Helps measure and evaluate results. Because you’ve likely identified key performance indicators (KPIs) in your planning process, you’ll have an easier time tracking your progress. When you measure your progress, you can more easily identify areas for improvement and make changes on the fly.

When should you do strategic planning?

When and how often your business does strategic planning depends on the size and stage of your company, the speed of your business, and the scope of the projects you’re working on. Strategic planning should not be a one-time event. It should be an iterative process with continuous monitoring, evaluation, and adjustment.

If you’re a new business, you’ll want to create a business plan first, before you move into strategic planning. Once your business is established you can then set a strategic plan to outline your goals and manage your business’s strategic direction. For planning more short-term projects, use a project plan .

Once you’ve created a strategic plan, you should review it regularly — quarterly and yearly, for example — to make sure it is still aligned with your business’s goals and industry landscape. Generally, you should create a new strategic plan every 3–5 years. However, newer or faster-moving companies may need to create a new strategic plan every 1–2 years. Another scenario when you should rework your strategic plan is when you’re preparing to make a major pivot in your business.

How to write a strategic plan for a project

Learn how to write a strategic plan, why you need to create one, and the topics it should cover.

Steps in strategic planning

While every strategic plan might look a little different depending on the organization, industry, and other context, there is still a general outline of the process that you can follow to get you started.

Before you get started, there are a few preliminary steps you can take to make sure your planning process goes smoothly. You need to decide who is involved in the process and what documentation they’ll need. You’ll also want to revisit your company’s vision and mission statements which define where your business is aiming to go.

These are the steps you can take to create a strategic plan for your business:

1. Identify and assess your current position

To understand where you’re headed, you first need to look at where you are now. I n this stage you should:

  • Collect customer and employee feedback to understand what is working well for you and what could use improvement.
  • Perform a needs assessment or SWOT analysis to understand more about the current state of your business.
  • Assess your available resources so you can understand what you have enough of and what you may need to reach your goals.

2. Set goals

Next, you can set goals that you’d like your business to achieve over the short and long term. It’s important to choose goals that align with your company mission and vision. You can use marketing and sales forecasts to give you an idea of what types of goals are realistic. In this phase you’ll also want to prioritize the goals you set — so you know which to choose if conflicts arise.

When setting goals, remember to set SMART goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound.

3. Develop your plan

In this phase it’s time to put your plan together and map out a project roadmap. This is where your plan becomes clearer both to your planning committee and to your team members who will execute based on the plan.

You want to make sure that your plan is achievable with your current resources — so that you aren’t setting yourself up for failure. You’ll also want to set measurable milestones so you can track your progress along the way. You also need to set KPIs so you have objective numbers to determine if you’re heading in the right direction.

When developing your plan, you should make sure that any short-term action items align with long-term goals. And finally, you’ll need to get approval from leadership and stakeholders.

4. Implement your plan

Now that you’ve created your strategic plan it’s time to act. In fact, the first step of implementation is creating a strategic action plan. Your action plan will outline the specific tactics you’ll use to execute your strategic plan.

In this phase, you’ll also assign tasks to your team members so everyone knows what they are responsible for and what they will be contributing to your mission. It’s important to distribute and communicate your plan across your organization. This helps encourage transparency and will drive buy-in from everyone on your team.

As you are executing on your plan, you should rely on metrics and KPIs to track your performance.

5. Revise your plan as necessary

Next, you’ll want to revise your plan as you encounter roadblocks or market changes. Even the best strategic plans will change as you gather more data or feedback. Using tools — like a project management solution — can help you monitor the progress your team is making. You should schedule periodic evaluations to see which parts of the plan are going well and which need to be revised or reevaluated.

You can conduct reviews on a quarterly basis, so you have information at the end of the year to revise your plan if needed. Even if things are going well, you should make minor adjustments every year to keep your teams aligned and your strategy up to date. Any major revisions you make will require a new planning process — because a major adjustment could derail the rest of your strategic plan.

What is strategic management?

Strategic management is the process of formulating, implementing, and evaluating strategies to achieve the larger goals and objectives of an organization. It can sometimes be used interchangeably with the term strategic planning — but within strategic planning, strategic management means managing the plan being put into action.

Part of strategic management is being adaptive and adjusting to headwinds or organizational changes. You’ll also need to maintain a strong team culture, so your plan stays on track and team members stay engaged.

There are several models that strategic management can follow. Each takes a different approach to the management process, and how it solves problems that may arise.

One of these frameworks is the balanced scorecard method. This method looks at the strategic measures of a business beyond just financial metrics to get a more “balanced” look at performance. The phrase “balanced scorecard” refers to the management report that leaders may use to drive decision making within the business, since this approach looks at more than just numbers, it provides a more wholistic view of a business.

A strategic map is a visual representation of a business’s strategic objectives and their cause-and-effect relationships between each objective. This diagram helps visualize the strategic plan and understand which tasks are dependent on others. This map should be drawn during the development of the strategic plan to get a better understanding of how things should get done and in what order.

Strategic mapping can turn complex strategic plans into easily understandable visual representations. These can be helpful tools for communicating your strategy more clearly to team members and stakeholders within your organization. Strategic maps also help organizations identify success factors, prioritize initiatives, allocate resources, and monitor progress.

A strategic map can be designed in several ways, but needs to address the four main facets of business:

Strategic mapping

  • Financial. This section of the map should identify how the strategy helps meet the financial goals of the business.
  • Customer. This section should address the benefits that the customer will see from the specific strategy.
  • Internal business processes (IBPs). This section shares the benefits of the strategy to the processes of the business and their efficiency.
  • Learning and growth. This section will address how the business’s capabilities and knowledge will improve by using a given strategy.

Getting started with strategic planning

Strategic planning is a helpful tool for aligning everyone in your organization with your objectives and long-term goals. It can also help you gain a better understanding of your place in the market and how you can improve your business outcomes.

When you’re ready to get started, assemble your leadership team, draft your mission and vision statements, and begin by assessing the current state of your business. But you can’t get the most out of your strategic plan without a platform to drive the process forward.

That’s where Adobe Workfront can help. Workfront is an enterprise work management tool that connects work to strategy and drives better collaboration to deliver measurable business outcomes. It integrates people, data, processes, and technology across an organization so you can manage the entire lifecycle of projects from start to finish. By centralizing digital projects, cross-functional teams can connect, collaborate, and execute from anywhere to help them do their best work.

Take a product tour or watch an overview video to see how Workfront can help you execute on your strategic plan to improve your business outcomes.




Strategic planning guide card image

The Easy Guide to the Strategic Planning Process

Updated on: 23 May 2023

Strategic planning is a process that may take months for some organizations, but its importance to the growth of the organization cannot be measured.

It helps guide company decisions, set measurable goals, and define the direction of the organization.  

In this guide we will discuss what is strategic planning process and describe in detail the strategic planning process steps along with some visual techniques you can use during each phase.

What is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning is the process by which organizations make decisions about the goals they want to accomplish and the steps that need to be taken to get there.

The strategic planning process helps prioritize their objectives and effectively make use of the available resources to move from the current state to the desired state of things, or in other words accomplish their goals.

Importance of Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is crucial to the growth of any organization. Here’s why it is important to each and every small and large company out there.

  • Helps with maintaining a company’s competitive advantage
  • Gives insight into what may happen in the future and prepare accordingly
  • Helps define the direction the organization should take
  • Facilitates decision-making with regard to allocating resources and setting a budget
  • Helps derive useful information on market trends, target audience, competitors etc.

Strategic Planning Steps

The strategic planning process helps an organization fill the gap between its current state and the desired state. Below, we have explained the different steps you need to take along with tools that can accelerate the process.

Conduct an Environmental Scan

To do an environmental scan, you need to gather a cross-functional team capable of providing information on different aspects of the organization. Get the input of relevant stakeholders, interviewing them to learn about the current strategic issues and situation.

In an environmental scan you need to take both internal and external factors that may affect the growth and performance of the organization into consideration.

Internal factors may include company resources, financial capabilities, employee skills etc. On the other hand, external factors include market trends, economic and political changes, technological advances etc.

You can make use of situational analysis tools such as SWOT and PESTLE analysis to gather and examine information relevant to these areas.

SWOT analysis for strategic planning process

Perform a Gap Analysis

Using the data such as the available resources, financial situation etc. you have gathered through your environmental scan, you can effectively perform a gap analysis to determine whether you are getting the best out of the resources available to you.

It helps identify the gaps between the current performance of the organization and the desired performance and what you should do differently and what additional resources you may need to achieve your goals.  

To learn about the gap analysis tools you can make use of in detail, refer to our articles on

5 Gap Analysis Tools to Identify and Close the Gaps in Your Business  

Gap Analysis Templates to Edit Online, Download or Print

Define the Vision, Mission and Values

Clarify the vision (where are you headed?), mission (why do you exist?) and the core values of your organization.

Based on their definition, you can set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (SMART) goals and objectives.

Do a Competitive Analysis

Understanding the challenges posed by your competitors in the industry is essential to creating an effective strategic plan.

It can help you gather important insight necessary to identify market gaps and trends and develop new products and strategies.

Once you have a proper idea about the competitive landscape, you can tailor your strategies to overcome the challenges and increase the competitive advantage.   

Here are some handy visual techniques to conduct a competitive analysis .

Develop an Action Plan

Once you have identified your objectives and what you should prioritize, create your action plan .

Allocate your resources, time and budget, outline the action steps and assign tasks to the relevant employees.

Use the following action plan template to proceed.

Strategic Action Plan Template - strategic planning process

Create Your Communication Plan

The purpose of a communication plan is to help guide the process of communicating your strategic plan and action plan to the relevant employees and other stakeholders.

Strategic Communication Plan

Read our guide on Creating an Effective Communications Plan to learn how to create a consistent messaging strategy.

Once the strategic planning process is explained to everyone in the company, roll it out.

Evaluate Results

Monitor the progress of your goals and measure the performance on a monthly basis. You can inquire the responsible task owners for the status of their targets and hold them accountable.

Make use of Gantt chart to track progress on given targets.

Strategic Planning Gantt Chart

Identify areas for improvements and take the necessary measures to fix them.

What’s Your Company’s Strategic Planning Process?

A proper strategic plan is key to keeping your business on track when reaching your goals. Follow the steps discussed above and make use of the visual tools provided to facilitate and accelerate your strategic planning process steps.

What are the strategic planning process steps your organization take. Share with us in the comment section below.

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What is strategic planning

what is strategic planning cover photo

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

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

What is strategic planning?

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

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

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

How is strategic planning different from other plans?

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

Benefits of strategic planning

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

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

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

3 strategic planning best practices

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

Who belongs on strategic planning teams?

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

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

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

Strategic planning in 5 steps

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

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

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

2. Conduct a situational analysis.

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

3. Set goals and objectives .

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

4. Develop and launch your action plan .

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

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

5. Evaluate the results.

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

Pro tips and tools for strategic planning

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

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

Strategize for success with Figma

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

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the business strategic planning process

Strategic planning process in 6 steps

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

the business strategic planning process

What is a strategy map

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

the business strategic planning process

Strategic vs. tactical planning

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

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Why Is Strategic Planning Important?

Above view of team creating a strategic plan

  • 06 Oct 2020

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

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

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

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

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What Is Strategic Planning?

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

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

“Most people think of strategy as an event, but that’s not the way the world works,” Christensen says. “When we run into unanticipated opportunities and threats, we have to respond. Sometimes we respond successfully; sometimes we don’t. But most strategies develop through this process. More often than not, the strategy that leads to success emerges through a process that’s at work 24/7 in almost every industry.”

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

Related: 4 Ways to Develop Your Strategic Thinking Skills

Benefits of Strategic Planning

1. create one, forward-focused vision.

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

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

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

2. Draw Attention to Biases and Flaws in Reasoning

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

A few examples of cognitive biases are:

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

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

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

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

Related: 3 Group Decision-Making Techniques for Success

3. Track Progress Based on Strategic Goals

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

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

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

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

Improve Your Strategic Planning Skills

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

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

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

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

the business strategic planning process

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Strategic Planning in Business


Table of Contents

What is business strategic planning, the strategic planning process in 3 steps, what is a business strategic plan, key components of a business strategic plan, business strategic plan example, strategic plan vs. business plan.

Strategic planning is key for success in business. By planning strategically for the future, a business can achieve its goals. It’s easier said than done, but the more you know about strategic planning, the better chance you have at succeeding.

Business strategic planning is the process of creating a business strategy and an accompanying business strategic plan to implement a company’s vision and achieve its goals over time. The main goal of strategic planning is to take a company from its current state to its desired state through a series of business actions.

The business strategic planning process usually consists of defining business goals, doing a SWOT analysis to assess the company’s business environment and developing a business strategy. The leadership team is in charge of business strategic planning, as it has a very important impact on the overall direction of a company.

the business strategic planning process

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Strategic Plan Template

Use this free Strategic Plan Template for Word to manage your projects better.

Strategic Planning is one of the three levels of organizational planning, which is the process that allows organizations to define its objectives for the future and make action plans to guide the efforts of each of its departments, employees and management levels .

The other two levels of organizational planning are tactical and operational planning. Let’s see how these three types of organizational planning differ from each other.

Strategic Planning vs. Tactical Planning

While a strategic plan is created by the top management team and defines the high-level strategic goals of an entire organization, a tactical plan has a narrower scope. A tactical plan is created by the middle management level of a business and describes the specific goals, initiatives, challenges and resources for each department and how its efforts contribute to the completion of the larger strategic plan of the business.

Strategic Planning vs. Operational Planning

An operational plan allows you to establish guidelines, procedures and best practices for the daily operations of your business. The main objective of operational planning is to ensure that your business operations contribute to the accomplishment of the strategic objectives defined in the strategic plan.

Strategic planning is very important, but it doesn’t need to be overly complex. Let’s simplify this process by breaking it down into three simple steps.

1. Set Business Goals

A business goal is simply an accomplishment that a company wants to achieve in the short, medium or long term. Business goals can take many forms such as increasing sales, revenue, customer satisfaction levels and brand positioning, among many other things.

2. Conduct a SWOT Analysis

The goal of a business strategy is to leverage the strengths of a business and minimize the impact of its weaknesses. Those two things are internal factors. The strengths of a company can become competitive advantages that can lead to business growth. There are many types of business strengths and weaknesses such as scale, speed, or R&D, just to name a few.

Threats and opportunities refer to external factors such as competitors or an untapped market. A successful business strategy considers all of these factors to define how a product or service will be created, marketed and sold, and a SWOT analysis is a great starting point.

3. Develop a Business Strategy & Strategic Plan

Once you’ve completed your SWOT analysis, you can create a business strategy that’s designed to help position your company in the market. Your business strategy guides how you produce, market and sell your product or service based on internal and external analysis.

Then, you’ll need a strategic plan to explain how you plan to execute that business strategy. To oversee the execution of a business strategic plan, managers need to manage time, costs and tasks. ProjectManager is a project planning tool that allows managers to plan, schedule and manage their team’s work. Plan your work with professional tools such as Gantt charts, kanban boards, task lists and calendars. Then track your progress in real time to stick to your strategic plan. Get started for free.

Gantt chart in projectmanager

A business strategic plan is an implementation plan that’s meant to turn a business strategy into action items that can be executed over time. Business strategic plans are usually executed over the course of 3-5 years.

How to Develop a Strategic Plan

To develop a strategic plan, you should ask yourself the following three questions.

  • Where Is the Business Now? Gather as much information on your business as possible including internal operations and what drives its profitability. Compare the business to competitors and note the similarities and differences in detail. This isn’t a day-to-day operational study, but a broader look at the business in context to itself and its environment. But don’t go crazy; stay realistic in terms of your business goals. Be detached and critical in your analysis.
  • Where Do You Want to Go? Now it’s time to decide what your top-level objectives are for the future. Start with a vision statement , objectives, values, techniques and goals. Look forward to five years or more to forecast where you want the business to be at that time. This means figuring out what the focus of the business will be in the future. Will that focus differ from what it is now, and what competitive advantages do have you in the marketplace? This is where you build the foundation and initiate changes.
  • How Can You Get There? Once you know where you are and where you want to go, it’s time to plan. What are the changes to the structure, financing, etc., necessary for the business to get there? Decide on the best way to implement those changes, the timeframe with deadlines and how to finance it. Remember, this is looking at the business at large, so consider major endeavors such as diversification, existing growth, acquisition and other functional matters. A gap analysis can be a big help here.

Once you’ve answered the above questions and have a way to achieve the long-term goals laid out in the strategic plan, the next step is making sure you have the right person to manage all of its moving parts. They must be analytical, a creative thinker and able to grasp operational detail.

That doesn’t mean the strategic plan is led by one person. It’s best to not do it alone; seek other opinions. The people in your organization, from bottom to top, are all great resources to offer perspectives from their standpoints. Don’t forget to take in the advice of stakeholders, including customers, clients, advisors and consultants.

To create a strong strategic plan, one must first have a strong understanding of the business that is to expand. How does the business work? Where does the business stand in relation to competitors in the marketplace? A strategic plan is built on the bones of the following foundational elements:

  • Mission Statement: The mission statement describes what your company does.
  • Vision Statement: The vision statement explains where your company expects to be in the future.
  • Core Values: Guiding principles that shape your company’s organizational culture.
  • Business Objectives: Consider using the SMART goal-setting technique . This simply means setting up specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound objectives that your company wants to achieve.
  • SWOT Analysis: External and internal factors that make up your company’s business competitive environment.
  • Action Plan: A plan outlining steps that will be taken to achieve the business objectives of your organization.
  • Financials: A section that shows the financial performance expectations, the budget and the resources that will be required to implement the action plan.
  • Performance Measurements: Performance indicators that will be used to measure the effectiveness of the action plan.

Never forget to check your strategic plan against reality. In addition to being achievable, it must be practical for your business environment, resources and marketplace.

Now let’s look at a simple business strategic plan example. This is a strategic plan for a small construction company.

1. Mission, Vision & Core Values

  • Mission Statement: To build residential spaces that provide wellbeing for our clients.
  • Vision Statement: To offer the best construction experience for our clients and expand our brand throughout the globe.
  • Core Values: Sustainable innovation and respect for the environment.

2. Business Objectives

  • Business Objective 1: Grow operating margin from 15% to 20% over the next year.
  • Business Objective 2: Reduce operating costs by 5% over the next quarter
  • Business Objective 3: Increase the number of new contracts generated by 10% over the next year

3. SWOT Analysis

  • Strengths: Available financing, brand visibility and know-how.
  • Weaknesses: Lack of PPE, human capital and expertise in construction areas such as plumbing, electrical work and masonry, which requires subcontractors.
  • Opportunities: Lack of environmentally-friendly construction companies in the market.
  • Threats: Larger construction companies compete for contracts in the area.

4. Action Plan

  • Business Objective 1: To grow operating margin, new employees with plumbing, electrical work and masonry experience will be hired to cut down subcontractor costs. This must be done by the end of the first quarter.
  • Business Objective 2: To reduce operating costs, the company will acquire property, plant and equipment. By doing this, the company will no longer rent equipment from third parties, which will reduce operating costs significantly in the medium and long term.
  • Business Objective 3: To increase the number of new contracts generated, the leadership team will invest more in the PR, marketing and advertising departments. The company will also invest in key positions for the construction bidding process such as contract estimators.
  • Financials: This section will explain in detail what are the costs associated with the work items in the action plan as well as the expected financial benefits for the company.

Our free strategic plan template helps leadership teams gather important information about their business strategy, which makes it the perfect tool to start shaping a strategic plan for your business or project.

the business strategic planning process

More Free Strategic Planning Templates

Here are some free strategic planning templates for Word and Excel that will help you with key aspects of the strategic planning process. Use them individually or add them to your strategic plan template for Word so you don’t miss any detail about your organizational strategy.

Strategic Roadmap Template

This strategic roadmap template allows you to map the activities, strategic projects and initiatives that each business department will execute to accomplish the objectives defined in the strategic plan of an organization.

the business strategic planning process

Strategic Map Template

This strategic map template it’s a strategic planning tool that allows you to visualize all the strategic objectives of your organization and understand how they’re interrelated.

strategic map template

Balanced Scorecard Template

A balanced scorecard is a chart that allows you to set strategic objectives that will benefit your business in one of four key areas, its finances, internal processes, customer satisfaction and organizational learning.

Balanced Scorecard Template

Vision Statement Template

The vision statement is one of the most important aspects of the organizational strategy of a business. It’s a short but powerful statement that describes the overall direction of a company and what it intends to achieve in the future. This free vision statement template will help you focus on what matters most and define the vision of your business.

Vision Statement Template

A strategic plan is a type of business plan, but there are distinctions between the two. Whereas a strategic plan is for implementing and managing the strategic direction of a business, a business plan is more often the document that starts a business.

A business plan is used primarily to get funding for the venture or direct the operation, and the two plans target different timeframes in business history. A strategic plan is used to investigate a future period, usually between three-to-five years. A business plan is more routinely a year out.

A Different Intent

A strategic plan offers a business focus, direction and action to help the business grow from the point it presently resides to a greater market share in the future. A business plan, on the other hand, is more focused on offering a structure to capture and implement ideas that initially define a business.

With a strategic plan, existing resources are prioritized to increase revenue and return on investment. The business plan is different in that it’s seeking funding for a venture that doesn’t yet exist. Where a strategic plan is building a sustainable competitive advantage in the future, a business plan is designed to take advantage of a current business opportunity.

So, a strategic plan is communicating direction to teams and stakeholders in order to achieve future goals. A business plan isn’t talking to staff, which is likely nonexistent or minimal at this point. It’s speaking to banks and other financial supporters.

Related Strategic Planning Content

  • Strategic Project Management: Planning Strategic Projects
  • Strategic Planning Models: An Introduction to 5 Popular Models
  • A Quick Guide to Strategic Initiatives
  • How to Create a Strategic Roadmap for Your Organization
  • Project Alignment: Aligning Your Project to Business Strategy

Strategic planning, like any planning, requires keeping a lot of balls in the air. That means having the right tool to plan, monitor and report on all the various tasks and resources. ProjectManager is online project management software that gives you control over every aspect of creating and implementing a strategic plan. Try it today with this free 30-day trial.

Click here to browse ProjectManager's free templates

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What is Strategic Planning? The Key Components, Process & Role Leaders Play in Ensuring a Strategy's Success

by Thuy Sindell, PhD. and Milo Sindell, MS.

Strategic planning is a process that is essential for companies to ensure successful and sustainable growth.

An intelligent and actionable strategic plan is a vital part of competing within the marketplace. It directs businesses to take meaningful action to help them reach their organization’s goals by mapping out a clear direction, creating measurable goals, and allocating resources to pursue these specific objectives.

What is Strategic Planning?

A strategic plan is an essential process and strategy execution document for any company looking to make the most of its resources and reach long-term organizational goals.

This vital and continually evolving document outlines a clear direction, sets objectives that must be achieved, and provides an actionable roadmap for success; it also helps organizations stand out from competitors by allowing them to differentiate themselves in the marketplace with their unique approach.

A well-crafted strategic plan will help companies stay focused on their mission while making decisions based on core values guiding them toward achieving desired results by ensuring everyone is moving in the same direction.

the business strategic planning process

What are the Key Components of a Strategic Plan?

Several key components make up a well-developed strategic plan. These key components include:

A Mission Statement

An organization’s mission statement states the company’s purpose and the reasons why it exists. Although you might be already clear on the mission, reiterating your mission statement and connection to the plan acts as a foundation for the strategic plan and your strategy.

A Vision Statement

The company vision is the bigger objective that the company aspires to achieve. This may be as broad as making the world a better place through your product or service or ridding bathrooms of mildew. Whatever your vision, it should be connected to your strategic plan

Aligning the company mission and vision statements is the first crucial step to strategic planning.

SWOT Analysis

An overall evaluation of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Knowing these points will help you leverage your resources, shore up gaps, and realistically plan your path and the potential risks. Your SWOT analysis will help ensure that your strategic plan is based upon reality and play an important part in your strategic management process.

Goals & Objectives

Goals and objectives need specific, measurable, achievable, and time-bound targets the company wants to achieve. Ensure your goals are achievable, measurable, and can be clearly communicated as part of your strategic planning. High-level company objectives should cascade and align with the objectives of various divisions and teams. The Strategic plans of each division and team should map directly to broader company goals and methods.

The specific courses of action that the company will take to achieve its measurable goals and specific strategic issues.

Action Plans

Detailed project plans outlining the specific steps that will be taken to implement the strategies.

Resource Allocation

The allocation of financial, human, and other resources to implement the action plans.

Evaluation and Control

Evaluation and control are based on measures and systems to monitor the company’s progress toward achieving its organization’s goals, objectives, and financial plan and to make adjustments as necessary.

the business strategic planning process

Who is Responsible for Creating a Strategic Plan?

In general, creating a strategic plan is the responsibility of the company’s top management team - the CEO, CFO, other executives, etc.

However, though the top management will do the strategic thinking, it’s essential for key members throughout the entire organization to be involved in the strategic planning process as different departments, employees, and human resources will have valuable insights and perspectives to contribute to the strategy formation. Also, when various constituents are a part of and the planning process a sense of ownership and commitment to the strategic plan’s success is reinforced.

It’s also common for companies to seek input from external stakeholders, customers, suppliers, and industry experts as part of the strategic planning process. As part of your planning process make sure to identify any critical stakeholders outside of your company.

What Makes the Strategic Planning Process Effective?

Below are some key factors that contribute to the overall effectiveness of a successful strategic plan and the strategic planning process. Understanding these points will help make your strategic planning process more effective:

The plan needs to be clear & concise, with specific strategic goals & objectives that are easy for everyone to understand. Senior leadership plays a critical role in ensuring that each objective is clear and how objectives will be achieved is understood.

The strategic plan needs to take the company’s resources & capabilities into account, and the goals need to be realistic & achievable based on the market data.

The plan needs to be flexible enough to allow for adjustments to be made in response to changes in the external environment after deployment.

The plan must be aligned with the company’s mission, vision & values and should support the organization’s overall direction in terms of business plan and annual budgets.

Easily Communicated

The plan needs to be communicated effectively to all stakeholders & investors, including employees & customers.

The plan needs clear & actionable steps and a timeline for implementation. It must be followed consistently to ensure progress toward business goals like increasing sales and maximizing profit.

The plan needs to measure & evaluate progress, collect feedback, and be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure continuous progress toward company goals and that the plan remains relevant and practical and targets logical key performance indicators.

An effective strategic plan identifies potential factors that might derail the plan and, at a minimum, provides high-level alternatives should the plan become derailed.

the business strategic planning process

When Do Strategic Plans Fail?

Listed below are a few potential reasons why strategic planning might fail. Understanding why strategic plans fail will help create more effective strategic planning outcomes:

Lacks Clarity

Plans need to be clear and specific. If not, it may be difficult to understand and challenging to implement. When a strategic plan is ambitious it is tough for people to feel connected and motivated to take action.

Lack of Realistic Options and Objectives

Plans need to be realistic. If the plan cannot really be achieved, it’ll be difficult to implement and lead to frustration, disappointment, and potential failure.

Lack of Flexibility

The plan needs to be flexible; if it’s not is not flexible and doesn’t allow for adjustments in response to changes in the environment (internal and external) or from evaluation or measurement, it may become irrelevant or ineffective.

Lack of Alignment

The plan needs to be aligned with the company’s mission, vision, and values; if not consistent with the organization’s overall direction, it can quickly become out of sync with its underlying purpose and be ineffective in helping to reach desired goals.

Lack of Understanding

The plan needs to be communicated effectively to all key stakeholders and take feedback from all stakeholders; otherwise, it may be misunderstood or, worse - ignored or seen as not valuable.

Lack Actionable Steps

The strategic plan needs to be implemented swiftly and consistently; if the action steps are not clear or too hard to implement, they may not be implemented effectively.

Lack of Measurable Outcomes

The strategic plan needs to be reviewed and updated regularly, and its performance evaluated after implementation; otherwise, it may become ineffective or outdated, therefore ineffective at achieving desired outcomes.

External Factors

Changes in the external environment can have a huge effect. Changes like shifts in the economy or customer preferences, if not accounted for, can seriously impact the effectiveness of a once brilliant strategic plan.

However, as in life and business, things change, and every business must be able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. This is why an effective plan includes contingencies.

the business strategic planning process

What is a Company Leader’s Role in Ensuring the Strategic Plan is Implemented Successfully?

Strategic management.

Company leaders are responsible for ensuring that the strategic plan is implemented successfully.

Some specific ways business leaders can ensure the plan is implemented properly are:

Clearly Communicate the Plan

Business leaders need to communicate the strategic plan effectively to all key stakeholders, including employees, customers, and investors. Any questions need to be answered and clarified, so everyone is aligned. The strategic plan should be shared in a way that you (the leader) demonstrate ownership and enthusiasm and can share with your team how each role is vital to achieving the plan’s objectives.

Providing Resources

Leaders need to ensure that resources, such as funding, personnel, and technology, are available to everyone needed in order to implement the plan successfully.

Setting Expectations

Leaders need to set clear expectations for implementing the plan and hold the designated employees accountable for meeting those expectations. Clear and achievable timelines need to be established and committed to by each stakeholder.

Leading by Example

Leaders need to model the behaviors and values outlined in the plan and encourage others to do the same.

Providing Support

Leaders need to provide support and guidance to employees as they work through problems toward achieving the strategic goals and objectives of the plan.

Monitoring Progress

Leaders need to monitor the progress towards achieving the goals and objectives outlined in the plan and make adjustments in the operational plans as they see fit, as needed.

Celebrating Successes

Leaders need to recognize and celebrate wins along the way to help keep morale high and encourage continued progress toward the ultimate goals.

the business strategic planning process

What’s the Role of Each Individual Employee in Implementing & Supporting the Strategic Plans Success?

Employees are the driving force and critical in implementing and supporting the strategic plan’s success. Your employees will be the eyes and ears of how the strategic plan works. This is why it is vital for leaders to create a business environment where there is open communication and all types of information can be shared and reviewed in relation to its impact on the long- term strategy. Leaders must foster an open environment where questions can be asked and bad and good news shared. Leaders can help employees play their part by ensuring employees are supported and are clear on their ability to do the following:

Understand the Plan

Employees need to understand the strategic plan, how it aligns with the company’s mission, the steps to take, and most importantly, the goals.

Aligning Work and Job Goals with the Plan

Leaders, managers, and employees need to align their work with the strategic plan and prioritize tasks that support achieving the plan’s goals & strategic objectives.

Manage Implementation

Employees must consistently follow through on their assigned tasks and responsibilities to implement the plans, steps, and processes.

Provide Feedback

During the initial review of the organization’s current status, employees must provide feedback and suggestions to improve the plan. During its implementation, employees need to provide feedback based on performance and potentially adjust the plan if needed for better performance and goals.

Communicate Laterally and Up

Employees need to communicate with coworkers to ensure everyone is working towards the same goals & objectives and, most importantly, employees need to communicate to their manager on how their contribution is proceeding.

Seek Support and Guidance

Employees need to seek support and guidance from leaders if they need help implementing any steps of the plan or achieving goals.

the business strategic planning process

Do Some Companies Believe that Strategic Planning is a Waste of Time?

Sure. It’s possible some companies may view strategic planning as a waste of time. This could be due to a variety of reasons: resources required upfront, lack of understanding of the benefits of strategic planning, a lack of buy-in from senior management, or a lack of resources to dedicate to the process.

However, for massively successful companies, strategic planning is recognized as an invaluable tool to help organizations achieve their long-term goals and be outstanding in a competitive marketplace.

Strategic planning can also help companies be more agile and adapt to changes in the external environment. For these reasons, it’s generally recommended that companies engage in strategic planning and review results on a regular basis.

What Makes a Great Strategy?

What makes a great competitive strategy? Several characteristics are often considered to be key elements of great strategy execution:

A great strategy is clear & easy to understand, with specific goals & strategic objectives that are well-defined.

A great strategy is a focused strategy. A great strategy is focused on a specific area of the business and doesn’t try to do too many things at once.

A great strategy is aligned with the company’s overall mission, vision for the future, and values, supporting the organization’s overall direction.


A great strategy is flexible and allows for adjustments to be made in response to results and changes in the external environment.

A great strategy is realistic & achievable, taking into account the company’s resources & capabilities and what can actually get done.


The great strategy sets the company apart from its competitors in the marketplace and helps it to differentiate itself from competitors to customers.

A great strategy can be executed effectively, with clear action steps, a timeline for implementation, and who is responsible for each action step.

Evaluation & Feedback

The great strategy includes measures for evaluating progress and collecting feedback, and it needs to be reviewed regularly & potentially updated to ensure it remains relevant & effective.

When is a Great Strategy Not Enough to Ensure Company Success?

While a great strategy can certainly be a key factor in a company’s success, it’s not the only factor needed to be successful. There are a number of other internal and external factors that can impact a company’s success, including:

Even the best strategy will not be a successful strategy if executed poorly.

A company needs resources, period. Resources like funding, personnel, and technology, are essential to implement strategy effectively.

Changes in external factors are equally important as the internal environment. For example, economic shifts or customer preferences can impact a company’s success.


A company’s success can also be impacted by its competitors’ actions and even competitors’ reactions to strategy implementation.

Market Demand

A company’s success will depend partly on the market demand for its products or services. Demand should absolutely be a part of the strategy formulation.

A company’s success will highly depend on the quality of its products or services and its ability for its products to meet customer needs.

The senior leadership of a company can play a key role in its success, or failure, as they set the vision & direction of the organization.

How Does Company Leadership Play a Critical Part in a Company’s Strategic Success?

Without involved leadership, a strategic plan will more than likely fail. A company’s leadership plays a critical role in strategic success in several ways:

Setting the Direction

A company’s leadership is responsible for setting the organization’s vision and direction and creating a strategic management plan that aligns with that direction.

A company’s Leadership is responsible for ensuring that the necessary resources, such as funding, personnel, and technology, are available to implement the strategic plan.

Communicating the Plan

A company’s leadership communicates the strategic management plan effectively and consistently to all stakeholders, including employees, customers, and investors.

A company’s leadership needs to model the behaviors and values aligned with the plan and encourage others to do the same.

A company’s leadership needs to provide support & guidance to employees as they work towards achieving the goals and objectives of the strategic plan. This will help in employee retention and strategic success.

A company’s leadership needs to monitor progress toward achieving the goals & objectives of the plan and make necessary adjustments as needed.

A company’s leadership needs to recognize and celebrate successes along the way to help keep team morale high and encourage continued progress to achieve goals.

How Can Companies Prepare & Support their Leaders to Implement & Ensure Strategic Planning Success?

There are many ways in which companies can prepare and support their leaders to implement and ensure the success of their strategic planning initiative.

Provide Proper Training

Companies need to provide training & strategy development opportunities to help their leaders acquire the knowledge and skills they need to implement & support the strategic vision effectively.

Encourage Open Communication

Companies need to foster an environment of open, clear communication and encourage leaders to seek input & feedback from their teams within the strategic framework - even when the strategy map is not positive.

Align Leadership with Company Values

Companies must ensure that their leadership’s values align with the company’s values and culture and that their leaders are committed to the mission and vision of the organization.

Encourage Collaboration

Companies need to encourage collaboration & cross-functional teamwork as a part of project management to ensure that all departments work towards the same goals & objectives.

Provide Resources

As part of the strategic planning process, companies need to ensure their leadership has the necessary resources, such as funding, personnel, & technology, to implement the strategic plan effectively for the entire duration.

Establish Clear Expectations

Companies must set clear expectations for how strategic planning should be activated and implemented and hold leadership accountable for meeting expectations as per the strategic plan document.

Monitor Progress

Company leaders need to monitor the progress toward achieving the goals and objectives of the strategic plan and provide their support and guidance as needed. Strategic planning is essential for business success, and the key to achieving successful results lies in the hands of leadership. For leaders to ensure a strategy’s success, they must become strategic planners and the details of the business’s strategic plan must be organized and understood by each person responsible.

Leaders and managers need to communicate the strategic plan through consistent discussions that foster collaborative decision-making. Responsibilities for the planning process and success also extend beyond the leader and onto each individual employee to help realize the steps of an effective strategic plan. Companies must set clear strategic objectives that align with their mission and strategic goals while preparing business leaders to carry out those plans. When done correctly, with careful attention paid to all levels of the organization, successful strategic planning can lead a company in the right direction toward long-term sustainability and future opportunities.

Having a clear strategic plan is one of those obvious items that every company should have in place yet many companies don’t.

Although the effort of investing the time and resources into creating a strategic planning template can be demanding, the value and impact of your investment can return a healthy multiple.

Once your mission and vision statements and strategic plan are in place they become a touchstone to focus your business, align teams, and what makes your way of navigating your market and competition unique.

We hope that this resource provides a road map and helps facilitate the development of your strategic plan if you don’t have one yet. For those that do have strategic plans, we hope this resource helps act as a checklist to fortify the strategy development you’ve already created.

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The success of any organization relies on its ability to attract, retain and develop top talent.  Talent acquisition  refers to the ongoing strategy and process an organization and its HR department uses to source, attract, evaluate, hire and retain the highly qualified new employees it needs to grow.

A well-crafted talent acquisition strategy has become a critical component for organizations seeking to secure a competitive edge. Beyond simply filling open roles, a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy encompasses a holistic approach to  talent management , from identifying organizational needs to nurturing relationships with potential candidates.

By recognizing the importance of a strategic and proactive talent acquisition approach, companies can position themselves as employers of choice. This approach can foster a culture that not only attracts the right candidates but also cultivates long-term success and sustainability.  

A talent acquisition strategy is a comprehensive plan that an organization develops to optimize its talent acquisition—the identification, attraction and retention of the right talent. It includes a series of interconnected processes and initiatives designed to align the organization’s talent needs with its business objectives. The strategy outlines the methods and processes for sourcing, screening and selecting candidates, while also focusing on employee retention and long-term development.

Talent acquisition strategy involves the use of various recruitment methods, technologies and practices. It enables HR professionals and the organization to build a strong employer brand, create a positive candidate experience and foster an effective, diverse and inclusive workforce. An effective talent acquisition strategy continually adapts to changes in industry trends and candidate preferences. It ensures that the organization’s talent acquisition efforts remain competitive and resilient.

An effective talent acquisition strategy includes elements designed to effectively attract, asses, identify and retain the best talent for the organization’s current and future hiring needs. The creation of a successful strategy should include these steps:

A compelling employer brand can set an organization apart, making it an attractive destination for skilled professionals. Many steps can be taken to build and enhance an employer brand, including:

  • Define the employer value proposition (EVP):  Clearly articulate what sets the company apart as an employer—what it stands for and the kind of working environment it offers. Highlight the unique benefits, opportunities and culture.
  • Create a compelling careers page:  Build an organized and informative careers page on the company website. Describe the application process. Use engaging content, images and videos to showcase the work environment.
  • Collect and share employee success stories: Let employees describe their experiences working at the company, including career growth, work-life balance and company culture.
  • Use social media:  Promote the employer brand on social media by sharing company news, employee stories and industry insights. Engage with potential candidates and encourage a sense of community.
  • Offer competitive compensation and benefits:  Meet or exceed industry standards for pay and benefits packages and clearly communicate these offerings to potential candidates.
  • Foster employee engagement and growth:  Create a supportive work environment that encourages employee engagement, professional development and career advancement.
  • Initiate employee advocacy:  Encourage employees to become brand advocates. Provide them with tools to share positive experiences on their personal social media accounts and professional networks.
  • Promote diversity and inclusion:  Widen the pool of top candidates by highlighting initiatives that demonstrate the organization’s commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
  • Provide a positive candidate experience:  Streamline the recruitment process to ensure a seamless and positive experience for all candidates. Communicate with transparency.
  • Highlight work-life balance:  Showcase any flexible work arrangements, wellness programs or other initiatives that prioritize the health and happiness of employees.
  • Attend industry events:  Participate in conferences, webinars, speaking engagements, award competitions and other events to establish a presence and engage with potential candidates.
  • Monitor online reviews:  Respond to reviews, whether positive or negative, to demonstrate a commitment to improving and addressing concerns.
  • Measure impact:  Use analytics and metrics to assess the effectiveness of branding efforts. Monitor website traffic, application rates and employee referrals to gauge their success.
  • Seek feedback and continuously improve:  A positive candidate experience can contribute to a favorable employer brand. Gather feedback from candidates who go through the hiring process.

Conduct a thorough assessment of current and future talent that the organization requires to achieve its business objectives.

  • Conduct an organizational analysis:  Identify key areas where new talent is needed to support the company’s current and projected business goals and growth plans.
  • Determine short- and long-term talent needs:  Distinguish between immediate hiring needs and future requirements. Prioritize roles that require immediate attention.
  • Develop candidate profiles:  Create personas for ideal candidates and write detailed job descriptions for each role based on the skills and qualifications necessary for success.
  • Evaluate internal talent:  Encourage employee retention by identifying suitable internal candidates for open positions and evaluate existing employees to determine if they can be upskilled or reassigned to fulfill upcoming roles.

A diverse range of sourcing channels can effectively connect with a wider pool of potential candidates. Key sourcing channels include:

  • Company website:  Maintain an updated careers page on the company website that provides comprehensive information about the organization, job openings and the application process.
  • Job boards:  Post openings on popular job boards and career websites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Monster to reach active job seekers.
  • Recruitment agencies:  Collaborate with reputable recruitment agencies and staffing firms that specialize in the same industry to gain access to their talent pool and sourcing expertise.
  • Social media platforms:  Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok to promote job openings, share company culture and engage with potential candidates.
  • Employee referrals:  Encourage current employees to refer potential candidates from their professional networks. Implement an employee referral program to incentivize employees to recommend qualified candidates.
  • Networking events:  Attend industry-specific networking events and job fairs to establish connections with potential candidates and build relationships within the industry.
  • Professional associations:  Engage with relevant professional associations and groups to reach candidates who are actively involved in the same field.
  • Employee alumni networks:  Reconnect with former employees who may be interested in returning or referring other qualified candidates.
  • Online forums and communities:  Participate in online communities and industry-specific groups where professionals discuss relevant topics and raise awareness about job opportunities.
  • Talent marketplaces:  Explore online talent marketplaces and freelance platforms to connect with freelancers and independent contractors for short-term vacancies or special project roles.
  • Direct outreach:  Reach out to potential candidates through emails, messages on professional networking platforms or phone calls to introduce the company and discuss relevant opportunities. 

Implementing a structured and comprehensive screening process can help assess candidates’ skill sets, qualifications and cultural fit. To develop an effective screening process:

  • Review resumes and cover letters:  Assess their qualifications, relevant experience and alignment with the job requirements. Look for key achievements, skills and career progression that match the position.
  • Conduct phone screenings: Assess candidates’ communication skills, professional demeanor and overall fit for the role.
  • Administer skills assessments: Administer tests or assignments to evaluate candidates’ technical skills, problem-solving abilities and job-related competencies.
  • Conduct multiple or panel interviews:  Gather diverse perspectives on each candidate’s fit for the role by arranging separate or panel interviews with key stakeholders.
  • Include behavioral interviews:  Use behavioral interviews to understand candidates past behavior and assess how they might respond to specific situations in the workplace.
  • Assess cultural fit : During the interview process, evaluate candidates’ alignment with the company’s culture and values. Ask questions that assess their work style and preferred work environment.
  • Check references:  Reach out to the provided references to verify the accuracy of candidates’ work history, skills and achievements.
  • Conduct background checks:  Include employment verification, education verification and criminal record checks. This validation of candidates’ qualifications ensures they meet the necessary requirements.
  • Assess soft skills:  Evaluate candidates’ soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, adaptability and leadership potential, during the interview process.

Here are some effective ways to improve the candidate experience:

  • Provide clear communication:  Ensure that candidates are informed about the next steps and the expected timeline throughout the hiring process.
  • Streamline the application process:  Minimize the number of steps required and optimize the application platform for user-friendliness.
  • Create transparent job descriptions:  Include the role’s responsibilities, qualifications and expectations and provide insights into the company culture and values.
  • Conduct engaging and respectful interviews:  Ensure that interviews are well-organized, respectful and engaging, with interviewers who are well-prepared, ask relevant questions.
  • Personalize candidate engagement:  Tailor candidate interactions to create a personalized and meaningful experience.
  • Offer constructive feedback:  Provide specific insights into their strengths and areas for development to help them understand how they can improve and grow professionally.
  • Ensure consistent employer branding:  Ensure that the candidate experience aligns with the employer brand. Maintain consistency in messaging, communication style and overall candidate engagement.
  • Provide responsive and accessible support:  Make it easy for candidates to contact the hiring team or recruitment professionals for guidance and support.
  • Follow up:  Express appreciation and provide closure on their application status, whether they are selected or not. Encourage them to stay connected with the company for future opportunities.
  • Gather feedback:  Implement satisfaction surveys to gather feedback on the overall hiring process. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement in the candidate experience.

By leveraging data-driven insights, organizations can make informed decisions, optimize the recruitment processes and improve the overall quality of hires. Here are several ways in which data and analytics can be used in a talent acquisition strategy:

  • Forecast talent demand:  Analyze historical data and job market trends to forecast future talent demands. This helps anticipate hiring needs and proactively source and attract the best candidates in advance.
  • Sourcing channel performance analysis:  Track and study the performance of different sourcing channels such as job boards, social media and recruitment agencies.
  • Candidate journey assessment:  Identify potential bottlenecks or areas for improvement at each stage of the recruitment process. This helps create a smoother and more efficient experience.
  • Application and hiring metrics:  Use metrics such as application completion rates, time-to-hire, cost-per-hire and quality of hire to measure the effectiveness of the recruitment strategy.
  • Candidate assessment and selection:  Implement data-driven assessment tools and techniques to objectively evaluate candidates based on skills, competencies and cultural fit.
  • Employer brand perception analysis:  Monitor and analyze online reviews, social media mentions and candidate feedback to gauge the perception of the employer brand.
  • Diversity and inclusion:  Analyze data on candidate demographics, hiring outcomes and employee retention to identify opportunities for fostering a more inclusive environment.
  • Return on investment (ROI) analysis:  Evaluate the ROI of different recruitment initiatives and strategies to assess their effectiveness in attracting and retaining top talent. Analyze the cost and benefits associated with each.
  • Predictive analytics for talent management:  Use predictive analytics to identify potential high-performing candidates, forecast employee retention rates and  develop talent management strategies .

Technology can play a pivotal role in enhancing various aspects of a talent acquisition strategy. It can enable organizations to streamline recruitment processes, improve candidate experience and make data-driven hiring decisions. Here are several ways technology can be leveraged as part of a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy:

  • Applicant tracking systems (ATS):  Implementing an ATS can help automate and streamline the recruitment process, from job postings to managing candidate applications. ATS platforms enable recruiters to track candidate progress, schedule interviews and communicate with applicants efficiently, creating a more organized and efficient hiring process.
  • AI-powered sourcing and screening:  AI can help analyze resumes, assess candidate fit and even conduct initial screenings, allowing recruiters to identify top talent more effectively.
  • Video interviews:  Save time and resources and get a more comprehensive understanding of candidates’ communication skills and demeanor by using video interviewing platforms.
  • Employee referral software:  Enable employees to refer potential candidates and track the status of their referrals. This technology can streamline the employee referral process.
  • Virtual events and career fairs:  Host virtual career fairs and events using online platforms to connect with a broader pool of candidates and showcase the employer brand.
  • Data analytics and reporting tools:  Data-driven insights can help recruiters make informed decisions, identify bottlenecks in the recruitment process and optimize hiring strategies.
  • Mobile recruitment applications:  Develop mobile-friendly recruitment applications and platforms that allow candidates to conveniently apply for jobs, submit resumes and engage with recruiters.
  • Candidate relationship management (CRM) systems:  CRM systems help recruiters maintain a database of potential candidates, nurture relationships over time and provide a personalized and engaging experience for each candidate.

Incorporating diversity and inclusion initiatives into recruitment can yield numerous benefits: improved innovation, enhanced employee morale and a positive employer brand. Here are more reasons why diversity and inclusion are essential to a talent acquisition strategy:

  • Enhanced innovation and creativity:  A diverse workforce brings together individuals with unique perspectives, experiences and backgrounds. This diversity fosters innovation, creativity and new ideas.
  • Improved employee performance:  Inclusive workplaces that value diversity often experience improved employee morale, engagement and overall job satisfaction.
  • Broader talent pool:  A commitment to diversity and inclusion in the talent acquisition process expands the candidate pool, allowing organizations to attract and retain an array of top talent.
  • Better understanding of customer needs:  Employees from different backgrounds can enable organizations to develop products and services that better meet the demands of a diverse market.
  • Positive employer branding:  Companies that prioritize diversity and inclusion are often viewed as progressive, inclusive and socially responsible, making them more attractive to job seekers.
  • Legal and ethical compliance:  Emphasizing diversity and inclusion ensures that organizations comply with antidiscrimination laws and promote fairness and equity in the workplace.
  • Adaptability to changing demographics:  Diverse and inclusive work environments are better equipped to navigate cultural differences, adapt to changing demographics and effectively engage with a diverse customer base.

Integrating diversity and inclusion into the talent acquisition strategy requires a comprehensive approach. It involves creating inclusive job descriptions, implementing bias-free recruitment practices, providing diversity training and fostering an inclusive workplace culture. By prioritizing diversity and inclusion, organizations build a more dynamic, innovative and resilient workforce reflective of the diverse society in which they operate.

Building a talent pipeline involves proactively identifying and nurturing relationships with potential candidates even if there are no immediate job openings. Here’s why building a talent pipeline is an important part of a talent acquisition strategy:

  • Proactive recruitment:  By cultivating relationships with potential candidates in advance, companies can reduce the time and resources required to fill future job openings when they arise.
  • Shortened time-to-hire:  With a prequalified pool of candidates readily available, organizations can quickly engage and evaluate, leading to faster decision-making and onboarding processes.
  • Strategic succession planning:  A well-developed talent pipeline enables organizations to identify and groom internal talent for future leadership roles and key positions.
  • Reduced recruitment costs:  By continuously engaging with potential candidates over time, organizations can reduce their reliance on external recruiters, job boards and other sourcing channels.
  • Enhanced candidate quality:  Nurturing relationships with candidates over time allows organizations to gain a deeper understanding of their skills, experiences and cultural fit.
  • Improved employer branding:  Maintaining a talent pipeline demonstrates an organization’s commitment to  talent development  and recruitment, enhancing the employer brand.
  • Increased agility and flexibility:  Having access to a pool of qualified candidates enables organizations to adapt swiftly to emerging opportunities and challenges.
  • Long-term relationship building:  Regular engagement with these candidates creates a positive candidate experience, even if they are not immediately selected for a role.

Regular evaluation allows organizations to identify areas for improvement, make necessary adjustments and align the talent acquisition strategy with the changing needs of the business. Here are several ways that an organization can assess its talent acquisition strategy:

  • Key performance indicators (KPIs):  Establish and monitor specific KPIs related to the talent acquisition process such as time-to-fill, cost-per-hire, quality of hire and candidate satisfaction. Regularly tracking these metrics provides insights into the efficiency and effectiveness of the recruitment process and helps identify areas for improvement.
  • Candidate feedback and surveys:  Gather feedback from candidates who have gone through the recruitment process to understand their experience, perception of the brand and overall satisfaction, as well as to identify opportunities for enhancing the candidate experience.
  • Data analysis and reporting: Assess the performance of different sourcing channels, the quality of candidates sourced and the success rates of various recruitment initiatives.
  • Continuous process improvement:  Solicit feedback from recruiters, hiring managers and other stakeholders involved in the talent acquisition process to identify bottlenecks, streamline workflows and implement best practices.
  • Talent market analysis:  Conduct regular analyses of the talent market to understand emerging skill requirements, industry trends, shifts in the labor market and adjust the talent acquisition strategy accordingly.
  • Internal stakeholder engagement:  Engage with internal stakeholders, including senior leadership, human resource management and hiring managers, to gather insights into the effectiveness of the talent acquisition strategy.

While attracting top talent is essential, retaining and developing existing employees is equally crucial for the long-term success and sustainability of an organization. Investing in employee development and creating growth opportunities within the organization can increase employee satisfaction and reduce turnover rates. This saves the organization time and resources associated with recruiting and training new hires.

Enhanced employee engagement, employee experience, succession planning and the cultivation of a learning culture provides several benefits, including: clear career paths for employees help avoid leadership gaps, and contribute to the organization’s overall growth and competitiveness. All of this attracts job seekers drawn to companies that prioritize employee growth, learning and career advancement.

Still, the cornerstone of organizational success remains a forward-thinking talent acquisition strategy—driving growth, fostering resilience and positioning companies for sustained excellence in the years to come.

As a leading talent acquisition and skills development consultancy, IBM Consulting® works closely with clients to tailor solutions specific to their recruiting and skilling needs. Whether you are looking to address high turnover, enhance the recruiting technology stack, improve work force productivity, address skills shortages, or create an effective learning experience for a diverse workforce, IBM can provide customized strategies and tools across consulting, technology and managed services.

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  1. The Strategic Planning Process in 4 Steps

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  2. Tips For Creating A Business With Strategic Planning Process

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  3. Strategic Planning Process in 5 Simple Steps

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  4. Business strategic planning process diagram

    the business strategic planning process

  5. The 4 Steps of the Strategic Planning Process

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  6. Strategic Planning Cycle as a graphic illustration free image download

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

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    Powered by the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, DELMIA delivers solutions to address the most challenging situations manufacturers experience today. We connect the virtual and real worlds to empower our customers worldwide to collaborate, model, optimize, and execute supply chains, manufacturing, logistics, and service to achieve strategic business results

  29. Expert Strategic Workforce Planning & People Analytics (all ...

    The primary role of the Strategic Workforce Planning & Analytics Expert will be to contribute to the evolvement of Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) on a group-level, as well as drive the closely linked Analytics topics. You will be part of the SWP & Analytics team that has the objective to ensure that across Merck the people component is added to business strategy, and work towards the right ...