The 6 steps of the strategic planning process
By: Jill Huettich
Strategic planning is one of the most important undertakings that a business can engage in. However, it can also be one of the most overwhelming ones. That is, unless you understand how the strategic planning process works.
You’re probably asking yourself: “Where should I begin? How do I decide what my strategic plan should include? When should others get involved?”
Rest assured, we’ll answer these questions and more in this article.
Keep reading for a brief introduction to the strategic planning process where we’ll discuss the various strategic planning frameworks, common strategic planning goals, and the different stages of the strategic planning process.
We’ll even give a relevant example, so you can imagine how the strategic planning process might work at your own organization.
So, to get started, let’s delve into strategic planning frameworks …
What are strategic planning frameworks?
Since the 1950s, there have literally been hundreds of different strategic planning frameworks that have been developed, including popular models like OGSM (short for Objectives, Goals, Strategies, and Measures), Balanced Scorecard, and the 7S Model.
Frameworks such as these have been used by businesses of all sizes to achieve their objectives. While no two strategic frameworks are exactly alike, they typically all possess the following elements:
- Vision & Mission – A vision is essentially, the intention a company holds for its future (i.e. to become the #1 leader in widget manufacturing). By contrast, a mission statement describes a company’s values, as well as how that company intends to reach its vision.
- Internal & External Drivers – This element refers to forces both inside the company and outside, that can contribute to its success. For instance, an internal driver might be an organization’s leadership team, while an external driver might include a favorable business climate.
- Tasks, Objectives, & Goals – Employees perform tasks to accomplish short-term objectives. These short-term objectives are developed to help companies reach their long-range goals.
- Time Frames – Time frames create urgency, while also establishing a vision for when certain objectives need to be met. Additionally, time frames help companies measure their progress.
What are some common strategic planning goals?
Before undertaking a project plan, it’s useful for a company’s leadership team to begin thinking about which goals are most important to their organization’s success.
Typically, most strategic planning goals fall into one of the following categories:
- Quality – This goal means that a company is trying to improve the quality of the goods and services that it provides.
- Speed – Companies with a focus on speed want to service customers faster or speed up key manufacturing processes.
- Dependability – Businesses that want to strengthen their reputation with customers often make dependability their primary aim.
- Cost – Many businesses will try to cut costs by finding new ways to increase profit margins.
- Flexibility – When flexibility is an objective, companies want to be able to react to changing marketing conditions quickly.
What are the stages of the strategic planning process?
While there are many different strategic planning processes you might read about, most have some variation of the following stages:
1. Identify your strategic position
This is where a company defines short and long-term objectives, and the steps it might take to achieve them.
As an example, let’s say that a soda company envisions becoming the #1 soda company in the world. One objective to achieve that might be to increase market share 10% among baby boomers. In that case, it would make sense to have an action step of spending more money on ads that target baby boomers.
2. Gather people and information
Is there anything that could prevent you from achieving your objective? During this phase, you’ll gather the people and information you need to determine whether there are any other factors you should consider before implementing your plan.
For instance, maybe baby boomers aren’t the best market to go after in the soda category. Perhaps, instead, our hypothetical company should target millennials. During this analysis phase, companies tweak and refine their goals and objectives based on what they learn as they start collecting more information.
3. Perform a SWOT analysis
During this phase, you’ll identify your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Doing so will help you refine your organization’s goals, so it can proceed in the most constructive way. It’s helpful to consult a SWOT analysis template at this stage to get the most out of this exercise.
Using our soda company as an example, we might realize after performing a SWOT analysis that there’s a great opportunity in a new overseas market. So, this would replace our original objective of targeting a specific demographic.
4. Formulate a strategic plan
Having gone through the first three phases, our soda company is now ready to develop a strategic plan that takes into account all of the information it’s gathered along the way.
So, during this phase, the soda company will create a plan that details what its goals are, how it intends to achieve them, how success will be measured, and what the timeframe is for accomplishment.
5. Execute the strategic plan
Every department has a role to play in ensuring that the strategic plan gets fulfilled. So, the marketing department might create an advertising roll-out plan for the overseas market that the company plans to target.
Likewise, manufacturing may need to research overseas distribution channels, and HR will probably have to hire employees in the new market to oversee the roll-out.
6. Constantly monitor performance
In this phase, a company monitors key criteria to determine how well the organization is adhering to the plan. It also evaluates whether any tweaks need to be made along the way to achieve the company’s long-term goals.
Again, with our soda company, to do this, we’d probably start by analyzing sales trends and our percentage of market share in the roll-out region.
This concludes a standard strategic planning process.
Most strategic planning processes contain anywhere from four to seven steps, so this is only one example of how an organization might go through the strategic planning process. There are others. Really, it’s just a matter of finding a process that works best for your organization’s needs.
Watch the video below for an in-depth walk through of how mind mapping and information visualization can be integrated into the strategic planning process.