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Articles

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

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

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: 

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

an illustration of a pyramid representing the 7 components of the strategic planning process

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: 

  1. Clarify your vision, mission, and values 
  2. Conduct an environmental scan 
  3. Define strategic priorities 
  4. Develop goals and metrics 
  5. Derive a strategic plan 
  6. Write and communicate your strategic plan 
  7. Implement, monitor, and revise  

7 step strategic planning process

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.  

Questions to ask:

  • 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 

Questions to ask:

  • 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.  

Questions to ask:

  • 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: 

The 11 step structure of a strategic plan: executive summary to strategic approach to implementation
  • 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 

Questions to ask:

  • 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.

Questions to ask:

  • 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?

Strategic planning frameworks

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.

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.

Solution

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.

Solution

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.

Solution

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.

Solution

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

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