Playing chess without a strong opening is a guaranteed way to disadvantage yourself. Just like in chess, organizations without a strategic planning process are unlikely to succeed — it’s essential for aligning your organization on key priorities, goals, and initiatives.
Therefore, a proper strategic planning process is a crucial roadmap for your organization’s success.
This article will empower you to craft your strategic plan by exploring the following:
- What the strategic planning process is
- Why strategic planning is important for your business
- Seven steps of the strategic planning process
- Five best practices supporting the strategic planning process
By the end of this article, you’ll have the knowledge needed to create a robust strategic plan. Ready? Let’s begin.
What is the strategic planning process?
A strategic planning process charts your course toward success. Using your organization’s vision, mission, and values — with internal and external information — helps you craft long-term objectives and attain your goals.
The strategic planning process 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 components of the strategic planning process
Seven essential elements work together to create a cohesive strategic planning process 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 plan 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 strategic planning is important for your business
Just as a chess player needs a gameplan to reach checkmate, a company needs a solid strategic plan to achieve its goals.
Your business will wander aimlessly without strategic planning, wasting precious time, energy, and resources on endeavors that won’t get your company closer to where it needs to be.
A clear strategic planning process plan guides your business toward its goals, course-corrects when necessary, and measures your success, ultimately enabling them you to stay future-proof.
Let’s dive deeper into why the strategic planning process is essential for your organization.
7 strategic planning process steps
You understand the overall value of implementing a strategic planning process — now let’s put it in practice. Our 7-step approach trickles down to ensure 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.
Read more: What is 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 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.
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.
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
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.
Get an in-depth look at OKRs with our Ultimate OKR Playbook
5. Derive a strategic plan
Now the strategic planning process gets down to the nitty-gritty e “how” — outlining a clear, practical 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. This isn’t a “throw ideas at the wall” free-for-all. 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 you fund this approach, and is it worth the investment?
- Alignment: Does it support your mission, vision, and values?
From your approaches, you can devise a detailed action plan, which covers things like:
- Timelines: When will you 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 for your strategic plan:
- 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
7. Implement, monitor, and revise performance
Finally, it’s time to implement the strategic plan. As you get the ball rolling, keep a close eye on your timelines, milestones, and performance targets.
Certain indicators like completions, issues, and delays maintain visibility into how your process is going. With any bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or misalignment, take corrective action promptly — adjust the plan, reallocate resources, or provide additional training to employees.
Externally, it’s important to monitor changes such as customer preferences, competitive pressures, economic shifts, and regulatory changes. These factors impact the success of your strategic action plan and may require tweaks along the way.
5 best practices for the strategic planning process
Simply going through the motions of your strategic plan is not enough — you must adopt a set of best practices along the way to be successful.
We’ve compiled a list of five best practices to help you navigate the development and implementation of your strategic planning process.
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.
Pull together a diverse group of stakeholders
By including voices from across the organization in your strategic plan, you can account for varying thoughts, perspectives, and experiences throughout the planning process, ensuring cross-functional alignment.
Document the process
Continuous documentation is crucial in capturing and communicating information throughout the strategic planning process. This keeps everyone on the same page and your strategic plan up-to-date and relevant.
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.
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.
The strategic planning process in a nutshell
A carefully crafted strategic planning process is crucial for any organization looking to achieve its long-term goals while staying true to its mission, vision, and values. The seven steps 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.
Yet, 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.
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