Strategic Planning and Management Insights

What is the strategic planning process?

[fa icon="calendar"] January 15 / by Anthony Taylor

what is the strategic planning process for creating a strategic plan strategic planning steps

The strategic planning process are the steps that you go through as an organization to determine the direction of your organization (Its Vision), what you're going to do and for whom (Your mission) and someway to measure it or to guide you in a strategy to get there (Your goals).

In this overview of the strategic planning process, we'll go through the steps that we use to create a strategic plan.

There are many different ways you can create a strategic plan, much like there are several different ways you can create a meal to eat.

This is the process that we at SME Strategy believe gives management teams sufficient information and direction to create their strategic plan.


 Creating a strategic plan? Download our starter kit today!

Before we get into the strategic planning steps you need to understand why we do strategic planning in the first place.


Why do strategic planning?

  • There are a few reasons why you should do strategic planning:
  • To get your team on the same page
  • To not waste money doing things that you shouldn't be doing.
  • To identify and evaluate the best way to accomplish your goals
  • and much more...

A strategic plan is a valuable guide for the rest of your employees, your organization's leadership and your stakeholders to know where you're going and why you're going there.

The document that contains the strategic plan is not what is valuable, it's in information in it and the process used to create it that is then SHARED and COMMUNICATED with the rest of your team is where the value comes. A great strategy is most often re-evaluated on an ongoing basis, rather than being a static document just sitting in a binder. 

Strategy is about choices; knowing what to do as much as knowing what not to do. Your strategic plan tells your people what they should be doing so they don't have to worry about doing the wrong things, or having them to go to a manager every time they have a decision to make.

A strategic plan that is well communicated gives you access to greater productivity, culture, empowerment, and overall effectiveness. 

Now that you know why you should do strategic planning, lets take a high level overview of the strategic planning process.

Get 15 Questions to Ask Your Team - Strategic Planning Questionnaire

The simplified strategic planning process in four steps.

  1. Part one: How did we get to where we are now?
  2. Part two: Where do we want to go? What is our vision of success? 
  1. Part three: What is going to get in our way? What do we need to be aware of?
  2. Part four: What do we need to get there?

In our two day sample strategic planning agenda we go through the whole strategic planning process outlined above.

There are many different strategic planning tools and frameworks that you can incorporate in your planning process, and throughout the creation of your business strategy. 

The headers outlined above are some of the key questions that you need to answer first.



Download Sample 2 Day Strategic Planning Agenda

The complete strategic planning process 

Strategic planning step 1: Gather inputs 

  • SWOT Analysis, Trends, successes and results from past strategic plans, Environmental scan, staff surveys.
  • Outside of your business there are many factors that affect how you can do business: Competitors being one, but also the: Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental climates that your organization or business operates in.
  • Throughout the strategic planning process you'll also have to identify internal processes and situations that may affect where you go in the future (Your strengths and Weaknesses) . There are also external factors that might affect your business strategy and those are opportunities and threats.
  • These "inputs" are the ingredients to your successful strategic plan. 
  • The right information will help you make the right decisions. So gather and assess carefully.
  • Once you know where you are at as an organization, and what's going on in the world outside of your organization, then you can start to figure out where you're going.
Strategic planning step 2: Vision
  • Where are you going? What does winning look like? Why should you go there?
  • There's one thing to have a vision statement, it's another to have a very clear vision of the future. Like a blueprint to a house. This is the foundation of your strategic plan.
  • As an organization (SME, for profit, non-profit, government, growing startup, etc.) what are you building, and what is that rallying point for your people?
  • Spending the time to get agreement and alignment on this future is key, because otherwise each individual will be following their own destination of success.
  • Another way to think of your vision is:  "If success was a place, how would we know if we got there"
Strategic planning step 3: Mission
  • What is your purpose? Why do you exist? What do you do and who do you do it for?
  • This is an opportunity to focus your energy on a specific set of customers. (staff, stakeholders, customers, etc.) If you had to dedicate the majority of your resources to a group, who would it be? This is a tough question, because our tendency is to say: "everyone"
  • Your mission is the key driver in accomplishing your vision. It's your: HOW
Strategic planning step 4: Values
  • If you want to find the number one contributor to a successful organization, it's having values that are understood and agreed on.
  • Values create a set of behaviours that everyone on the organization can count on and expect. 
  • It's like having everyone playing by the same rules that clearly identify how you can be successful. You want your people to feel successful and fulfilled in their jobs? Live, eat and breathe your values so they know how they can contribute to making the organization a success.
Strategic planning step 5: Competition, Risks and Road blocks
  • You didn't think it was going to be that easy did you? There will always be things that will get in your way of success.
    • If you take the time to identify what they are, what the impact of that thing happening will be and what you're going to do to mitigate it, you are less likely to be caught off guard and your plan is more likely to be successful.
  • You can look at incorporating a risk register or scenario planning as frameworks to help you manage these risks and uncertainties.
Strategic planning step 5: Strategic priorities, goals strategies and tactics.
  • This is where you can tie into the big picture thinking into action items as part of your strategic planning process.
  • Strategic priorities are a handful of areas that will make the most amount of progress towards accomplishing your vision. 
  • Want to increase the focus of your strategic planning? Focus on the right strategic priorities.
  • Once you have your strategic priorities, find a way to measure its success. Think of it as moving it from its current state: X, to its future state: Y by a certain date. From X to Y by DATE
  • Then you make the individual action steps that are going to contribute to the accomplishment of that goal. Check out this article if you want some ideas on what strategic priorities to pick as part of your strategic plan.



Strategic planning step 6: Communication plan
  • This is where you'll make your plan as a team to communicate your strategic plan, and the things that you're going to get people bought in to your plan.
  • Remember how we mentioned that a shelf plan is not very useful, and that making sure you keep your strategic plan and strategic priorities at the top of mind is key; this is where you do that.
  • Audio, video, meetings, what ever you need to do: Let people know where the organization is going, and how they can contribute to making that plan a success.
  • Communication goes both ways. You'll have better buy in if you listen as well as speak. That's the difference between pushing (see: forcing)  a plan on people versus pulling them towards you and getting them to want to contribute.
Action plan
  • This is the most straight forward part of the strategic planning process but is also where most organizations falter: Implementation.
  • Now that you know where you're going, and how you're going to measure it, do the things that are going to move the needle on the success of your strategic plan.

Creating a strategic plan? Download our starter kit today!

Once you know where you want to go, then you need to figure out the strategies and the tactics to get you there.

Big picture thinking is the easy part of the strategic planning process. What's a little harder is the implementation of the strategic plan in practice.

Most organizations fail at implementing their strategic plans (71% failure rate). (See slide deck above for why)
8 benefits of using an external facilitator for your next strategy meeting.

The strategic planning process might seem pretty simple at first, but the intricacies of people and the moving parts of most businesses make planning a crucial but also challenging art form.

Combining effective long range planning, with short term implementation is a skill of great managers and great leaders.

Our consultants at SME Strategy can help your team create your strategic plan, as well as help you implement it.

For more information on the strategic planning process or our strategic planning services contact us for a consultation.


Topics: Strategic planning

Anthony Taylor

Written by Anthony Taylor

Anthony Taylor is thought leader on strategy and leadership. He's a published author on the subject of entrepreneurship and strategy, Anthony can be found doing keynotes in both French and English. You can connect with him on Twitter @anthonyctaylor and have him work with your team on your strategy and organizational development.

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