- SUGGESTED TOPICS
- The Magazine
- Managing Yourself
- Managing Teams
- Work-life Balance
- The Big Idea
- Data & Visuals
- Reading Lists
- Case Selections
- HBR Learning
- Topic Feeds
- Account Settings
- Email Preferences
6 Steps to Make Your Strategic Plan Really Strategic
- Graham Kenny
You don’t need dozens of strategic goals.
Many strategic plans aren’t strategic, or even plans. To fix that, try a six step process: first, identify key stakeholders. Second, identify a specific, very important key stakeholder: your target customer. Third, figure out what these stakeholders want from you. Fourth, figure out what you want from them. Fifth, design your strategy around these requirements. Sixth, focus on continuously improving this plan.
Why is it that when a group of managers gets together for a strategic planning session they often emerge with a document that’s devoid of “strategy”, and often not even a plan ?
- Graham Kenny , CEO of Strategic Factors , is a recognized expert in strategy and performance measurement who helps managers, executives, and boards create successful organizations in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. He has been a professor of management in universities in the U.S., and Canada. You can connect to or follow him on LinkedIn .
The Complete Guide to Writing a Strategic Plan
By Joe Weller | April 12, 2019 (updated November 13, 2023)
Writing a strategic plan can be daunting, as the process includes many steps. In this article, you’ll learn the basics of writing a strategic plan, what to include, common challenges, and more.
Included on this page, you'll find details on what to include in a strategic plan , the importance of an executive summary , how to write a mission statement , how to write a vision statement , and more.
The Basics of Writing a Strategic Plan
The strategic planning process takes time, but the payoff is huge. If done correctly, your strategic plan will engage and align stakeholders around your company’s priorities.
Strategic planning, also called strategy development or analysis and assessment , requires attention to detail and should be performed by someone who can follow through on next steps and regular updates. Strategic plans are not static documents — they change as new circumstances arise, both internally and externally.
Before beginning the strategic planning process, it’s important to make sure you have buy-in from management, a board of directors, or other leaders. Without it, the process cannot succeed.
Next, gather your planning team. The group should include people from various departments at different levels, and the planning process should be an open, free discussion within the group. It’s important for leaders to get input from the group as a whole, but they don’t necessarily need approval from everyone — that will slow down the process.
The plan author is responsible for writing and putting the final plan together and should work with a smaller group of writers to establish and standardize the tone and style of the final document or presentation.
Sometimes, it’s a good idea to hire an external party to help facilitate the strategic planning process.
“It often can be helpful to have a really good facilitator to organize and pursue strategic conversations,” 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 .
Byson says the facilitator can be in-house or external, but they need experience. “You need to make sure someone is good, so there needs to be a vetting process,” he says.
One way to gauge a facilitator’s experience is by asking how they conduct conversations. “It’s important for facilitators to lead by asking questions,” Bryson says.
Bryson says that strong facilitators often ask the following questions:
What is the situation we find ourselves in?
What do we do?
How do we do it?
How do we link our purposes to our capabilities?
The facilitators also need to be able to handle conflict and diffuse situations by separating idea generation from judgement. “Conflict is part of strategic planning,” Bryson admits. “[Facilitators] need to hold the conversations open long enough to get enough ideas out there to be able to make wise choices.”
These outside helpers are sometimes more effective than internal facilitators since they are not emotionally invested in the outcome of the process. Thus, they can concentrate on the process and ask difficult questions.
A strategic plan is a dynamic document or presentation that details your company’s present situation, outlines your future plans, and shows you how the company can get there. You can take many approaches to the process and consider differing ideas about what needs to go into it, but some general concepts stand.
“Strategic planning is a prompt or a facilitator for fostering strategic thinking, acting, and learning,” says Bryson. He explains that he often begins planning projects with three questions:
What do you want to do?
How are we going to do it?
What would happen if you did what you want to do?
The answers to these questions make up the meat of the planning document.
A strategic plan is only effective when the writing and thinking is clear, since the intent is to help an organization keep to its mission through programs and capacity, while also building stakeholder engagement.
Question 1: Where Are We Now?
The answer (or answers) to the first question — where are we now? — addresses the foundation of your organization, and it can serve as an outline for the following sections of your strategic plan:
Core values and guiding principles
Identification of competing organizations
Industry analysis (this can include a SWOT or PEST analysis)
Question 2: Where Are We Going?
The answers to this question help you identify your goals for the future of the business and assess whether your current trajectory is the future you want. These aspects of the plan outline a strategy for achieving success and can include the following:
Vision statement about what the company will look like in the future
What is happening (both internally and externally) and what needs to change
The factors necessary for success
Question 3: How Do We Get There?
The answers to this question help you outline the many routes you can take to achieve your vision and match your strengths with opportunities in the market. A Gantt chart can help you map out and keep track of these initiatives.
You should include the following sections:
Specific and measurable goals
An execution plan that identifies who manages and monitors the plan
An evaluation plan that shows how you plan to measure the successes and setbacks that come with implementation
What to Include in a Strategic Plan
Strategic planning terminology is not standardized throughout the industry, and this can lead to confusion. Instead, strategic planning experts use many names for the different sections of a strategic plan.
“The terms are all over the map. It’s really the concept of what the intention of the terms are [that is important],” says Denise McNerney, President and CEO of iBossWell, Inc. , and incoming president of the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP). She recommends coming up with a kind of glossary that defines the terms for your team. “One of the most important elements when you’re starting the strategic planning process is to get some clarity on the nomenclature. It’s just what works for your organization. Every organization is slightly different.”
No matter what terms you use, the general idea of a strategic plan is the same. “It’s like drawing a map for your company. One of the first steps is committing to a process, then determining how you’re going to do it,” McNerney explains.
She uses a basic diagram that she calls the strategic plan architecture . The areas above the red dotted line are the strategic parts of the plan. Below the red dotted line are the implementation pieces.
While the specific terminology varies, basic sections of a strategic plan include the following in roughly this order:
Elevator pitch or company description
Some plans will contain all the above sections, but others will not — what you include depends on your organization’s structure and culture.
“I want to keep it simple, so organizations can be successful in achieving [the strategic plan],” McNerney explains. “Your plan has to be aligned with your culture and your culture needs to be aligned with your plan if you’re going to be successful in implementing it.”
The following checklist will help you keep track of what you have done and what you still need to do.
Download Strategic Plan Sections Checklist
How to Write a Strategic Plan
Once you’ve assembled your team and defined your terms, it’s time to formalize your ideas by writing the strategic plan. The plan may be in the form of a document, a presentation, or another format.
You can use many models and formats to create your strategic plan (read more about them in this article ). However, you will likely need to include some basic sections, regardless of the particular method you choose (even if the order and way you present them vary). In many cases, the sections of a strategic plan build on each other, so you may have to write them in order.
One tip: Try to avoid jargon and generic terms; for example, words like maximize and succeed lose their punch. Additionally, remember that there are many terms for the same object in strategic planning.
The following sections walk you through how to write common sections of a strategic plan.
How to Write an Executive Summary
The key to writing a strong executive summary is being clear and concise. Don’t feel pressured to put anything and everything into this section — executive summaries should only be about one to two pages long and include the main points of the strategic plan.
The idea is to pique the reader’s interest and get them to read the rest of the plan. Because it functions as a review of the entire document, write the executive summary after you complete the rest of your strategic plan.
“If you have a plan that’s really lengthy, you should have a summary,” says Jim Stockmal, President of the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP). He always writes summaries last, after he has all the data and information he needs for the plan. He says it is easier to cut than to create something.
For more information about writing an effective executive summary, a checklist, and free templates, read this article .
If you want a one-page executive summary, this template can help you decide what information to include.
Download One-Page Executive Summary Template
Excel | Word | PDF
How to Write a Company Description
Also called an elevator pitch , the company description is a brief outline of your organization and what it does. It should be short enough that it can be read or heard during the average elevator ride.
The company description should include the history of your company, the major products and services you provide, and any highlights and accomplishments, and it should accomplish the following:
Define what you are as a company.
Describe what the company does.
Identify your ideal client and customer.
Highlight what makes your company unique.
While this may seem basic, the company description changes as your company grows and changes. For example, your ideal customer five years ago might not be the same as the current standard or the one you want in five years.
Share the company description with everyone in your organization. If employees cannot accurately articulate what you do to others, you might miss out on opportunities.
How to Write a Mission Statement
The mission statement explains what your business is trying to achieve. In addition to guiding your entire company, it also helps your employees make decisions that move them toward the company’s overall mission and goals.
“Ideally, [the mission statement is] something that describes what you’re about at the highest level,” McNerney says. “It’s the reason you exist or what you do.”
Strong mission statements can help differentiate your company from your competitors and keep you on track toward your goals. It can also function as a type of tagline for your organization.
Mission statements should do the following:
Define your company’s purpose. Say what you do, who you do it for, and why it is valuable.
Use specific and easy-to-understand language.
Be inspirational while remaining realistic.
Be short and succinct.
This is your chance to define the way your company will make decisions based on goals, culture, and ethics. Mission statements should not be vague or generic, and they should set your business apart from others. If your mission statement could define many companies in your line of work, it is not a good mission statement.
Mission statements don’t have to be only outward-facing for customers or partners. In fact, it is also possible to include what your company does for its employees in your mission statement.
Unlike other parts of your strategic plan that are designed to be reviewed and edited periodically, your company’s mission statement should live as is for a while.
That said, make the effort to edit and refine your mission statement. Take out jargon like world class, best possible, state of the art, maximize, succeed , and so on, and cut vague or unspecific phrasing. Then let your strategic planning committee review it.
How to Write a Vision Statement
Every action your company does contributes to its vision. The vision statement explains what your company wants to achieve in the long term and can help inspire and align your team.
“The vision is the highest-ordered statement of the desired future or state of what you want your business to achieve,” McNerney explains.
A clear vision statement can help all stakeholders understand the meaning and purpose of your company. It should encourage and inspire employees while setting your company’s direction. It also helps you rule out elements that might not align with your vision.
Vision statements should be short (a few sentences). They should also be memorable, specific, and ambitious. But there is a fine line between being ambitious and creating a fantasy. The vision should be clearly attainable if you follow the goals and objectives you outline later in your strategic planning plan.
Because you need to know your company’s goals and objectives to create an accurate vision statement, you might need to wait until you have more information about the company’s direction to write your vision statement.
Below are questions to ask your team as you craft your vision statement:
What impact do we want to have on our community and industry?
How will we interact with others as a company?
What is the culture of the business?
Avoid broad statements that could apply to any company or industry. For example, phrases like “delivering a wonderful experience” could apply to many industries. Write in the present tense, avoid jargon, and be clear and concise.
Vision statements should accomplish the following:
Focus on success.
Look at and project about five to 10 years ahead.
Stay in line with the goals and values of your organization.
Once you write your vision statement, communicate it to everyone in your company. Your team should be able to easily understand and repeat the company’s vision statement. Remember, the statements can change as the environment in and around your company changes.
The Difference Between Mission and Vision Statements
Mission and vision statements are both important, but they serve very different purposes.
Mission statements show why a business exists, while vision statements are meant to inspire and provide direction. Mission statements are about the present, and vision statements are about the future. The mission provides items to act upon, and the vision offers goals to aspire to.
For example, if a vision statement is “No child goes to bed hungry,” the accompanying mission would be to provide food banks within the city limits.
While many organizations have both mission and vision statements, it’s not imperative. “Not everyone has a vision statement,” McNerney says. “Some organizations just have one.”
If you choose to have only one statement, McNerney offers some advice: “Any statement you have, if you have just one, needs to include what [you do], how [you do it], why [you do it], and who you do it for.”
During the planning process, these key statements might change. “Early on in the process, you need to talk about what you are doing and why and how you are doing it. Sometimes you think you know where you want to go, but you’re not really sure,” McNerney says. “You need to have flexibility both on the plan content and in the process.”
How to Write Your Company’s Core Values
Company core values , sometimes called organizational values , help you understand what drives the company to do what it does. In this section, you’ll learn a lot about your company and the people who work with you. It should be relatively easy to write.
“The values are the core of how you operate [and] how you treat your people, both internally and externally. Values describe the behaviors you really want to advance,” McNerney says.
There are both internal and external values looking at your employees and coworkers, as well as customers and outside stakeholders. Pinpointing values will help you figure out the traits of the people you want to hire and promote, as well as the qualities you’re looking for in your customers.
Your values should align with your vision statement and highlight your strengths while mitigating weaknesses. McNerney says many organizations do not really consider or are not honest about their company’s values when working on strategic plans, which can lead to failure.
“Your strategies have to align with your values and vice versa,” she explains.
Many companies’ values sound like meaningless jargon, so take the time to figure out what matters to your company and push beyond generic language.
How to Write about Your Industry
When planning ahead for your business, it’s important to look around. How are matters inside your company? What are your competitors doing? Who are your target customers?
“[If you don’t do a thorough industry analysis], you’re doing your planning with your head in the sand. If you’re not looking at the world around you, you’re missing a whole dimension about what should inform your decision making,” McNerney advises.
Writing about your industry helps you identify new opportunities for growth and shows you how you need to change in order to take advantage of those opportunities. Identify your key competitors, and define what you see as their strengths and weaknesses. Performing this analysis will help you figure out what you do best and how you compare to your competition. Once you know what you do well, you can exploit your strengths to your advantage.
In this section, also include your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. You can choose from many templates to help you write this section.
Next, identify your target customers. Think about what they want and need, as well as how you can provide it. Do your competitors attract your target customers, or do you have a niche that sets you apart?
The industry analysis carries a price, but also provides many benefits. “It takes some time and money to do [a thorough industry analysis], but the lack of that understanding says a lot about the future of your organization. If you don’t know what is going on around you, how can you stay competitive?” explains McNerney.
How to Write Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives
This section is the bulk of your strategic plan. Many people confuse goals and objectives, thinking the terms are interchangeable, but many argue that the two are distinct. You can think of them this way:
Goals : Goals are broad statements about what you want to achieve as a company, and they’re usually qualitative. They function as a description of where you want to go, and they can address both the short and long term.
Objectives : Objectives support goals, and they’re usually quantitative and measurable. They describe how you will measure the progress needed to arrive at the destination you outlined in the goal. More than one objective can support one goal.
For example, if your goal is to achieve success as a strategic planner, your objective would be to write all sections of the strategic plan in one month.
iBossWell, Inc.’s McNerney reiterates that there are not hard and fast definitions for the terms goals and objectives , as well as many other strategic planning concepts. “I wouldn’t attempt to put a definition to the terms. You hear the terms goals and objectives a lot, but they mean different things to different people. What some people call a goal , others call an objective . What some people call an objective , others would call a KPI. ” They key, she explains, is to decide what the terms mean in your organization, explain the definitions to key stakeholders, and stick to those definitions.
How to Write Goals
Goals form the basis of your strategic plan. They set out your priorities and initiatives, and therefore are critical elements and define what your plan will accomplish. Some planning specialists use the term strategic objectives or strategic priorities when referring to goals, but for clarity, this article will use the term goals.
“[Goals] are the higher level that contain several statements about what your priorities are,” McNerney explains. They are often near the top of your plan’s hierarchy.
Each goal should reflect something you uncovered during the analysis phase of your strategic planning process. Goals should be precise and concise statements, not long narratives. For example, your goals might be the following:
Eliminate case backlog.
Lower production costs.
Increase total revenue.
Each goal should have a stated outcome and a deadline. Think of goal writing as a formula: Action + detail of the action + a measurable metric + a deadline = goal. For example, your goal might be: Increase total revenue by 5 percent in three product areas by the third quarter of 2020.
Another way to look at it: Verb (action) + adjective (description) = noun (result). An example goal: Increase website fundraising.
Your goals should strike a balance between being aspirational and tangible. You want to stretch your limits, but not make them too difficult to reach. Your entire organization and stakeholders should be able to remember and understand your goals.
Think about goals with varying lengths. Some should go out five to 10 years, others will be shorter — some significantly so. Some goals might even be quarterly, monthly, or weekly. But be careful to not create too many goals. Focus on the ones that allow you to zero in on what is critical for your company’s success. Remember, several objectives and action steps will likely come from each goal.
How to Write Objectives
Objectives are the turn-by-turn directions of how to achieve your goals. They are set in statement and purpose with no ambiguity about whether you achieve them or not.
Your goals are where you want to go. Next, you have to determine how to get there, via a few different objectives that support each goal. Note that objectives can cover several areas.
“You need implementation elements of the plan to be successful,” McNerney says, adding that some people refer to objectives as tactics , actions , and many other terms.
Objectives often begin with the words increase or decrease because they are quantifiable and measurable. You will know when you achieve an objective. They are action items, often with start and end dates.
Use the goal example from earlier: Increase total revenue by 5 percent in three product areas by the third quarter of 2020. In this example, your objectives could be:
Approach three new possible clients each month.
Promote the three key product areas on the website and in email newsletters.
Think of the acronym SMART when writing objectives: Make them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic/relevant, and time-bound.
Breaking down the process further, some strategic planners use the terms strategies and tactics to label ways to achieve objectives. Using these terms, strategies describe an approach or method you will use to achieve an objective. A tactic is a specific activity or project that achieves the strategy, which, in turn, helps achieve the objective.
How to Write about Capacity, Operations Plans, Marketing Plans, and Financial Plans
After you come up with your goals and objectives, you need to figure out who will do what, how you will market what they do, and how you will pay for what you need to do.
“If you choose to shortchange the process [and not talk about capacity and finances], you need to know what the consequences will be,” explains McNerney. “If you do not consider the additional costs or revenues your plan is going to drive, you may be creating a plan you cannot implement.”
To achieve all the goals outlined in your strategic plan, you need the right people in place. Include a section in your strategic plan where you talk about the capacity of your organization. Do you have the team members to accomplish the objectives you have outlined in order to reach your goals? If not, you may need to hire personnel.
The operations plan maps out your initiatives and shows you who is going to do what, when, and how. This helps transform your goals and objectives into a reality. A summary of it should go into your strategic plan. If you need assistance writing a comprehensive implementation plan for your organization, this article can guide you through the process.
A marketing plan describes how you attract prospects and convert them into customers. You don’t need to include the entire marketing plan in your strategic plan, but you might want to include a summary. For more information about writing marketing plans, this article can help.
Then there are finances. We would all like to accomplish every goal, but sometimes we do not have enough money to do so. A financial plan can help you set your priorities. Check out these templates to help you get started with a financial plan.
How to Write Performance Indicators
In order to know if you are reaching the goals you outline in your strategic plan, you need performance indicators. These indicators will show you what success looks like and ensure accountability. Sadly, strategic plans have a tendency to fail when nobody periodically assesses progress.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) can show you how your business is progressing. KPIs can be both financial and nonfinancial measures that help you chart your progress and take corrective measures if actions are not unfolding as they should. Other terms similar to KPIs include performance measures and performance indicators .
Performance indicators are not always financial, but they must be quantifiable. For example, tracking visitors to a website, customers completing a contact form, or the number of proposals that close with deals are all performance indicators that keep you on track toward achieving your goals.
When writing your performance indicators, pay attention to the following:
Define how often you need to report results.
Every KPI must have some sort of measure.
List a measure and a time period.
Note the data source where you will get your information to measure and track.
ASP’s Stockmal has some questions for you to ask yourself about picking performance indicators.
Are you in control of the performance measure?
Does the performance measure support the strategic outcomes?
Is it feasible?
Is data available?
Who is collecting that data, and how will they do it?
Is the data timely?
Is it cost-effective to collect that data?
ls the goal quantifiable, and can you measure it over time?
Are your targets realistic and time-bound?
Stockmal also says performance indicators cannot focus on only one thing at the detriment of another. “Don’t lose what makes you good,” he says. He adds that focusing on one KPI can hurt other areas of a company’s performance, so reaching a goal can be short-sided.
Some performance indicators can go into your strategic plan, but you might want to set other goals for your organization. A KPI dashboard can help you set up and track your performance and for more information about setting up a KPI dashboard, this article can help.
Communicating Your Strategic Plan
While writing your strategic plan, you should think about how to share it. A plan is no good if it sits on a shelf and nobody reads it.
“After the meetings are over, you have to turn your strategy into action,” says Stefan Hofmeyer, an experienced strategist and co-founder of Global PMI Partners . “Get in front of employees and present the plan [to get everyone involved].” Hofmeyer explains his research has shown that people stay with companies not always because of money, but often because they buy into the organization’s vision and want to play a part in helping it get where it wants to go. “These are the people you want to keep because they are invested,” he says.
Decide who should get a physical copy of the entire plan. This could include management, the board of directors, owners, and more. Do your best to keep it from your competitors. If you distribute it outside of your company, you might want to attach a confidentiality waiver.
You can communicate your plan to stakeholders in the following ways:
Hold a meeting to present the plan in person.
Highlight the plan in a company newsletter.
Include the plan in new employee onboarding.
Post the plan on the employee intranet, along with key highlights and a way to track progress.
If you hold a meeting, make sure you and other key planners are prepared to handle the feedback and discussion that will arise. You should be able to defend your plan and reinforce its key areas. The goal of the plan’s distribution is to make sure everyone understands their role in making the plan successful.
Remind people of your company’s mission, vision, and values to reinforce their importance. You can use posters or other visual methods to post around the office. The more that people feel they play an important part in the organization’s success, they more successful you will be in reaching your goals of your strategic plan.
Challenges in Writing a Strategic Plan
As mentioned, strategic planning is a process and involves a team. As with any team activity, there will be challenges.
Sometimes the consensus can take priority over what is clear. Peer pressure can be a strong force, especially if a boss or other manager is the one making suggestions and people feel pressured to conform. Some people might feel reluctant to give any input because they do not think it matters to the person who ultimately decides what goes into the plan.
Team troubles can also occur when one or more members does not think the plan is important or does not buy into the process. Team leaders need to take care of these troubles before they get out of hand.
Pay attention to your company culture and the readiness you have as a group, and adapt the planning process to fit accordingly. You need to find the balance between the process and the final product.
The planning process takes time. Many organizations do not give themselves enough time to plan properly, and once you finish planning, writing the document or presentation also takes time, as does implementation. Don’t plan so much that you ignore how you are going to put the plan into action. One symptom of this is not aligning the plan to fit the capacity or finances of the company.
Stockmal explains that many organizations often focus too much on the future and reaching their goals that they forget what made them a strong company in the first place. Business architecture is important, which Stockmal says is “building the capabilities the organization needs to fulfill its strategy.” He adds that nothing happens if there is no budget workers to do the work necessary to drive change.
Be careful with the information you gather. Do not take shortcuts in the research phase — that will lead to bad information coming out further in the process. Also, do not ignore negative information you may learn. Overcoming adversity is one way for companies to grow.
Be wary of cutting and pasting either from plans from past years or from other similar organizations. Every company is unique.
And while this may sound obvious, do not ignore what your planning process tells you. Your research might show you should not go in a direction you might want to.
Writing Different Types of Strategic Plans
The strategic planning process will differ based on your organization, but the basic concepts will stay the same. Whether you are a nonprofit, a school, or a for-profit entity, strategic plans will look at where you are and how you will get to where you want to go.
How to Write a Strategic Plan for a Nonprofit
For a nonprofit, the strategic plan’s purpose is mainly how to best advance the mission. It’s imperative to make sure the mission statement accurately fits the organization.
In addition to a SWOT analysis and other sections that go into any strategic plan, a nonprofit needs to keep an eye on changing factors, such as funding. Some funding sources have finite beginnings and endings. Strategic planning is often continuous for nonprofits.
A nonprofit has to make the community care about its cause. In a for-profit organization, the marketing department works to promote the company’s product or services to bring in new revenue. For a nonprofit, however, conveying that message needs to be part of the strategic plan.
Coming up with an evaluation method and KPIs can sometimes be difficult for a nonprofit, since they are often focused on goals other than financial gain. For example, a substance abuse prevention coalition is trying to keep teens from starting to drink or use drugs, and proving the coalition’s methods work is often difficult to quantify.
This template can help you visually outline your strategic plan for your nonprofit.
Download Nonprofit Strategic Plan Template
Excel | Smartsheet
How to Write a Strategic Plan for a School
Writing a strategic plan for a school can be difficult because of the variety of stakeholders involved, including students, teachers, other staff, and parents.
Strategic planning in a school is different from others because there are no markets to explore, products to produce, clients to woo, or adjustable timelines. Schools often have set boundaries, missions, and budgets.
Even with the differences, the same planning process and structure should be in place for schools as it is for other types of organizations.
This template can help your university or school outline your strategic plan.
Download University Strategic Plan Outline – Word
How to Write a 5-Year Strategic Plan
There is no set time period for a strategic plan, but five years can be a sweet spot. In some cases, yearly planning might keep you continually stuck in the planning process, while 10 years might be too far out.
In addition to the basic sections that go into any strategic plan, when forecasting five years into the future, put one- and three-year checkpoints into the plan so you can track progress intermittently.
How to Write a 3-Year Strategic Plan
While five years is often the strategic planning sweet spot, some organizations choose to create three-year plans. Looking too far ahead can be daunting, especially for a new or changing company.
In a three-year plan, the goals and objectives have a shorter timeframe and you need to monitor them more frequently. Build those checkpoints into the plan.
“Most organizations do a three- to five-year plan now because they recognize the technology and the changes in business that are pretty dynamic now,” Stockmal says.
How to Write a Departmental Strategic Plan
The first step in writing a strategic plan for your department is to pay attention to your company’s overall strategic plan. You want to make sure the plans align.
The steps in creating a plan for a department are the same as for an overall strategic plan, but the mission statement, vision, SWOT analysis, goals, objectives, and so on are specific to only the people in your department. Look at each person separately and consider their core competencies, strengths, capabilities, and weaknesses. Assign people who will be responsible for certain tasks and tactics necessary to achieve your goals.
If you have access to a plan from a previous year, see how your department did in meeting its goals. Adjust the new plan accordingly.
When you finish your departmental plan, make sure to submit it to whomever is responsible for your company’s overall plan. Expect to make changes.
How to Write a Strategic Plan for a Project
A strategic plan is for the big picture, not for a particular project for an organization. Instead of a strategic plan, this area would fall under project management.
If you have a failing project and need to turn it around, this article might help.
How to Write a Personal Strategic Plan
Creating a strategic plan isn’t only for businesses. You can also create a strategic plan to help guide both your professional and personal life. The key is to include what is important to you. This process takes time and reflection.
Be prepared for what you discover about yourself. Because you will be looking at your strengths and weaknesses, you might see things you do not like. It is important to be honest with yourself. A SWOT analysis on yourself will give you some honest feedback if you let it.
Begin with looking at your life as it is now. Are you satisfied? What do you want to do more or less? What do you value most in your life? Go deeper than saying family, happiness, and health. This exercise will help you clarify your values.
Once you know what is important to you, come up with a personal mission statement that reflects the values you cherish. As it does within a business, this statement will help guide you in making future decisions. If something does not fit within your personal mission, you shouldn’t do it.
Using the information you discovered during your SWOT and mission statement process, come up with goals that align with your values. The goals can be broad, but don’t forget to include action items and timeframes to help you reach your goals.
As for the evaluation portion, identify how you will keep yourself accountable and on track. You might involve a person to remind you about your plan, calendar reminders, small rewards when you achieve a goal, or another method that works for you.
Below is additional advice for personal strategic plans:
There are things you can control and things you cannot. Keep your focus on what you can act on.
Look at the positive instead of what you will give up. For example, instead of focusing on losing weight, concentrate on being healthier.
Do not overcommit, and do not ignore the little details that help you reach your goals.
No matter what, do not dwell on setbacks and remember to celebrate successes.
Improve Strategic Planning with Real-Time Work Management in Smartsheet
Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change.
The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed.
When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.
Discover why over 90% of Fortune 100 companies trust Smartsheet to get work done.
- Contact Sales
- Download App
- Business strategy |
- What is strategic planning? 5 steps and ...
What is strategic planning? 5 steps and processes
A strategic plan helps you define and share the direction your company will take in the next three to five years. It includes your company’s vision and mission statements, goals, and the actions you’ll take to achieve those goals. In this article we describe how a strategic plan compares to other project and business tools, plus four steps to create a successful strategic plan for your company.
Strategic planning is when business leaders map out their vision for the organization’s growth and how they’re going to get there. Strategic plans inform your organization’s decisions, growth, and goals. So if you work for a small company or startup, you could likely benefit from creating a strategic plan. When you have a clear sense of where your organization is going, you’re able to ensure your teams are working on projects that make the most impact.
The strategic planning process doesn’t just help you identify where you need to go—during the process, you’ll also create a document you can share with employees and stakeholders so they stay informed. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to get started developing a strategic plan.
What is a strategic plan?
A strategic plan is a tool to define your organization’s goals and what actions you will take to achieve them. Typically, a strategic plan will include your company’s vision and mission statements, your long-term goals (as well as short-term, yearly objectives), and an action plan of the steps you’re going to take to move in the right direction.
Your strategic plan document should include:
Your company’s mission statement
Your company’s goals
A plan of action to achieve those goals
Your approach to achieving your goals
The tactics you’ll use to meet your goals
An effective strategic plan can give your organization clarity and focus. This level of clarity isn’t always a given—according to our research, only 16% of knowledge workers say their company is effective at setting and communicating company goals. By investing time into strategy formulation, you can build out a three- to five-year vision for the future of your company. This strategy will then inform your yearly and quarterly company goals.
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. Here’s how a strategic plan compares to other project management and business tools.
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, consider creating 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.
Key takeaway: A business plan works for new businesses or large organizational overhauls. Strategic plans are better for established businesses.
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.
As a result, you should already have your mission and vision statements drafted before you create a strategic plan. Ideally, this is something you created during the business planning phase or shortly after your company started. If you don’t have a mission or vision statement, take some time to create those now. A mission statement states your company’s purpose and it addresses what problem your organization is trying to solve. A vision statement states, in very broad strokes, how you’re going to get there.
A mission statement summarizes your company’s purpose
A vision statement broadly explains how you’ll reach your company’s purpose
A strategic plan should include your mission and vision statements, but it should also be more specific than that. Your mission and vision statements could, theoretically, remain the same throughout your company’s entire lifespan. 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.
Key takeaway: A strategic plan draws inspiration from your mission and vision statements.
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.
Key takeaway: Company objectives are broad, evergreen goals, while a strategic plan is a specific plan of action.
Strategic plan vs. 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.
Key takeaway: A business case tackles one initiative or investment, while a strategic plan maps out years of overall growth for your company.
Strategic plan vs. 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.
A project plan has seven parts:
Stakeholders and roles
Scope and budget
Milestones and deliverables
Timeline and schedule
Key takeaway: You may build project plans to map out parts of your strategic plan.
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. That being said, if your organization moves quickly, consider creating one every two to three years instead. Small businesses may need to create strategic plans more often, as their needs change.
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 are the 5 steps in strategic planning?
The strategic planning process should be run by a small team of key stakeholders who will be in charge of building your strategic plan.
Your group of strategic planners, sometimes called the management committee, should be a small team of five to 10 key stakeholders and decision-makers for the company. They won’t be the only people involved—but they will be the people driving the work.
Once you’ve established your management committee, you can get to work on the strategic planning process.
Step 1: Determine where you are
Before you can get started with strategy development and define where you’re going, you first need to define where you are. 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 in the product, business practices, or company culture
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 goals and objectives
This is where the magic happens. To develop your strategy, take into account your current position, which is where you are now. Then, draw inspiration from your original business documents—these are your final destination.
To develop your strategy, you’re essentially pulling out your compass and asking, “Where are we going next?” This can help you figure out exactly which path you need to take.
During this phase of the planning process, take inspiration from important company documents to ensure your strategic plan is moving your company in the right direction like:
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 plan
Now that you understand where you are and where you want to go, it’s time to put pen to paper. Your plan will take your position and strategy into account to define your organization-wide plan for the next three to five years. Keep in mind that even though you’re creating a long-term plan, parts of your strategic plan should be created as the quarters and years go on.
As you build your strategic plan, you should define:
Your 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 for that first year. 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.
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: Execute your plan
After all that buildup, it’s time to put your plan into action. New strategy execution involves clear communication across your entire organization to make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and how to measure the plan’s success.
Map your processes with key performance indicators, which will gauge the success of your plan. KPIs will establish which parts of your plan you want achieved in what time frame.
A few tips to make sure your plan will be executed without a hitch:
Align tasks with job descriptions to make sure people are equipped to get their jobs done
Communicate clearly to your entire organization throughout the implementation process
Fully commit to your plan
Step 5: Revise and restructure as needed
At this point, you should have created and implemented your new strategic framework. The final step of the planning process is to monitor and manage your plan.
Share your strategic plan —this isn’t a document to hide away. Make sure your team (especially senior leadership) has access to it so they can understand how their work contributes to company priorities and your overall strategic plan. 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 tool .
Update your plan regularly (quarterly and annually). Make sure you’re using your strategic plan to inform your shorter-term goals. Your strategic plan also isn’t set in stone. You’ll likely need to update the plan if your company decides to change directions or make new investments. As new market opportunities and threats come up, you’ll likely want to tweak your strategic plan to ensure you’re building your organization in the best direction possible for the next few years.
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.
The benefits of strategic planning
Strategic planning can help with goal-setting by allowing you to explain how your company will move towards your mission and vision statements in the next three to five years. 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:
Align everyone around a shared purpose
Proactively set objectives to help you get where you want to go
Define long-term goals, and then set shorter-term goals to support them
Assess your current situation and any opportunities—or threats
Help your business be more durable because you’re thinking long-term
Increase motivation and engagement
Sticking to the strategic plan
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.
With clear priorities, team members can focus on the initiatives that are making the biggest impact for the company—and they’ll likely be more engaged while doing so.
Level up your marketing plan to drive revenue in 2024
How to create a winning marketing plan (with examples)
Marketing leaders talk AI: How to optimize your tech stack
4 types of concept maps (with free templates)
How it works
Transform your enterprise with the scalable mindsets, skills, & behavior change that drive performance.
Explore how BetterUp connects to your core business systems.
Build leaders that accelerate team performance and engagement.
Unlock performance potential at scale with AI-powered curated growth journeys.
Build resilience, well-being and agility to drive performance across your entire enterprise.
Transform your business, starting with your sales leaders.
Unlock business impact from the top with executive coaching.
Foster a culture of inclusion and belonging.
Accelerate the performance and potential of your agencies and employees.
See how innovative organizations use BetterUp to build a thriving workforce.
Discover how BetterUp measurably impacts key business outcomes for organizations like yours.
A demo is the first step to transforming your business. Meet with us to develop a plan for attaining your goals.
- For Individuals
Best practices, research, and tools to fuel individual and business growth.
View on-demand BetterUp events and learn about upcoming live discussions.
The latest insights and ideas for building a high-performing workplace.
- BetterUp Briefing
The online magazine that helps you understand tomorrow's workforce trends, today.
Innovative research featured in peer-reviewed journals, press, and more.
Founded in 2022 to deepen the understanding of the intersection of well-being, purpose, and performance
We're on a mission to help everyone live with clarity, purpose, and passion.
Join us and create impactful change.
Read the buzz about BetterUp.
Meet the leadership that's passionate about empowering your workforce.
Strategic planning: Read this before it's that time again
Understand Yourself Better:
Big 5 Personality Test
Jump to section
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?
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.
Betterup Fellow Coach, M.S.Ed, M.S.O.D.
4 reasons why you can't afford to skip out on succession planning
Contingency planning: 4 steps to prepare for the unexpected, the only guide you’ll ever need for career planning, strategic plan vs. work plan: what's the difference, declining capabilities in productivity and wellness signal a need for worker support, how to excel at life planning (a life planning template), strategy versus tactics: planning and executing on your goals, what is strategic plan management and how does it benefit teams, what is an action plan how to become a real-life action hero, similar articles, everything you need to know about strategic leadership, 6 tactics to unlock operational excellence and drive performance, when you need to set the direction, swot analysis is a classic tool, how organizational effectiveness enhances how you work and grow, strategy vs. tactics: the difference is execution, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..
3100 E 5th Street, Suite 350 Austin, TX 78702
- Platform Overview
- BetterUp Lead
- BetterUp Manage™
- BetterUp Care™
- Sales Performance
- Diversity & Inclusion
- Case Studies
- Why BetterUp?
- News and Press
- Leadership Team
- Become a BetterUp Coach
- BetterUp Labs
- Center for Purpose & Performance
- Leadership Training
- Business Coaching
- Contact Support
- Contact Sales
- Acceptable Use Policy
- Trust & Security
- Cookie Preferences
🎯 Finish your 2024 OKRs in 60 days
The strategic planning process in 4 steps, to assist you throughout your planning process, we have created a how-to guide on the basics of strategic planning which will take you through the planning process step-by-step..
Free Strategic Planning Guide
What is Strategic Planning?
Strategic Planning is 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.
Overview of the complete strategic planning process:
Getting started: strategic planning introduction.
The strategic management process is about getting from Point A to Point B more effectively, efficiently, and enjoying the journey and learning from it. Part of that journey is the strategy and part of it is execution. Having a good strategy dictates “how” you travel the road you have selected and effective execution makes sure you are checking in along the way. On average, this process can take between three and four months. However no one organization is alike and you may decide to fast track your process or slow it down. Move at a pace that works best for you and your team and leverage this as a resource. For more of a deep dive look into each part of the planning phase, you will see a link to the detailed How-To Guide at the top of each phase.
1-2 weeks (1 hr meeting with Owner/CEO, Strategy Director and Facilitator (if necessary) to discuss information collected and direction for continued planning.)
Questions to Ask:
- Who is on your Planning Team?
- 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 embarking on this initiative?
- Planning team members are informed of their roles and responsibilities.
- Planning schedule is established.
- Existing planning information and secondary data collected.
Step 1: Determine Organizational Readiness
Set up your planning process 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 implementation (Chief Strategy Officer or Strategy Director) and then you need some of the key individuals and decision makers for this team. It should be a small group of approximately 12-15 persons.
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
Collect the following information on your organization:
- The last strategic plan, even if it is not current
- Mission statement, vision statement, values statement
- 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?
Strategic Planning Phase 1: Determine Your Strategic Position
Want More? Deep Dive Into the “ Evaluate Your Strategic Position ” How-To Guide.
Step 1: identify strategic issues.
Strategic issues are critical unknowns that are driving you to embark on a strategic planning process now. These issues can be problems, opportunities, market shifts or anything else that is keeping you awake at night and begging for a solution or decision.
- 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 also referred to as a PEST analysis, which is an acronym for Political, Economic, Social and Technological trends. Sometimes it is helpful to also 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 have an understanding of 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.
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 that may prevent a company from reaching its objectives.
What do you need to mitigate?
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
Customer segmentation defines the different groups of people or organizations a company aims to reach or serve.
Who are we providing value to?
- 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
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. By creating a SWOT analysis, you can 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
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 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.
How will we behave?
- What are the key non-negotiables that are critical to the success of the company?
- What are the guiding principles that 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.
A Vision Statement defines your desired future state and provides direction for 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.
A Competitive Advantage is a characteristic(s) of an organization that allows it to meet their customer’s need(s) better than their competition can.
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.
Your strategies are the general methods you intend to use to reach your vision. No matter what 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.
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 help you think about the options that 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? 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
Step 3: Setting Organization-Wide Goals and Measures
Once you have formulated your strategic objectives, you should translate them into goals and measures that can be clearly communicated to your planning team (team leaders and/or team members). You want to set goals that convert the strategic objectives into specific performance targets. Effective goals clearly state what, when, how, and who, and they are specifically measurable. They should address what you need to do in the short-term (think 1-3 years) to achieve your strategic objectives. Organization-wide goals are annual statements that are specific, measurable, attainable, responsible and time bound. These are outcome statements expressing a result expected in the organization.
What is most important right now to reach our long-term objectives?
Outcome: clear outcomes for the current year..
Step 4: Select KPIs
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.
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, begin by asking “What are the key performance measures we need to track in order to monitor if we are achieving our goals?” These KPIs include the key goals that you want to measure that will have the most impact in moving your organization forward.
Step 5: Cascade Your Strategies to Operations
Cascading action items and to-dos for each short-term goal is where the rubber meets the road – literally. Moving from big ideas to action happens when strategy is translated from the organizational level to the individual. Here we widen the circle of the people who are involved in the planning as functional area managers and individual contributors develop their short-term goals and actions to support the organizational direction. But before you take that action, determine if you are going to develop a set of plans that cascade directly from the strategic plan, or instead if you have existing operational, business or account plans that should be synced up with organizational goals. A pitfall is to develop multiple sets of goals and actions for directors and staff to manage. Fundamentally, at this point you have moved from planning the strategy to planning the operations; from strategic planning to annual planning. That said, the only way strategy gets executed is to align resources and actions from the bottom to the top to drive your vision.
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:
Phase 4: Executing Strategy and Managing Performance
Want More? Deep 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.
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.
Your Bi-Annual Checklist
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 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 goaFls, 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.
Restricting the meeting to reporting on measurements can help you stay on task and keep the meeting within 30 minutes, but if you can commit to a full hour, the meeting agenda should also include some time devoted to working on one specific topic or on one of the quarter’s priorities where decisions need to be made. Once agreed upon, this topic should be developed to conclusion. Holding meetings helps focus your goals on accomplishing top priorities and accelerating growth of the organization. Although the meeting structure is relatively simple, it does require a high degree of discipline.
Strategy Review Session Questions:
- What were our three most important strategic accomplishments of the last 90 days – how have we changed our field of play in the past 90 days?
- What are the three most important ways we fell short of our strategic potential?
- In the last 90 days, what are the three most important things that we have learned about our strategy? (NOTE: We are looking for insight to decision to action observations.)
Step 4: Annual Updates The three words strategic planning off-site provoke reactions anywhere from sheer exuberance to ducking for cover. In many organizations, retreats have a bad reputation because stepping into one of the many planning pitfalls is so easy. Holding effective meetings can be tough, and if you add a lot of brainpower mixed with personal agendas, you can have a recipe for disaster. That’s why so many strategic planning meetings are unsuccessful. Executing your strategic plan is as important, or even more important, than your strategy. Critical actions move a strategic plan from a document that sits on the shelf to actions that drive organizational growth. The sad reality is that the majority of organizations who have strategic plans fail to implement. Don’t be part of the majority! In fact, research has shown that 70% of organizations that have a formal execution process out-perform their peers. (Kaplan & Norton) Guiding your work in this stage of the planning process is a schedule for the next 12 months that spells out when the quarterly strategy reviews are, who is involved, what participants need to bring to the meetings and how you will adapt the plan based on the outcomes of the reviews. You remain in this phase of the strategic management process until you embark on the next formal planning sessions where you start back at the beginning. Remember that successful execution of your plan relies on appointing a strategy director, training your team to use OnStrategy (or any other planning tool), effectively driving accountability, and gaining organizational commitment to the process.
Strategic planning frequently asked questions
Read our frequently asked questions about strategic planning to learn how to build a great strategic plan..
Business Strategic Planning is a process where your business defines a bold vision of the future and creates a plan to reach that future. It helps your business define where you’re going, how you’ll get there, how you’ll grow, and what you must do to reach your desired future.
A great strategic plan determines where your organization is going, how you’ll win, what roles each team member has in the execution, and your game plan for reviewing and adapting your strategy. Elements include a current state analysis, SWOT, mission, vision, values, competitive advantages, growth strategy, growth enablers, a 3-year roadmap, and annual plan with goals, KPIs, and OKRs.
Typically, the average strategic planning process takes about 3-4 months, but depending on your organization, it could take more or less time. Every organization is different, so you should work at a pace that works for you.
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?
Determining your positioning entails conducting a scan of macro and micro trends in your environment and industry, identifying marketing and competitive opportunities and threats, clarifying target customers and value propositions, gathering and reviewing staff and partner feedback for strengths and weaknesses, synthesizing the data into a SWOT, and solidifying your competitive advantages.
Developing your strategy includes determining your primary business model and organizational purpose, identifying your corporate values, creating an image of what success would look like in 3-5 years, solidifying your competitive advantages, formulating organization wide-strategies that explain your base, and agreeing on strategic issues you need to address in the planning process. .
Once you get to the strategic plan development process in the planning process, you must begin developing your strategic framework and defining long-term strategic objectives, set short-term SMART organizational goals, and select the measure that will be your KPIs (key performance indicators.)
The last phase of strategic planning is implementation, execution, and ongoing refreshes. This step entails establishing an implementation schedule, rolling out your plan, executing against your key results, and reviewing process and refreshing your plan quarterly. p>
The ideal execution schedule for your strategic plan will differ from team to team or organization to organization, but generally, you should try to set 4 quarterly reviews, a mid-year executive survey, 12 monthly check-ins, and a year-end plan review and annual refresh.
Join 60,000 other leaders engaged in transforming their organizations.
Subscribe to get the latest agile strategy best practices, free guides, case studies, and videos in your inbox every week..
Leading strategy? Join our FREE community.
Become a member of the chief strategy officer collaborative..
Free monthly sessions and exclusive content.
Do you want to 2x your impact.
- Gartner client? Log in for personalized search results.
Essential Guide to Strategic Planning
Strategic planning maps the initiatives and investments required to achieve long‑term strategic objectives. Here’s how to do it well.
Download Your Guide to Strategic Planning Success
All fields are required.
Please provide the consent below
I have read, understood and accepted Gartner Separate Consent Letter , whereby I agree (1) to provide Gartner with my personal information, and understand that information will be transferred outside of mainland China and processed by Gartner group companies and other legitimate processing parties and (2) to be contacted by Gartner group companies via internet, mobile/telephone and email, for the purposes of sales, marketing and research.
Strategic planning that works — even in volatile times
Just 29% of strategists say their organizations change plans fast enough to respond to disruption. What’s the problem? Most often, unclear objectives, poor strategic planning processes and disengaged business leaders.
Use this guide to:
Turn your strategy into action faster
Combat 7 mistakes common to strategic planning
Capture and communicate your plans with an exclusive one-page template
4 critical things to know about strategic planning
Especially in times of disruption, it’s key to understand what strategic planning is and does, what assumptions you need and how to leverage the value of adaptive strategy and scenario planning.
- What Is Strategic Planning?
- Strategic Assumptions
- Scenario Planning
- Adaptive Strategy
Strategy and strategic plans: How they are different and why it matters
Strategy creates a common understanding of what an organization wants to achieve and what it needs to do to meet its goals. Strategic plans bridge the gap from overall direction to specific projects and day-to-day actions that ultimately execute the strategy. Job No. 1 is to know the difference between strategy and strategic plans — and why it matters.
Strategy defines the long-term direction of the enterprise. It articulates what the enterprise will do to compete and succeed in its chosen markets or, for the public sector, what the agency will do to achieve its mission.
Strategic planning defines how the enterprise will realize its strategic ambitions in the midterm. Too often, strategic plans are created and then forgotten until the next planning cycle begins. A well-done strategic plan turns an enterprise strategy into a clear roadmap of initiatives, actions and investments required to execute the strategy and meet business goals.
Functional strategic plans document the choices and actions needed for the function to move from the current state to the desired end state, and contribute effectively to the enterprise business model and goals.
Business unit strategic plans define and finalize business unit goals, objectives and initiatives, while cognizant of enterprise priorities and external trends.
Operational plans deal with the short-term execution of specific projects and changes, as well as any operational tasks not contained in the strategic plan.
If you’re responsible for functional strategy, such as IT , create strategic frameworks focused only on what’s material — critical assumptions, relevant metrics and the key initiatives your function needs to contribute effectively to organizational goals, even as those goals shift.
Look out for key trends and disruptions, and test strategic assumptions
It’s critical to scan and respond to trends and disruptions that could impact your strategy and strategic plans — and change your strategic assumptions. Strategic planning cycles should incorporate some mechanism to vet assumptions for relevance (also see “Scenario Planning”).
Ignoring or devaluing trends and disruptions can leave critical gaps in both your strategic assumptions and your strategic planning process, because you may be overlooking both threats and opportunities for your value proposition and competitive positioning.
One Gartner survey found that only 38% of organizations have a formal process for this type of trendspotting. Gartner scopes the seven key areas of disruptive change as a “TPESTRE” of interconnected trend areas (see figure).
Executives across functions and teams can use the TPESTRE construct to identify key trends at any time — from augmented human experience to purpose-driven organizations and digitally enabled sustainability — and analyze their impact. From there, they can build strategic assumptions around the trends as they begin to map what actions might be needed in terms of business models, people/capabilities, IT systems and resources.
After sudden humanitarian or geopolitical disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a framework like TPESTRE can help you identify and monitor a range of risks that may affect your enterprise or function and that you may need to include in scenario planning.
Scenario planning as a strategic planning tool for functions
Scenario planning enables executives and their teams to explore and evaluate plausible alternative futures to make strategic plans more robust and resilient. Pandemic-related disruption and volatility showed the importance of leveraging a range of scenarios to reset business strategy and strategic plans.
Commonly used by strategists at the organizational level, scenario planning at the functional level is just as valuable. Many functional leaders have little experience with strategic scenario planning, even though they may regularly work with their CFO to build budget and forecast scenarios. Those who can learn and apply scenario planning in strategic planning can help their organization navigate volatile and dynamic conditions more effectively, especially in areas like supply chain , where disruption remains high.
Exploring scenarios enables you to determine suitable action plans or strategies for different possible futures. It reveals how to react to a specific future and which set of actions would make sense no matter what conditions ultimately unfold.
For leaders of functional teams, developing scenarios and their underlying assumptions is in itself a useful exercise to corroborate or challenge strategies and keep them current.
The objective of scenario planning is to secure the best immediate outcome while preparing suitable alternative action plans, depending on how a situation unfolds. Proactively agreeing on both near-term operational decisions and long-term strategic plans will reduce the time it takes you to respond to emerging risks and opportunities. This can help your function preempt, rather than reactively control for, the negative effects of a major event or disruption.
Guide to Scenario Planning for Functional Leaders
Scenario Planning for Supply Chain Leaders
Scenario Planning Ignition Guide for Marketing
Strengthen Your R&D Portfolio With Scenario Planning
Use adaptive strategic planning to enable a dynamic response
In an increasingly volatile and uncertain world, strategy can rapidly become out-of-date. To address this challenge, strategic planning must be adaptive. The faster the rate of change in operating conditions and the more disruptions you need to integrate into long-term strategy, the more adaptive your strategy models must be.
An adaptive strategy approach is what ensures your organization can spot new opportunities earlier and respond more quickly than your competitors, making you most likely to succeed in a dynamic digital world.
A truly adaptive strategy approach is consistent with four core practices (see figure) designed to move the enterprise from a rigid, top-down, calendar-based process to a more event-driven strategy approach. Functional strategy can incorporate the same principles. While a truly adaptive approach will be based on all four core practices, functional leaders can initially focus on the practices that address their immediate strategy challenges.
Rather than requiring perfect or complete information to execute, adaptive strategy uses available information to identify immediate actions required for an enterprise or function to be successful. These actions may range from focusing on high-priority areas to making foundational investments or conducting experiments to test ideas. You can use insights from these actions, along with any new information and analysis, to identify your next set of actions.
Adaptive strategy requires you to review strategy whenever new (and relevant) information becomes available, so it’s important to continually scan the business context to identify changes and review — and, where necessary, adjust — strategy in response to changes. (Also see “Strategic Assumptions.”)
Check out more strategic planning essentials for your function
Audit Compliance Finance Human Resources Information Technology Legal
Marketing Research & Development Risk Sales Service & Support Supply Chain
Experience Gartner Conferences
Join your peers for the unveiling of the latest insights at Gartner conferences.
Frequently asked questions
What is strategic planning.
Strategic planning is the process through which enterprises, functions and business units identify the roadmap of initiatives and portfolio of investments that will be required in the medium term to achieve long-term strategic objectives.
What are the four types of strategic planning and the three levels of strategic planning?
Strategic planning starts with setting strategy at the enterprise level, but that strategy must then be turned into action. The three levels of strategic planning typically refer to corporate versus business unit and functional. The four types of plans are typically strategic, operational, tactical and contingency.
What steps are involved in the strategic planning process?
To build a successful strategic plan with a consistent and sequential process, functional leaders should:
Ensure consistent usage of terms to minimize confusion in strategic planning and set a baseline for collaboration
Build a strong foundation for more detailed planning by setting or pressure-testing mission, vision and goal statements first
Streamline stakeholder input by limiting mission, vision and goal setting to senior leadership, and leaving objective, action plan, and measure and metric development to managers with execution expertise
What are the key elements of strategic planning?
The key elements of a successful strategic plan include:
Mission and vision. The organization’s mission articulates its reasons for being, and the vision lays out where the organization hopes to be. The strategic plan, which links the two, must be adaptive enough to respond if the context changes during execution.
Strategic assumptions. To build a successful strategic plan, leadership should scope for trends and disruptions, and assess their potential impact on enterprise goals.
Strategic plan design. A rigorous strategic planning design effectively translates the strategy into plans that can and will be executed. Poor plans lead to poor execution.
What are the key terms in strategic planning?
Mission: Organization’s purpose
Vision: Desired future state
Objective: How to reach goals
Action plan: What’s needed to achieve objectives
Measures and metrics: To track progress toward goals
How do we design a strategic planning system?
Strategic planning “systems” refer to the tools used to document strategic plans. Gartner urges organizations not to focus on strategy in terms of the document they’re creating, but instead focus on turning strategy into an easily communicated action plan.
What is a strategic action plan?
The strategic action plan is a formal document that serves as the primary source of information for how objectives will be executed, monitored, controlled and closed. Many organizations also deploy an associated but separate “action plan” for achieving the operating model.
What are strategic measures and metrics?
Measures are observable outcomes that allow organizations to evaluate the efficacy of their action plans. Metrics quantify those observed changes to enable an organization to concretely quantify its progress and stay aligned to its chosen measures.
What are the 7 key success factors involved in strategic planning?
These seven success factors are key to producing high-quality strategic plans that will be successfully executed yet responsive to change:
Focus on designing a minimally viable strategy.
Customize planning efforts to meet participants where they are.
Sketch out initiative design before prioritizing strategic actions.
Be clear about who owns what.
Cascade plans side to side, not just top-down.
Focus performance measures on key assumptions.
Pressure-test plans against a narrow set of future scenarios.
Drive stronger performance on your mission-critical priorities.
The 5 Steps of the Strategic Planning Process
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, to 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 goals you laid out at the beginning.
Here’s how to build and structure your strategic plan, complete with templates and assets to help you along the way.
1. Define your vision
Whether it’s for your business as a whole, or a specific initiative, creating a strategic plan means you’ll need to be aligned on a vision for success.
For example: We are going to revolutionize Customer Success by streamlining and optimizing our process for handling support tickets. It’s important to have buy-in across the board, so that all stakeholders know the overall objective and understand the roles they will play in realizing your goals.
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, allowing you to build actionable next steps immediately (and in the same place) through color coding and tagging.
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: Brainstorming and Ideation 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. One of the most common ways to conduct a strategic assessment is SWOT analysis.
What is SWOT analysis?
SWOT analysis is an exercise where you define:
- Strengths: What are your unique strengths for this initiative or for 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 would help differentiate your business?
- Threats: Beyond weaknesses, are there existing on potential threats to your initiative that could limit or prevent its success? How can those be anticipated?
Related: SWOT Analysis Template
3. Determine your priorities and objectives
In order to realize your vision, what will you need to prioritize, and what specific objectives can you outline to accomplish your goals?
Once you’ve defined your vision and analyzed your current standing, you’ll be well positioned to start outlining and ranking your priorities, and the specific objectives tied to those priorities. This can take the form of brainstorming and ideation based on the takeaways from steps 1 and 2.
Related: Project Kickoff Template
4. Define tactics and responsibilities
What are the specific steps necessary to accomplish your objectives? Who will be accountable? This is the stage where individuals or units within your team can get granular about how to achieve your goals, one step at a time.
It’s important to note that these may shift over time, as you launch and gather initial data about your project. For this reasons it’s key to:
- Develop a plan that has clear metrics for success
- Ensure that your plan is adaptable to changing circumstances
- Outline clear roles and responsibilities, so it’s easy to right the ship or make small adjustments in a coordinated fashion
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 you’re looking to accomplish, and have a framework for analyzing the results once you begin to accumulate relevant data.
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 means to measure success or failure, so that everyone is aligned on progress and can come together to evaluate your initiative at regular intervals.
Determine an interval at which to 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 with a platform like Mural, offering a shared digital space to gather and organize feedback.
Related: Retrospective Radar Template
Retrospectives are typically divided into three parts:
- What went well
- What didn’t go well
- What opportunities are there 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.
Another method for reviewing progress is the quarterly business review (QBR). Like the Agile retrospective 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?)
Using the above approach, your team can make room for new ideas within the existing strategic framework in order to track better to your longterm goals.
Related: Quarterly Business Report 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
Related blog posts
The 5 Steps to Creating a Resilient Product Roadmap
5 tips for holding effective post-mortems
How to hold effective strategic planning meetings
Related blog posts.
3 Thanksgiving Day templates to break the ice with your team
4 steps to build better virtual meetings
Take teamwork to new heights with Mural and AI
Get the free 2023 collaboration trends report.
Extraordinary teamwork isn't an accident
You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.
- Business Management – B.S. Business Administration
- Healthcare Administration – B.S.
- Human Resource Management – B.S. Business Administration
- Information Technology Management – B.S. Business Administration
- Marketing – B.S. Business Administration
- Accounting – B.S. Business Administration
- Finance – B.S
- Supply Chain and Operations Management – B.S.
- Accelerated Information Technology Bachelor's and Master's Degree (from the College of IT)
- Health Information Management – B.S. (from the Leavitt School of Health)
- See all Business Bachelor's Degrees
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
- MBA Information Technology Management
- MBA Healthcare Management
- Management and Leadership – M.S.
- Accounting – M.S.
- Marketing – M.S.
- Human Resource Management – M.S.
- Master of Healthcare Administration (from the Leavitt School of Health)
- Data Analytics – M.S. (from the College of Information Technology)
- Information Technology Management – M.S. (from the College of IT)
- Education Technology and Instructional Design – M.Ed. (from the School of Education)
- See all Business Master's Degrees
Bachelor's with Licensure
- Elementary Education – B.A.
- Special Education and Elementary Education (Dual Licensure) – B.A.
- Special Education (Mild-to-Moderate) – B.A.
- Mathematics Education (Middle Grades) – B.S.
- Mathematics Education (Secondary) – B.S.
- See all Education Bachelor's Degrees
- Science Education (Middle Grades) – B.S.
- Science Education (Secondary Chemistry) – B.S.
- Science Education (Secondary Physics) – B.S.
- Science Education (Secondary Biological Science) – B.S.
- Science Education (Secondary Earth Science) – B.S.
- Educational Studies – B.A. Does not lead to licensure
Master's with Licensure
- Teaching, Elementary Education –M.A.
- Teaching, English Education (Secondary) – M.A.
- Teaching, Mathematics Education (Middle Grades) – M.A.
- Teaching, Mathematics Education (Secondary) – M.A.
- Teaching, Science Education (Secondary) – M.A.
- Teaching, Special Education (K–12) – M.A.
- State Teaching Licensure Information
Graduate Degrees and Degrees for Teachers
- Curriculum and Instruction – M.S.
- Educational Leadership – M.S.
- Education Technology & Instructional Design - M.Ed.
- English Language Learning (PreK–12) – M.A.
- See all Education Master's Degrees
- Mathematics Education (K–6) – M.A.
- Mathematics Education (Middle Grades) – M.A.
- Mathematics Education (Secondary) – M.A.
- Endorsement Preparation, English Language Learning (PreK-12)
- Science Education (Middle Grades) – M.A.
- Science Education (Secondary Chemistry) – M.A.
- Science Education (Secondary Physics) – M.A.
- Science Education (Secondary Biological Science) – M.A.
- Science Education (Secondary Earth Science) – M.A.
- Cloud Computing – B.S.
- Computer Science – B.S.
- Cybersecurity and Information Assurance – B.S.
- Data Analytics – B.S.
- Information Technology – B.S.
- Network Engineering and Security – B.S.
- Software Engineering – B.S.
- Accelerated Information Technology Bachelor's and Master's Degree
- Information Technology Management – B.S. Business Administration (from the College of Business)
- See all IT Bachelor's Degrees
- Cybersecurity and Information Assurance – M.S.
- Data Analytics – M.S.
- Information Technology Management – M.S.
- MBA Information Technology Management (from the College of Business)
- See all IT Master's Degrees
- IT Certifications Included in WGU Degrees
- Nursing (RN-to-BSN online) – B.S.
- Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S. (Available in select states)
- Health Information Management – B.S.
- Health and Human Services – B.S.
- Healthcare Administration – B.S. (from the College of Business)
- See all Health & Nursing Bachelor's Degrees
- View all Nursing Post-Master's Certificates
- Nursing Education—Post Master's Certificate
- Leadership and Management—Post Master's Certificate
- Family Nurse Practitioner—Post-Master's Certificate
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner—Post-Master's Certificate
- Nursing - Education (BSN-to-MSN Program) – M.S.
- Nursing – Leadership and Management (BSN-to-MSN Program) – M.S.
- Nursing – Nursing Informatics (BSN-to-MSN Program) – M.S.
- Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner (BSN-to-MSN Program) – M.S. (Available in select states)
- Nursing – Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (BSN-to_MSN Program) – M.S. (Available in select states)
- Nursing – Education (RN-to-MSN Program) – M.S.
- Nursing – Leadership and Management (RN to-MSN Program) – M.S.
- Nursing – Nursing Informatics (RN-to-MSN Program) – M.S.
- Master of Healthcare Administration
- MBA Healthcare Management (from the College of Business)
- Education Technology & Instructional Design - M.Ed. (from the School of Education)
- See all Health & Nursing Master's Degrees
- New Students
- WGU Returning Graduates
- WGU Readmission
- Enrollment Checklist
- School of Education Admissions Requirements
- College of Business Admissions Requirements
- College of IT Admissions Requirements
- Leavitt School of Health Admissions Requirements
- FAQs about Transferring
- Transfer to WGU
- Request WGU Transcripts
What's it like for students at WGU?
At WGU, your experience is our obsession! You're in charge of your college education—but you're never alone. Find out how different WGU is about personalizing and supporting your education.
- Tuition—College of Business
- Tuition—School of Education
- Tuition—College of IT
- Tuition—Leavitt School of Health
- Applying for Financial Aid
- State Grants
- Consumer Information Guide
- Your Financial Obligations
- Responsible Borrowing Initiative
- Higher Education Relief Fund
- Corporate Reimbursement
Flexible and affordable. PLUS $20 million in scholarships for 2022!
Find out more about scholarships for new students.
- Our Students & Graduates
- Alumni Services
- Inspiring Stories of Student Success
- Return on Investment
- How You'll Learn
- Student Reviews
- Partner Organizations
- Paying for School
- Our Faculty
- Tuition and Funding
- Part-Time Options
- Veterans Virtual Resource Center
- Juggling Life and School
- Getting a Raise or Promotion
- Starting a New Career
- Taking the Next Step in Education
- Career Guides
Insights and advice to help you succeed.
Stay up-to-date with the latest articles, student stories, and guides from WGU. Check out the WGU Blog!
- Education Technology and Instructional Design – M.Ed.
- Educational Studies – B.A.
Health & Nursing
- Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.
- Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner (BSN-to-MSN Program) – M.S.
- Nursing – Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (BSN-to_MSN Program) – M.S.
- Apply For Admission
- Admission Requirements
Tuition & Financial Aid
- Tuition and Fees
- Financial Aid
- Student Success
- Graduate Outcomes
- Learning at WGU
- Military and Veterans
- Education Outcomes
Part of Western Governors University
7 Essential Steps in Strategic Planning
What is Strategic Planning?
Think of strategic planning as a company’s roadmap for success. It lays out a plan for moving forward, sets milestones to reach along the way, and tracks the progress of those milestones. When done effectively, strategic planning can give your company a sense of direction, reveal ways to improve performance, and rally everyone around a common goal.
As a future leader , learning how to develop a strategic plan can provide lasting value to your organization—and it’s one of the important skills you’ll learn in a business degree program .
What are the Steps of Strategic Planning?
Creating a strategic plan is a multi-step process in which one step builds off the other. Here are seven steps to consider:
1. Establish Your Strategic Position
Positioning is a fundamental step of the strategic planning process. Its purpose is to clearly define what sets your organization—and the product or services it offers—apart from the competition.
Strategic positioning is a team effort that typically involves stakeholders of the organization’s finance, marketing, and sales departments. It requires decision making about priorities, what value your products and services offer customers, and how they'll be made and marketed by your company.
Laying out a strategic position involves two things:
- Determining the kind of value your product will offer to your consumers
- Deciding how that value will be created differently from your competition
These decisions help lay the foundation for how your organization will operate and inform the strategic choices that will be made in your planning process.
2. Identify Objectives
Strategic planning is all about establishing a roadmap for success, and objectives are the mileposts that determine whether your organization is on the right path. Objectives are clear, measurable goals that are communicated in terms of quantities and timelines. This can be part of a mission statement, a vision statement, or a business plan.
There are multiple ways to set and measure goals. One popular way is using key performance indicators, also known as KPIs. KPIs are measurable values that set a standard for success and track a company’s effectiveness in achieving its objectives.
An effective KPI should follow the SMART goal-setting framework, which means it needs to be:
- Specific: An effective KPI should be detailed, simple, and clear. For example, “Improve sales” is too broad.
- Measurable: KPIs need to be measured quantifiably, whether that’s in dollar amounts, percentages, or raw numbers.
- Achievable: Ensure your KPI is actually attainable and that your organization has the resources to support it.
- Relevant: Make sure your KPI aligns with a larger business objective.
- Time-bound: Good goals have a timeline that’s both ambitious yet realistic.
In addition to being SMART, objectives in a business plan should also:
- Line up with your company’s overall vision. Any objectives you create should be cross-checked with your mission, vision, and values to confirm they’re all aligned.
- Consider potential risks. Companies are often exposed to a variety of risks related to the development and implementation of their business strategy. When creating new objectives, it’s important to ensure your company is being as safe as possible and taking into account the likelihood of a financial, physical, or technological problem.
3. Analyze the Industry, Competitor, and Customer Trends
To create the most effective strategic plan for your organization, you need to fully understand the landscape you’re working in. This is known as an industry analysis. A thorough analysis plan helps you take a deep dive into your industry, consumers, competition, and potential trends within your niche. You can analyze your competitive advantage, business model, strategic objectives, and long-term goals. This can empower everyone, from employees to board members, to know the best steps to take in every area of the company.
The data gained from industry analysis can help identify how your organization measures up against its competition. It can also point out potential threats to your organization, as well as opportunities. Armed with this information, you’ll be better equipped to plan for the future of your business.
But how do you conduct an industry analysis?
There are two common methods to consider:
- A SWOT Analysis: SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This method helps you identify your company’s internal weaknesses and strengths and the external forces—like market trends—that could impact your business.
- A PEST Analysis: An alternative to SWOT is a PEST analysis. This method pinpoints organizational threats and opportunities through the lens of Political, Economic, Social and Technological factors.
Industry analysis isn’t meant to be a one-and-done activity. It’s important to look into the competitive landscape on a regular basis so that your organization can continue to grow, improve, and find new ways to disrupt the market.
4. Create a Strategic Planning Team
Strategic planning can’t be done in a silo. Involving the right people in your organization will give you extra sets of eyes and expertise, ensuring that important details don’t slip through the cracks.
So, who should make up a strategic planning team?
Every team will look different based on your organization, but for starters, you can tap into managers from your finance, marketing, or HR departments. A team that has diverse ideas and perspectives will only strengthen yours. In fact, according to an article by Fierce Inc. , “Without diversity of thought, innovation is thwarted, initiatives may stall, and you alone cannot save your organization. You need to approach issues with a number of perspectives to be able to see the whole truth.”
With a diverse group of people on your planning team, you’ll know people from all sides of your organization are working together to push things forward.
5. Create an Actionable Plan
Now that you’ve established your strategic position, objectives, industry analysis, and a team to support it, it’s time to create a plan of action. An action plan is a series of steps that outline how your company will use its strategies to meet its goals.
This plan should clearly outline:
- What action needs to happen
- Who will carry it out
- When it will be executed
- What resources are needed to make it happen
There are many moving parts to this process, which is why utilizing a visual tool—such as a strategy map, can be beneficial. This map can help your team see the entire strategic planning method laid out in one simple visual.
6. Communicate Your Plan
The quickest way to sabotage your organization’s strategy is failing to communicate it. Research shows that, on average, 95% of a company’s employees don’t understand its strategy. To ensure your plan is successful, everyone in your organization needs to be aware of the how and why of your goals and what they can do to help reach them. This creates a united vision with everyone working together.
Because everyone absorbs information differently, it’s important to communicate your strategic plan in several different ways. For instance, if you only send out an e-newsletter, there’s a good chance some employees might not open it or even read the entire email. Instead, use a multi-channel approach such as:
- A company-wide meeting
- An announcement in your company newsletter or blog
- A video from leadership breaking down the new strategy
- A detailed handout passed out among employees or posted on a bulletin board
You should continue to communicate your strategy routinely (whether that’s every month or quarter) and keep your people in the know when there are changes or updates to the plan.
7. Assess and Revise the Plan Regularly
Once your strategy is launched, you’ll need to know how it’s working. After all, good planning is just part of the process. The other part is consistently checking in on how your organization is progressing toward its goals. A quarterly or monthly review with your strategy team is a good way to check in on your efforts. As you're reviewing your progress, see what worked and what didn’t. Also, look at whether you hit your numbers and deadlines. It’s common for a strategic plan to need some updates along the way, whether that’s revising the timeline, resources, or people working on the plan.
Remember, the strategic planning process is meant to be a constant work in progress. With a committed and communicative leadership team, your organization has a better chance of seeing its vision come to life.
What is management consulting?
Learn about the world of management consulting and discover if it is a good fit for your career goals.
Should I Get an MBA Online?
Explore the similarities and differences between an online MBA and traditional on-campus programs.
An Overview of Effective Marketing Management
If you’re interested in a career in marketing, it’s important to understand the functions of marketing management.
Subscribe to the WGU Blog
Stay up-to-date with the latest articles, tips, and insights from the team at WGU
- Will I earn more money with an MBA?
- Is an online nursing degree credible?
- 3 cybersecurity career myths busted.
- Pop quiz on careers beyond teaching.
- Career Development
- Career Services
- Featured Faculty
- Future of Higher Education
- Information Technology
- Northeast Spotlight
- Nursing & Healthcare
- Online University Experience
- Teaching & Education
One online university. Four colleges. Flexible degrees.
Our focus on your success starts with our focus on four high-demand fields: K–12 teaching and education, nursing and healthcare, information technology, and business. Every degree program at WGU is tied to a high-growth, highly rewarding career path. Which college fits you?
College of Business Online
TEACHERS COLLEGE ONLINE
COLLEGE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ONLINE
COLLEGE OF HEALTH PROFESSIONS ONLINE
Want to see all the degrees WGU has to offer? View all degrees
REQUEST FREE TRANSCRIPTS
Sign up and learn how you could get your transcripts sent to WGU absolutely free.
By submitting you will receive emails from WGU and can opt-out at any time.
THANKS FOR SIGNING UP!
We're emailing you the info on getting your transcripts sent to WGU for free.
Ready to apply now?
5 steps of the strategic planning process
Lucid Content Team
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Use a strategy map to turn your organization's mission and vision into actionable objectives.
Implement the strategic planning process to make measurable progress toward achieving your company’s vision and make decisions that will keep you on the path to success for years to come.
How to Use Kaizen Methodology to Improve Business Processes
The Kaizen methodology is an easy way to engage employees and develop a culture of continuous improvement. It strives to eliminate silos, egos, and waste and instead aims for efficient and standardized processes. See why you should use Kaizen and how you can get started.
Receive product tips and expert advice straight to your inbox.
How To Write A Strategic Plan That Gets Results + Examples
Are you feeling overwhelmed with the thought of writing a strategic plan for your business? Do you want to create a plan that will help you move your team forward with inspired alignment and disciplined execution? You're not alone.
Gone are the days of rigid, 5- or 10-year planning cycles that do not leave room for flexibility and innovation. To stay ahead of the curve, you need a dynamic and execution-ready strategic plan that can guide your business through the ever-evolving landscape.
At Cascade, we understand that writing a strategic plan can be dreadful, especially in today's unpredictable environment. That's why we've developed a simple model that can help you create a clear, actionable plan to achieve your organization's goals. With our tested and proven strategic planning template , you can write a strategic plan that is both adaptable and effective .
Whether you're a seasoned strategy professional or a fresh strategy planner, this guide will walk you through the process step-by-step on how to write a strategic plan. By the end, you'll have a comprehensive, easy-to-follow strategic plan that will help you align your organization on the path to success.
Follow this guide step-by-step or skip to the part you’re most interested in:
- Pre-Planning Phase: Build The Foundation
Cascade Model For Strategic Planning: What You Need To Know
- Key Elements of a Strategic Plan
How To Write A Strategic Plan In 6 Simple Steps
3 strategic plan examples to get you started, how to achieve organizational alignment with your strategic plan.
- Quick Overview of Key Steps In Writing A Strategic Plan
Create An Execution-Ready Strategic Plan With Cascade 🚀
*Editor’s note: This article is part of our ‘How to create a Strategy’ collection. At the end of this article, you’ll find a link to each piece within this collection so you can dig deeper into each element of an effective strategic plan and more related resources to master strategy execution.
Pre-Planning Phase: Build The Foundation
Before we dive into writing a strategic plan, it's essential to know the basics you should cover before the planning phase. The pre-planning phase is where you'll begin to gather the data and strategic insights necessary to create an effective strategic plan.
1. Run a strategic planning workshop
The first step is to run a strategic planning workshop with your team. Get your team in the room, get their data, and gather their insights. By running this workshop, you'll foster collaboration and bring fresh perspectives to the table. And that’s not all.
The process of co-creating and collaborating to put that plan together with stakeholders is one of the most critical factors in strategy execution . According to McKinsey’s research , initiatives in which employees contribute to development are 3.4 times more likely to be successful. They feel like the plan is a result of their efforts, and they feel ownership of it, so they're more likely to execute it.
💡 Tip: Use strategy frameworks to structure your strategy development sessions, such as GAP analysis , SWOT analysis , Porter’s Five Forces , Ansoff matrix , McKinsey 7S model , or GE matrix . You can even apply the risk matrix that will help you align and decide on key strategic priorities.
2. Choose your strategic planning model
Before creating your strategic plan, you need to decide which structure you will use. There are hundreds of ways to structure a strategic plan. You’ve likely heard of famous strategic models such as OKRs and the Balanced Scorecard .
But beyond the well-known ones, there's also a myriad of other strategic planning models ranging from the extremely simple to the absurdly complex.
Many strategic models work reasonably well on paper, but in reality, they don't show you how to write a strategic plan that fits your organization's needs.
Here are some common weaknesses most popular strategic models have:
- They're too complicated. People get lost in terminology rather than focus on execution.
- They don’t scale. They work well for small organizations but fail when you try to extend them across multiple teams.
- They're too rigid. They force people to add layers for the sake of adding layers.
- They're neither tangible nor measurable. They’re great at stating outcomes but lousy at helping you measure success.
- They're not adaptable. As we saw in the last years, the business environment can change quickly. Your model needs to be able to work in your current situation and adapt to changing economic landscapes.
Our goal in this article is to give you a simpler, more effective way to write a strategic plan. This is a tested and proven strategic planning model that has been refined over years of working with +20,000 teams around the world. We call it the Cascade Strategy Model.
This approach has proven to be more effective than any other model we have tried when it comes to executing and implementing the strategy .
It’s easy to use and it works for small businesses, fast-growing startups, as well as multinationals trying to figure out how to write a fail-proof strategic plan.
We’ve created a simple diagram below to illustrate what a strategic plan following the Cascade Model will look like when it's completed:
Rather than a traditional roadmap , imagine your strategy as a flowchart. Each row is a mandatory step before moving on to the next.
We call our platform Cascade for a reason: strategy must cascade throughout an organization along with values, focus areas, and objectives.
Above all, the Cascade Model is intended to be execution-ready —in other words, it has been proven to deliver success far beyond strategic planning. It adds to a successful strategic management process.Key elements of a Strategic Plan
Key Elements Of A Strategic Plan
The key elements of a strategic plan include:
- Vision : Where do you want to get to?
- Values : How will you behave on the journey?
- Focus Areas : What are going to be your strategic priorities?
- Strategic objectives : What do you want to achieve?
- Actions and projects : How are you going to achieve the objectives?
- KPIs : How will you measure success?
In this part of the article, we will give you an overview of each element within the Cascade Model. You can follow this step-by-step process in a spreadsheet , or sign up to get instant access to a free Cascade strategic planning template and follow along as we cover the key elements of an effective strategic plan.
Your vision statement is your organization's anchor - it defines where you want to get to and is the executive summary of your organization's purpose. Without it, your strategic plan is like a boat without a rudder, at the mercy of strong winds and currents like Covid and global supply chain disruptions.
A good vision statement can help funnel your strategy towards long-term goals that matter the most to your organization, and everything you write in your plan from this point on will help you get closer to achieving your vision.
Trying to do too much at once is a surefire way to sink your strategic plan. By creating a clear and inspiring vision statement , you can avoid this trap and provide guidance and inspiration for your team. A great vision statement might even help attract talent and investment into your organization.
For example, a bike manufacturing company might have a vision statement like, “To be the premier bike manufacturer in the Pacific Northwest.” This statement clearly articulates the organization's goals and is a powerful motivator for the team.
In short, don't start your strategic plan without a clear vision statement. It will keep your organization focused and help you navigate toward success.
📚 Recommended read: How to Write a Vision Statement (With Examples, Tips, and Formulas)
Values are the enablers of your vision statement —they represent how your organization will behave as you work towards your strategic goals. Unfortunately, many companies throw around meaningless words just for the purpose of PR, leading to a loss of credibility.
To avoid this, make sure to integrate your organization’s core values into everyday operations and interactions. In today's highly-competitive world, it's crucial to remain steadfast in your values and cultivate an organizational culture that's transparent and trustworthy.
Companies with the best company cultures consistently outperform competitors and their average market by up to 115.6%, as reported by Glassdoor .
For example, a bike manufacturing company might have core values like:
These values reflect the organization's desire to become the leading bike manufacturer, while still being accountable to employees, customers, and shareholders.
👉 Here’s how to add vision and values to your strategic plan in Cascade:
After you sign up and invite your team members to collaborate on the plan, navigate to Plans and Teams > Teams page, and add the vision, mission and values. This will help you to ensure that the company’s vision, mission statement, and values are always at top of mind for everyone.
📚When you're ready to start creating some company values, check out our guide, How To Create Company Values .
3. Focus Areas
Your focus areas are the strategic priorities that will keep your team on track and working toward the company’s mission and vision. They represent the high-level areas that you need to focus on to achieve desired business outcomes.
In fact, companies with clearly defined priorities are more likely to achieve their objectives. According to a case study by the Harvard Business Review , teams that focus on a small number of key initiatives are more likely to succeed than those that try to do too much.
That’s also something that we usually recommend to our customers when they set up their strategic plan in Cascade. Rather than spreading your resources too thin over multiple focus areas, prioritize three to five.
Following our manufacturing example above, some good focus areas include:
- Aggressive growth
- Producing the nation's best bikes
- Becoming a modern manufacturer
- Becoming a top place to work
Your focus areas should be tighter in scope than your vision statement, but broader than specific goals, time frames, or metrics.
By defining your focus areas, you'll give your teams a guardrail to work within, which can help inspire innovation and creative problem-solving.
With a clear set of focus areas, your team will be better able to prioritize their work and stay focused on the most important things, which will ultimately lead to better business results.
👉Here’s how you can set focus areas in Cascade:
In Cascade, you can add focus areas while creating or importing an existing strategic plan from a spreadsheet. With Cascade’s Focus Area deep-dive functionality , you will be able to:
- Review the health of your focus areas in one place.
- Get a breakdown by plans, budgets, resources, and people behind each strategic priority.
- See something at-risk? Drill down into each piece of work regardless of how many plans it's a part of.
📚 Recommended read: Strategic Focus Areas: How to create them + Examples
4. Strategic Objectives
The importance of setting clear and specific objectives for your strategic plan cannot be overstated.
Strategic objectives are the specific and measurable outcomes you want to achieve . While they should align with your focus areas, they should be more detailed and have a clear deadline.
According to the 2022 State of High Performing Teams report , there is a strong correlation between goals and success not only at the individual and team level but also at the organizational level. Here’s what they found:
- Employees who are unaware of their company's goals are over three times more likely to work at a company that is experiencing a decline in revenue than employees who are aware of the goals.
- Companies with shrinking revenues are almost twice as likely to have employees with unclear work expectations.
Jumping straight into actions without defining clear objectives is a common mistake that can lead to missed opportunities or misalignment between strategy and execution.
To avoid this pitfall, we recommend you add between three and six objectives to each focus area .
It's here that we need to start being a bit more specific for the first time in your strategic planning process . Let's take a look at an example of a well-written strategic objective:
- Continue top-line growth that outpaces the industry by 31st Dec 2023.
This is too specific to be a focus area. While it's still very high level, it indicates what the company wants to accomplish and includes a clear deadline. Both these aspects are critical to a good strategic objective.
Your strategic objectives are the heart and soul of your plan, and you need to ensure they are well-crafted. So, take the time to create well-planned objectives that will help you achieve your vision and lead your organization to success.
👉Here’s how you can set objectives in Cascade:
Adding objectives in Cascade is intuitive, straightforward, and accessible from almost anywhere in the workspace. With one click, you’ll open the objective sidebar and fill out the details. These can include a timeline, the objective’s owner, collaborators, and how your objective will be measured (success criteria).
📚 Recommended read: What are Strategic Objectives? How to write them + Examples
5. Actions and projects
Once you’ve defined your strategic objectives, the next step is to identify the specific strategic initiatives or projects that will help you achieve those objectives . They are short-term goals or actionable steps you or your team members will take to accomplish objectives. They should leverage the company’s resources and core competencies.
Effective projects and actions in your strategic plan should:
- Be extremely specific.
- Contain a deadline.
- Have an owner.
- Align with at least one of your strategic objectives.
- Provide clarity on how you or your team will achieve the strategic objective.
Let's take a look at an example of a well-written project continuing with our bike manufacturing company using the strategic objective from above:
Strategic objective: Continue top-line growth that outpaces the industry by 31st Dec 2023.
Project: Expand into the fixed gear market by 31st December 2023.
This is more specific than the objective it links to, and it details what you will do to achieve the objective.
Another common problem area for strategic plans is that they never quite get down to the detail of what you're going to do.
It's easier to state "we need to grow our business," but without concrete projects and initiatives, those plans will sit forever within their PowerPoint templates, never to see the light of day after their initial creation.
Actions and projects are where the rubber meets the road. They connect the organizational strategic goals with the actual capabilities of your people and the resources at their disposal. Defining projects is a vital reality check every strategic plan needs.
👉Here’s how you create actions and projects in Cascade:
From the Objective sidebar, you can choose to add a project or action under your chosen objective. In the following steps, you can assign an owner and timeline to each action or project.
Plus, in Cascade, you can track the progress of each project or action in four different ways. You can do it manually, via milestones, checklists, or automatically by integrating with Jira and 1000+ other available integrations .
📚 Recommended read: How to create effective projects
Measuring progress towards strategic objectives is essential to effective strategic control and business success. That's where Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) come in. KPIs are measurable values that track progress toward achieving key business objectives . They keep you on track and help you stay focused on the goals you set for your organization.
To get the most out of your KPIs, make sure you link them to a specific goal or objective. In this way, you'll avoid creating KPIs that don't contribute to your objectives and distract you from focusing on what matters.
Ideally, you will add both leading and lagging KPIs to each objective so you can get a more balanced view of how well you're progressing. Leading KPIs can indicate future performance while lagging KPIs show how well you’ve done in the past. Both types of KPIs are critical for operational planning and keeping your business on track.
Think of KPIs as a form of signpost in your organization. They provide critical insights that inform business leaders of their organization’s progress toward key business objectives. Plus, they can help you identify opportunities faster and capitalize on flexibility.
👉Here’s how you can set and track KPIs in Cascade:
In Cascade , you can add measures while creating your objectives or add them afterward. Open the Objective sidebar and add your chosen measure.
When you create your Measure, you can choose how to track it. Using Cascade, you can track it manually or automatically. You can automate tracking via 1000+ integrations , including Excel spreadsheets and Google Sheets. In this way, you can save time and ensure that your team has up-to-date information for faster and more confident decision-making.
📚 Recommended reads:
- 10 Popular KPI Software Tools To Connect & Visualize Your Data (2023 Guide)
- How To Track KPIs To Hit Your Business Goals
Corporate Strategic Plan
Following the steps outlined above, you should end up with a strategic plan that looks something like this:
This is a preview of a corporate strategic plan template that is pre-filled with examples. Here you can use the template for free and begin filling it out to align with your organization's needs. Plus, it’s suitable for organizations of all sizes and any industry.
Once you fill in the template, you can also switch to the timeline view. You’ll get a complete overview of how the different parts of your plan are distributed across the roadmap in a Gantt chart view.
This template will help you create a structured approach to the strategic planning process, focus on key strategic priorities, and drive accountability to achieve necessary business outcomes.
👉 Get your free corporate strategic plan template here.
Coca-Cola Strategic Plan
Need a bit of extra inspiration to start writing your organization’s strategic plan? Check out this strategic plan example, inspired by Coca-Cola’s business plan:
This template is pre-filled with Coca-Cola’s examples so you can inspire your strategic success on one of the most iconic brands on the planet.
👉 Grab your free example of a Coca-Cola strategic plan here.
The Ramsay Health Care expansion strategy
Ramsay Health Care is a multinational healthcare provider with a strong presence in Australia, Europe, and Asia.
Almost all of its growth was organic and strategic. The company founded its headquarters in Sydney, Australia, but in the 21st century, it decided to expand globally through a primary strategy of making brownfield investments and acquisitions in key locations.
Ramsay's strategy was simple yet clever. By becoming a majority shareholder of the biggest local players, the company expanded organically in each region by leveraging and expanding their expertise.
Over the last two decades, Ramsay's global network has grown to 460 locations across 10 countries with over $13 billion in annual revenue.
📚 Recommended read: Strategy study: The Ramsay Health Care Growth Study
✨ Bonus resource: We've created a list of the most popular and free strategic plan templates in our library that will help you build a strategic plan based on the Cascade model explained in this article. You can use these templates to create a plan on a corporate, business unit, or team level.
We highlighted before that other strategic models often fail to scale strategic plans and goals scales across multiple teams and organizational levels.
In an ideal world, you want to have a maximum of two layers of detail underneath each of your focus areas. This means you'll have a focus area, followed by a layer of objectives. Underneath the objectives, you'll have a layer of actions, projects, and KPIs.
If you have a single team that’s responsible for the strategy execution, this works well. However, how do you implement a strategy across multiple and cross-functional teams? And why is it important?
According to LSA research of 410 companies across 8 industries, highly aligned companies grow revenue 58% faster and are 72% more profitable. And this is what Cascade can help you achieve.
To achieve achieve organization-wide alignment with your strategic plan and impact the bottom line, there are two ways to approach it in Casade: through contributing objectives or shared objectives .
1. Contributing objectives
This approach involves adding contributing objectives that link to your main strategic objectives, like this:
For each contributing objective, you simply repeat the Objective → Action/Project → KPI structure as follows:
Here's how you can create contributing objectives in Cascade:
Option A: Create contributing objectives within the same plan
This means creating multiple contributing objectives within the same strategic plan that contribute to the main objective.
However, be aware that if you have a lot of layers, your strategic plan can become cluttered, and people might have difficulty understanding how their daily efforts contribute to the strategic plan at the top level.
For example, the people responsible for managing contributing objectives at the bottom of the plan ( functional / operational level ) will lose visibility on how are their objectives linked to the main focus areas and objectives (at a corporate / business level ).
This approach is best suited to smaller organizations that only need to add a few layers of objectives to their plan.
Option B: Create contributing objectives from multiple plans linking to the main objective
This approach creates a network of aligned strategic plans within your organization. Each plan contains a set of focus areas and one single layer of objectives, each with its own set of projects, actions, and KPIs. This concept looks like this:
This example illustrates an objective that is a main objective in the IT strategic plan , but also contributes to the main strategic plan's objective.
For example, let’s say that your main business objective is to improve customer satisfaction by reducing product delivery time by 25% in the next quarter. This objective requires multiple operational teams within your organization to work together to achieve a shared objective.
Each team will create its own objective in its plan to contribute to the main objective:
- Logistics team: Reduce the shipment preparation time by 30%
- IT team: Implement new technology to reduce manual handling in the warehouse
- Production team: Increase production output by hour for 5%
Here’s how this example would look like within Cascade platform:
Although each contributing objective was originally created in its own plan, you can see how each contributing objective relates to the main strategic objective and its status in real-time.
2. Shared objectives
In Cascade, shared objectives are the same objectives shared across different strategic plans.
For example, you can have an objective that is “Achieve sustainable operations”. This objective can be part of the Corporate Strategy Plan, but also part of the Operations Plan , Supply Chain Plan , Production Plan, etc. In short, this objective becomes a shared objective between multiple teams and strategic plan.
This approach helps you to:
- Cascade your business strategy as deep as you want across a near-infinite number of people while maintaining strategic alignment throughout your organization .
- Create transparency and a much higher level of engagement in the strategy throughout your organization since objective owners are able to identify how their shared efforts contribute to the success of the main business objectives.
The more shared objectives you have across your organization, the more your teams will be aligned with the overarching business strategy. This is what we call " alignment health ”.
Here’s how you can see the shared objectives in the alignment map and analyze alignment health within Cascade:
You get a snapshot of how is your corporate strategic plan aligned with sub-plans from different business units or departments and the status of shared objectives. This helps you quickly identify misaligned initiatives and act before it’s too late. Plus, cross-functional teams have better visibility of how their efforts contribute to shared objectives.
So whether you choose contributing objectives or shared objectives, Cascade has the tools and features to help you achieve organization-wide alignment and boost your bottom line.
Quick Overview Of Key Steps In Writing A Strategic Plan
Here’s a quick infographic to help you remember how everything connects and why each element is critical to creating an effective strategic plan:
This simple answer to how to write a strategic plan avoids confusing jargon and has elements that the whole organization can both get behind and understand.
💡Tip: Save this image or bookmark this article for your next strategic planning session.
If you're struggling to write an execution-ready strategic plan, the Cascade model is the solution you've been looking for. With its clear, easy-to-understand terminology, and simple linkages between objectives, projects, and KPIs, you can create a plan that's both scalable and flexible.
But why is a flexible and execution-ready strategic plan so important? It's simple: without a clear and actionable plan, you'll never be able to achieve your business objectives. By using the Cascade Strategic Planning Model, you'll be able to create a plan that's both tangible and measurable, with KPIs that help you track progress towards your goals.
However, the real value of the Cascade framework lies in its flexibility . By creating links between main business objectives and your teams’ objectives, you can easily scale your plan without losing focus. Plus, the model's structure of linked layers means that you can always adjust your strategy in response to new challenges or opportunities and keep everyone on the same page.
So if you want to achieve results with your strategic plan, start using Cascade today. With its unique combination of flexibility and focus, it's the perfect tool for any organization looking to master strategy execution and succeed in today's fast-paced business world.
Want to see Cascade in action? Get started for free or book a 1:1 demo with Cascade’s in-house strategy expert.
This article is part one of our mini-series "How to Write a Strategic Plan". This first article will give you a solid strategy model for your plan and get the strategic thinking going.
Think of it as the foundation for your new strategy. Subsequent parts of the series will show you how to create the content for your strategic plan.
Articles in our How to Write a Strategic Plan series
- How To Write A Strategic Plan: The Cascade Model (This article)
- How to Write a Good Vision Statement
- How To Create Company Values
- Creating Strategic Focus Areas
- How To Write Strategic Objective
- How To Create Effective Projects
- How To Write KPIs + Ultimate Guide To Strategic Planning
More resources on strategic planning and strategy execution:
- 6 Steps to Successful Strategy Execution
- 4-Step Strategy Reporting Process (With Template)
- Annual Planning: Plan Like a Pro In 5 Steps (+ Template)
- 18 Free Strategic Plan Templates (Excel & Cascade) 2023
- The Right Way To Set Team Goals
- 23 Best Strategy Tools For Your Organization in 2023
Strategic Planning Vs Operational Planning: What’s The Difference?
Strategy Review: How To Run It & What To Include
The 4 Levels Of Strategy: The Difference & How To Apply Them
Risk Mitigation Strategies: Types & Examples (+ Free Template)
Your toolkit for strategy success.
Strategic Planning Process: 7 Crucial Steps to Success
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
- Five 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, 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 a concrete strategic planning is 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.
Successful strategic goals cover all key elements of strategic planning, course-correcting when necessary, and measuring your success as you go, ultimately enabling your company to stay future-proof.
Let’s dive deeper into why 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. 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
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.
- 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
5. Derive a strategic plan
The next step of the strategic planning process gets down to the nitty-gritty “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, 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. 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.
- 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?
5 best practices during the strategic planning process
Simply going through the motions of each step in the strategic planning process is not enough — you must adopt a set of best practices along the way to be successful with strategy development.
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, you can account for varying thoughts, perspectives, and experiences at each step of the strategic planning process, ensuring cross-functional alignment .
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.
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
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 such as key performance indicators and OKRs.
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.
Quantive is your bridge between strategy and execution. Founded on the objectives and key results (OKR) methodology, our Strategy Execution Platform is where businesses plan successful strategy, focus and align teams to it, and stay on the leading edge of progress.
As your company looks to achieve the best possible results, you need a modern approach to run your business and change your business. The Modern Operating Model brings strategy, teams, and data together to help make decisions faster, optimize operations, and drive better business outcomes.
Whether you’re a large enterprise facing competitive disruption or a small business leading the innovative charge, Quantive helps get you where you want to go.
Ready to achieve the best possible? Start using Quantive for free .
Strategy execution in 4 steps: keys to successful strategy, how top companies are closing the strategy execution gap, 7 best practices for strategy execution, why your business needs strategy execution software, subscribe for our newsletter.
What is strategic planning.
What is a strategic plan? Strategic planning in management is the process of documenting and establishing the direction of your small business—by assessing both where you are and where you’re going . So, what is the purpose of a strategic plan? And what does an effective strategic plan consist of? A company’s strategic plan consists of it’s:
- Long-term goals
- Action plans
A well-written strategic business plan can play a pivotal role in your small business’s growth and success because it tells you and your employees how best to respond to opportunities and challenges.
In recent years, many small business owners have been focusing on long-term planning. In fact, in 2020, there were three business areas that small businesses focused on strategy for, including:
- 46% in sales
- 41% in advertising
- 36% in customer service
If you haven’t been focusing on a long-term strategic planning process, it’s not too late to think differently. Your future success depends on effective organizational strategic planning. It’s also important to remember that a strategic planning process model involves your entire business. The discussions that result can lead to meaningful changes in your business. The purpose of strategic planning is to also analyze your business and set realistic goals and objectives. This leads to the creation of a formal document that lays out the company’s views and strategic goals for the future.
Ready to learn more about strategic management and planning? Keep reading through the next sections.
The 3 Step Strategic Planning Process
What are the 3 steps in strategic planning? When it comes to the strategic planning process, think of it as having three phases:
- Review and updating
The goal of developing a strategic plan is to ensure everyone in the business is aligned when it comes to your small business’s goals and objectives, as well as to create a formal strategic plan document.
1. Discussion Phase
The discussion phase is meant to gather as much information, opinions, and input as possible. Set up a regularly scheduled meeting with the employees and any other staff in your business who will be involved with strategic planning. Make sure you have an agenda and clear expectations of what you want to accomplish in each meeting. This will keep discussions on track and help prevent distractions. In the first few meetings, try to answer questions that will help you define the business’s current status, such as, “Where are we now?” and “Where are our competitors?” Once you have a good idea of where the business is, you can focus in on specific details in future meetings.
In addition to regular meetings with your employees at your business, you can also gather information from people outside your company, like:
External people will have a unique perspective on not only your business, but also the industry you’re operating in. Getting their opinions on where they think the industry is going and what they think will change in the future can help you put together your strategic plan and determine where you want your business to be down the road.
You can also conduct a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
When you’re conducting a SWOT analysis, you and your employees will examine what your business does well, where it can improve, any future opportunities to pursue that could help facilitate growth and success, and any competitors or external factors that could prevent the business from succeeding.
Your strengths should be pretty easy to identify. When you’re discussing your business’s weaknesses, don’t be afraid to be candid. Every business has weaknesses and things to work on. Any weakness you and your employees note means it’s something you’ll aim to improve on in the future with a detailed initiative outlined in the strategic plan.
Opportunities available to your business may be pretty clear, while identifying threats to your business can be more difficult. Speaking with people outside of the company should give you a good idea of where the industry could be heading and if there are any major competitors or challenges coming. If you can identify a number of threats and challenges to your business early on, it puts you in a better position to address them if and when you encounter them down the road.
2. Development Phase
After you’ve collected all of the information, it’s time for the development phase. This is when you’ll start putting together your business’s strategic plan. A strategic plan consists of five key components:
- A vision statement
- A mission statement
- Goals and objectives
- An action plan
- Details on how often the strategic plan will be reviewed and updated
Decide with your employees what you will use to create the strategic plan. Are you going to purchase software to help you create and house the plan? Or are you going to create the plan yourself and save it in the cloud for easier access?
When you’re creating goals and objectives for your business, make sure they’re realistic and measurable. Work with your employees to create goals and objectives for at least the next one to three years. And discuss how these goals and objectives will be measured and tracked.
For example, if you have a goal of increasing sales by 10% in the next year, you can track this by measuring sale numbers. Equally important is having an action plan to achieve these goals and objectives. If you’re trying to increase your sales by 10% in a year, you can pursue more marketing and social media outreach as part of your action plan. If an action plan doesn’t help your business achieve its goals, the plan needs to be rewritten.
3. Review and Updating Phase
A critical part of the strategic plan should address how often it will be reviewed and updated. Designate someone to be responsible for reviewing, updating, and sharing any changes with the rest of the company. Whether it’s you or another employee, you’ll want to make sure everyone in the business is aware of the changes and how they affect the overall strategic plan.
The strategic plan is meant to be a fluid document; don’t fall into the trap of creating the document and letting it sit on a shelf for years. If you developed meaningful objectives and action plans, they should help with regularly checking the strategic plan. For example, if your action plan requires you to put in sales numbers every quarter to track revenue, you could take that time to review the rest of the plan.
You can also set an alert to check the strategic plan on a regular basis. Whether it’s every few months, every quarter, or every year, a recurring alert can help you review and update the document.
When you’re reviewing your strategic plan, you may find that you’re not on track to meet an objective or goal that you previously set up. Don’t panic. Reassess the situation and, if you need to, discuss the issues with your employees. Figure out what went wrong and why your business isn’t on pace; maybe the goal was too ambitious or not realistic. Change the goal or objective and update the action plan to help you get back on track.
You also may find that your small business has met a goal or objective earlier than you thought you would. If so, you can create a new goal or objective to work toward, or try to maintain the progress you’ve already made. Discuss the ideas with your employees to see what they think is possible.
Strategic Plan Examples
Strategic plans can vary, depending on the type of business you operate or the industry you’re in. Here are a few examples of different strategic plans:
Strategic Planning Examples for Business
A strategic plan for a business will include the company’s mission and vision statement, as well as its goals and objectives and the action plans to achieve them.
The strategic plan is different from a business plan. The business plan is typically used to help start the business and acquire the necessary funds to open the doors. A strategic plan outlines the strategy for growth and success in the future by using existing resources.
The Canadian Soccer Association’s strategic plan for 2014 to 2018 is full of information and details. It includes an examination of the organization’s current status and what the focus in the future will be. It includes the goals and objectives of the Canadian Soccer Association, as well as the strategies it’ll use to achieve them.
According to a recent report, the top challenges for small businesses in 2021 are:
- 23% said a lack of capital and/or cash flow
- 15% said they anticipate marketing and advertising struggles
- 19% said they expect challenges with recruiting and retaining employees
Nonprofit Strategic Plan Examples
A strategic plan for a nonprofit organization will include the same key components. A nonprofit strategic plan may focus more on the internal and external factors that can pose any threats or challenges to the organization. Because the structure of a nonprofit organization can change rapidly due to different factors, the strategic plan takes this into account and aims to address possible changes ahead of time.
The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits’ strategic plan for 2010 through 2014 outlines the organization’s:
- Community it serves
- Goals for the four-year period
Each goal includes an in-depth description of why it’s important to the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, as well as the strategies involved to achieve those goals. The plan also lists the people responsible for working on the strategic plan.
IT Strategic Plans
The IT industry is constantly changing. This means a strategic plan for an IT business should identify and address the changes in the future as well as possible. While other business strategic plans may focus on the next three to four years, it’s not uncommon for an IT strategic plan to look at the next year to year-and-a-half.
When it comes to developing, reviewing, and updating your IT strategic plan, it’s important to involve your business’s Chief Information Officer. This person’s knowledge and skill set is useful in putting together a strategic plan for your tech business. In addition to the Chief Information Officer, you and your employees can look at whether you need to upgrade any part of your infrastructure to meet the goals and objectives you’ve outlined in your strategic plan.
Because of the rapidly changing circumstances, you may be reviewing your IT strategic plan more frequently than with other businesses. Adjust your plan as necessary to put your business on the best path to success. The plan also should include details on how to make a decision when it comes to investing in new equipment or technology.
Marketing Strategic Plans
A marketing strategic plan’s goal should be to generate sales for the business. Whether it’s increasing sales numbers by 15% or increasing the number of customers in the next quarter, a marketing strategic plan helps businesses generate more revenue and increase their customer base.
A marketing strategic plan can include marketing technology, software, or web-based platforms to help track your business’s progress toward its goals. The plan also could address the specific types of marketing the business will pursue—for example, whether your business will pursue traditional print advertising or digital ads.
Because a marketing strategic plan aims to increase your business’s exposure and numbers through different techniques and methods, it’s a good idea to include the budget in the document. This way, you and your employees will work toward the marketing goals and objectives you want to achieve without spending too much money.
Strategic Planning Template Checklist
Should you use strategic planning models or templates? Yes, in fact, a good strategic plan template, sometimes called a strategy mapping template is like a checklist. The template will include different sections for you to complete and help you cover a variety of topics. Using a thorough template will help ensure you have a comprehensive strategic plan for your business.
You can use computer software for your strategic planning template, or you can create your own with Microsoft Word or Excel. You can also download our Strategic Plan Example Template to use.
- What does a strategic plan include? At the top of your template, label it “Executive Summary” and provide an overview of your business. Include the time period you’re looking at for your business’s strategic plan; for example, if the strategic plan provides a three- to five-year outlook.
- Underneath this section would be information on “Your Company.” This is where you’ll put in your mission statement, vision, values, and information on leadership.
- A section on “Research” will include information on your clients and customers, competitors and the industry.
- You can also create a section on “Products and Services,” which will detail any products you sell, pricing strategy, delivery systems and capabilities, and suppliers.
- A section of your template should focus on “Measurable Goals.” These should be realistic goals or objectives that you want your business to achieve within the time period you set. Don’t forget to include details on how the progress of each goal or objective will be measured.
- Whether you include it within the Measurable Goals section or as a stand-alone group in the template, don’t forget about your “Action Plans.” This provides an overview of how you and your employees are going to achieve your business goals and operational plans.
- You also can put your SWOT analysis into the template. List the identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with your business. Remember to be honest and candid. When you are reviewing your strategic plan in the future, you can reference the initial SWOT analysis and check to see what has changed.
- The last section should detail “Reviews and Updating.” Explain how often the plan should be checked (every few months, quarterly, annually, etc.). Provide a list of people who should be responsible for reviewing and updating the strategic plan, as well as communicating any changes with the broader business.
Why Is Strategic Planning Important?
The strategic planning process can take some time, but it’s beneficial for everyone involved. As the small business owner, you’ll have a better idea of the organizational goals and objectives you’ll want to accomplish and a path to do that. For your employees, the process can foster an increase in productivity—contributing to the success of the business.
Communicating Your Strategic Plan
In a business environment, strategic planning requires you to involve your employees. Your employees are involved in the day-to-day operations and can provide you with a unique view of the company. Employees can share with you what they think is and isn’t working with the business today, which can inform your planning for the future.
In addition to your employees, it’s beneficial to reach out to people outside of your company to get their opinions. Like your employees, vendors have a unique perspective on your industry. Talk to them about the business, and get their thoughts on how they think the business landscape can change in the future.
The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends that the strategic planning process be a flexible one. When you meet with your employees and any people outside of the company, remember that the discussions should encourage new ideas and thoughts.
Involving your employees in the strategic planning process also means they receive a sense of accountability that can increase productivity. Whether they contributed in the process or were informed of the business’s long-term goals and objectives after the strategic plan was created, they’ll be more likely to want to help you achieve those targets.
Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses
As part of the strategic planning process model, you’ll examine and analyze your entire business. You’ll take a look at what your business does well and the areas where it still needs to improve. By identifying your business’s current strengths and weaknesses, the process gives you and your employees an opportunity to improve in the future and become a durable business by minimizing risks.
Although you may have a good idea about what your business excels at and areas that need to be improved upon, don’t forget to involve your employees. They may tell you something you didn’t think of.
Setting the Direction of the Business and Fostering a Proactive Environment
By the end of the strategic planning process, you and your employees should have a clear direction of where you want the business to go in the future. These discussions and the planning process itself help put the business in the best position to succeed in the future.
Strategic planning gives you and your business time to figure out how to grow over the next few years and how to address new opportunities and challenges. Think about the challenges or issues your business may face in four or five years and plan accordingly, so your business doesn’t stumble down the road.
Strategic Planning Misconceptions
There are many strategic planning misconceptions. From not having enough time or thinking it only benefits larger businesses, to fearing you’ll put your business on the wrong path, there are a variety of reasons why business owners may be wary of strategic planning. But don’t be alarmed; strategic planning can help your business—big or small—and the benefits far outweigh any perceived negatives.
Regardless of the size of your business, a strategic plan is beneficial. Whether you are a small business or a large corporation with hundreds or thousands of employees, strategic planning helps you make sure the company is headed in the right direction.
But how do you know if you’re steering the company in the right direction? The beginning phases of strategic planning focus on research and discussions. The decisions you make during strategic planning aren’t based on assumptions; they’re based on research and information you’ve gathered while talking with your employees and people outside of your company.
The strategic planning process may seem daunting at first, but when you understand what’s involved and how to do it, it’s not that complicated. It takes time, but the amount you invest in the process pays off when everyone in your company works toward accomplishing the goals and objectives you’ve laid out.
The process doesn’t stymie creativity either. When you meet with your employees for strategic planning, you’re asking everyone to have a discussion and brainstorm ideas. The strategic planning process puts everyone’s minds together to think of creative ideas.
If you go through the strategic planning process once, don’t think you won’t have to do it again. The strategic plan is a living document; it should change over time. It’s not uncommon for business owners to create a strategic plan with their employees and rarely—or never—revisit the document. Reviewing and evaluating your strategic plan regularly will help keep you accountable and on track to achieve your goals and objectives.
What Makes Strategic Planning Successful?
Successful strategic planning involves a team effort among you and your employees, as well as among you and your vendors and other outside people. The more you engage your employees with strategic planning, the better they’ll understand the strategy you want to have for your business.
Strategic planning concepts also need to be flexible. While it’s necessary to have goals and objectives for your business, you also have to be able to adapt to changes. For instance, 44% of small businesses without a website, plan to create one in 2021 to adapt to the growing online shopping trend brought on by COVID-19.
When strategic planning is successful, everyone in your business is on the same page with the business’s direction and goals. Each individual understands what makes the business stronger and what needs to be worked on. And it’s more likely that each person wants to contribute to the business’s growth and success.
When Should Strategic Planning Be Done?
When it comes to strategic planning, you want to start it sooner rather than later . It doesn’t necessarily have to be done in the first few days or weeks of the company’s life—you may want to be in business for a few months to give yourself a better idea of what is and isn’t working.
But even if you’ve owned your business for a long time, it’s not too late to get started on strategic planning. It’s never a bad time to sit down and think about the current status of your company and where you want to be in the next five to 10 years. When you’re ready, gather your team together and schedule regular meetings dedicated to strategic planning.
Where Do Strategic Plans Go Wrong?
Strategic planning is an ongoing commitment. Even if you go through an initial round of strategic planning and it leads to the development of your business’s first strategic plan, it’s still not finished. The plan has to be implemented.
Strategic plans also can go wrong if the goals and objectives you set are unrealistic. Every business owner wants to see their business grow and succeed, but if you set an overly ambitious growth rate, it could discourage you and your employees.
A successful strategic plan requires commitment. Your entire team needs to be focused on the business and carrying out the strategic plan. If the strategic plan isn’t being used regularly or as the foundation of the business, you and your employees can lose sight of the company’s direction and goals.
The top three reasons strategy implementation fails:
- Poor communication
- Lack of leadership
- Using wrong measures
Reviewing and Updating Your Strategic Plan
A strategic plan is a living document. Don’t spend the time to create a strategic plan and then put it on the shelf to collect dust. Live by it. And regularly update your strategic plan. How often you should update your strategic plan depends on how your business works.
If your business works in a fast-paced industry and can be affected by changing outside factors, you should review and update your strategic plan on a more frequent basis. For example, if your business operates within the ever-evolving tech industry, you will probably want to check on your strategic plan after each quarter.
At the very least, you should review your strategic plan every year. When you review your strategic plan, you’re looking at the assumptions made and checking to see where your business stands in relation to those assumptions. What you thought would be challenges and threats to your business a year ago may not be the same now.
Don’t be afraid to change any part of the strategic plan. In fact, only 77% of small business owners are somewhat or very confident in their ability to execute their strategy but 95% still fall short of meeting all their goals. Updating your plan can help you stay on track with your goals. And if outside factors are having a bigger impact on your business than you initially thought, you may have to change your objectives or goals.
The regular review is a good opportunity to check back in with your employees. Your employees helped you create the business’s strategic plan and they’re as invested in the success of it as you are. Give them a summary of where the business currently stands. Talk with them to see if things have improved or if they still have concerns with the business—or if any of their initial concerns have changed.
After you review the strategic plan, share any changes with your team. Even if you didn’t make any changes, it’s a good opportunity to give the rest of your company your thoughts on the business’s status and confirm that things are on the right track. You also can encourage your employees to continue working hard to achieve the goals and objectives in the strategic plan.
Focusing on the long-term strategy of your business is also essential. Long-term strategic planning is as important as having a business plan and can lead to the success of your business. You and your employees will understand the current status of the company, productivity will increase as everyone works toward achieving the business goals, and you’ll put yourself in a better position to address any potential issues that may come up in the future.
Next Steps: You’re busy. We get it. So why not let us do some work for you? By signing up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter , you’ll receive hand-picked articles, How-Tos and videos covering the latest in small biz tools and trends. We’ll do the research while you spend your time where it counts: managing and growing your business.
Are You a Small Business Owner? Register Your Small Business
Disclaimer: Comments are subject to moderation and removal without cause or justification and may take up to 24 hours to be seen in comments. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Please do not include personal policy information; if you have questions or concerns regarding your policy with The Hartford, please log into your account or you can speak directly to a Customer Service Representative .
Notify me when new comments are added.
It’s really helpful
We’re glad you found the article, helpful! Thanks for commenting!
This was helpful and have grown to work better as a manager.
That’s great to hear, Samuel! Thanks for commenting!
This was great and helpful. Thanks. 👍
I gained great knowledge. Thanks for teaching us about strategic planning and its benefit.
You’re welcome! We’re glad you found the article helpful.
I really needed this.
We’re glad the article was helpful!
Hi, the article is well written and worth reading. Thank you for sharing the valuable information. Please keep sharing more.
We’re glad you liked it, John! You can read more about Strategic Planning in the articles below:
https://sba.thehartford.com/business-management/strategic-planning-process/ https://sba.thehartford.com/business-management/key-components-of-strategic-plan/ https://sba.thehartford.com/business-management/develop-a-strategic-plan/
Very innovative and thought provoking…..interesting read….
Thanks for commenting, Reena! We’re glad you found the article interesting.
Thoroughly enjoyed this…
That’s great to hear, Melanie! You can also check out our other strategic planning articles, here:
Loved it all
That’s great to hear, Jean!
I really enjoyed this notice. Be blessed.
We’re glad you enjoyed it!
I’m very much interested in your support with the information. Thank you very much as it will help me develop my organization.
Thank you for reaching out, John! You can learn more about strategic planning with these articles from SBA: https://sba.thehartford.com/business-management/strategic-planning-process/ https://sba.thehartford.com/business-management/develop-a-strategic-plan/ https://sba.thehartford.com/business-management/why-is-strategic-planning-necessary/
Thanks for commenting!
Very good notes. Easy to understand.
That’s great to hear, Samuel! Check out our other strategic planning articles to learn more:
lnterested in learning more about this subject.
That’s great to hear, Linnet! You can learn more by checking out these other SBA articles on strategic planning:
https://sba.thehartford.com/business-management/strategic-planning-process/ https://sba.thehartford.com/business-management/why-is-strategic-planning-necessary/ https://sba.thehartford.com/business-management/develop-a-strategic-plan/
Good write up, very informative.
Thank you! We’re glad you enjoyed it.
Really liking this website!
That’s great to hear, Lise!
I really enjoyed reading the article about the strategy planning. There are many things I was not aware before.
We’re so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for the nice comment!
Good stuff. Straight forward.
We’re glad you liked it!
Great article. keep it up.
Will do, thank you for the nice comment and for reading SBA!
Thank you, Stella!
Fantastic article!! Done with clarity. But my question has always been, at what point does the goals and objectives come in the strategic Planning process? Do we establish the goals and objectives after defining the Mission and Vision statements or do we develop goals and objectives after the analytic tool is utilized (SWOT, PEST,)? etc
Thanks for reaching out! This can depend on the business owner. While some business owners may have initial goals and objectives early on, it can also make sense to this after doing the analysis (SWOT, PEST). The information from these analyses can help create meaningful goals and objectives. The idea behind goals and objectives (both short- and long-term) is that they’re supposed to support/ladder up to the mission and vision statements.
Good article and very interesting.
Thanks for the comment! We’re happy to hear you found it interesting.
Thank you, this is a great article!
You’re welcome, Muhammad!
It was a great. Very helpful.
We’re glad you found it helpful! Thank you for the comment!
Great article. I really enjoyed reading it.
We’re glad you enjoyed reading it! Thanks for leaving a comment, Samana!
I need your coaching.
Thanks for reaching out! Check out this SBA article: https://sba.thehartford.com/business-management/small-biz-owner/build-stronger-mindset/
Under #8 in the article, you can sign up for a free 1-hour consultation!
Excellent piece of information on strategic planning!
We’re so glad you liked it! Thanks!
I appreciate this greatly. It’s helpful for small businesses especially for new initiatives and those at the mature business stage. Thank you!
We’re glad you liked it. Thank you for commenting, Adolf!
It is better to make some terms like vision, goal and mission clear.
We’re glad you liked it. Thanks for commenting!
Very informative! It helps me a lot as a student. Thank you 😊
You’re welcome, Joice! We’re always happy to help and glad to hear you find our articles informative.
I enjoyed reading the article. Thank you for providing the overview about the topic. Examples and links are very useful too.
That’s great to hear! Thank you!
Any discussion on Strategic Planning is good discussion – it is such a critical element of any organisation that aspires to be good and dares to be great.
Great point, Steve!
A very interesting article.
We’re glad you liked it! Thanks for commenting!
Informative article! You have made strategic planning so easy to understand. But how do i reference this article in an academic paper?
One way to cite this article in an academic paper is like this:
Vo, Eric. “What Is Strategic Planning.” Small Biz Ahead Blog , 2 Sept. 2020, sba.thehartford.com/business-management/what-is-strategic-planning/
I fully agree with you. The article is useful, but mostly for beginners and students. But it is informative and I liked it as well.
Thank you for sharing this very informative article. It will definitely guide me in conducting our own Strategic Planning at our office.
Thanks for the comment. We’re glad the article could help!
I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog and have some great content. Keep up the good work. SEO canada
That’s great to hear! Thanks for the comment!
This is helpful. Thank you.
Thanks for the comment, Patricia!
Really helpful… thanks alot.
Glad you enjoyed the article!
What is the difference between Policy development & Strategic planning?
Companies first come up with strategic plan to establish their long term goals and objectives along with general actions to be taken to support those goals and objectives. You then establish policies to ensure that your team is staying within those actions. For example, your strategic plan may say you want to increase revenues 20 percent next year in the aerospace market. Your actions will include marketing campaigns and outreach events. Your policies will then ensure that your team are not undertaking actions that are not included in these campaigns and events.
Thanks for your educative explanation on the preparation of strategic business plan.
Thank you for this article. It helped me to understand the strategic planning process, which is something I am studying and this was straightforward and to the point.
Thank you Emily!
This article is a good basic overview. Something that must be emphasized is translating the strategic plan into specific actions with measurable outcomes. If you go into work on Monday after completing your plan and do your work the way you did before the plan, then the plan has already failed. I see this frequently in the businesses with which I work. Another key is to clearly tie individual staff roles and performance expectations and goals to the strategic goals. When effectively done, you begin to harness the very real power of employees’ intimate knowledge of their work and how to do it better.
Thanks for sharing. This is very helpful to business owners and managers. As it is said, the strategic plan need to be flexible, same applies to getting knowledge of strategic plan as business environments keep changing.
Glad to hear this was helpful. Thanks for reading!
Thanks for so much for the this exciting read. I can’t wait to start doing the stuff with my team
Strategic planning is important to an organization because it provides a sense of direction and outlines measurable goals. Strategic planning is a tool that is useful for guiding day-to-day decisions and also for evaluating progress and changing approaches when moving forward. Found an another website Evolvetraining.ac.nz it has lots of valuable information for everyone
Thanks for sharing such an informative blog.
I really enjoyed reading the article.it motivates and gives direction in the business Thanks
I thank you for this platform because it is updating my knowledge on Strategic Planning
I really enjoyed reading the article. It was written in simple language and in a manner that helped me identify key points under each subtitle. I am going to use this as a guide to some strategic plans am working on, thanks.
This teaching is educative.
That’s good to hear. Glad you liked it!
This is a good and educative article. It’s very informative. Thanks.
I actually appreciate this piece. The writing is incredibly beneficial. my start up manufacturering business seems to be in better position with articles like this! My gratitude to the masterminds behind this program, Cheers.
Your article is helpful if you have employees, but how does this work if you have sub-contractors? Do you get them involved?
Now i have an insight of what strategic planning is. So what can be the sub-topics to include when writing an essay?
Great article. Thanks for the detailed information. Your blog is by far the best source I’ve found. Thanks!
Thank you, Victoria!
This is a comprehensive Strategic Planning manual.
Very interesting and valuable document. Enjoyed reading the participatory role of employees. Thanks a lot.
Thank you for the comment, Gemechu.
Love this article!! Thanks.
We are so glad you enjoyed this article! Thank you for the comment, Vanessa!
I send it to Beby.
Thank you Bert!
Very practical article- thankyou very much
Thank you for reading!
Howdy! Great article on strategic planning for small businesses. I agree with the statistic you quote from Constant Contact. In my work, I find that most business owners can only think and plan about a year out. There are a couple of contributing factors to that ‘limited’ sight. For many business owners, this is the first time they have ever been where they are. They are suffering from ‘not knowing what they do not know.’ They are smart enough to recognize it, but they are cautious about the outlook because of it. The second is the rate of change in the economy, which only speeds up each year; it is just that very few businesses have the tools and expertise to keep pace with the change. Both factors lead to a general hesitation to look out too far or to dream too big.
I love the fact that you see that strategic planning needs to flexible and inclusive. It’s crucial to have a framework but to be flexible to incorporate learnings and shifts along the way. When you involve all the people who work in and on your business, there is more engagement, better ideas and a higher rate of success.
Great insights. Thank you, Leslie!
Thanks a lot for this wonderful article, Eric. You have resolved my problem of trying to know what strategic planning really is. I look forward to more up building articles. Thank you!
Thank you for the comment, Melvin!
Your question about involving subcontractors is an interesting one. To me, a plan should involve as many of those that are strategic to your business and getting as much feedback as possible – as long at it’s relevant – should be the goal. So if you have a few good contractors (like my company does) that you think could contribute some value to the formation of your plan I say go for it.
Your article is helpful if you have employees, but how does this work if you have sub-contractors. Do you get them involved.
Hi Cristyne- please see the response below from Gene Marks.
Great job. This was very helpful.
Thank you for your feedback, John!
You have the BEST newsletter! This article was another great one. I shared it on all my social media platforms. I offer strategic planning services and this article is helpful in promoting my services. As well, most people think a strategic plan is ONLY for nonprofits. Thank you!
Hi Leslie, thanks so much for sharing!
Great summary “how-to” article for busy business owners. I often encourage our clients to start simple and achieve! This road map is an excellent way to jump in to real-life strategy setting!
Thank you, Patti!
This is an explicit, yet simple, post on strategic planning.
Thanks deeply for sharing this!
You’re welcome! We’re so glad you liked it and found it informative.
Great article, thanks for spelling this out in such easy-to-read terms.
Thanks for your feedback, Wende!
It’s a great eye opener into strategic planning process. Thank you for the great efforts.
Glad you liked the article! Thanks for the comment!
You May Also Like
How to Create a Business Logo
Why Forecasting Is Important for a Successful Business Plan
S Corp vs. C Corp vs. LLC: Which Business Structure Is Right for You?
- Product Management
- Solve User-Reported Issues
- Find Issues Faster
- Optimize Conversion and Adoption
A guide to creating an effective strategic plan
Imagine setting off on a prospecting adventure with nothing but a backpack. In the distance are expansive, snow-capped mountains, perhaps full of gold, solitude, or other treasures. It looks promising!
But you realize you have no map. How far away are those mountains? What barriers exist between here and there? Are you prepared to survive in extreme weather conditions?
Oh, and by the way, you’re leading a group of people. They want to know where you’re headed, why you’ve set your sights there, what’s required from them, and how you all plan to get there. Soon enough they’ll turn a critical eye your way when something goes wrong.
Being an effective leader is not easy, but it’s possible if you arm yourself with a strategic plan. Taking the time to develop a strategic plan shows you’re serious about pursuing a common goal, you’ve thought about what you’ll need to overcome, and you’ve brought the right people to the table who have a stake in your combined success.
In this article, you will learn what a strategic plan is, why it’s important, and what should go into one.
Table of contents
What is a strategic plan, vision and mission, operational plan, steps for creating a strategic plan, strategic plan template.
Strategic plans can take many forms, but their common goal is to provide a north star , inspiring your team and intriguing investors. Not only do they communicate where you’re going, they break down how you’ll get there.
Strategic plans are needed at different levels of an organization, including:
- Corporate level (long-term outlooks, 5-10+ years)
- Business line or program level (mid-term outlooks, 2-3 years)
- Product or functional level (shorter-term outlooks, quarterly to 18 months)
What are the components of a strategic plan?
There is no single authority defining the absolute components of a strategic plan, so think of it as another tool in your product management toolbox. Understand its purpose, then tune it to meet your team’s specific needs. Some plans might manifest as a five-page presentation; others might be a large, formal document. Either way, strategic plans at all levels generally consist of:
- Defines your high-level purpose
- Where are we going and why?
- Where do we see ourselves in a few years?
- How does our product strategy align with the organization strategy ?
- Organization-level vision and mission (for reference and alignment)
- Organization and/or team cultural document citing core values (what do you believe as a team, and why?)
- SWOT analysis (what are your product’s and/or organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats?)
- Market intelligence (what market opportunities exist now and in the future for your product domain, and what are your customers indicating they want and will pay for?)
- Competitive intelligence (what makes your product or service different from the rest?)
- McKenzie Horizons Model (typically reserved for corporate strategy, you can also use this to show the short-, mid-, and long-term strategy for your product)
- Defines your specific goals
- What kinds of customer problems are we trying to solve?
- What kinds of solutions can/ should our team deliver?
- What does success look like?
- Your vision and mission definitions (so you’re always pointing to the north star)
- Customer personas (defining your target customers, and why)
- OKRs (objectives and key results, which break the vision into measurable targets that can later be measured with KPIs — key performance indicators)
- Balanced scorecard (define your objectives in four key pillars: customers, financial, internal process, and learning and growth)
- Defines how you will achieve your specific goals and turn your vision into a reality
- How will we get there?
- How will we allocate resources and talent?
- How will we prioritize and coordinate our efforts cross-functionally?
- When might we deliver certain components, and in what order?
- What dependencies exist?
- How will we react to new information that may influence the plan?
- How will we monitor progress and evaluate iterative goals?
- Short-, mid-, and long-range roadmaps
- Staffing and resource plans
- Release plans showing tasks, dependencies, and milestones (these may be depicted as sprint plans and/or program increment (PI) plans)
- Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) (a way to prioritize features and development activities for your release plans based on cost of delay)
Before creating a strategic plan, consider why you need one, who else needs it, and what’s in it for them. Your strategic plan is, effectively, a product. Create it the same way you would create a product — bring the right people around the table, including representatives from each of those core areas we just discussed above:
- Define your audience for the strategic plan. In this case, it’s likely your immediate team, your stakeholders, and your executives
- For your team , it’s feeling a connection to the vision. That will motivate them to return to work each day, and find ways to collaborate through conflict
- For your stakeholders , it’s understanding where you’re focusing your resources — time, money, and people — so everyone is aware of your team’s priorities and better understands what to expect, when, and how to work with you to achieve their goals
- For your executives , it’s knowing about key milestones, and how the plans align with others across the organization
- Study your org and business-level plans to understand where the organization is headed and how your line of business will contribute to that vision
- Define a vision and mission for your team and/or product that aligns everyone to a north star
- Know your customers and how your product will help them solve their problems
- Work collaboratively to deliver against the org’s broader vision and your product vision
- Find the best solutions (via a rapid build-measure-learn process)
- Hold themselves accountable for measurable results
- Develop a roadmap showing high-level themes each team will pursue towards those common objectives
- Pause and reflect. If you show a cross-functional group how to work through these steps to achieve your first common objective, they’ll be more prepared to repeat this process in defining the operational components
But your job isn’t done. Next you’ll support the development of the operational plan, including prioritizing features and non-functional requirements, managing and coaching your team, and helping them remove blockers. In turn, they’ll self organize, define the key elements of a release plan, and together, you’ll make incremental progress towards those objectives.
There’s one final element of a strategic plan that shouldn’t be overlooked: communication. Part of your strategic plan should be defining how you’ll communicate frequently with all your stakeholders.
You can use the following template to help you get started:
[Product name] strategic plan
*This part may be mental, but is nonetheless a commitment that you make to yourself and your stakeholders to keep everyone informed.
Developing a strategic plan for your product(s) will help you:
- Communicate your product vision and mission to internal and external stakeholders
- Motivate your immediate and cross-functional teams to unite toward common objectives
- Empower those teams and individuals to achieve key results aligned to those common objectives
Communicate. Motivate. Empower. That is, in essence, the purpose of your strategic plan.
Featured image source: IconScout
LogRocket generates product insights that lead to meaningful action
Get your teams on the same page — try LogRocket today.
Over 200k developers and product managers use LogRocket to create better digital experiences
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
- #product strategy
Leader Spotlight: Finding product-market fit during the invention stage, with Umesh Unnikrishnan
Umesh describes his experience taking products from zero to one at early-stage startups and how that process differs at a large enterprise.
A guide to setting up a project management office (PMO)
A PMO is a centralized department in an organization that oversees and manages projects via a dedicated team of project managers.
How to calculate the payback period
The payback period is the length of time it takes for a new feature to generate the amount of money it costs to develop.
Leader Spotlight: Focusing on innovation catalysts, with Puneet Tangri
Puneet Tangri talks about two product groups or functions that you always need in the technology world: innovation catalysts and growth PMs.
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
An Official Website of the U.S. Government
How to Strategic Plan in 7 Steps
By Avery Collins, GSA
April 26, 2022
This is the second post in a series highlighting different aspects of strategic planning in the Federal Government. Today, we will meet Agency Alpha, a fictional agency that will help us learn more about the strategic planning process.
L ast week, we met Carson and learned how she used strategic planning to land a new job . We talked about how this same process applies to government agencies and leaders, who use strategic planning to determine their vision for the future and create a strategic plan to serve as their roadmap.
The strategic planning process that agencies follow is more in-depth than most of us use for our personal goals. Today we will be following Agency Alpha, a fictional federal agency that will help illustrate the strategic planning process. While each federal agency approaches strategic planning a little differently and there is not a single best approach, a sound strategic planning process includes the following 7 key steps.
Step 1: Environmental Scan
The first step of any strategic planning process starts with research. Agency Alpha conducts an environmental scan , a process where they identify and monitor factors that may impact the long-term direction of the agency. Agency Alpha starts by looking at the incoming administration’s priorities and potential new regulations. They identify climate change, customer experience, and equity as a few Administration priorities that they would need to incorporate into their future vision.
Step 2: Internal Analysis
Research doesn’t stop after assessing the environment outside of an agency. Agency Alpha also needs to complete an internal analysis , including a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) assessment. They utilize their annual review process to evaluate performance across the agency and engage with staff and senior leadership. They compare their operations with the Administration priorities they identified in step 1, and in this instance they focus specifically on climate.
Step 3: Strategic Direction
Agency Alpha uses what they learned from their environmental scan and internal analysis to create a strategic direction . They meet with staff and stakeholders and use that input to build a vision for the future that is both idealistic and high-impact. They theorize how to align Administration priorities like equity, customer experience, and climate with agency operations. They determine what is actually achievable and what the agency should strive for. Climate is important to the agency employees and those they serve. They see it as a big part of the future, and thus a big part of the vision for Agency Alpha.
Step 4: Develop Goals and Objectives
After determining their strategic direction and vision, Agency Alpha engages with internal stakeholders and senior leadership to create a focused set of goals and objectives . They facilitate focus groups and meet with subject matter experts to come up with strategies, indicators, and desired outcomes for each goal. They use existing processes like staff engagement, communities of practice, and quarterly reviews to get buy-in from across the agency.
Step 5: Define Metrics, Set Timelines, and Track Progress
After the goals and objectives are set, Agency Alpha adds details to their plan. They determine the responsible offices and bureaus for each goal. They identify the necessary resource allocations, create actionable timeframes, and define metrics that best measure success. Agency Alpha appoints Team Beta to lead clean energy initiatives and Team Cobra to lead climate literacy initiatives. They set milestones and timelines to ensure they stay on track.
Step 6: Write and Publish a Strategic Plan
Once Agency Alpha gathers the information in step 5, they write an informed strategic plan that captures the voice and purpose of the agency. Their engagement with staff and stakeholders in steps 2 through 5 gained agency-wide support for the plan to help ensure that the strategic plan does not end up as a stand-alone document.
Step 7: Plan for Implementation and the Future
While drafting their plan, Agency Alpha begins to prepare for how to implement it after publication. They include performance measures that track progress and create a formal system for leadership and staff to annually review the plan and update goals and objectives as needed. Every agency follows a slightly different process, but most have gone through these 7 steps over the last year and a half. Last month, federal agencies published their strategic plans for 2022 to 2026 on performance.gov .
Stay tuned as we explore the importance of strategy and performance in the Federal Government and share agency success stories. The next post in this series will feature the National Endowment for the Arts and look at how staff and external engagement shaped their overall vision for the next four years.
- Become a Partner
- Product Overview Know more about our products
- OKR Management Strategy-execution made easy
- Performance Management Build a high performance team
- Task Management Increase day-to-day productivity
- Employee Engagement Engage, align and inspire your team
- Integrations Integrate easily with all your favorite apps
- Case Study Know why 1000s of brands trust Profit.co
- Why Profit.co? Know what customers like you think about us.
- OKR Certification Iterate Faster with OKRs Coaching & Certification Programs
- OKR University OKR resources for beginners and experts
- eBooks Books sharing our OKR expertise, ideas and insights
- KPI Library Find the Most Effective KPIs for your business
- OKR Examples Collection of OKR examples for your business
- OKR Webinars Discover current trends and expert insights
- Answers (FAQs) Get instant solutions to your queries
- OKR Canvas Kick start your OKR implementation right away
- Help Center Endless support in case you are stuck
- Release Updates Outlined feature updates from our last releases
- Try it Free
- Schedule Demo
What is Strategic Planning? What are the Steps Involved in Creating a Strategic Plan?
Category: Strategy , OKR University , BLOG .
Bright business ideas may come from anyone with the spirit of entrepreneurship, and it is relatively easy to determine the nature of business one may want to do. At the same time, it also brings out some of the most difficult questions including:
1. Where to start in the first place?
2. What is the vision?
3. How to get going?
4. What are the objectives?
5. What all needs to be done to achieve the objectives? and
6. How to run this business successfully in a growth trajectory?
Without the answers to all these questions, it is impossible to take even one step in the right direction and go forward. Running an organization without a vision and a strong set of guiding principles, to show the way toward reaching that vision, is akin to navigating a ship without a compass. Even an established company may need to revisit them often, as the priorities of the organization change with time and constant course correction is inevitable.
Strategic planning is the compass that helps you navigate your business in the right direction.
What is strategic planning?
Strategic planning is the process of formulating a vision for the organization, identifying the goals and establishing a roadmap to realize these goals and achieve the vision of the organization. It focuses solely on mid-to long-term goals that can be attained over a long period of time, rather than determining details such as short-term goals, project planning and daily activities of the organization.
Types of strategic plans
Strategic planning is carried out in three different areas. Strategic plans can be categorized into:
1. Business strategy: A strategic plan around the business involves creating vision and mission statements based on external factors such as market conditions and business environment, formulating broader organizational objectives and allocating all kinds of resources for the successful fulfillment of the business objectives. It also involves assessing the strengths of the organization and identifying avenues of innovation, predicting the potential opportunities that may arise in the future, and devising ways to achieve growth and competitive advantage in the long run.
2. Corporate strategy: A strategic plan that is built around the corporate lays down the guidelines for the functioning of the organization. It organizes the business structure and puts in place the processes that help the leadership make all the teams and individuals across all hierarchies of the organization work in synergy and realize everyone’s potential.
For instance, some organizations have a dedicated innovation team to solve problems and come up with ideas that address the target audience’s pain points. They do not have exact time frames to come up with ideas. The innovative ideas and concepts they come up with are discussed with the R&D team to refine the ideas and incorporate those innovations into a proof of concept/prototype. They finally reach out to the product team to create a financially viable, marketable product. Due to the nature of their work, these three teams operate at different speeds, timelines and with varying budget constraints. A corporate strategic plan connects them through well-defined processes and policies to work together, produce outcomes notwithstanding their differences, and release successful products at the right time to meet the organization’s overall objectives. Using an agile OKR process to drive the corporate strategy will help bridge the strategy execution gap. Organizations must include an OKR strategy to help realize their goals.
3. Functional strategy: Functional strategy is about laying out department-level processes and guidelines, which are a minor component of the broader corporate strategy.
Looking to bridge the strategy execution gap? You can get started on Profit.co completely free today!
Key Components of a strategic plan
A strategic plan may include various components and documents such as:
- Vision statement that states the purpose of the organization
- Mission Statement that denotes the aspirations and values of the organization
- Objectives the organization collectively wants to achieve
- Elevator pitch to clarify your action plan and the impact you want to make
- A SWOT analysis that defines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the organization
- KPIs by which you measure the performance of your strategy and goals
- Industry Analysis that presents the current state of the business environment, market conditions, socio-political and economic factors relevant to your business, your competitors and their SWOT analysis
- Operations Plan, which lists out operations, activities and tasks required to be completed by every team to meet the objectives
- Financial projections that depict your current financial data and projections of the future potential
- An executive summary that summarizes the report and shows a glimpse of the strategic plan
The cadence of strategic planning process
Strategic plans are constantly revisited as they are the guiding documents of the organization. They are periodically reviewed to adjust the goals and the broader strategy based on past performance and future requirements.
The cadence of strategic planning depends on the nature of the organization. For instance, some sectors, such as the tech industry, may go through massive changes quite frequently due to the rapid pace of development. So, these organizations may review their strategic plans on a quarterly basis. Sectors that don’t go through massive changes or see revolutionary innovations often, such as the education sector, may look into their strategic plans annually or every six months.
In addition to these periodic reviews and revisions, the strategic plan of an organization may also be reviewed and modified in the event of:
- Changing market conditions that demand taking a new direction
- The emergence of new industry standards, legal requirements, and regulations
- Acquiring another company and merging its workforce and product portfolio
- Expanding the business with new product launches
- Venturing into a new branch of the business
- Making changes in the organization’s leadership
7 Benefits of strategic planning
Strategic planning provides guidance to take the business forward towards reaching its goals. While planning provides the road map in order to reap the benefits of OKRs, organizations must identify and use agile OKR software to make sure their goals are realized. So, every aspect of a business is aligned and directly correlates with the organization’s strategy. This makes the strategic planning process extremely important for a business. Following are some benefits of strategic planning.
1. strategic planning helps to prepare for the future
Strategic planning helps assess the organization’s strengths and determine the opportunities it could seize in the future. It also helps to assess the risks, predict the challenges and proactively put in place mechanisms that could help the organization face them without resorting to finding ways to manage the risks and unexpected challenges only as they emerge.
2. Strategic planning unites the workforce with a common goal
By setting the overall objectives and determining what the organization wants to achieve in the long run, a strategic plan provides a sense of direction and drives the employees and teams towards common goals. It aligns them with a purpose and drives them to work together towards desired outcomes. It sets the standard by which all operations and functions should be carried out to achieve maximum efficiency and accountability.
3. A strategic plan helps to maintain focus
The day-to-day functioning of an organization may involve so many tasks and deadlines that it is easy for employees to get stuck in relatively less significant and mundane tasks, forgetting the organizational goals that they have to collectively achieve. The strategic plan helps to periodically review the progress against what the organization envisions, and constantly keep the employees back on track to prioritize the right things and work towards the long-term vision.
4. Strategic plan helps you innovate
Strategic plans provide the organization with a broad vision and direction in order to create value and shape the future. So, by strictly adhering to the strategic plan, an organization positions itself to innovate, offer products and services with distinction, achieve customer satisfaction, create value and ensure profitability and growth.
5. Strategic plan gives you the competitive advantage
A strategy plan is created with the market conditions, other market players, and your strengths and opportunities in mind. So, following the strategic plan lets an organization fulfill the objectives, seize the opportunities before the competitors and gain a competitive advantage.
6. Strategic planning makes the organization productive and efficient
Strategic planning provides the teams and individuals with common goals that they need to work towards collectively. It also provides them with a roadmap to achieve them. As a result, everyone understands what needs to be done at individual and team levels to achieve those objectives quickly and efficiently using minimal resources. This leads to greater efficiency and increased productivity at all levels.
7. Strategy planning keeps motivation levels high
When employees follow a strategic plan, they are equipped with a clear sense of direction and purpose. This drives them to meet targets faster and achieve their respective goals at individual and team levels, just like clockwork. Achievements bring appreciation and accolades; it motivates them to go farther and achieve more.
Key steps involved in the strategic planning process?
Strategic planning process involves identifying the objectives, laying out a plan of action and finding out ways to execute it. Various factors are taken into account, such as costs, financial risks, probability of success, etc. The company leadership works out a good strategic plan that is aimed at delivering the results. Following are the steps involved in this strategic planning process.
1. Analyzing the relevance of the current strategic plan
Unless your organization is a new start-up, you may already have a strategic plan in place, and it is crucial to analyze the relevance of this current strategic plan before duly revising/replacing it. For instance, the personal audio market has seen a significant shift towards wireless headphones. If you run a company that makes personal audio devices with only wired headphones, you may have to quickly analyze the relevance of your current strategy plan and allocate resources to bring out innovations that address the gaps or acquire a company that already has a product portfolio to address your shortcomings. While analyzing the current plan, the relevance of the mission statement and objectives to the current business and market conditions is analyzed, SWOT is analyzed, and implementing OKRs to manage the strategy is also analyzed.
2. Developing a new/revised strategic plan
The next step in the strategic planning process involves coming up with revised strategic objectives based on the analysis and the identified priorities. It involves brainstorming and working with different stakeholders to come up with new strategic objectives. It also involves coming up with short-term business plans in line with the overall strategy. During this phase, the stakeholders may use a strategy map to visualize the strategic plan. A strategic map is a tool that visually connects different strategic objectives and their implications. It simplifies the strategy, visualizes how it helps the organization create value, and makes it easy for employees to understand, accept and internalize the strategy.
3. Implementing the strategic plan
The strategic plan and objectives are overarching, and they require alignment, uniform understanding and widespread adoption across the organization at the team and individual levels. Adoption of strategic plans at all levels requires cascading goals from organizational objectives to the teams to individual goals. It involves allocating resources and changing policies and processes, defining the data points, metrics and key performance indicators by which successes are measured, and putting in place the reporting mechanisms to communicate the performance of the strategy to the stakeholders. This can be done by clear communication and by using frameworks that facilitate goal alignments, such as objectives and key results. By implementing the strategy plan, you can make the workforce align all their activities and efforts towards achieving the objectives.
4. Evaluating and revising the strategy
Every aspect of the organization is managed, sustained or modified only on a scientific basis – using data, measurement and evaluation; strategy is no exception. After implementing the strategy, it needs to be evaluated and adjusted if required. This is because there could be various challenges in implementing the strategy, caused by internal factors such as lack of alignment, or external factors such as the rapidly evolving market conditions that make it hard for the organization to keep up with, by means of the current strategy. The performance of the strategy is measured using the metrics and KPIs that were defined during the planning phase; if the numbers do not match the earlier projections, course corrections can be made in order to optimize the strategy.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. what makes a good strategic plan.
A good strategic plan is one that has ambitious objectives and a clear action plan to fulfill them. It has mechanisms to proactively manage risks and overcome challenges. A good strategic plan has ample room for innovation.
2. What is the main purpose of strategic planning?
The purpose of strategic planning is to come up with a vision, set priorities, formulate objectives, create an actionable plan to reach the goals, and allocate adequate resources.
3. What is a strategic planning example?
The strategic plan of a manufacturing company may include an objective to reduce production costs by 50%, for which the actionable steps may include negotiating the cost of raw materials, restructuring the workforce and adopting more cost-effective manufacturing processes.
Book a free demo with our team to learn more about how OKR software can help you from the planning process to seamless execution to optimize your organization’s performance!
Aligning procurement goals in supply chain management.
Aligning Procurement Goals in Supply Chain Management When one thinks of Supply Chain Management, it’s perhaps common to think of... Read more
Mastering Change in Supply Chain Management
In large and growing companies, supply chain management is the lifeblood of a healthy and efficient business operation. After all,... Read more
8 Steps to Develop a Good Strategy for Your Business
In the bustling world of business, strategy is the cornerstone that guides a company toward its desired goals. But what... Read more
How Can OKRs Help CMOs With Marketing and Strategy
The marketing arena has undergone significant evolution, mirroring the evolving role of the Chief Marketing Officer. While it has become... Read more
What is Iterative Business Execution?
Get a Personalized Demo
Execute your strategy with the industry’s most preferred and intuitive software
More From Forbes
The real issue with strategic planning: the relationship between strategy and leadership.
- Share to Facebook
- Share to Twitter
- Share to Linkedin
Author, Speaker, Executive Coach, and Business Strategy Consultant at CIARA & Co.
Business leaders are conducting annual planning in full swing as Q4 gets underway. Many coaches and strategists are amping up their content in support of sound approaches to strategic planning, and I recently had an interaction that reminded me why many strategies struggle to succeed. Some would say it’s because of leadership; others might say it’s because of strategy. Perhaps the real issue is that we consider the two to be binary in our strategic planning process.
The current planning season is not new for most business leaders. In fact, it has become so routine for many that they templatize their budgets and strategies and send them through the pipeline for approval like it’s a pneumatic tube at the local bank drive-through. Goals to increase market share, ideas to expand the portfolio with new products and key activities teams will need to undertake to achieve halo and business unit goals—this is what we believe strategy to be about. This is perhaps why we often see it as binary to leadership and playing a siloed role in the success of the company. Alas, when companies fail to meet their targets, the first thing they look to analyze and course-correct is strategy . I’d propose, however, that the issue is not strategy. Nor is it leadership. Instead, it’s the relationship between the two that is often the issue, which can have a positive or grave effect on execution.
Traditional Leadership Role in Strategy
On its surface, leaders play a vital role in all aspects of strategic planning that require hard and technical skills. They are responsible for setting the direction, making decisions, allocating resources, communicating the strategy and implementing that strategy effectively. Without effective leadership, it is difficult to develop and implement a successful strategy. Typically, we see this in the following forms:
Facilitating A Strategic Planning Process
Leaders can facilitate a strategic planning process by bringing together key stakeholders, identifying and discussing key issues, and developing a consensus on the organization's goals and objectives.
Best High-Yield Savings Accounts Of September 2023
Best 5% interest savings accounts of september 2023, providing resources and support.
Leaders can provide the resources and support that are needed to develop and implement the strategic plan. This may include providing time and funding for planning activities, as well as providing access to expertise and other resources.
Communicating The Strategy To Stakeholders
Leaders must communicate the strategic plan to the organization and all stakeholders. It is important to communicate the strategy in a clear, concise and consistent manner and to explain why it is important and how it will be implemented. This builds consensus around goals, objectives and expectations.
Holding Teams Accountable For Results
Leaders can hold teams accountable for implementing the strategy and achieving the organization's goals. This may involve setting clear targets, providing regular feedback and rewarding teams for their successes.
Leadership Mindset in Strategy
What’s often not factored into developing strategy, however, is the vital role in all aspects of strategic planning of what we historically refer to as soft skills, which I prefer to regard as mindsets.
Employing Collaboration-Based Communication
It’s not enough to just clearly communicate what is in the strategy or to create consensus. More critical is to facilitate oxytocin-rich discussions that enable bonding and trust and help with understanding other perspectives. If leaders merely tell others what they need to accomplish, the brain’s natural response can be to feel threatened, which may lead to “turning off” and miscommunication around expectations and activation. Instead, focus communication on strategy around improvement, not failures of the past, and be mindful of the anxiety your team members may feel.
Inviting And Supporting Cross-Sectoral Innovation
During both the strategy development phase and the execution phase, encourage creativity and innovation across levels and departments. This isn’t just about encouraging teams to think outside the box but rather about creating trusted environments and psychological safety. An important aspect of this is not treating innovation like one point in time or designating it to a specific team. Instead, creating a culture of innovation is directly related to the active listening skills of the leadership team on an ongoing basis.
Installing Mechanisms To Maintain Situational Awareness
This is a step most leaders don’t pay enough attention to. It is the case that many leaders are far removed from day-to-day pain points of execution, but being aware of what is happening around them is an underrated leadership strength. As business decision-makers, the role of the leader is to take the company and team forward, and doing so requires an outward focus on dynamics and an inward focus on personal strengths or weaknesses. While leaders can’t be everywhere at all times, installing mechanisms within the strategy to elevate attitudes, create time for reflection and institute regular connections can help leaders paint a picture of what’s happening around them and plan ahead for pivots.
Strategic planning is a critical time for business leaders to reset and communicate vision. It is important to success that leaders look beyond the frameworks and road maps and consider the role they play in successful strategy development and execution. Leadership mindsets and proactive integration can accelerate success.
Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?
- Editorial Standards
- Reprints & Permissions
Close more deals with the latest sales trends and tips from Salesblazers.
What Is a Go-to-Market Strategy? (And Why You Need It to Beat Your Competition)
Learn how to create a go-to-market framework to turn your product ideas into growth opportunities for your company.
- Link Copied
Imagine a world where you create a new product that everyone wants. It’s a snap to make and it sells itself – a mega hit. Congratulations, you’ve smashed your goals! In this world, there is no overnight success. If you sell a product without attracting the right buyers and demonstrating how it meets their needs, it may just sit on the shelf. Meanwhile, a competitor does their research, knows what buyers want, and delivers it. Not only have you lost revenue, you’ve lost potential customers to the competition. Ouch.
How do you avoid this and capture customer interest? Build a comprehensive go-to-market (GTM) strategy that combines careful research with tailored messaging that hits on the right buyer pain points.
What you’ll learn:
What is a go-to-market strategy? Why is a go-to-market strategy important? How to build a go-to-market strategy framework Go-to-market strategy example
What is a go-to-market strategy?
A go-to-market strategy is a step-by-step plan for introducing a new product to buyers. This includes market, customer, and competitive research that uncovers problems your product can solve. Creating a buyer persona lets you target prospects with key messaging that emphasizes your product’s unique problem-solving value.
Find ready-to-buy prospects faster
Learn how Sales Cloud can help you score your best leads and prioritize them by how likely they are to close.
Why is a go-to-market strategy important?
A well-crafted GTM strategy ensures target buyers see your product, understand and appreciate its value, and are compelled to buy. As Howard Brown, CEO of Revenue.io put it , “Meeting expectations early and often builds trust and is the foundation of any successful partnership.”
You can launch a product without a go-to-market strategy, but buyers who really need your product might not see or appreciate its value. They might turn to competitors who are already established in the marketplace and are percieved to be stable. In the early stage, it’s normal for someone to see your solution and say, “Oh, you’re just like [competitor],” even if they don’t offer what you offer. Research bears this out, especially for smaller companies. Of startups that fail, more than a third do so because there was no identified market need.
How to build a go-to-market strategy framework
A successful go-to-market strategy requires understanding your market, prioritizing buyers’ pains, and identifying your competitive advantage. Building a framework around these four elements can help deliver your product in a way that makes it “ready to buy.” Let’s run through how to do that in six steps.
1. Create your buyer persona
Selling is about delivering value to your target buyer, and that often takes the form of a solution to a unique problem. To make sure you’re targeting the right problem, build out a buyer persona that connects their pain points to your solution.
To surface this detail, you’ll start with your existing customers. Dig into customer data in your CRM , conduct interviews with buyers whose problems you’ve solved, and lead market research efforts to see where else these needs surface in your industry. (Check out our comprehensive guide on buyer personas for more guidance.)
If you sell B2B, your team will likely be coordinating a purchase with multiple people at each prospective company. The buying group might include end users, the CFO , an operations lead, and so on. Make sure you include problems and needs for these roles in your buyer persona.
2. Conduct competitive research
Going to market with a new product isn’t just about making sure you solve prospects’ problems. It’s also about separating yourself from the crowd of products already in market. To make sure you’re delivering unique value, conduct research on competitors with similar products to see how they’re positioned. Use these questions to guide you:
- What similar products are already in market?
- What do you offer (features, price, functionality) that your competitors don’t?
- If a competitor’s product is popular, why is it resonating with customers? How can you use that information to frame your own messaging?
If you have an AI-powered CRM, you can likely offload some of this research. Use AI tools to scan sales call transcripts for competitor mentions and pricing information. Pair this with automated online research based on industry, competitor, and product keywords. (Here’s how Sales Cloud does this.)
Get articles selected just for you, in your inbox
3. map customer problems to your product solutions.
You know your target buyer’s problems. You know what competitors are doing to solve those problems. And, you know what your product offers. It’s time to connect all three and deliver a high-value solution that’s unique in your market. Build out a simple matrix so you can see all three and how they connect. Here’s what this might look like:
Product: Long-lasting, high-performance running shoes with extra arch support priced 20% below similar products Example buyer: Casual runner, mid-40s, median income
To keep the focus on the buyer during this value mapping, review your matrix and ask: “How would my target buyer see or understand this?” That’s a good gut check before you frame your messaging.
4. Develop key messaging for marketing and sales efforts
Using your matrix from the previous step, draft messaging for each prospect problem that shows why your product is uniquely qualified to serve as a solution with proof points to back it up.
Let’s continue with the example of our shoe buyer. You know from your research that they are between the ages of 40 and 50, like to run as a hobby, and want to stay active despite minor injuries. But, they’re also price-conscious. Here’s what key messaging might look like for this target buyer:
- Problem: Their feet hurt when they run, likely due to prior injuries, muscle strain, or bad shoes.
- Product value: A pair of running shoes designed with input from an orthopedic surgeon, with research that finds 60% of wearers felt less foot pain after a month.
- What competitors offer: Some shoe brands advertise “extra support” but don’t have medical experts contributing to design or research showing this support works.
- Key message: Running doesn’t have to end when you hit middle age. Buy orthopedist-designed running shoes that keep you on the trail, whatever your age. Don’t believe us? Just ask our runners: 60% of customers in their 40s say they felt less foot pain after a month of running in our shoes.
Complete this messaging for every problem you’ve identified, making sure to demonstrate clear and measurable ROI. You can also emphasize the potential downsides to sticking with the status quo or going with the competition.
5. Identify your sales channels
Now you need to reach your prospective customers. But how do you take your key messaging and combine it with the right buying channel ? Start by identifying the channels your buyers typically use to make a purchase, then select the right strategy to match. Here are the most common strategies:
- Direct sales: This involves a rep talking directly to a customer, building a personal relationship over time before closing a deal. This is perfect for longer sales cycles that require ongoing negotiation, typical for complex products at high price points. These deals are often high-touch, requiring a nurture-heavy strategy with lots of explanation and sharing of valuable resources to build trust.
- Self-service sales: This strategy is much more hands off, letting customers make a purchase on their own without speaking to a sales rep. Consider this option when you want to make it fast and easy for your customers to buy, and/or when you don’t have a large team to handle individual sales. It works best for simple products that don’t require a lot of explanation and are offered at a low price point. I typically see this strategy with B2C business models, where customers can buy products on a website, but I also see it with SaaS companies that offer subscriptions. For example, Salesforce lets small-business owners buy software through the Salesforce Starter page.
- Partner sales : Consider this strategy, also known as channel sales, if you want to get your product to market quickly without adding headcount. It’s ideal for smaller, resource-strapped companies launching a simple product that’s relatively low-cost, but best sold directly through reps because it requires some assistance with delivery, onboarding, or setup. The big benefit here is broader market reach via preferred vendors like online marketplaces, resellers, and third-party distributors.
3 Ways Generative AI Will Help Marketers Connect With Customers
Skill Up on AI with Trailhead
6. go to market and measure results.
With the core elements of your go-to-market strategy in place, it’s time to get your product to the right buyers. As you ramp up marketing and sales on your channel(s) of choice, start tracking total units sold, prospect engagement and objections, and sales cycle length. You can do this easily with an AI-powered sales analytics tool that delivers insights in real-time.
If you lag behind expectations, consider adjusting elements of your go-to-market strategy to compensate. Go through the steps above again periodically (at least once a quarter) to make sure your research and persona are up-to-date. By surfacing any new needs or problems of your target buyers, you can adjust messaging to keep customers interested.
Go-to-market strategy example
Mary, a software as a service (SaaS) company founder, is working on launching her new product to the market. Mary has created an innovative solution that automates data entry for companies with high volumes of customer information to manage. Her soft launch was a success, and she’s ready to sell.
To make sure she’s bringing in the right prospects, Mary develops a buyer persona based on conversations with her current customers, and conducting market research. After a few weeks, she lands on the target buyer: mid-sized retailers that take a lot of customer orders online and by phone. The problem: the only other software providers on the market are too expensive for mid-sized companies, and their solutions take too long to get up and running.
With this as a guide, Mary decides on key messaging:
- Spending your weekend entering customer orders (only to ship them too late)?
- Automate your data entry to save your weekends and keep customers happy.
Mary also knows from customer conversations that she needs a sales team to engage with prospects – it’s a long-term investment for her customers, so they need to see demos before they commit. So, she hires 10 sales reps to start conducting outreach and connecting with prospective customers.
Within a few weeks, the team has scheduled demos and is having in-person meetings. She even lands some initial clients, who find the software easy to set up out of the box and affordable for their budgets. Most of them are impressed with how it works, but there’s a problem: people say they need more app integrations to make data management easier. That’s excellent feedback, so Mary takes it to her team. After some investigation, they land on the top 10 most requested apps to start. As customers start using Mary’s software with the app integrations, they see real time savings for their teams. Because they don’t have to spend extra time entering customer data manually, they can also save on headcount and ensure customer orders are shipped promptly. Within a few months, Mary saw a 40% increase in sales, with many customers saying they’ll write positive product reviews and refer their friends.
Build your customer base with a strong go-to-market strategy
A go-to-market strategy may seem like more fuss than it’s worth, but it helps you accomplish the most important task in sales: solving customer problems. Just keep in mind that it’s not a “one and done” effort. Continually monitor your sales and customer engagement to see how you can adapt your strategy to meet evolving buyer needs.
Enable your sales team within their flow of work
Use Enablement from Sales Cloud to help reps identify target prospect’s key problems, then deliver solutions that make it easy to buy.
Just For You
What Is Sales Enablement? A Complete Guide
The Complete Guide to Enterprise Sales
Explore related content by topic
- Sales Strategy
Richard has more than 20 years of SaaS experience and teaches revenue teams how to earn the right to ask questions, which questions to ask, and when to do it. Richard’s clients include Zoom, Salesforce, Google Cloud, PagerDuty, DoorDash, Salesloft, and Gainsight. He’s also the co-founder of Surf & Sales.
Get the latest articles in your inbox.
The Complete Guide to Building a Sales Forecast
Make Your Sales Kickoff the Party of the Year
What Is Cross-Selling? A Guide to Boosting Sales Through Add-Ons
Why You Should Stop Networking to Grow Your Sales Career
What Is Value Selling? The Art of Delivering Solutions with Economic Impact
What Is a Sales Quota? Types, Examples & How To Set Goals
The Lead Nurturing Secrets That Helped Me Double My Sales
3 Questions to Fast-Track Your Salesforce Sales Representative Certification
Yes, I would like to receive the Salesforce newsletters, checked above as well as marketing emails regarding Salesforce products, services, and events. I can unsubscribe at anytime.
By registering, you confirm that you agree to the processing of your personal data by Salesforce as described in the Privacy Statement .
Thanks, you're subscribed!
New to Salesforce?
- What is Salesforce?
- Best CRM software
- Explore all products
- What is cloud computing
- Customer success
- Product pricing
- Salesforce Mobile
- CRM software
- Salesforce LIVE
- Salesforce for startups
- América Latina (Español)
- Brasil (Português)
- Canada (English)
- Canada (Français)
- United States (English)
Europe, Middle East, and Africa
- España (Español)
- Deutschland (Deutsch)
- France (Français)
- Italia (Italiano)
- Nederland (Nederlands)
- Sverige (Svenska)
- United Kingdom (English)
- All other countries (English)
- Australia (English)
- India (English)
- Malaysia (English)
- ประเทศไทย (ไทย)
© Copyright 2022 Salesforce, Inc. All rights reserved. Various trademarks held by their respective owners. Salesforce, Inc. Salesforce Tower, 415 Mission Street, 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105, United States
- Solve Customer Problems
- Streamline Purchase Order Process
- Employee Exit Process
- Iterative Process
- Process Documentation
- Risk Assessment Process
- Workflow Vs. Process
- Process Mapping
- Business Process Reengineering
- What is Business Process Management
- Process Mapping Software
- Business Analysis Tool
- Business Capability Map
- Decision Making Tools and Techniques
- Operating Model Canvas
- Mobile App Planning
- Product Development Guide
- Product Roadmap
- Timeline Diagrams
- Visualize User Flow
- Sequence Diagrams
- Online Class Diagram Tool
- Mind Map Maker
- Retro Software
- Agile Project Charter
- Critical Path Software
- Brainstorming Guide
- Brainstorming Tools
- Visual Tools for Brainstorming
- Brainstorming Content Ideas
- Brainstorming in Business
- Brainstorming Questions
- Brainstorming Rules
- Brainstorming Techniques
- Brainstorming Workshop
- Design Thinking and Brainstorming
- Divergent vs Convergent Thinking
- Group Brainstorming Strategies
- Group Creativity
- How to Make Virtual Brainstorming Fun and Effective
- Ideation Techniques
- Improving Brainstorming
- Marketing Brainstorming
- Rapid Brainstorming
- Reverse Brainstorming Challenges
- Reverse vs. Traditional Brainstorming
- What Comes After Brainstorming
- 5 Whys Template
- Assumption Grid Template
- Brainstorming Templates
- Brainwriting Template
- Innovation Techniques
- 50 Business Diagrams
- Business Model Canvas
- Change Control Process
- Change Management Process
- Developing Action Plans
- Improve Productivity & Efficiency
- Strategy Mapping
- Visualizing Competitive Landscape
- Communication Plan
- Graphic Organizer Creator
- Fault Tree Software
- Bowman's Strategy Clock Template
- Decision Matrix Template
- Meeting Templates
- Meetings Participation
- Retrospective Guide
- Weekly Meetings
- Affinity Diagrams
- Business Plan Presentation
- WBS Templates
- Online Whiteboard Tool
- Communications Plan Template
- Idea Board Online
- Meeting Minutes Template
- Genograms in Social Work Practice
- How to Conduct a Genogram Interview
- How to Make a Genogram
- Genogram Questions
- Genograms in Client Counseling
- Visual Research Data Analysis Methods
- House of Quality Template
- Customer Problem Statement Template
- Competitive Analysis Template
- Creating Operations Manual
- Folder Structure Diagram
- Online Checklist Maker
- Lean Canvas Template
- Instructional Design Examples
- Genogram Maker
- Work From Home Guide
- Strategic Planning
- Employee Engagement Action Plan
- Huddle Board
- One-on-One Meeting Template
- Story Map Graphic Organizers
- Introduction to Your Workspace
- Managing Workspaces and Folders
- Adding Text
- Collaborative Content Management
- Creating and Editing Tables
- Adding Notes
- Introduction to Diagramming
- Using Shapes
- Using Freehand Tool
- Adding Images to the Canvas
- Accessing the Contextual Toolbar
- Using Connectors
- Working with Tables
- Working with Templates
- Working with Frames
- Using Notes
- Access Controls
- Exporting a Workspace
- Real-Time Collaboration
- Unleashing the Power of Collaborative Brainstorming
- Uncovering the potential of Retros for all teams
- Collaborative Apps in Microsoft Teams
- Hiring a Great Fit for Your Team
- Project Management Made Easy
- Cross-Corporate Information Radiators
- Creately 4.0 - Product Walkthrough
- What's New
A Comprehensive Guide to Capacity Planning
Capacity planning is the process of determining the resources you need to meet the current and future demands of your business. It helps you optimize your performance, reduce costs, and avoid downtime.
But how do you plan your capacity effectively? What strategies and steps should you follow? And what are the benefits and challenges of capacity planning? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and more.
What is Capacity Planning?
Lead strategy, lag strategy, match strategy.
- Analyze Your Current Capacity
- Forecast Your Future Demand
- Determine Your Optimal Capacity Level
- Identify the Gap Between Your Current and Optimal Capacity Levels
- Develop and Implement a Capacity Plan
Benefits of Capacity Planning
Capacity planning best practices, challenges in capacity planning and how to overcome them.
- FAQs About Capacity Planning
Capacity planning is the process of estimating the amount of resources (such as staff, equipment, space, etc.) that you need to deliver your products or services at the desired quality and quantity levels.
Capacity planning helps you answer questions like:
- How much demand do I expect in the future?
- How much capacity do I have right now?
- How much capacity do I need to meet the expected demand?
- How can I balance the supply and demand of my resources?
Capacity planning is essential for any business that wants to grow, improve efficiency, and satisfy customers. It helps you avoid running overcapacity or under capacity, which can lead to wasted resources, lost revenue, poor quality, or unhappy customers.
Capacity Planning Strategies
There are different strategies that you can use to plan your capacity, depending on your business goals, industry, and market conditions. Some of the common strategies are:
This strategy involves increasing your capacity ahead of the expected demand. This way, you can take advantage of new opportunities, gain a competitive edge, and avoid losing customers due to insufficient capacity. However, this strategy also involves higher costs and risks of overestimating the demand.
This strategy involves increasing your capacity after the demand has increased. This way, you can reduce your costs and risks of overinvesting in capacity. However, this strategy also involves lower customer satisfaction and market share, as you may not be able to meet the demand in time.
This strategy involves increasing your capacity in small increments as the demand increases. This way, you can balance your costs and risks with your customer satisfaction and market share. However, this strategy also involves higher complexity and uncertainty, as you need to constantly monitor and adjust your capacity.
Steps in the Capacity Planning Process
The capacity planning process can vary depending on your business type, size, and needs. However, a general framework that you can follow consists of these steps:
1. Analyze Your Current Capacity
The first step is to measure and evaluate your current capacity levels. You need to identify available resources, resources currently in use, and how efficiently you are using them. You can use metrics such as utilization rate, throughput rate, cycle time, etc. to assess your current capacity.
2. Forecast Your Future Demand
The next step is to estimate your future demand for your products or services. You need to consider factors such as historical trends, market conditions, customer preferences, seasonal variations, etc. to project your future demand. You can use methods such as trend analysis, regression analysis, scenario analysis, etc. to forecast your future demand.
3. Determine Your Optimal Capacity Level
The third step is to calculate the optimal amount of resources that you need to meet your future demand. You need to consider factors such as quality standards, service levels, customer expectations, etc. to determine your optimal capacity level. You can use methods such as break-even analysis, cost-benefit analysis, simulation modeling, etc. to determine your optimal capacity level.
4. Identify the Gap Between Your Current and Optimal Capacity Levels
The fourth step is to compare your current and optimal capacity levels and identify the gap between them. You need to determine whether you have excess or insufficient capacity and by how much.
5. Develop and Implement a Capacity Plan
The final step is to develop and implement a plan to close the gap between your current and optimal capacity levels. You need to decide which strategy (lead, lag, or match) suits your business goals and budget best. You also need to choose which methods (such as hiring or firing staff, buying or leasing equipment, expanding or reducing space, etc.) you will use to increase or decrease your capacity.
Capacity planning can bring many benefits to your business, such as:
Improved performance: Capacity planning helps improve your productivity, efficiency, quality, and profitability by ensuring that you have enough resources to meet the demand at the right time and place.
Reduced costs: Reduce your operational costs by avoiding overcapacity or under capacity situations that can lead to wasted resources or lost revenue.
Enhanced customer satisfaction: Enhance customer satisfaction by delivering your products or services at the desired quality and quantity levels without delays or shortages.
Increased flexibility: Increase your flexibility by allowing you to adapt quickly and easily to changing market conditions and customer needs.
To plan your capacity effectively, you should follow some best practices, such as:
Involve all stakeholders: Capacity planning is a cross-functional process that requires the input and collaboration of all stakeholders, such as managers, employees, customers, suppliers, etc. You should involve them in the capacity planning process and communicate your goals, expectations, and results clearly and regularly.
Use reliable data: It is based on data and analysis. You should use reliable and accurate data sources and methods to measure your current capacity, forecast your future demand, and determine your optimal capacity level. You should also update your data and analysis periodically to reflect the latest changes and trends.
Consider multiple scenarios: Capacity planning is subject to uncertainty and variability. You should consider multiple scenarios and contingencies when planning your capacity and prepare for different outcomes and risks. You should also review and revise your capacity plan as needed to cope with unexpected events or opportunities.
Balance short-term and long-term goals: Maintain a balance between short-term and long-term goals. You should align your capacity plan with your strategic vision and objectives, but also consider your operational constraints and realities. You should also balance your costs and benefits, risks and rewards, and supply and demand.
Capacity planning is not without challenges. Some of the common challenges that you may face are:
Demand uncertainty: Demand is often unpredictable and volatile. You may face fluctuations in demand due to factors such as customer behavior, market conditions, competitor actions, etc. To overcome this challenge, you should use multiple sources and methods to forecast your demand, monitor your demand patterns regularly, and adjust your capacity accordingly.
Resource constraints: Resources are often limited and scarce. You may face constraints in resources such as staff, equipment, space, etc. due to factors such as availability, cost, quality, etc. To overcome this challenge, you should optimize your resource utilization, prioritize your resource allocation, and explore alternative or complementary resources.
Technology changes: Technology is constantly evolving and improving. You may face changes in technology that can affect your capacity levels or requirements. For example, new technology can increase your capacity or reduce your demand. To overcome this challenge, you should keep up with the latest technology trends, evaluate the impact of technology changes on your capacity, and adopt or adapt to new technology as appropriate.
Capacity planning is a vital process for any business that wants to grow, improve efficiency, and satisfy customers. It involves estimating the resources you need to meet the current and future demands of your business.
To plan your capacity effectively, you should follow a general framework that consists of these steps:
- Analyze your current capacity
- Forecast your future demand
- Determine your optimal capacity level
- Identify the gap between your current and optimal capacity levels
- Develop and implement a capacity plan
You should also follow some best practices such as involving all stakeholders, using reliable data, considering multiple scenarios, and balancing short-term and long-term goals.
By planning your capacity well, you can enjoy many benefits such as improved performance, reduced costs, enhanced customer satisfaction, and increased flexibility.
However, you should also be aware of some challenges such as demand uncertainty, resource constraints, and technology changes. You should overcome these challenges by using multiple sources and methods to forecast your demand, optimizing your resource utilization, prioritizing your resource allocation, exploring alternative or complementary resources, keeping up with the latest technology trends, evaluating the impact of technology changes on your capacity, and adopting or adapting to new technology as appropriate.
We hope you enjoyed this blog post on how to plan your capacity like a pro. If you have any questions or feedback, please leave them in the comments section below.
FAQs about Purchase Order Process
More related articles.
Hansani is a content specialist at Creately. She loves reading and writing about tech innovations. She enjoys writing poetry, travelling and photography.
- Our solutions
- Insights & guidance
File a claim
Action teams, contact support, 3 steps to plan financially for a long life.
taxes , and you may begin to wonder if you’ll have enough money to outlive you. Consider these three steps:
1. Create a secure income stream.
guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit . Your balance could be zero; you could have lived so long that you depleted the account. But you’ll still get paid,” he says. The good news is that the payment can’t ever go down. But on the flip side, there’s no guarantee it ever would go up, he adds. It’s dependent on the market.
2. Keep some money in the market.
be in the market with a portion of your money in order to grow your principal.
3. Create a strategy for extended care & health care needs.
Medicare is a staple of most retired Americans’ insurance for medical expenses, hospitalization and prescriptions. Medicare supplement insurance can fill the gap between what Medicare pays and the total cost of the expense. It’s essential to understand what role each plays and even more important to have a strategy in place to manage any potential extended care or other health care needs.
Get professional guidance
health care costs in retirement .
Thrivent financial advisor to help you create your plan.
More to explore
Ukraine war latest: Wagner troops 'turn down Putin'- as Russia and India 'sign weapons deal'
"Mud-filled trenches" and "impassable roads" are changing the military landscape in Ukraine, as fierce fighting continues at the eastern city of Avdiivka. Meanwhile, Russia and India have reportedly signed a weapons deal. Listen to a Daily podcast special on the war while you scroll.
Tuesday 14 November 2023 19:06, UK
- Weather beginning to affect battlespace, ISW says
- Fierce fighting at Avdiivka continues as Russia brings in 'more and more' infantry
- Russia and India 'sign weapons deal'
- Ex-Wagner Group troops 'turning down Russian MoD'
- Sean Bell analysis: Why the pendulum might start to swing in Ukraine's favour
- Philip Ingram analysis: Who is winning the war?
- Your questions answered: How bad are sanctions making life for ordinary Russians?
- Live reporting by Lauren Russell
We're ending our live coverage of the war in Ukraine for today - but here are the key developments you may have missed:
- The Russian defence ministry is reportedly attempting to recruit ex-Wagner personnel, without much success, according to the Institute for the Study of War. More than 120 ex-Wagner fighters reportedly turned down a 110,000 ruble (about $1,200) position;
- The bill approving Sweden's NATO membership is expected to be debated by the Turkish parliament's foreign affairs commission on Thursday. This could come as a blow to Vladimir Putin who invaded Ukraine in part to curb efforts by Volodymyr Zelenskyy to also join NATO;
- At least one person died and one was injured after Russia hit the Dnipropetrovsk region with three kamikaze drones, according to the governor of the region;
- Germany has said it will double military aid for Ukraine. A draft of the country's next budget includes brings the total to €8bn (£6.99bn) in 2024;
- European Union nations risk failing to provide Ukraine with the one million rounds of ammunition they pledged to deliver.
The US ambassador to Ukraine has attended a ceremony to hand over heavy machinery that will help clear rubble, repair infrastructure and eliminate the consequences of air and artillery shelling.
The images below show Bridget Brink making a speech and then cutting a ceremonial ribbon in front of the gifted JCB yellow diggers.
The machines have been given as part of an assistance package from the United States Agency for International Development - an independent agency of the US government responsible for administering civilian foreign aid.
Russia has been losing a lot of troops, but there are a few reasons why Vladimir Putin is hesitant to draft in more civilians, military analyst Sean Bell has said.
"They desperately need to mobilise more people out of the general population," Bell said.
"One of the reasons they won't do that is because Putin faces a presidential general election in spring next year, and it would be deeply unpopular with Russian society.
"If you have to mobilise more people, you have to explain what has happened to the guys you have already mobilised."
Bell added: "It is difficult to explain that a lot of them have died.
"While it might not be completely democratic in Russia, Putin does not want to trigger any sort of rebellion against him."
It comes as Mr Putin approved new restrictions on media coverage of presidential elections.
Under the amendments, only journalists contractually employed by registered media outlets will be allowed to cover election commission meetings, potentially barring freelancers and independent journalists.
Any coverage of the commission's actions on military bases or areas under military rule has also been barred.
The Russian army has "eliminated" almost all Ukrainian literature in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, according to the former deputy prosecutor general of Ukraine.
In a post on X, Gyunduz Mamedov, said any Ukrainian books published between 1994-2021 are viewed as "extremist literature".
He said this year, around 2.3 million Russian books have been brought into the country in a bid to try and "destroy" Ukrainian culture.
Ukraine and Britain have agreed on a special mechanism for discounts on war risk insurance.
In a nutshell, war risk insurance is a policy that provides financial protection to the policyholder against losses from events such as invasions, insurrections, riots, strikes, revolutions, military coups and terrorism.
Getting insurance for exports that have to travel through the Black Sea corridor remains one of the critical issues for Ukraine, as Russia keeps targeting the route.
After a Russian attack on a Liberia-flagged civilian vessel entering port in the Odesa region in early November, insurance premiums have risen sharply.
So, what does this new agreement mean?
The special mechanism will involve 14 British insurance companies and will basically mean insuring exports will be cheaper.
Denys Shmyhal, Ukraine's prime minister, said it will make the Black Sea corridor more accessible to a wider range of exporters.
Poland and Ukraine have failed to reach an agreement to end a week-long protest by Polish truck drivers.
Drivers have been blocking roads leading to three crossings into Ukraine after what they claim has been a lack of government response to a loss of business since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
They claim their business has gone to foreign competitors instead.
The Polish drivers have asked that the number of licences given to Ukrainian drivers is limited, but Kyiv said it would not consider the demands.
Serhiy Derkach, the Ukrainian deputy minister for infrastructure, went as far to say it was "absurdity" that Polish protesters have not appealed to their government but want Ukraine to apply to the EU for licences.
He said Ukraine was trying to find a compromise but the "situation was complicated".
Drivers continue to block "three main directions", according to the Ukrainian border guard.
Last week, the protesters said they were letting through one truck an hour.
Shipments of equipment for Ukraine's army, humanitarian aide, volatile substances and livestock transports were exempt from the blockade.
The secretary general of NATO has reaffirmed support for Ukraine and said Vladimir Putin cannot be allowed to win the war.
Speaking after a meeting with EU defence ministers in Brussels, Jens Stoltenberg said: "The situation on the battlefield is difficult.
"And that just makes it even more important that we sustain and step up our support for Ukraine because we cannot allow President Putin to win.
"Ukraine must prevail as a sovereign independent nation in Europe, and it's in our interest to support Ukraine."
At least one person has died and one injured after Russia hit the Dnipropetrovsk region with three kamikaze drones, according to the governor of the region.
Serhiy Lysak posted on Telegram this morning that a 72-year-old man is in hospital in a "moderate condition" after the incident.
"Condolences to the relatives," he said.
"Shame on the occupiers who are fighting with the civilians."
A kamikaze drone, also known by Russia as the Geranium-2, is a weapon designed to loiter over a target until it is instructed to attack.
'Act of revenge'
It comes after Ukraine claimed that three Russian officers were killed in a blast in the Kremlin-controlled city of Melitopol, according to Ukraine's intelligence chief.
He called it an "act of revenge".
The explosion happened during a meeting of National Guard and FSB officers on Saturday.
"This act of revenge, carried out by representatives of the local resistance movement, took place in the [post] offices seized by the Russians," the Ukrainian defence ministry said online.
"The enemy does not learn anything and continues to organise its headquarters there," Ivan Fedorov, the exiled mayor of Melitopol, added.
Earlier, we reported that European Union nations risk failing to provide Ukraine with the one million rounds of ammunition they pledged to deliver (see post at 7.51am).
The 27-nation bloc promised the ammunition would arrive at Ukraine's frontline by spring next year, in what would have amounted to a serious ramping-up of production.
But so far, only 300,000 rounds have been delivered from EU existing stocks.
During a meeting of EU defence and foreign affairs ministers in Brussels, Boris Pistorius, the German defence minister, said it should be "assumed" the one million target will not be met.
Later Andris Spruds, his Latvian counterpart, added that the original target should not be taken too literally.
"Well, of course, one million rounds are symbolic. I think aspiration and ambition is important," he said.
Meanwhile, other member states put the blame on producers.
"We have all signed contracts. We've done joint procurement. So industry now has to deliver. It has to step up its game to produce more," Kajsa Ollongren, the Dutch defence minister, said.
Acquiring one million such shells could secure stability for Ukraine for at least six months.
This would provide Ukraine with a substantial advantage in operations and flexibility on the battlefield, according to observers.
It was only Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner, who insisted the industry production target could be met, "but it is now upon member states to place their orders".
He said: "It is true that we dropped a bit, even significantly, our production capacity, but the industrial base is still there to ramp up production."
The bill approving Sweden's NATO membership will be debated by the Turkish parliament's foreign affairs commission on Thursday.
It must be approved before a vote by the full general assembly can take place.
This could be a huge step, after Turkey initially raised objections to approve Sweden's bid for membership, accusing the country of harbouring Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers security threats.
The bid was also held up by Hungary.
Despite acknowledging he expected Sweden to do more to combat militants, Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan submitted the bill to parliament for ratification three weeks ago.
The move was welcomed by NATO and Stockholm.
A potential blow to Putin
The potential of Sweden's acceptance into NATO will come as a blow to Vladimir Putin.
To understand this, we need to go back to last year, when the Russian president launched the invasion of Ukraine.
One of the main reasons behind the invasion was to curb efforts by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, to also join NATO.
This was a red flag for Mr Putin, as he thought the military alliance was encroaching on Russia's borders.
In the past, Mr Putin has warned that he would be ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia's "territorial integrity", and that a direct clash with NATO troops is a "very dangerous step".
After the war began, both Finland and Sweden made bids to join the alliance, claiming that they wanted to bolster their security.
In April, Finland officially became a member .
Earlier today, Finland also said it was going to "take action" to limit the number of people crossing the Russian border into the country.
It accused Russia of funnelling individuals who did not have the required travel documents to its border.
Mari Rantanen, the interior minister, said the number of asylum seekers has "grown significantly in a short time" and they are now looking to impose restrictions or close some of the crossing points along the 833 mile-long border it shares with Russia.
Petteri Orpo, the prime minister, added: "The message from us in the government is clear in that we want to secure the safety of our eastern border."
Be the first to get Breaking News
Install the Sky News app for free