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May 12, 2022

What is Strategic Planning? Learn the 5 Steps of the Strategic Planning Process

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Leadership

What is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning is an important activity for any company’s leaders or management teams. This process allows them to define their vision, goals, and priorities for the organization. Strategic planning acts as a guide that leadership teams can use to achieve their vision for the company.

Because strategic planning focuses on achieving a vision, it is not about tactics or short-term actions. The goals and priorities discussed in your strategic planning session can take years to accomplish — and that’s okay. For shorter-term goals or to establish a new business model, other business frameworks like the balanced scorecard or the business model canvas can be more helpful.

As an example for the types of goals to use in this process, imagine an airline company with a stated vision to be the most innovative competitor in their market. They may set goals for their research and development teams to implement supersonic travel or battery-powered aircraft by 2030. This is a very different conversation than short-term goals to optimize the ticketing process or improve WiFi speeds during their flights.

Read on to learn more about the strategic planning process or jump ahead to one of the following sections:

What are the 5 Steps of the Strategic Planning Process?

Each step in the process will help you create a long-term roadmap for your organization that will help you succeed. 

Step 1: Define Your Strategic & Competitive Position

This step gives your leadership team the context they need to understand the current competitive position of the organization. Using a business framework like a SWOT analysis to understand your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a great place to start. 

Want to start with a SWOT? Learn how to do a SWOT analysis >>

It’s also a good idea to review your company’s vision statement and mission statements. These, combined with your evaluation of your current strategic position within the market, are foundational to the remaining four steps.

Step 2: Set & Prioritize Your Objectives

Start by listing any major initiatives that your company is already working on. If these don’t contribute to your mission or goals, that’s a red flag — can you deprioritize them? 

In addition to this ongoing work, add additional objectives that will contribute to your organization’s mission and vision. Conducting a gap analysis can be a good way to add to your list of objectives, or you can use any brainstorming techniques that work well for your team.

  • Once you’ve got a strong list of potential objectives, ask yourself the following questions:
  • Which of these will have the largest impact on achieving our mission?
  • Which initiatives would be the easiest or most feasible to execute? Which are the hardest?
  • What additional resources would we need to complete these objectives?
  • How will we measure progress and success of each objective?

Based on your understanding of the impact and ease of each objective, set priorities that can help your organization achieve its mission.

Step 3: Create Your Action Plan

With an understanding of the highest-value objectives, assign timing, goals, and benchmarks. Consider which initiatives should be completed first or in a specific order. You may want to make a timeline or a roadmap to help visualize, at a high level, the order and expected working time for each initiative.

To make sure each objective is actionable, learn how to write a SMART goal statement as well. By writing these statements, your broader team will have a clear understanding of the goal when you communicate your plan to the full organization.

It’s also a good idea to assign a champion or leader for each objective or initiative. They can be responsible for reporting on progress and help break down any barriers as the team works on the initiative.

Step 4: Execute & Report on Progress

Put your plan into action and regularly report on progress for the initiatives actively being worked on. Brief monthly or quarterly updates are usually most appropriate for an executive team. 

In addition to acting on the plan, there’s great benefit to distributing it throughout your organization. This can help workers at every level in your company feel connected to your vision and understand how their daily work contributes to the outlined goals. Consider conducting a stakeholder analysis to determine a detailed communications plan.

Step 5: Revise as Needed

Creating a long-term plan is a challenge simply because things are going to change. Be prepared to revise your plan every year.

Some work will be delayed, while other initiatives may come quickly to your team. As you start talking about a 5-year vision for your organization, innovations and technology will change in ways that both support and slow your work. As you make progress on your goals, your competitors will respond.

All of these are reasons to revise your plan. Revisit your goal statements and make sure that, given the current state of your organization, they are still appropriately attainable, realistic, and time-bound. 

Who Should be Included in the Strategic Planning Process?

This process is most effective when a group of leaders from across the organization are engaged. These leaders have enough power, expertise, and visibility to both contribute to the planning process as well as ensure the plan is well-executed.

Because a significant part of the planning process is about understanding the current state of the organization, the leaders you select to participate in the planning process should be able to contribute data and feedback about their business unit. Assigning pre-work, like asking each leader to complete a SWOT analysis specific to the areas where they have impact, will help them collect data and clarify their thoughts prior to working collaboratively.

Use Gliffy to Brainstorm & Strategize Throughout the Process

Strategic planning is a powerful discipline for any organization, but you’ll need to manage a lot of inputs from leaders in order to create a successful plan. By using Gliffy Diagrams for Confluence or Gliffy Online, you can empower each participant with a clear way to express and share their ideas. Then, you can easily document your plan at a high-level for communication to the broader organization. 

Whether you’re working in Confluence or prefer our online diagramming tool, Gliffy offers a free trial so that you can get started. Then, you can just drag and drop the shapes you need to build your own business frameworks, workflow diagrams, concept maps, and more.

Try Free Online  Try in Confluence