How to Use Strategic Planning Frameworks and Models

By Joe Weller | April 12, 2019 (updated July 26, 2021)

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Strategic planning models and frameworks can help guide you through the strategic planning process. In this article, seasoned industry experts explain the models and frameworks to help you identify which is best for you.

Included on this page, you'll find different types of models and frameworks , tools to help you decide which models and frameworks to use , and details on how to use strategic planning models .

Strategic Planning Basics

Strategic planning is a team process that sets up how your company will accomplish its goals. When you deploy it correctly, strategic planning highlights problems, helps find solutions, and monitors progress. To learn more about the basics of strategic planning, read this article.

A strategic plan includes many sections. When done well, a strategic plan can help you prioritize your company’s functions and stay in line with your mission and vision.

There are different ways to present a strategic plan — for example, it can be a written document, a spreadsheet, or an animated presentation. To learn how to write a strategic plan, read this article.

Strategic Planning Frameworks and Models

Just as there are many approaches to presenting a strategic plan, you have several ways to frame or model your plan.

The terms strategic planning framework and strategic framing models are often used interchangeably, but some say they are different.

Tom Wright

“Think of models as a way of ideating strategy. [A model is] a template: You use it at the beginning of the planning process. The idea behind a model is to tease out the ideas,” says Tom Wright, CEO and Co-Founder of Cascade Strategy , a software company based in Sydney, Australia, with offices all over the world. “Frameworks are like a lens to help you see different perspectives, whereas the model is a process you would use from the beginning. You add a framework on top of the [strategic plan] to slice and dice the model.”

There are many strategic planning models and frameworks — some are tried and true, others are newer and more adaptive, and planners and managers may be more familiar with some methods than others. There is no one right or wrong way to create a strategic plan, and you can modify models and frameworks based on your company culture, your current situation, and the purpose behind your planning.

“The major driver [for picking a model or framework] is what type of business you are and what you want to accomplish,” Wright explains.

Strategic planners often utilize different frameworks or customize particular models as they move through the planning process. But be careful; customizing models or frameworks too much might confuse people who are familiar with a particular planning process.

Below is a list of some of the most common frameworks and models:

Alignment Model: This model helps align your mission statement with available resources. It is particularly effective for businesses facing internal struggles.

Balanced Scorecard (BSC): The balanced scorecard system strives to connect big-picture elements with operational elements. BSC is well-known and works for companies of varying sizes.

The Basic Model: Sometimes called a simple strategic planning model , the basic model  involves creating a mission statement, goals, and strategies.

Blue Ocean Strategy: This framework emphasizes new markets and uncontested space.

Gap Planning: A strategy gap is the distance between how a company is currently performing and its desired goal. Gap planning is the analysis and evaluation of that difference.

Inspirational Model: This is a somewhat quick method of strategic planning that begins by coming up with a highly inspirational vision for the organization and the goals to match.

Issue-Based or Goal-Based Model: A step up from the basic model, this model is better for more established businesses. It incorporates SWOT or other types of assessments to determine goals, mission statements, action plans, and other steps.

Organic Model: As the name implies, this model does not necessarily follow a set plan, instead evolving and changing as conditions warrant.

PEST Model: The PEST (political, economic, social, and technological) approach looks at elements of the external environment, including the forces in its name.

Porter’s Five Forces: This model looks at five competitive forces that are present in every industry and helps to determine strengths and weaknesses: competition in the industry, the potential of new entrants into the industry, the power of suppliers, the power of customers, and the threat of substitute products.

Real-Time Model: This a fluid process that works best for companies that operate in a rapidly changing environment.

Scenario Model: When used in conjunction with other models, the scenario model can help you identify goals, as well as issues around them, by using scenarios that might arise. Some experts say this is more of a technique than a model.

Strategy Mapping: This approach helps organizations design and communicate their strategies. Strategy mapping often falls under the umbrella of a BSC, but strategy maps can also stand alone.

SWOT Analysis or SWOT Matrix: SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) offers a way to examine both internal and external forces impacting your company.

VRIO Framework: This approach looks at the questions of value, rarity, imitability, and organization concerning the competitive potential of a company.

Using Strategic Planning Models

In this section, you’ll learn the specifics of the different strategic planning models and frameworks. Sometimes, models can serve as a visual guide. In contrast, frameworks function as an overlay to a model that helps clarify particular items, such as goals.

The Basic Model

The basic model of strategic planning is the most common and simplistic approach. The basic model works well for companies that are small, do not have much time to plan, don’t need to address many serious issues, or operate in stable external environments. It also works for companies that are new to strategic planning.

The basic model is not meant for organizations with significant resources to pursue ambitious visions and goals.

The basic model centers on the mission and vision statements. The vision statement identifies your company’s purpose on a higher level, and the mission statement outlines what happens within the organization to achieve that vision. It makes sense to build the rest of your plan from these statements.

The next step is to come up with goals you must achieve to live up to your mission and make it a reality, then outline what must happen to achieve those goals. Next, list the specific activities you must implement and who will participate in those activities. Lastly, create a simple monitoring plan to make sure your organization stays on track.

The Issue-Based or Goal-Based Model

The issue- or goal-based model evolves from the basic model and results in a more comprehensive plan. The steps vary.

This approach is dynamic and fluid, and it works well for businesses that want to go deeper into strategic planning but have the following concerns:

Limited resources for planning

Several issues to address

Limited past success reaching ambitious goals

No buy-in for the strategic planning process

The issue-based model requires organizations to identify their most important current issues, suggest action plans to address those issues, and include that information in the strategic plan.

The goal-based model often includes the following:

A way to monitor and amend the plan

Action plans, including objectives, resources, and implementation roles

Core values

Major issues and goals, along with ways to address them

Mission statement

SWOT analysis

Vision statement

Yearly operating plan, including a budget

The Alignment Model

The alignment model focuses on making sure an organization’s actions align with its vision. In the plan, you outline the mission, resources, programs, and support your organization needs to ensure it fulfills its vision.

The alignment model works well for organizations that are trying to figure out what is and isn’t working well, along with what needs adjusting. The process can help identify issues, such as internal inefficiencies and productivity problems. However, some critics of this model say it functions more like an internal development plan than a strategic plan.

The Scenario Model

The scenario model looks at what is happening outside of an organization, including regulatory, demographic, or political forces, to determine how they can impact what is happening inside of a company.

The scenario model works best when used in combination with other models and is more of a technique than a model.

For each change in an external force, discuss how it could impact the future of your organization in the following three ways:

A best-case scenario

A worst-case scenario

A reasonable-case scenario

After looking at the three potential impacts, figure out how to best respond to each. Then pick the most likely scenario and discuss strategies to address it.

The scenario model works well for businesses that need help planning for several potential situations.

The Organic Model

If your company wants to stay away from strict and formal strategic planning, the organic model might be a good fit. As the name implies, the organic model of strategic planning is more of a free-spirited conversation, rather than a set process. It emphasizes the journey over the destination.

The organic model relies on everyone having a shared vision and being willing to openly discuss how to get there using common values. This less systematic model requires patience since it involves constant dialogue and is never really finished.

The organic model works well for organizations where traditional methods feel static and obsolete. If you are looking for a set plan outlining steps to follow, the organic model is not for you.

Storyboarding techniques and open dialogue are often a part of the organic model, and everyone is encouraged to participate openly. The focus is more on learning and less about the method of strategic planning.

Real-Time Strategic Planning

The real-time method of strategic planning is even more fluid than the organic model. It helps articulate an organization’s mission and, sometimes, its vision and values. Real-time strategic planning often involves presenting lists to board members or management for further discussion.

Like the organic model, real-time strategic planning is a continuous process and works best for rapidly changing organizations that might not have the need for set, detailed, or traditional strategic planning.

Inspirational Model

Like the name implies, the inspirational model can be energizing to participants, but also have less of a strategic impact on an organization than other, more formal models.

The process works by gathering people to talk about a highly inspirational vision for the company. Leaders encourage participants to brainstorm exciting and far-reaching goals, then capture the details using powerful and poignant wording.

The inspirational model works well for organizations looking to lift the spirits of a staff or to quickly produce a plan.

Strategic Planning Frameworks

Like models, strategic planning frameworks help an organization through the strategic planning process. Most frameworks cover the basics of strategic planning (mission, vision, goals), but include additional sections and have more specific focus areas.

Balanced Scorecard Framework

One of the more popular strategic planning frameworks is the balanced scorecard. It functions as both a strategic planning and management system, and it helps connect a company’s plan to the operational elements that make it happen. The balanced scorecard takes more than financial profits into account when measuring success.

Companies use the balanced scorecard to do the following:

Align the daily work to the longer-term strategy.

Communicate where they are doing and why.

Set priorities.

Monitor progress and measure success.

When Drs. Robert Kaplan and David Norton created the balanced scorecard in the 1990s, it changed the way many companies do their strategic planning because it focused on more than one performance metric.

Strategic Models Balanced Scorecard Quadrants

Companies that use the balanced scorecard try to look at themselves using four unique perspectives to get a better understanding of their planning:

Financial performance

Stakeholders and customers the company is serving

An internal review of how the company is operating

Learning and growth (including capacity, infrastructure, technology, and culture)

The key to the balanced scorecard is that a business should be a balance of the four quadrants.

Cascade’s Wright says the balanced scorecard works well for medium and large companies that don’t change very quickly or don’t need to make radical changes.

To learn more about the balanced scorecard and find free templates and examples, read this article .

Strategy Mapping

Strategy mapping can help an organization reach its goals by providing a visual tool to communicate a strategic plan. Strategy mapping is often part of (but is not exclusive to) the balanced scorecard framework.

Because the graphic is visual and simple, it is an easy way to show how one objective impacts others.

Strategy mapping helps you identify key goals and unify those goals into strategies. People can refer back to it in order to stick to the overall plan when working on tasks or making decisions.

The map shows how different items interact with each other in various ways, including a cause-and-effect relationship.

Strategy maps are often set up in the following manner:

List the four perspectives (financial, customer, process and learning, and growth) horizontally.

Place objectives within those perspectives.

Write sets of linked objectives across different perspectives (these are called strategic themes ).

Show cause-and-effect impacts between objectives and across perspectives.

Strategic Planning Models Strategy Map Example

Image credit: Clearpoint Strategy

Use this template to help you organize your thoughts visually. By thinking of how different perspectives relate to each other, you can come up with your objectives.

Strategy Map Template

‌ Download Strategy Map Template

Excel | Smartsheet

Porter’s Five Forces

Porter’s Five Forces approach helps companies assess the competitiveness of the market. Introduced in 1979, it is one of the oldest strategic planning frameworks.

This approach focuses on the five forces that can impact the profitability of an organization:

The Threat of Entry: Can new companies enter the market?

The Threat of Other Substitute Products or Services: Is there a competitor on the market that your customers could use instead of your product or service?

Customers’ Bargaining Power: Can customers pressure you to react to their demands?

Suppliers’ Bargaining Power: Can suppliers apply pressure to your company?

Competitive Rivalry Among Companies: If a rival company changes its strategy, will it impact yours?

The key is to look at the amount of pressure each force applies to a company in order to determine that company’s future.

Five Force Model

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Excel | PDF

SWOT Analysis

Most strategic planning processes include a SWOT analysis. Many companies perform a SWOT analysis at the beginning of the strategic planning process, as it offers them a look at what they are doing well and where they can improve.

A SWOT analysis examines the following:

Strengths: What the business does well to achieve its objectives

Weaknesses: What activities could keep a business from achieving its objectives

Opportunities: The external factors that could help achieve its objectives

Threats: Possible external factors that could keep the company from achieving its objectives

Strengths and weaknesses are internal characteristics, while opportunities and threats are external.

You've seen how the four quadrants of a SWOT analysis work. Use this template to write down each factor, so you can view your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

SWOT Analysis Strategic Template

‌ Download SWOT Analysis Strategy

Excel | Word | PDF | Smartsheet


PEST stands for political, economic, sociocultural, and technological factors. There are several variations based on the idea, including PESTEL or PESTLE (when you also consider environmental and legal factors) or STEEPLED, where you consider sociocultural, technological, economic, environmental, political, legal, education, and demographic information.

These frameworks look at an industry or business environment and see what factors could impact an organization’s overall health and well-being. These do not stand alone and often go along with a SWOT analysis and other frameworks.

Below are some possible examples of these factors:

Political: Changes in tax laws, trading relationships, grant changes

Economic: Interest rate changes, inflation, consumer demand

Social: Changing lifestyle trends, demographic shifts

Technological: Competing technologies, productivity changes

Legal: Changes in regulations, employment laws

Environmental: Changes in customer expectations or regulations

PEST analysis template

Download PEST Analysis Template

Gap Planning

Gap planning allows you to compare an organization’s current position to its goal, then identify ways to bridge that gap. Gap planning can also help you identify internal deficiencies. Gap planning is sometimes known as gap analysis, needs assessment, or a strategic planning gap.

For a more detailed look at gap planning, read this article .

Blue Ocean Strategy

Created by professors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne in 2005, the blue ocean strategy is a relatively new planning framework. The idea of a blue ocean is to create an uncontested market space for your company. By contrast, a red ocean is a market space that is already developed and saturated.

A blue ocean is the unknown. A company creates demand for a product or service instead of fighting over it, so there is plenty of opportunity for everyone. The idea is to pursue differentiation, thereby creating market share instead of trying to beat competitors.

A red ocean is the known market space. Industries in that space define and accept the boundaries that exist, and they play by the rules. The only way to get ahead is to outperform rivals to claim a bigger share of the market. The competition can be bloody, which leads to the term red ocean .

An example of an organization that found a blue ocean is Cirque du Soleil. Instead of operating as a typical circus, it found and expanded on a niche. The key to the blue ocean strategy is to make the competition irrelevant because you are doing something the others are not.

VRIO Framework

VRIO (value, rarity, imitability, and organization) is a framework that deals primarily with the vision statement, rather than the entire strategy for a company. By answering four main questions, an organization should be able to create a vision statement to take it through the rest of the planning process. This results in a competitive advantage in your marketplace.

Below are the four main questions:

Value: Using a particular resource, can you exploit an opportunity or get rid of a threat?

Rarity: Is there a lot of competition in your market, or do a few entities control most of the market?

Imitability: Can anyone else do what you do?

Organization: Are you organized enough as a company to adequately exploit your product or service?

Companies can use the VRIO framework to evaluate its resources and capabilities as part of the overall strategic planning process. VRIO comes into play after a company creates a vision statement, but before the rest of the planning process. The advantages you identify help determine what you need to do in order to achieve them.

McKinsey’s Strategic Horizons

McKinsey’s Strategic Horizons framework focuses on growth and innovation by categorizing goals into three categories: the core business, emerging opportunities, and new business.

Strategic Planning Models McKinsey Three Horizons

Image credit: CASCADE

“McKinsey’s is one of my favorites because it applies to businesses small to large and generates excitement,” says Wright. He adds that it is an easy model because it does not involve much jargon and focuses on the future.

The first horizon deals mostly with core activities in which a company is already engaged. Existing revenue is placed here, so goals mostly deal with improving margins and processes, as well as maintaining incoming cash flow. The second horizon involves taking what is already happening and expanding it into new areas. The third horizon involves new directions, possibly including research and new programs. Wright recommends a 70/20/10 split between the three horizons.

Fast-growing and startup organizations might find McKinsey’s framework helpful.

The Ansoff Matrix

Sometimes called the product-market matrix , the Ansoff matrix looks at market penetration and potential future growth. It helps companies that want to try to grow sales volumes or have it as a major focus area.

In this matrix, market development concerns selling more of an existing product or service to a new group of people. Market penetration focuses on selling even more of a current product or service to the same people. Product development focuses on developing new products for current customers. Diversification is all about new products and services and new markets; this carries the most risk, but potentially offers large gains.

Wright says this framework helps companies think deeply about how they will achieve growth instead of merely saying they want to grow.

The Bryson Model or Strategy Change Cycle

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 , created the Bryson model. Some people, himself included, call it the Strategy Change Cycle.

John Bryson

“It’s a framework, not a recipe. It’s a reference point, the logic does not go step by step from one to 10,” Bryson says. “You start with purposes in mind and then figure out how to get there.”

There are 10 standard steps in the cycle, but Bryson stresses they are not sequential and often happen simultaneously.

Initiate and agree on a strategic planning process

Identify organizational mandates

Clarify organizational mission and values

Assess the external and internal environment to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT)

Identify the issues facing the organization

Formulate strategies to manage the issues

Review and adopt the strategies or strategic plan

Establish an effective organizational vision

Develop an effective implementation process

Reassess the strategies and the strategic planning process

Using this cycle, changes to the norm often happen. “You might think you know what your mission and goals are, and after you go through the process, you might need to change your mission and goals,” Bryson explains. “We try to let the mission and goals emerge from the conversations rather than starting there.”

Other Planning Models and Frameworks

In addition to the models and frameworks listed above, there are several other types, including the following:

The Stakeholder Theory: This approach focuses on adding value to specific groups of people, including employees, customers, the community, shareholders, and society. Organizations can add groups as necessary since the model is very flexible.

Kaufman Model: Also called mega planning, the Kaufman Model relies on a needs assessment. This model focuses on the impact an organization can have on society and clients.

Global Model: As the name implies, global strategic planning includes what is necessary to compete in an international marketplace. It involves looking at both the internal and external environments of multinational organizations.

Maturity Model: The maturity model assesses how strategic management is working within an organization and how it stands up to other organizations.

Diamond-E Framework: The Diamond-E framework helps identify possible gaps in an organization to decide whether or not to pursue an opportunity.

Value Migration: This model helps companies plan ahead of the competition. Its creator, Adrian Slywotzky, defines value migration as the shifting of forces that create value, and that shift goes from an outdated business model to a better-designed model that satisfies customers.

Value Disciplines: This flexible framework focuses on what an organization is already good at and builds on it. Three areas of focus are operational excellence, customer intimacy, and product leadership.

Agile Strategic Planning Model: The flexibility of Agile planning allows for growth and change in strategic planning. The cornerstone of Agile is being able to respond quickly to change, which seems like the antithesis of strategic planning. The Agile approach to strategic planning involves reviewing and adapting your strategic plan at regular intervals and whenever conditions warrant it.

General Electric Model: Also known as the McKinsey Matrix, this model looks at the industry externally versus the internal forces. Since it helps to identify the attractiveness of an industry and a firm’s strengths, the grid can help evaluate market share and identify areas for development.

How to Decide Which Strategic Planning Model or Framework to Use

Though strategic planning has changed over the years, the need remains for organizations to have some kind of vision and mission, as well as an outline about how to achieve them.

There is no right or wrong way to decide which model or framework to use for your strategic planning process. The key is to figure out which one best applies to your company and its needs — for example, VRIO can help you create a vision statement, and BSC can help keep plans on track. Additionally, some methods work well together.

“The perfect plan is the one that actually gets done,” says Wright. “A poor plan well executed is worth more than a great plan that never gets off the ground. Most people know what they need to do; it’s getting the traction and about democratizing the process. Constantly, people undervalue the role of buy-in with strategic planning. People need to be involved.”

Ted Jackson

“The framework you choose would have to deal with the sophistication of your business,” says Ted Jackson, founder and managing partner of ClearPoint Strategy . He recommends adapting a model or framework to meet your needs, rather than attempting to stick to hard and fast rules that might come from a book or a similar source. “I think if you read a book and try to implement it exactly [as the book outlines it] to your organization, you will fail,” he says.

Jackson advises simplifying some frameworks and adapting them, but he has some cautionary advice about trying to combine parts of different frameworks. “One mistake is not picking one framework. You can’t be so flexible that you’re implementing multiple frameworks together. People within an organization get really confused,” Jackson says, adding that people who have some knowledge of specific models or frameworks will not understand different terms and ideas, and they’ll probably be afraid to ask.

Some organizations might not get to choose the framework they use. For example, governmental organizations or companies that receive grant funding might need to produce a strategic plan that fits into a formula the government dictates.

Even though you should not use a strategic plan solely because a similar company does, it might help to look at their preferred framework to pick the one that is right for you.

Below are other criteria to help you decide:

Check the size of your organization and the resources you can devote to planning.

If your organization is in trouble, you might want to focus on a framework or model that addresses immediate issues rather than tackles the longer term.

Look at the health of your organization and its developmental stage.

See who is excited about the planning process.

“If you have a cultural challenge in your organization about getting excited about planning, the model you pick is important. Some models are sexier than others,” Wright explains.

Wright does not recommend changing models during the planning process. “[The model] is a template you use to get your ideas on paper. The model is just a vehicle. If you’re struggling with the model, it might be you.”

It isn’t the same for frameworks, according to Wright. “There is a ton of value in changing frameworks and using multiple frameworks at the same time [to view things differently],” he says. Though Wright encourages using different frameworks, he echoes Jackson’s warning to not use different models at the same time.

In certain cases, strategic planning is not an immediate need — for instance, when a company is failing financially or is autocratic, or when a major upheaval is occurring.

Strategic Planning for Specific Areas

Strategic planning for specific departments is a bit different than planning for a company as a whole. In this section, we’ll explain the basics of how some departments typically approach strategic planning.

IT Strategic Planning

A strategic plan for the IT department details how technology will help a company succeed in reaching its goals and objectives. You can think of it as a technology roadmap that outlines where IT can do its part to implement a company’s strategies.

The IT plan must align with the company’s overall mission and vision statements, but it has a secondary mission statement that states how the IT strategy relates to the overall plans for the organization.

The IT plan should also include a SWOT analysis, goals, and objectives. The plan will help make sure you purchase the right assets and work with existing technology effectively. Use the template below to draft a strong, comprehensive IT strategic plan.

IT Strategic Plan Template

Download IT Strategic Planning Template - Excel

Strategic Human Capital Planning

Strategic human capital planning refers to when a company looks at how people — and how to manage them — go along with the organization’s strategic goals. The end result is a plan to help attract and maintain the talent necessary to achieve the company’s mission and vision.

You can use the following HR strategic plan to list, assess, and plan for future program strategies.

HR Strategic Plan template

Download HR Strategic Planning Template - Excel

Succession Planning

At its core, succession planning relies on developing and identifying new leaders. Because employees move on or retire, a company needs to have a plan in place to assume new and important roles.

Often, succession planning happens as a part of the overarching strategic planning process — for example, when you look at the resources available to a company and their productivity.

Note that available human resources can be both strengths and weaknesses. The planning process can help companies identify specific hiring needs.

For more about human resources management, this article can help. Additionally, you can find templates for succession planning here .

Healthcare Strategic Planning

The world of healthcare is changing, and healthcare organizations have to adapt. Still, the following general ideas persist:

There will be a continued need to provide quality patient care.

Operating costs and government regulations will impact the bottom line.

The volume and demographics of patients will change.

There will be a change in the labor supply, especially in the number of primary care physicians available.

Wellness and prevention will gain importance.

New technologies will continue to emerge.

Even with the ever-changing healthcare industry, strategic plans will continue to help organizations stay focused on their goals and objectives. By having a structured planning process, rather than following models that are more organic and reactionary, healthcare entities can survive and succeed.

But be careful with metrics that only consider financial success — there is much more to healthcare than profit.

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9 Strategic Planning Models and Tools for the Customer-Focused Business

Meredith Hart

Published: July 11, 2023

strategic plan abstract visual of hands holding a tablet with a plan on it and chess pieces to the right.

As the economist and business strategy guru, Michael Porter, says, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

With strategic planning, businesses identify their strengths and weaknesses, choose what not to do, and determine which opportunities should be pursued. In sales operations, having a clearly defined strategy will help your organization plan for the future, set viable goals, and achieve them.

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So, how do you get started with strategic planning? You‘ll begin with strategic planning models and tools. Let’s take a look at nine of the most prominent ones here.

Free Strategic Planning Template

Fill out the form to access your business strategic planning template., strategic planning models.

Strategic planning is used to set up long-term goals and priorities for an organization. A strategic plan is a written document that outlines these goals.

Don't confuse strategic planning and tactical planning . Strategic planning is focused on long-term goals, while tactical planning is focused on the short-term.

Here are a few strategic planning models you can use to get started.

1. The Balanced Scorecard

The Balanced Scorecard is one of the most prominent strategic planning models, tailored to give managers a comprehensive overview of their companies' operations on tight timelines. It considers both financial and operational metrics to provide valuable context about how a business has performed previously, is currently performing, and is likely to perform in the future.

The model plays on these concerns: time, quality, performance/service, and cost. The sum of those components amount to four specific reference points for goal-setting and performance measurement:

  • Customer: How customers view your business
  • Internal Process: How you can improve your internal processes
  • Organizational Capacity: How your business can grow, adapt, and improve
  • Financial: The potential profitability of your business

Those four categories can inform goals that are more thoughtful and focused while surfacing the most appropriate metrics with which you can use to track them. But the elements you choose to pursue and measure are ultimately up to you. As there's no definitive list, they will vary from organization to organization.

That being said, there‘s a universally applicable technique you can use when leveraging the model—creating a scorecard. This is a document that keeps track of your goals and how you apply them. Here’s an example of what a scorecard might look like:

Strategic Planning Model Balanced Scorecard

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The Balanced Scorecard is ideal for businesses looking to break up higher-level goals into more specific, measurable objectives. If you're interested in translating your big-picture ambitions into actionable projects, consider looking into it.

Example of the Balanced Scorecard

Let‘s imagine a B2B SaaS company that sells a construction management solution. It’s been running into trouble from virtually all angles. It‘s struggling with customer retention and, in turn, is hemorrhaging revenue. The company’s sales reps are working with very few qualified leads and the organization's tech stack is limiting growth and innovation.

The business decides to leverage a Balanced Scorecard approach to remedy its various issues. In this case, the full strategic plan—developed according to this model—might look like this:

  • The company sets a broad financial goal of boosting revenue by 10% year over year.
  • To help get there, it aims to improve its customer retention rate by 5% annually by investing in a more robust customer service infrastructure.
  • Internally, leadership looks to improve the company's lead generation figures by 20% year over year by revamping its onboarding process for its pre-sales team.
  • Finally, the business decides to move on from its legacy tech stack in favor of a virtualized operating system, making for at least 50% faster software delivery for consistent improvements to its product.

The elements listed above address key flaws in the company‘s customer perception, internal processes, financial situation, and organizational capacity. Every improvement the business is hoping to make involves a concrete goal with clearly outlined metrics and definitive figures to gauge each one’s success. Taken together, the organization's plan abides by the Balanced Scorecard model.

2. Objectives and Key Results

As its name implies, the OKR strategic planning model revolves around translating broader organizational goals into objectives and tracking their key results. The framework rests on identifying three to five attainable objectives and three to five results that should stem from each of them. Once you have those in place, you plan tactical initiatives around those results.

After you‘ve figured out those reference points, you determine the most appropriate metrics for measuring their success. And once you’ve carried out the projects informed by those ideal results, you gauge their success by giving a score on a scale from 0 to 1 or 0%-100%.

For instance, your goal might be developing relationships with 100 new targets or named accounts in a specific region. If you only were able to develop 95, you would have a score of .95 or 95%. Here's an example of what an OKR model might look like:

Strategic Planning Model Objectives and Key Results

It's recommended that you structure your targets to land at a score of around 70% — taking some strain off workers while offering them a definitive ideal outcome. The OKR model is relatively straightforward and near-universally applicable. If your business is interested in a way to work towards firmly established, readily visible standards this model could work for you.

Example of the Objectives and Key Results

Let's consider a hypothetical company that makes educational curriculum and schedule planning for higher-education institutions. The company decides it would like to expand its presence in the community college system in California, something that constitutes an objective.

But what will it take to accomplish that? And how will the company know if it's successful? Well, in this instance, leadership within the business would get there by establishing three to five results they would like to see. Those could be:

  • Generating qualified leads from 30 institutions
  • Conducting demos at 10 colleges
  • Closing deals at 5 campuses

Those results would lead to initiatives like setting standards for lead qualification and training reps at the top of the funnel on how to use them appropriately, revamping sales messaging for discovery calls, and conducting research to better tailor the demo process to the needs of community colleges.

Leveraging this model generally entails repeating that process between two and four more times, ultimately leading to a sizable crop of thorough, actionable, ambitious, measurable, realistic plans.

3. Theory of Change (TOC)

The Theory of Change (TOC) model revolves around organizations establishing long-term goals and essentially “working backward” to accomplish them. When leveraging the strategy, you start by setting a larger, big-picture goal.

Then, you identify the intermediate-term adjustments and plans you need to make to achieve your desired outcome. Finally, you work down a level and plan the various short-term changes you need to make to realize the intermediate ones. More specifically, you need to take these strides:

  • Identify your long-term goals.
  • Backward map the preconditions necessary to achieve your goal, and explain why they're necessary.
  • Identify your basic assumptions about the situation.
  • Determine the interventions your initiative will fulfill to achieve your goals.
  • Come up with indicators to evaluate the performance of your initiative.
  • Write an explanation of the logic behind your initiative.

Here's another visualization of what that looks like.

Strategic Planning Model Theory of Change

This planning model works best for organizations interested in taking on endeavors like building a team, planning an initiative, or developing an action plan. It's distinct from other models in its ability to help you differentiate between desired and actual outcomes. It also makes stakeholders more actively involved in the planning process by making them model exactly what they want out of a project.

It relies on more pointed detail than similar models. Stakeholders generally need to lay out several specifics, including information related to the company's target population, how success will be identified, and a definitive timeline for every action and intervention planned. Again, virtually any organization — be it public, corporate, nonprofit, or anything else — can get a lot out of this strategy model.

Example of the Theory of Change

For the sake of this example, imagine a business that makes HR Payroll Software , but hasn‘t been doing too well as of late. Leadership at the company feels directionless. They think it’s time to buckle down and put some firm plans in motion, but right now, they have some big picture outcomes in mind for the company without a feel for how they're going to get done.

In this case, the business might benefit from leveraging the Theory of Change model. Let‘s say its ultimate goal is to expand its market share. Leadership would then consider the preconditions that would ultimately lead to that goal and why they’re relevant.

For instance, one of those preconditions might be tapping into a new customer base without alienating its current one. The company could make an assumption like, “We currently cater to mid-size businesses almost exclusively, and we lack the resources to expand up-market to enterprise-level prospects. We need to find a way to more effectively appeal to small businesses.”

Now, the company can start looking into the specific initiatives it can take to remedy its overarching problem. Let's say it only sells its product at a fixed price point that suits midsize businesses much more than smaller ones. So the company decides that it should leverage a tiered pricing structure that offers a limited suite of features at a price that small businesses and startups can afford.

The factors the company elects to use as reference points for the plan's success are customer retention and new user acquisition. Once those have been established, leadership would explain why the goals, plans, and metrics it has outlined make sense.

If you track the process I‘ve just plotted, you’ll see the Theory of Change in motion. It starts with a big-picture goal and works its way down to specific initiatives and ways to gauge their effectiveness.

4. Hoshin Planning

The Hoshin Planning model is a process that aims to reduce friction and inefficiency by promoting active and open communication throughout an organization. In this model, everyone within an organization—regardless of department or seniority—is made aware of the company's goals.

Hoshin Planning rests on the notion that thorough communication creates cohesion, but that takes more than contributions from leadership. This model requires that results from every level be shared with management.

The ideal outcomes set according to this model are also conceived of by committee to a certain extent. Hoshin Planning involves management hearing and considering feedback from subordinates to come up with reasonable, realistic, and mutually understood goals.

Strategic Planning Model Hoshin Planning

The model is typically partitioned into seven steps:

  • establishing a vision
  • developing breakthrough objectives
  • developing annual objectives
  • deploying annual objectives
  • implementing annual objectives
  • conducting monthly and quarterly reviews
  • conducting an annual review.

Note: The first three steps are referred to as the “catchball process.” It's where company leadership sets goals and establishes strategic plans to send down the food chain for feedback and new ideas. That stage is what really separates Hoshin Planning from other models.

Example of Hoshin Planning

For this example, let‘s imagine a company that manufactures commercial screen printing machines. The business has seen success with smaller-scale, retail printing operations, but realizes that selling almost exclusively to that market won’t make for long-term, sustainable growth.

Leadership at the company decides that it's interested in making an aggressive push to move up-market towards larger enterprise companies. However, before they can establish that vision, they want to ensure that the entire company is willing and able to work with them to reach those goals.

Once they‘ve set a tentative vision, they begin to establish more concrete objectives and send them down the management hierarchy. One of the most pressing activities they’re interested in pursuing is a near-comprehensive product redesign to make their machines better suited for higher volume orders.

They communicate those goals throughout the organization and ask for feedback along the way. After the product team hears their ideal plans, it relays that the product overhaul that leadership is looking into isn‘t viable within the timeframe they’ve provided. Leadership hears this and adjusts their expectations before doling out any sort of demands for the redesign.

Once both parties agree on a feasible timeline, they begin to set more definitive objectives that suit both the company‘s ambitions and the product team’s capabilities.

Strategic Plan Example

The strategic plan above is for a fictitious shoe company and outlines the way in which it'll differentiate itself within the market. It effectively uses each step in the strategic planning model framework and is written in a way to give a brief overview of how the company will enter the market and sustain longevity.

If you're working on a strategic planning model for an existing business, your plan will look similar, but have a few tweaks to the goals, including more goals about improving sales and processes. When drafting the action plan and evaluation parts of the plan, be sure to think tactically about the actions that will help you achieve the goals, and use your mission, vision, and values to guide the choices you make.

Strategic Planning Tools

There are additional resources you can use to support whatever strategic planning model you put in place. Here are some of those:

1. SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool and acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It's used to identify each of these elements in relation to your business.

This strategic planning tool allows you to determine new opportunities and which areas of your business need improvement. You'll also identify any factors or threats that might negatively impact your business or success.

Strategic Planning Tools SWOT Analysis

2. Porter's Five Forces

Use Porter‘s Five Forces as a strategic planning tool to identify the economic forces that impact your industry and determine your business’ competitive position. The five forces include:

  • Competition in the industry
  • Potential of new entrants into the industry
  • Power of suppliers
  • Power of customers
  • Threat of substitute products

To learn more, check out this comprehensive guide to using Porter's Five Forces .

Strategic Planning Tools Porter's Five Forces

3. Visioning

Visioning is a goal-setting strategy used in strategic planning. It helps your organization develop a vision for the future and the outcomes you'd like to achieve.

Once you reflect on the goals you‘d like to reach within the next five years or more, you and your team can identify the steps you need to take to get where you’d like to be. From there, you can create your strategic plan.

4. PESTLE Analysis

The PESTLE analysis is another strategic planning tool you can use. It stands for:

  • P: Political
  • E: Economic
  • T: Technological
  • E: Environmental

Each of these elements allow an organization to take stock of the business environment they're operating in, which helps them develop a strategy for success. Use a PESTLE Analysis template to help you get started.

Strategic Planning Tools: Pestle

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Strategic Planning Models: An Introduction to 5 Popular Models


Organizations are always looking for ways to improve. It’s how they stay relevant and, more importantly, profitable. But you don’t get better just by desiring it. It takes strategy, and then a model to implement that strategy.

No surprise, there are models to accomplish this called strategic planning models. They’re great for businesses, big and small, and assist in project planning and implementing organizational goals in a thorough and structured manner. Once you have decided on an objective, then you must plan a model that will execute it successfully.

There are quite a few strategic planning models, and they can be very different from one another. Often the type of organization will dictate which strategic planning model is used. After a brief explanation, we’ll dig into five of the more popular ones. You’re sure to find a strategic planning model among them that works for you.

What Is a Strategic Planning Model?

It’s easy to define what a strategic planning model is because the definition is embedded in its name! A strategic planning model is how an organization takes its strategy and creates a plan to implement it to improve operations and better meet its goals.

A screenshot of the Gantt chart in ProjectManager

How they get to this point requires identifying what the company wants, and how it hopes to achieve those goals in the near term. Once they have that target clearly defined, then it’s a matter of working backward to figure out how to get there.

This, of course, is easy to say and extremely difficult to do. In fact, sometimes the complexity involved in trying to put together a plan to strategically meet your goals can feel like it needs a strategic planning model all its own! That’s why there are classic models already in place to help you accomplish your goals.

Do You Need a Strategic Planning Model?

If all this sounds like a fancy way of saying you need a plan to achieve your goals, well, you’re right. But that doesn’t dismiss its usefulness in achieving those objectives. No matter if you’re a startup or an established, market-dominant brand, if you don’t have a plan to reach your goals, you’re bound to fail. That could be losing market share or shuttering, neither of which is a path forward for a viable enterprise.

The benefits of having a strategic planning model are manyfold. For one, it provides a clear path that the organization uses and shares with everyone on its staff. Having all departments work together for a common goal is powerful. The opposite is disastrous. You can’t hit your target, whether it’s a year or five or 10 years in the future if everyone doesn’t know what it is and how you plan to get there.

Think of it as being focused. There are a lot of distractions that occur every day in every business. Knowing what your topline is helps you prioritize and keep your energies directed on the overall strategy for the company.

Another positive of having a strategic planning model is that it improves your knowledge of what works best in the organization. You know your strengths and weaknesses, as well as get a clear picture of where you are in the marketplace. It even helps you get a clear idea of who your competition is and how you can differentiate yourself from them.

Best Practices for Strategic Planning Models

We’ll get to the examples in a moment, but regardless of which you choose as most appropriate for your needs, there are best practices to make sure you succeed. When doing the research, assemble a group that is diverse but also appropriate for the goal. Diversity brings more ideas to the table. You’ll want between six and 10 people.

Once you start, give it time. The team needs to come up with creative solutions, and then season them, to make sure they’re the right course of action. You might want to remove the team from the work site. A change of environment, without the distractions of the office, can help them settle into a more contemplative state where they can come up with better ideas.

Of course, you need to get buy-in from the team or else your hard work will be for naught. Once you have them fully on board, build trust. You want everyone to participate, and to do so in a free and open discussion. That means from the boss on down. It might help to hire an outside facilitator to manage the process.

When you have a plan, it must be realistic. If you can’t execute it, then you’ve not done your job. Therefore, it must be actionable, with clearly defined goals , tasks, responsibilities outlined, accountability, deadlines—and all this must be clear to everyone involved. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible. Plans change, so it’s best to not be rigid about it.

Finally, don’t think of creating a strategic planning model for your business as a one-and-done process. Not only must your plan be open to editing as internal and external forces demand, but these meetings should be regularly scheduled. Think of it as a process. Meet monthly if you can, or at least quarterly. You can discuss how the plan is being executed and hold people accountable for what they’ve been tasked to execute. This is how you make sure your plan becomes a reality.

strategic planning model example

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5 Popular Strategic Planning Models

As we said, there are many models, and we deeply encourage you to go down that rabbit hole. You never know what you might find. But for our purposes, let’s narrow the scope down to five with proven results.

1. Alignment Model

This strategic alignment model (SAM) is among the most used. It’s made up of two parts—strategic fit and functional integration. What that means is that the model aligns business and IT strategies . To do this requires identifying the key goals of an organization and then what the steps are to reach those goals. The plan must maximize the process to best achieve those goals.

There are four perspectives to guide you in this model:

  • Strategy execution, which is when the business strategy is driving the model.
  • Technology potential, which also sees the business strategy as the driver, but with an IT strategy to support it.
  • Competitive potential deals with using emerging IT capabilities to create new products and services.
  • Lastly, there’s the service level, which is focused on creating the best IT system in the organization.

Here, business strategy is important, but only the launching pad.

2. Balanced Scorecard

The balanced scorecard (BSC) is made up of clear communications on what is being accomplished. It aligns the work with overall strategy, and prioritizes, measures and monitors progress. The idea is that the model balances strategy with financial measurements. One of the reasons to use BSC is that it helps you see the connections between various parts of your strategic management and planning .

Using BSC means exploring four different aspects of your organization.

  • One is the financial performance of the company and what financial resources have been most effective.
  • You also want to gauge the performance of your stakeholders or customers and how you serve them.
  • Internal processes should be judged on their efficiency, too, but also on quality.
  • Then there’s the organizational capacity, which looks at your personnel, infrastructure, tech, culture and whatever else can be used to meet your goals.

3. Basic Model

Also called the simple model, this one is often used by newer organizations that don’t have a history of strategic planning to help guide them in making decisions. But it’s also a fine model for any organization that doesn’t have the time or resources to spend on deep and extensive strategic planning.

First, you establish the mission statement for your organization, if you don’t already have one. That is a summary of your goals that is created to inspire and transform the organization. Next, you want to figure out what goals must be achieved in order to fulfill the mission statement. From that, break down the tasks that will reach those goals. Schedule, monitor and report on your progress.

4. Blue Ocean Strategy

The blue ocean strategy is designed for taking your product to a market where there is no or little competition. Therefore, the research is heavily tilted towards finding a niche that can be exploited for profit, such as where there are few businesses offering a product people have expressed an interest in, and there is little to no pricing pressure.

Unlike red ocean strategy, which describes a market that is saturated and products are threatened by pricing pressure that could threaten the business, blue ocean strategy looks for markets where there is room to grow. You’re looking to capture new demand, where your product is either unique or so much better as to make competition irrelevant.

5. Issue (Or Goal) Based

The issue-based model (also called goal-based) is the next step up from the basic strategic planning model. It builds on the basic model and is intended for businesses that are more established. Thus, it’s more in-depth and possibly the most popular of all the models we’ve highlighted.

To begin, use a SWOT analysis, which is an acronym standing for Strengths, Weaknesses and Threats Analysis. It helps you identify and analyze internal and external factors that impact your business, product or service. Next comes the mission statement, then planning, creating a budget and a schedule to implement it. After a year, you’ll want to monitor the results and report on its progress , making adjustments as needed.

How ProjectManager Executes Strategic Planning Models

Now that you know about strategic planning models, and have chosen one to reach your organization’s objective, you have a lot of work ahead of you. ProjectManager is an award-winning tool that organizes strategic plans, so you can execute, monitor and report on their progress.

Start Planning In-Depth with Gantt Charts

You have decided on your target, now you need to know how you get there. That’s as simple as breaking down the goal into realistic tasks, or steps, that end at your objective. You can use a work breakdown structure or collect them on a spreadsheet. Now the fun starts. Upload your tasks into our software, and you get to the planning part of your strategic planning model.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart, a very useful tool for strategic plan

Add duration to your tasks, and they instantly populate the Gantt chart tool timeline. Now, you can see your whole project from start to finish. Add priorities, so your team knows what’s important, and break up the project into phases with our milestone feature. There’s a space on each task to write descriptions that guide your team, and they can collaborate by commenting with one another at the task level to facilitate productivity.

Multiple Views to Tackle Your Projects

There are many ways to work, and we have many tools to get that work done. Besides the Gantt, you can use a task list, calendar or kanban board to manage your work. The board view is especially helpful, as it breaks production into phases and provides transparency into the process, so you can keep traffic flowing and avoid costly bottlenecks.

 screenshot of ProjectManager's kanban interface, with multiple tasks (represented as cards) on columns which represent boards

Monitor Your Progress With Real-Time Dashboards

Part of any strategic planning model is not just the planning and execution, but monitoring progress to make sure you’re hitting your targets. We have a real-time dashboard that tracks several project metrics, including project variance, which automatically calculates your planned vs. actual progress.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

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strategic planning models

Top frameworks for strategic planning

Lucid Content Team

Reading time: about 8 min

If you want to stay ahead in business, you need to constantly be improving. It’s how you stay relevant and remain profitable. But improvement and success don’t come just because you want them enough—you need to develop a strategic plan that details:

Where you are right now: Look at your current strategic position relative to your competition. Describe your current problems keeping you from progressing. Define your mission, vision, and values.  

Where you want to go: Describe your competitive advantage and understand where your organization is currently headed. Look for ways to solve your current problems.

How you will get there: Define your goals, objectives, and the steps you will need to take to achieve your goals.

This is an oversimplification of the strategic planning process. There are many different strategic planning models you can use that expand on these three basic elements.

Let’s look at some strategic planning frameworks that will help you to see where you can improve, define your goals, and map out the processes and procedures you will use to keep achieving your goals.

Strategic planning models vs. strategic planning frameworks

A strategic planning model maps out how your company plans to implement a strategy for improving operations, delivering quality, and meeting specific goals. It is like a template or a tool you use at the beginning of the planning process. It helps you flesh out the ideas that will take you where you want to go. 

A strategic planning framework outlines how you will conceptually approach your strategic plan. Frameworks tend to be visual and detail the activities that are performed in your organization’s strategy plan. Think of the framework as a blueprint or the foundation for your messaging and brand narrative. The idea is to communicate to internal and external stakeholders the aspirations of your strategic plan. 

Common strategic planning models

Why is a planning model important? Because it’s hard to achieve your company’s goals if your employees don’t know what the goals are or how you plan to reach them. 

Strategic planning models are the roadmaps that keep your team focused on what needs to be completed to reach your goals. And you will need to constantly monitor and review your plans to ensure that you quickly address issues and realign processes as necessary to keep your production working as smoothly as possible.

The following are a few strategic planning process models that can help you to create the roadmap your team will follow to success.

basic model

Basic model

Sometimes called the simple model, the basic model is often used by companies that:

  • Are new and don’t have a lot of experience with or are new to strategic planning
  • Are small and don’t have the resources to develop complex plans
  • Don’t have too many serious problems to solve
  • Don’t have a lot of time to create an extensive plan

This model focuses on establishing your company vision and mission statement, setting goals to make the vision a reality, outlining specific steps to take to reach the goals, and monitoring progress to keep everybody on track and to address issues when they come up.

issue-based model

Issue-based model

This model is also known as the goal-based model. It’s essentially an extension of the basic model. The issue-based model is more dynamic and popular with established companies to develop more comprehensive plans.

alignment model

Alignment model

The goal of this model is to align your business and IT strategies with the company’s strategic goals. This model is good for organizations that need to reassess objectives or correct problem areas that impede progress.

Like the issue-based model, this model has you look at your internal operations to develop a strategy. The model involves the following steps:

  • Review your vision, mission statement, and company goals.
  • Determine what is currently working well and what needs to be realigned.
  • Make suggestions for improving the problem areas.
  • Implement changes to improve or eliminate weak areas.

scenario model

Scenario model

This model looks at different outside influences that could have an impact on your organization. For example, government regulations can have a big impact on a manufacturer, such as what materials can be used to make their products. 

The idea is to look at how outside influences might impact your operations from the following perspectives: best-case scenario, worst-case scenario, and reasonable-case scenario.

These scenarios help you to figure out the best way to respond to each. Determine which would be the most likely scenario and determine how you will address it. Then add it to your strategic plan.

organic model

Organic model

This model is not linear or structured like the other models. Its focus is on your company’s shared vision and values instead of plans and processes. The idea is that a company’s vision is achieved more organically when teams are able to openly and continuously discuss what steps to take. This requires a clear understanding of the vision, frequent and consistent communication, and dialogue among various stakeholders.

The model might include the following three basic steps:

  • Clarify shared vision and values.
  • Based on shared values, determine the actions and responsibilities for each person so they can work toward the vision.
  • Stakeholders report the results of the action plans.

The organic model can work in large organizations that can afford to take a long time to achieve their vision and who can work well in a less structured environment. 

Real-time model

This model is fluid and designed for organizations that need to react quickly to a rapidly changing work environment. Long-term, detailed plans quickly become irrelevant because of rapid changes.

Real-time strategic planning involves the following:

  • Organizational strategy: Define your mission and vision, understand your competitors, and know what the current market trends are.
  • Programmatic strategy: Research external environments, list opportunities and threats, and brainstorm the best ways to approach each.
  • Operational strategy: Analyze internal processes, resources, and systems. Develop a strategy that addresses internal strengths and weaknesses.

Inspirational model

This model is designed to inspire your people to energize them as they work toward goals. People come together to discuss an inspirational vision for your company. Then, participants are encouraged to brainstorm far-reaching, exciting goals to realize your company vision. 

The inspirational model works well for organizations looking to lift the spirits of its staff or quickly produce a plan.

Types of strategic planning frameworks

Without a strategic framework, you risk inconsistent messaging that can confuse customers and stakeholders. If your message and purpose are not completely understood, you can alienate stakeholders and lose employee motivation.

Here are some of the different types of strategic planning frameworks that you can use:

Balanced scorecards: Works as a strategic planning and management system. The balanced scorecard helps companies to align daily tasks with long-term strategy, communicate progress, set priorities, monitor progress, and measure success.

balanced scorecard example

Strategy mapping: Provides a visual document to communicate your strategic plan. A strategy map make it easy to show relationships among various takes and objectives.

strategy map example

Porter’s Five Forces: Helps you to assess how competitive the market is. Porter’s Five Forces focuses on your company’s ability to enter a market, similar products customers can buy instead of yours, buyer power, supplier power, and the effect a competitor’s change in strategy would have on your company.

Porter's Five Forces analysis

SWOT analysis: With this strategic planning framework, you analyze your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

SWOT analysis example

PEST/PESTLE analysis: This framework looks at a business environment to see if there are any factors that could impact your organization’s health. PEST analysis includes political, economic, sociocultural, and technological factors.

PEST Analysis

Ansoff matrix: This strategic planning framework analyzes four potential opportunities for growth: market penetration, product development, market development, and diversification. Try the Ansoff matrix when seeking out new opportunities.

ansoff matrix

Objectives and key results ( OKRs ): In The objectives refer to what you want to achieve. The key results indicate how you’ll measure your progress toward your objectives.

OKR planning chart

Blue Ocean Strategy: With this framework, your company creates demand for products in an uncontested market space. You focus on differentiating your product from the competition rather than trying to beat them.

Value, Rarity, Imitability, and Organization (VRIO): This strategic planning framework answers questions concerning your product’s value, the amount of competition in your market, how easily your product can be imitated, and how well-organized your company is.

Hoshin Kanri: This framework is used to align goals with tasks, keeping everything coordinated and ensuring that everybody is working toward the same end result.

If strategic planning models and frameworks seem similar, it’s because they are. While strategic planning models outline the high-level structure of your plan, the strategic framework describes the design concepts and the plan’s details. 

It doesn’t matter which model and framework you choose to use. You can even combine aspects of several models or frameworks to meet your needs. The important thing to remember is that strategic models and frameworks are vital to creating and communicating a clear strategic plan that will keep your company relevant and competitive.

strategic planning model example

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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.

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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:

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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.

What Is Strategic Planning?

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. 

Strategic Planning Trends

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.

scenario planning

Additional resources:

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.”)

Adaptive Strategic Planning

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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.

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How a strategic planning framework can help you achieve your big goals

Don’t worry — it’s not nearly as complex as it sounds

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A strategic planning framework is a tool you and your team will use to focus on and fill in a specific element of your strategic plan.

You’ve got big ideas and bigger goals for your company. Maybe you’re set on making the world a better place (hey, aren’t we all?). Or maybe you want to be known for unmatched customer care. Regardless of your specific aim, your whole team is gung-ho about your mission. 

But now’s the hard part: How do you transform that idea into an actionable strategy?

The strategic planning process can be daunting, but a strategic planning framework can help. You’ll use your framework (or frameworks) to tackle a specific piece of the strategic planning process with zero confusion and eyerolls, and plenty of energy and enthusiasm.

Who needs a strategic planning framework?

Here’s the short answer: Anyone who’s completing a strategic plan, whether it’s a strategic plan for a single project or an entire organization.

The good news is that these frameworks are way more straightforward than you think. Anyone from your grandma to your dog will be able to use them. 

Alright, maybe not your dog…but you get it.

What is a strategic planning framework?

A strategic planning framework is a tool you and your team will use to focus on a specific element of your strategic plan. 

Your entire strategic plan needs to cover a lot, including:

  • Where you are now
  • Where you want to go
  • How you’ll achieve those goals

Pulling all of that together can be overwhelming, but a strategic planning framework will help you chip away at that iceberg.

For example, you could use the objectives and key results (OKRs) framework to iron out the goals included in your strategic plan. Or, you might use the framework called Porter’s five forces (we’ll cover this later) to dig into your competition and understand how competitive factors will impact the future of your organization.

Strategic planning frameworks help you dig deep into a specific section of your plan, so you can create something comprehensive that actually helps you turn ideas into action.

Arrows going in different directions

Strategic planning frameworks vs. models: One of these things is not like the other

Many people use the terms “strategic planning framework” and “strategic planning models” interchangeably. However, the terms represent two parts of a whole.

Your strategic planning model provides a high-level overview of all of the elements of your strategic plan. Your model comes first, as it dictates the structure of your entire plan. 

Tom Wright, CEO and co-founder of Cascade Strategy, a strategy execution platform, likens it to building an airport. “A model of the airport would show you at a high-level how the approach roads connect to the departure hall, and how the departure hall connects to immigration, which then connects to the terminals, the runways, etc.,” he writes in a blog post . 

In contrast, frameworks help you fill in different elements with specific information. 

“In our airport example, we might apply a building framework that is designed to maximize the speed at which people move through the airport for efficiency,” Wright adds. “Or alternatively, we might apply a framework which is designed not to maximize speed, but rather to maximize the amount of time people spend in the airport shops.” 

The model encompasses all pieces of your strategic plan, but your framework is your approach for a specific piece. Think of your model as the forest, and your different frameworks as the trees. You’ll only use one strategic planning model, but you can use numerous frameworks.

8 strategic planning frameworks to hash out your strategy with confidence

You’ll use different frameworks for different aspects of your strategic plan, from developing your action items to evaluating your competitors. 

Here are eight of the most common strategic planning frameworks, and which piece of your strategy they can help you with. 

1. SWOT analysis

Use this framework: To grasp what internal and external factors can impact your strategy

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors (meaning you have some control over them), while opportunities and threats are external factors (and you have little to no control). 

Get your team together for a brainstorming session where you can tackle each category. Using our customer service example, you might determine: 

  • Strengths: We have a new and innovative product that people love. 
  • Weaknesses: Our customer ticketing system is outdated and ineffective. 
  • Opportunities: Customers have a growing interest in chat support, which we could roll out relatively easily. 
  • Threats: All of our competitors are prioritizing customer service. 

You’ll use this framework at the beginning of your strategic planning process, as it helps you understand where things are going well for your company — as well as where you need to improve. That’s important information as you hash out your strategy.

2. Issue-based strategic planning

Use this framework: To build a strategic plan that addresses your organization’s biggest problems

While most of the strategic planning frameworks start with objectives (where you look to the future), this one starts with problems (where you look to the present). You’ll identify the challenges your organization is facing right now and create action plans to address them. 

This is another framework that you’ll use at the very beginning of the strategic planning process, as it will shape your entire plan. 

Start by asking: What are the biggest problems our organization is dealing with?

Perhaps you’ll realize that your customer feedback scores are plummeting. From there, your strategic plan should detail the steps you’ll take to resolve that issue.

3. Balanced scorecard

Use this framework: To define your goals and the steps you’ll take to get there

A balanced scorecard (BSC) outlines what your team or organization is trying to accomplish, as well as what work everybody needs to do in order to make it happen. It’s helpful for understanding objectives, connecting and prioritizing day-to-day work, and monitoring progress using established metrics.

With this framework, you’ll need to identify:

  • Objectives:  The goal you want to achieve (i.e. be looked to as the industry standard for quality customer care)
  • Measures: How you’ll define success (i.e. average customer feedback score of B+)
  • Initiatives: Programs established to achieve objectives (i.e. launch a new customer ticketing system to manage your customer support cases)
  • Action items: Individual steps one person or a small team will take (i.e. Rico will research ticketing software, Sarah will complete the migration from our current platform, etc.)

See how you move from the big, seemingly unattainable goal all the way down to bite-sized actions you can take? That’s the beauty of a balanced scorecard — it connects your organization-wide goals to the daily tasks of everybody on the team.

4. Strategy mapping

Use this framework: To understand how all of your company’s objectives fit together

A strategy map is often used as a supplement to your balanced scorecard. You’ll list every objective from your balanced scorecard on your strategy map. It should be represented by a shape.

Next, you’ll group objectives into different perspectives. Think of these as buckets or themes for similar goals. The most common perspectives are:

  • Internal business processes
  • Learning and growth

Once all of your ovals are drawn out, you’ll draw arrows between them to show cause and effect. Does one objective have a direct impact on another?

For example, perhaps boosting the expertise of your customer service team (perspective: learning and growth) directly impacts your ability to provide top-notch customer care (perspective: customer). 

Your strategy map can become a living resource, and you can color-code your objective bubbles (green, yellow, and red) to show your progress toward that objective. 

5. Objectives and key results (OKRs)

Use this framework: To keep a close eye on progress

Objectives and key results (OKRs) is a popular goal setting methodology to help teams go after audacious goals. With this framework, you’ll identify: 

  • Objectives: What you want to achieve
  • Key results: How you’ll measure your progress

Keep in mind that your key results need to be quantitative, measurable outcomes and not tasks or to-dos. So, sticking with our example of world-class customer service, a key result could be, “Secure 25+ five-star reviews by the end of Q2.”

OKRs are designed to be ambitious, and you don’t want to overdo it and overwhelm your team. Set only three to five at a time ( this template can help ) to make sure they’re motivating, and not anxiety-inducing.

6. Porter’s five forces

Use this framework: To understand the ins and outs of your existing and prospective competitors 

Most strategic plans include a section for competitive analysis, and Porter’s five forces is a framework you’ll use to fill in that section. The five competitive forces you’ll identify are:

  • Competition in the industry: Are your competitors growing rapidly?
  • Potential of new entrants into the industry: Are a lot of new players able to easily enter your market and thrive? Or is it tough to get going?
  • Power of suppliers: How much bargaining power do your suppliers have to pressure you to lower costs?
  • Power of customers: How much bargaining power do your customers have to pressure you to lower costs?
  • Threat of substitute products: Is your product easily replaced with another product? Or are you one-of-a-kind?

Your competition will shape your strategy, and this framework will help you understand how. If you realize that there’s a high threat of substitute products, then maybe differentiating yourself needs to be a key piece of your strategic plan.

7. Gap planning

Use this framework: To determine how you’ll close the gap between where you are and where you want to be 

You have a strong vision for your organization. Maybe that vision feels like it’s within arm’s reach, or maybe it feels like it’s still miles and miles away.

Either way, bridging the gap between where you are now and where you want to be is no easy task. That messy middle is where all of the hard work happens.

That’s where gap planning (also called a needs assessment) comes in. It zeros in on everything you need to do to move from your current state to your vision. When you analyze a gap, you need to challenge yourself to think about why you haven’t achieved your ideal state. What’s the root cause? 

Here’s a very simple example of what this could look like:

Vision: Reputation for industry-leading customer service

Current state: Good customer service, but not great (average feedback score of B-)

Gap: Customer service representatives are using outdated software

Improvement: Implement a new ticketing system to support the customer service team

This framework is another way to break your vision down into more tactical steps and improvements. 

8. PEST analysis

Use this framework: To understand the external factors that can impact your company 

When drafting your strategic plan, you can’t just think about what’s happening internally — you also need to think about what’s happening externally. A PEST analysis will help you take a holistic look at the environment your company is operating in.

PEST stands for political, economic, sociocultural, and technological, and this framework requires that you determine how each of those factors could impact your company’s overall health. Here are a few (of many) examples: 

  • Political: Are there a lot of government regulations that dictate how your industry can correspond with customers?
  • Economic: Are customers in your industry watching their wallets closely? 
  • Sociocultural: Do customers expect an increasingly fast response? 
  • Technological: Are you operating with outdated customer ticketing software? 

These are important considerations to make, so you avoid hashing out a strategy that doesn’t align with what’s happening around you.

There are plenty of strategic planning frameworks to choose from, and one isn’t inherently better than the others. They all serve different purposes.

So, when you need to choose a framework, start with your goal and work backward from there. 

Do you need to identify clear action items? Then gap planning or a balanced scorecard are your best bets. Do you want to understand the impact of outside forces? Look at a PEST or SWOT analysis. 

Keep in mind that you don’t have to choose only one. You can use different frameworks for different stages and elements of your strategic planning process. Plus, strategic plans are often revisited and reevaluated. You might require a different framework as your plan and company evolve over time.

Regardless of which framework(s) you use, you’ll want to keep your strategic plan and all of your supporting documentation somewhere organized and accessible. Your strategic plan doesn’t do any good if it sits and collects digital dust. A collaborative workspace like Confluence makes it easy for your entire team to reference that information whenever they need it.

Goals require strategy (and action)

Coming up with goals is easy. The hard part is figuring out how you’ll achieve them. 

Your strategic plan takes your high-level vision and breaks it down into actionable steps you’ll take to make it happen.

The strategic planning process itself can sound dry and daunting, but a strategic planning framework makes it way easier to dig into the details of every element of your strategic plan. 

Use one (or even a few) of the eight frameworks we discussed here, and you’ll be ready to take action on your company’s most ambitious goals. 

Document all of your company’s goals, plans, challenges, and more. Check out the Confluence template gallery to make knowledge sharing even easier. 

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  • What is strategic planning? 5 steps and ...

What is strategic planning? 5 steps and processes

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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. 

[inline illustration] Strategic plan elements (infographic)

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. 

Simply put: 

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: 

Success metrics

Stakeholders and roles

Scope and budget

Milestones and deliverables

Timeline and schedule

Communication plan

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. 

[inline illustration] The road to strategic planning (infographic)

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.

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How To Write A Strategic Plan That Gets Results + Examples

Download our free Strategic Planning Template Download this template

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.

Free Template Download our free Strategic Planning Template Download this template

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:

The Cascade Model for strategic planning and execution

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:

  • Accountability

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.

add focus areas in cascade strategy execution platform

📚 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 read: 10 Popular KPI Software Tools To Connect & Visualize Your Data (2023 Guide)

Corporate Strategic Plan 

Following the steps outlined above, you should end up with a strategic plan that looks something like this:

corporate strategy plan template in cascade

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.

timeline view strategic planning corporate strategy

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: 

coca-cola strategy plan template in cascade

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.

Diagram of the Cascade Model framework showing the structure for focus areas, objectives, KPIs, actions and projects

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:

diagram showing contributing objectives in the cascade model

For each contributing objective, you simply repeat the Objective → Action/Project → KPI structure as follows:

contributing objectives with kpis and actions cascade model

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:

Diagram showing contributing objectives from multiple plans linking to the main objective in Cascade

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:

example of contributing objectives in cascade

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:

Alignment Map and Objective Sidebar in cascade for shared objectives

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:

The Cascade Model Overview cheatsheet

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

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Examples Of Strategic Planning

Imagine you have five different things on your to-do list today. You’re most likely to start with either a low-hanging…

Successful Strategic Planning Examples

Imagine you have five different things on your to-do list today. You’re most likely to start with either a low-hanging fruit (can be easily done) or something that needs immediate attention (on a priority basis). Planning our schedules in advance not only helps us become more efficient but also saves time significantly.

If you look around you, you’ll find examples of strategic planning everywhere—whether it’s your personal life or a professional setting. Read on to learn more about the meaning and examples of strategic planning in businesses.

Meaning And Importance Of Strategic Planning

Common strategic management process examples, find the right solutions.

Strategic planning is the process of creating specific business strategies that help to establish a direction for your organization. It helps set priorities, utilizes resources, boosts operations and ensures that all employees and stakeholders are working toward common objectives or targets. It not only reinstates where a business is headed but also how it’ll determine its success. Creating a strategic plan involves the implementation and evaluation of the results with regard to the organization’s overall long-term goals and expectations.

Successful strategic planning examples indicate the extent to which the process involves considerable thought, planning and organization on part of a business’s upper management. While creating the plan, executives may consider multiple alternatives but settle on a strategy that’s likely to create maximum positive outcomes. In short, this disciplined effort encourages fundamental decision-making while guiding an organization to focus on the future.

Here is a summarized list explaining the importance of strategic planning in today’s world:

  • It helps you explore verticals you may have previously overlooked. You’re able to tap into opportunities and identify strengths and weaknesses by studying the internal structure of your organization.
  • To do well in comparison to other players in the market and avoid failure when faced with setbacks, you need a plan that’s viable and long-lasting. By creating a strategic plan, you’re ready to face any unwanted situation and can prepare for uncertainties.
  • It encourages managers and employees to be on the same page regarding policies and changes. Through open dialogue and participation, everyone shows their commitment toward achieving overall business objectives.

An increasing number of organizations are using strategic planning to create as well as implement effective business decisions. Here is a list of the strategic planning process with examples across different industries that’ll help you understand its importance and effectiveness:

1. Corporate

One of the most commonly available examples of strategic planning , a corporate strategy is designed to increase revenue and brand reputation. From new products and quality enhancements to aggressive marketing and sales techniques, there are many ways to tap into growth opportunities.

 2. Marketing

Marketing shouldn’t be confused with corporate strategic planning. A marketing strategy plan can be developed at an organizational level, business unit level and product level. The ultimate goal of marketing strategies is to improve sales and boost revenue. The process covers activities such as product development, pricing distribution, promotion, customer experience, operation and sales.

3. Education

One of the most important strategic management process examples , the education sector engages in strategic planning immensely. Whether it’s an academic department or a school board or even a university, a strategic plan is a must. It accounts for various factors such as student experience, quality of education, employee satisfaction, school culture, affordability, among others. A macro-level strategy helps focus on students, faculty, staff and the community as a whole.

It’s evident from these examples of strategic planning that it’s a complex and thoughtful process. When done well, a strategic plan becomes a streamlined process that guides management with their decision-making. No matter which industry you belong to, if you’re a manager or team leader, good strategic planning skills are a necessity.

At the heart of successful strategic planning and implementation lies problem-solving and decision-making. If you want to think critically and find the most effective solutions, try Harappa’s Creating Solutions course. You’ll learn to keep an open mind when approaching situations and look at them from various perspectives. Powerful tools and frameworks will help you avoid common analytical errors while piecing solutions together. Start your free trial and stand out as an effective problem-solver!

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9 effective strategic planning models for your business

strategic planning model example

Strategic planning models can make a big difference to your organization. That remains true whether you’re a startup developing an overall strategy or an established business fine-tuning internal processes.

But there are many strategic planning models, and it’s vital to pick one that suits your purpose and needs. The right framework will help you streamline processes, drive alignment, and propel your business.

To help your research process, we’ve compiled a list of the most effective strategic planning models and their top use cases. Let’s take a look.

🧐 Looking for a flexible framework to help you reach your business objectives? Leapsome’s goal management tools fit any strategic planning process. 👉 Learn more

What is a strategic planning model?

A strategic planning model is a framework that allows organizations to map out their short- and long-term business plans. They can help:

  • Identify and overcome obstacles 
  • Improve and streamline operations
  • Reach overarching business goals
  • Create alignment between different departments
  • Track progress over time

And you don’t have to limit your organization to one strategic planning model. Businesses can benefit from using multiple approaches, even simultaneously. But different strategic planning models are best suited for different situations, so make your choice based on your business type, growth stage, priorities, and goals. 

9 models for strategic planning

These are some of the most popular strategic planning models. Our list covers a definition of each model, an example of it in action, and which use cases it works best for.

1. Objectives & key results (OKRs)

OKRs are a popular goal-setting framework that organizations, teams, and individuals use to define long-term objectives and track progress. To better understand the meaning of OKRs , let’s unpack the acronym:

  • Objectives — ambitious but achievable long-term goals
  • Key results — milestones used to measure progress toward each objective

When establishing your OKRs, create quarterly objectives for all company levels — Leapsome has a free OKR template to help you get started. Then, revisit your OKRs regularly to monitor your progress and make adjustments if necessary. You can also introduce regular OKR meetings to your organization’s internal processes.

OKR example

Here’s an example of an OKR for a B2B SaaS company:

Objective | Significantly scale our customer base and deliver our great product to more people

  • Key results: 
  • Increase sales conversion rate from 25% to 30%
  • Reduce user churn from 5% to 3%
  • Publish a successful case study on our website every quarter
  • Achieve a minimum of 4.7 out of 5 rating across all major review sites

OKRs work best for organizations that want to create more alignment behind their goals. By breaking down company-wide objectives into smaller, more manageable tasks, OKRs ensure everyone works toward a common purpose.

‍ OKRs also show employees how their work contributes to the big picture, giving them a sense of purpose and boosting employee engagement . Research by Gallup links engaged employees to lower turnover rates, better work performance, and a thriving work culture. Consequently, OKRs help companies build successful workplaces.

A screenshot of Leapsome’s Goals & OKRs product showing company-wide objectives.

💡 Wondering how to introduce OKRs to your organization? Use Leapsome’s flexible framework to set company-wide objectives and track them in one intuitive place. 👉 Learn more

2. SWOT analysis

SWOT stands for strengths , weaknesses , opportunities , and threats . Use the SWOT model to define internal and external factors affecting your business. Then, compare the different factors to assess the risk of a potential strategy. 

For example, if your organization’s strengths match opportunities in the market — say, you have a lot of capital, and your competitors don’t — you know you have a competitive advantage. In that scenario, you can take an offensive business strategy with relatively low risk.

SWOT example

Here’s a SWOT example for a sales-based organization:

  • Strengths — We have an excellent rapport with our customers and a loyal customer base.
  • Weaknesses — Our current supply chain is inadequate.
  • Opportunities — There’s high customer demand for one of our products.
  • Threat — Our main competitor is developing a similar product.

Based on this SWOT analysis, our example organization isn’t in a strong strategic position. There’s a risk they won’t produce or distribute enough of their product to meet demand, and their competitor has the potential to outperform them. They should prioritize optimizing their product offering and solving supply chain issues over generating leads or working on an aggressive marketing campaign.

Any business can benefit from SWOT analysis. However, it’s best to use it at the beginning stages of a new strategy and with a specific goal in mind. You could try a SWOT approach when deciding priorities, like implementing new technology or restructuring your organization.

3. PEST or PESTLE analysis

PEST analysis focuses on external factors that can affect your organization. The letters stand for:

  • Socio-cultural
  • Technological

And depending on your industry, you might add legal and environmental factors to make PESTLE. 

PEST or PESTLE example

Here’s an example of a PESTLE analysis for a multinational confectionery company:

  • Political factors — The government of a country where we sell many products is planning to raise import tariffs.
  • Economic factors — Our target demographic (13 to 21-year-olds) has more disposable income now that Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted.
  • Socio-cultural factors — Surveys report that customers consider our products healthy.
  • Technological factors — Engineers devised a more efficient way to farm the main ingredient in half our products.
  • Legal factors — The FDA approved our latest chocolate bar.
  • Environmental factors — NGOs are pressuring us to use more environmentally friendly processes.

PEST analysis lets you assess the business environment for a product or service, so it’s best used during the beginning stages of a project.

4. The Balanced Scorecard framework

The Balanced Scorecard framework lets you take a holistic approach to business planning that doesn’t just focus on economic performance. Instead, you look at four perspectives: 

  • Financial perspective — how well your organization is performing economically
  • Customer perspective — your customer satisfaction and retention levels
  • Internal business perspective — the quality and efficiency of your internal operations
  • Innovation and learning perspective — your ability to improve, pivot, and grow your business

Then, create objectives and define measures to track your progress for each perspective. Those measures will support you in planning and executing initiatives to achieve your goals. And as you carry out this strategy, you can update your scorecard to show your progress.

Balanced Scorecard example

The management at ECI (Electronic Circuits Inc.) wanted to improve their delivery times. But when they talked to customers about the issue, the organization received unreliable feedback — different people had different definitions of being ‘on time.’

Using the Balanced Scorecard framework, managers shifted focus to their operations and checked the efficiency of their manufacturing process. They discovered ways to optimize the business’s cycle time, yield, and costs. 

Despite not having a reliable customer perspective, the Balanced Scorecard’s comprehensive overview of the ECI organization provided a versatile solution for reducing delivery times and streamlining the business’s overall operations.

The Balanced Scorecard framework is best for understanding your business health and creating alignment across your company.

5. Porter’s Five Forces

Porter’s Five Forces is an approach that lets you assess your product or service’s competitive advantage in the market. Identifying potential threats can guide your organization in developing a more dynamic strategic plan.

The ‘Five Forces’ that may affect your product are:

  • The threat of new competitors — Are many new businesses popping up in your industry? How easy is it for new companies to develop a product or service similar to yours?
  • The number of existing competitors — How many direct competitors are you contending with? What about adjacent competitors? Are any of them growing quickly?
  • The bargaining power of suppliers — Could suppliers put pressure on you to lower costs or change your business model?
  • The bargaining power of customers — Are your products or services available elsewhere? Is there a demand for them? Do people have issues with your pricing or quality?
  • The threat of a substitute — How likely is a similar product or service to enter the market?

Porter’s Five Forces example

Let’s take the example of a cosmetics company planning to release a shampoo with SPF 50:

  • The threat of new competitors — The shampoo requires expertise to develop, which is an obstacle for competitors entering the market.
  • The number of existing competitors — Two companies with similar products are poised to grow. They could create an almost identical product and pressure them to lower costs.
  • The bargaining power of suppliers — There’s a large number of suppliers, so they have little bargaining power.
  • The bargaining power of customers — Depending on where customers live, they’ll consider the shampoo a seasonal product. As it’s almost winter in the countries with the largest customer base, demand is lower.
  • The threat of a substitute — Research suggests that no products currently in development could fill the same need (protecting the scalp from sunburn).

Porter’s Five Forces are best for evaluating your product or service after development but before entering the market. It’s also helpful for assessing an organization’s overall competitive position. 

6. The VRIO framework

The VRIO framework helps organizations determine whether they can turn a resource into a competitive advantage. These can be physical resources like inventory, tools, and technology, or nonphysical ones like patents, skills, and work culture.

Let’s break down the VRIO acronym to understand how to evaluate each resource:

  • Valuable — The resource increases revenue or decreases operational costs.
  • Rare — The resource is limited or you control the supply.
  • Inimitable — The resource is unique or complex, meaning it’s difficult for competitors to copy.
  • Organizational — Your organization can exploit the full potential of the resource.

VRIO example

Here’s an example of a delivery company determining whether they can exploit their resource — distribution centers — to gain a competitive advantage:

  • Valuable — All the distribution centers are in strategic positions, which makes them a valuable resource as the company can use their location to create more efficient delivery routes.
  • Rare — The distribution network is a scarce resource because there are only a few ports for international delivery.
  • Inimitable — Competitors could build distribution centers in nearby locations.
  • Organizational — Delivery drivers aren’t using the most efficient routes between distribution centers.

The delivery company could have a temporary competitive advantage, but they’re not exploiting this resource. Management needs to address whatever stops delivery drivers from using the fastest route before rival delivery companies copy and control the same resource. ‍

Photo of professionals evaluating their organization's resources around a table.

The VRIO framework works best for businesses deciding how to launch a new product or service or determining how to improve their existing business model. 

Specifically, the organizational metric shows how efficiently your organization uses its resources. If you have a high score for the first three metrics but consistently fail to capture the value of your resources, it’s a sign you need to improve your internal processes.

Combine the VRIO framework with Porter’s Five Forces for a clear strategic direction when launching a new product.

7. The Hoshin Planning framework

The Hoshin Planning framework is mainly a top-down approach. This method outlines seven strategic planning stages, which are:

  • Define your vision to clarify your organization’s primary purpose.
  • Develop your main objectives to give your organization a competitive advantage.
  • Break down objectives into smaller annual goals.
  • Set goals across your entire organization — at C-level, managerial, departmental, and individual levels.
  • Implement your plans.
  • Perform monthly reviews to reflect and monitor progress.
  • Do an annual review to determine if you’ve achieved your goals and what to work on next.

It’s worth noting that the Hoshin Planning framework doesn’t have to be strictly top-down. Another core idea behind this method is that managers should ‘play catch ball’ — that is, bounce ideas between management, department heads, and team members during the first four stages.

Hoshin Planning example

Here’s how a car manufacturer might implement the Hoshin Planning framework:

  • Management shares their vision of developing the most innovative technology on the market.
  • They decide their main goal is to develop the first self-driving car by the end of 2025. But when leadership talks to the head of engineering, they say this breakthrough won’t be possible by 2025. They collectively adjust the deadline to 2027.
  • Management breaks this goal down into smaller targets. One of them is mapping out what the self-driving car should be able to do in every scenario. The engineering department agrees with this plan.
  • ​​Those targets inform detailed initiatives, like observing real-life driving incidents and collecting data on traffic and accidents.
  • All parties carry out the agreed-upon initiatives. After a month, management conducts a meeting to check everyone’s progress.
  • A year later, the engineering department has data on most scenarios the self-driving car would encounter on the road.

Companies with complex processes — like manufacturing and tech businesses — are more likely to use the Hoshin Planning framework. Their operations benefit from the ‘catch ball’ idea because it’s easier to spot problems when you filter them through diverse teams.

The Hoshin Planning Framework is also ideal for creating alignment within your company. Consider it for a larger organization that’s experienced project issues and bottlenecks.

8. The Theory of Change model

The Theory of Change model involves establishing long-term goals and working backward. Start with your desired outcome and go through all preconditions necessary for it to become a reality. During this process, you determine what needs to change to reach your objectives.

Theory of Change example

Nonprofit organizations with specific missions often use the Theory of Change model. Take adult literacy, for example. The project team would start with an ideal situation — like their country having a 100% literacy rate — and work backward to find out what’s preventing them from achieving that aim. The issues might range from a lack of funding to a need to increase awareness about resources that are already available. Then, the nonprofit team could start addressing the issues they identified.

Any organization can benefit from the Theory of Change framework. Still, it works best for specific projects, like expanding your company abroad or opening a new department, as it involves scenario planning. 

9. The Blue Ocean strategy

The Blue Ocean strategy is a strategic planning model that’s become popular recently. Developed in 2004, this method assesses whether your organization operates in a saturated market. If so, the underlying assumption of the Blue Ocean strategy is that it’s better to create new demand.

In the strategy, the ‘ocean’ is a metaphor for the market. The ‘red ocean’ is full of predators (large companies) competing for food (customers) and turning the water red, whereas the ‘blue ocean’ is deep, unexplored water that’s full of potential (uncontested market space). Here’s a list of indicators that you’re in a ‘blue ocean’:

  • You’ve found uncontested market space
  • You’ve made the competition irrelevant
  • You’re creating and capturing new demand
  • You’re breaking the value-cost trade-off

Blue Ocean example

Apple is a famous example of a business that operates in a ‘blue ocean.’ Although it’s one of the leading technology companies in the world, the Apple team still prefers to innovate new products rather than beat the competition.

The Blue Ocean strategy is ideal for small businesses and start-ups trying to establish themselves among larger organizations. Established companies in dynamic industries like tech can also use it to stay ahead of their competition.

How to implement a strategic planning model

Once you’ve set up your strategic plan, you’ll want to utilize it to its full potential. Here are some tips to make sure your strategy goes into action.

Align your approach to strategic planning with your values

There are many strategic planning models to choose from, and your organization can only implement so many. Although all of them have pros and cons, none are necessarily better than the others. So, choose the strategic planning models that reflect your organization’s values. That way, it’ll be easier to introduce your strategy and get all team members on board.

If you’re a people-first organization, OKRs are an ideal choice. OKRs involve your employees in company initiatives, make internal decisions more transparent, and give everyone a sense of purpose. 

Allocate resources to the strategic planning process

Strategic planning is like any other task: It requires resources like funding, time, and research. You should have a budget and schedule for every part of the process.

The employees helping you with strategic planning and implementation are also vital assets — offer them training and consistent support. Free up their schedule for strategic planning and create a timeline for the entire process to set your team up for success. ‍

Photo of a group of professionals working on a strategic plan around a table.

Review your progress

Aside from planning and implementing your strategy, you’ll need to check on your progress regularly. That means monthly and annual reviews at all levels.

Many strategic planning models already have reviews built into their stages. But even if they don’t, you should reevaluate at regular intervals. You can define some key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your initiatives and your overall business health. Popular KPIs include revenue growth, client retention rate, and employee satisfaction.

Be ready to adjust your strategic plan

As the saying goes, even the best-laid plans often go awry. You may find that conditions change as you implement your strategic plan or that you didn’t predict certain issues. The key isn’t necessarily to strategize better, but to have a dynamic strategy. This will allow you to adjust your plan and deal with problems as they arise.

For instance, you might opt for the PEST analysis, but be open to considering important legal and environmental factors when they come up. You can try to predict what new legislation or world events may affect your industry. Then, if any conditions arise that affect your business, you’ll be able to pivot your strategy without too much additional effort.

Boost your organization’s performance with strategic planning models

Strategic planning models help you assess the current state of your organization, decide which direction to take in the future, and communicate your plans to your employees. They can be the difference between your business merely sustaining itself and thriving.

If you’re wondering how to implement a new strategic planning model, Leapsome can offer professional support. Our Goals and OKR Management Software provides an adaptable framework for your chosen strategic model.

🚀 Kickstart your strategic plan with Leapsome Our goals and OKR management tools make it easy to implement your strategy of choice. 👉 Book a demo

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What is Strategic Planning? Definition, Examples and Process

By Paul VanZandt

strategic planning

Table of Content

What is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning models, strategic planning process: 6 key steps.

Strategic planning is defined as an organizational effort to lay out the mission goals and objectives for the company, with a typical time period of 2-5 years. A strategic plan takes into account the current state of affairs in the enterprise, wider legislation and business environment, company’s products, departments, profit /loss margins and budget distribution. 

Strategic planning first entered business environments in the post-war period of the 1950s, and has been so effective that it is still widely used and applied across organizational spectrums, including non-profits.

While a strategic plan is the final outcome of the strategic planning process, here are the key factors and components that feed into creating this plan:

1. Profitability and balance sheet management

For any business, profitability and the adjacent balance sheet management is and always should be a key factor to be taken into consideration during strategic planning, nvariant of the size of business. Both these factors are in fact co-dependent. For example, one of the key outcomes of a strategic plan is to set the revenue growth percentage to be achieved each year for, say, 3 years. This in turn will require evaluation of the balance sheet, including any debt payments, dividend payout, shareholder expectations etc. 

Even if the business is a startup and is rich with investor cash to spend in acquiring customers in the short to medium term, it is still aspiring to be profitable and must lay out a larger strategic path to profitability.

2. SWOT analysis outcomes

Strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – these are the outcomes and full terms of the abbreviated term, SWOT analysis. Strength refers to the business factors that indicate key factors that are contributing to the achievement of business outcomes. These may be factors related to sales, employee and talent retention, software stack, business efficiency etc. Similarly, weakness refer to factors that are holding back the growth and achievement of business outcomes, such as poor margins, lack of company data management, employee attrition etc. 

Opportunity refers to areas in the business environment that the business can potentially explore. For example, one of the opportunities identified could be sales in a new market, implementing a better human resources management model, branching into new products and/ or services, etc.

3. Operations management

Operations management pertains to the cohesive movement of all moving and communicating parts to produce the company’s products or services. While creating a strategic business plan, management needs to take into account how each department and team will need to interact with each other to produce the results desired as outcomes in the strategic plan. This includes ensuring the right technology stack needed for each team including communication and collaboration technology needed for remote and on-premise task execution.

4. Human resource management

Strategic planning involves taking into account all aspects HR and employee related spending and policies. One of the key aspects of a strategic plan must be to ensure a harmonious work experience for employees such that it increases employee retention and helps build an environment that enhances employee productivity and workplace satisfaction.

Importance and Benefits of Strategic Planning

A strategic plan is more than just a business tool, it also plays a key role in defining operational, cultural and workplace ethics. Here are some of the key aspects of the importance of strategic planning:

  • Provides a unified goal 

A strategic plan is like a unified action plan for the whole company in order to achieve common outcomes. For example, a strategic plan to achieve a certain revenue growth each year requires sales, account management, product development and marketing teams to work together to ensure a seamless lead pipeline, customer upsells and account retention, meet customer expectations etc.

  • Adds to management transparency

Strategic planning is more than just for direct business growth, it also helps shine clarity to employees and shareholders as to what their mid-to-long term objectives are and how their actions are derived from these larger goals. Such a plan must always be referenced for citation and justification for key business moves and decisions to make it apparently justified and based in logic and reason. This also encourages team leads and employees to in-turn be more transparent with their team-members and peers with their plans and goals. 

One of the issues most dreaded by investors and employees alike is a management that seems to take random decisions without any clear guidance on how they help meet requirements for the final business objectives or tackling the challenges of the day. A strategic plan helps build investor and employee confidence in the management and adds to build a culture of transparency in day-to-day business operations.

  • Identifies hidden strengths and weaknesses

Many strengths and weaknesses in a company may be contributing, yet hidden factors in the path to meeting or hindering the meeting of business goals. A strategic plan’s primary input is a SWOT analysis of the company, which is conducted by auditing the firm to recognize and list strengths and weaknesses within the company. These may be a competitive product, a better monetization model, a weak employee incentive policy etc. 

The important step here is the actual deep analysis and listing down of these strengths and weaknesses and how they can be leveraged or minimized.

  • Leads to better financial health

A company with a clear strategic plan is able to better plan expenses and set right expectations on return-on-investment (ROI). It takes into account balance sheets, profitability, accounting and expense management, all of which contribute to better bookkeeping and financial health of the company.

  • Improves management-employee relations

Employees and teams work in silos when the management works in silos. But when a company shares a strategic plan with employees and lays out exactly how each team will be working towards contributing to this larger plan, it gives each team and its members a sense of belonging and importance within the larger company, In today’s environment of hybrid or remote work cultures, it is a key step to ensuring that the company remains cohesive and collaborative in getting work done and meeting final objectives.

Learn more: What is Tactical Planning?

Strategic planning inputs may require one of many of the following business analysis models:

  • SWOT analysis

SWOT analysis is the process and visual template for identifying and listing a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. These are cornerstone considerations for any leadership team and play a key role in the strategic planning process. 

  • Business model canvas 

A business model canvas is a process used to identify and represent existing business models of an enterprise, and develop new models to better meet company goals and objectives. Like SWOT analysis, business model canvas is also a standard business template.

  • PESTEL analysis

PESTEL is an abbreviation for political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal, and PESTEL analysis aims to identify the impact of these external factors on a business. 

  • Cost-benefit analysis

A cost-benefit analysis is a method of evaluating an investment in the business based on the benefits it would bring to the table. This is a good method for ensuring a healthy financial balance sheet where spending and budgeting is carefully analyzed to ensure only those investments that bring back reasonable ROI.

Most companies have 2 or more products/ services streams, or even 2 or more businesses. A BCG matrix is a visual process of managing an enterprise’s portfolio by prioritizing profitable companies with good market share and growth. 

An effective strategic planning process requires the following key steps:

  • Identify core business objectives

Strategic planning begins with first identifying your business objectives- what does it produce? What does it do better than competition? What is the quality-profitability balance? These are examples of the questions that need to be asked to identify core business objectives. The strategic planning tools can be applied at any stage of the planning process to help answer these questions.

  • Identify objectives of each department

Once the core business objective is ready, it needs to trickle down to an execution plan that involves each department. This in turn will result in breaking-down of the core objectives to smaller objectives for the teams. This needs to be laid out with clarity and precision since the team leaders will further use this team goal to assign individual targets for members. 

  • Identify potential road-blocks

Before formulating the final strategy, it is important to discuss it with relevant leaders in the company to ensure an error-free process that is achievable with minimal roadblocks. Ofcourse, as the execution work begins, the management should be flexible enough to absorb unforeseen and small issues which are inevitable. The goal here is to avoid any big boulders which may cripple the strategy at a later stage, such as data security, pricing estimations, hiring new employees or expansion to new departments/ teams, investment in new product development, mergers and acquisition plans etc.

  • Formulate the final strategy

Once the objectives and goals have been scanned for potential roadblocks and alterations/ safeguards have been accommodated, this is the first draft of the final strategic plan for the company. This strategy may be applicable for the foreseeable future or have a specific deadline, it should however be pulled up for revision annually. For small companies or startups who have much to learn on the way, they need to keep an active eye on the larger strategy based on changing business realities. 

  • Re-evaluate based on feedback

Before you iron out the processes and policies that will enable the execution of the new strategic plan of the company, it is important to hear back from your employees. This doesn’t have to be every single employee, especially if you have a large team, but to the extent possible. You may at first discuss the strategy with team leaders, who if needed, may take it further down the chain to their own team members and absorb their feedback. Complete agreement may not be possible, but it is important that both sides remain flexible while discussions are on but must be prepared to execute once the discussions are over.

  • Set or revise adjacent policies and processes

Now that the strategic plan for the business is complete and sealed, the leadership team needs to start the execution with necessary changes to the processes and policies as the need may be. This may need to include data management process changes, technology stack updates, issue escalation matrix etc. In some cases it may not require any change, and the right processes may already be in place with just a new direction based on the strategic plan. 

Learn more: What is Enterprise Planning?

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Jumpstart a better way to do strategy

This episode of the Inside the Strategy Room podcast features excerpts from an address that McKinsey senior partner Chris Bradley gave at our recent Global Business Leaders Forum. He discusses the eight practical shifts that executive teams can make to move their strategy into high gear. This is an edited transcript. You can listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts , Spotify , or Google Podcasts .

Sean Brown: From McKinsey’s Strategy and Corporate Finance Practice, I’m Sean Brown. Welcome to Inside the Strategy Room . In today’s episode we will hear from Chris Bradley, a senior partner based in our Sydney office and one of the authors of McKinsey’s recent book Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick: People, Probabilities, and Big Moves to Beat the Odds (John Wiley & Sons, 2018). In our two earlier podcasts, Chris and his co-authors, Sven Smit and Martin Hirt, talked about how social dynamics and biases can undermine strategy development, and explained the power curve of economic profit , which shows how well—or how poorly—the strategies of the world’s largest companies are succeeding. We also heard about the most important strategic moves companies can make to rise up that power curve.

Today we’d like to share excerpts from a presentation Chris gave at our Global Business Leaders Forum in New York. Chris will take us through some of the practical changes that companies can make to their strategic planning process to unlock those bold moves.

Here’s Chris on how he and his co-authors approach the challenges faced by executive teams in the strategy room, and how they help them make the first shift.

Chris Bradley: Business books are notoriously boring. To make any story interesting, you need a villain. If your goal is to scale the power curve of economic profit and make big moves to beat the odds of strategic success, the villain is the thing that gets in your way of achieving that goal. What is it that gets in the way? It’s called the social side of strategy. This villain is a funny one. Rather than causing big catastrophes, it usually causes inertia, and the risk that your company moves slower than the market it’s in.

This is how it works. You start your strategy season with high hopes. You’re going to make the big moves. You will get on top of the trends. But when you get to the strategy room, you find it crowded with all sorts of stuff. There are negotiations, there are egos, there are last year’s plans. There are other people, and you want to look good to them. There is so much else going on than just strategy. So, we ended our book with a kind of manifesto for how you could manage your company differently.

What we need to do is reengineer the way we do strategy. There are eight shifts we propose (exhibit). The first one concerns planning. It’s extraordinarily important to know what is going to happen next month, what resources need to move, and what initiatives you have to launch. The problem is, that’s a different mode of thinking from strategy. As soon as you put strategy and planning together, planning will always win. The shift we suggest making is to go from this annual planning ritual to treating strategy as a journey.

Let me make that practical: you need a two-track process. First you need an efficient way of doing your plans—that’s really important, making sure the budget lines up every year. But you need a parallel track to do strategy, and that has completely different timing. By the time you come to planning, you should already have your strategy in mind.

I’m going to bring this to life through what we call micropractices. If you want to reengineer the way a company works, you can talk in themes and theories, but it tends to come down to lots of small things you do differently. For example, some companies have, outside of their normal strategy-planning season, a set of regular meetings with an evolving agenda of big strategic topics and stimulating discussions about them to make decisions, so you get into a discipline and a cadence of strategic conversations. That’s a micropractice. It’s very rare, but increasingly we’re seeing companies move to more agile ways of working, even outside of the tech space.

Strategy plans are often elaborate management ballets perfectly choreographed to do only one thing, and that’s get to a yes. Chris Bradley

Something fascinating happens when they go agile. They discover, “Oh, our planning processes actually don’t work anymore because we are now in this 90-day cycle.” I think agile is an exciting place for strategists to find inspiration because of this idea of having a story updated every 90 days that then cascades down into all the squads and tribes.

So, the idea with the first of the eight shifts is, how do I continually go from big goals to little goals in a much more robust way. This is strategy as a journey.

Sean Brown: The second shift Chris identified was about encouraging the strategy team to debate real alternatives rather than simply seeking to get a yes to the proposal on the table. Here is Chris again.

Chris Bradley: Strategy plans are often an elaborate management ballet that seems perfectly choreographed to do only one thing, and that’s get to a yes. That’s because what do you walk into the room with? A proposal. And if you walk into a room with a proposal, a good outcome is acceptance of your proposal—and usually it’s the last page that matters, which is where you ask for the resources you need.

This is just entirely the wrong place to start strategic planning. You need to debate real alternatives. Let me bring this to life with a bit of research I came across about how private-equity firms make investment decisions. An experiment put teams in two rooms. One evaluated investment decisions one at a time and the other compared two simultaneously. What they found was that there was a 30 percent difference in decisions between the two. Later, when they did a randomized trial, they found that the team with two alternatives to consider always made the better decision. The fact packs were the same, but the room weighing two alternatives did a better job of digging into the footnotes. That’s because the investment case always has the problems in it but usually they are summarized in the footnotes or the appendix. Having two alternatives to choose from just made it safer to dig into the cons.

In that sense, what I would argue is, this idea of working from a single proposal or the one-off plan introduces a 30 percent error into what you are doing. See, in the world of getting to a yes, everyone has high market share. There’s a famous story that Jack Welch, when he took over GE, said that every business had to be number one or number two in its segment. Of course that happened, by people playing the denominator game—everyone’s market got really small and so they became number one or number two instantly. He said then, “No, no, no. Now you have to define your market so that you have less than 10 percent market share.” He found a way to get through the problem with the proposals. But the reality is, most companies don’t work like this. They are not comparing alternative plans. Their strategies are framed more around promises and financial goals than they are around choices.

Sean Brown: In Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick , the authors emphasize the importance of making big, bold commitments to initiatives that can really elevate the company’s performance. But it’s hard for most companies to move resources around in a big way. Next, Chris addressed ways to get resources moving dynamically toward businesses with the greatest potential.

Chris Bradley: The harsh reality of the way we do strategic planning now is, there is a pot of money and we all compete for it. But when we did our research on companies that rose up the power curve, we found that it usually was not the whole company improving but one or two out of ten business units that disproportionately went up. It’s just a small part of the company that explosively grows.

That’s easy to logically understand, but when you’re in the strategy room and trying to be one of those winners, you may create a lot of losers. And you can see how, with the social side of strategy, that really becomes a problem. If you ask ten business-unit leaders in the room, “Which of you runs the bottom five units?” you will get a uniform answer: none of them is in the bottom five. But if you ask them which is the one business the company should disproportionately back, they usually know which it is.

So, what we want to do is go from spreading resources evenly like peanut butter, which is the enemy, to picking one-in-tens with breakout potential. That means we must deal with some tough stuff. An example is the Dutch semiconductor firm NXP. They went from around $2 billion market cap to $25 billion, and at the source of that were tough choices. They moved 70 percent of their R&D to backing just two of the 13 trajectories they had. But to do that, you create 11 losers. So how do we make winners out of losers? Reckitt Benckiser is an innovative consumer-goods company, and they are also quite innovative in their management practices. They have taken the concept of granularity and taken it to the extreme whereby they’re running 200 markets and 106 brands. That’s a big matrix. But what’s really interesting is that they have chosen 19 brands in 16 markets that they call “power cells.” These get disproportionately more resources.

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If you think about the level of visibility that such practices imply for resource allocation, it’s much different from what you get when you just roll up a bunch of business-unit (BU) plans—an order of magnitude of difference. Also the leadership style is very different, because instead of talking to each BU president and accepting their plan as a package deal, you actually have portfolio visibility at three or four levels down the organization.

Sean Brown: The next shift Chris explained is the transition from simply negotiating budgets to discussing the big moves a company needs to make.

Chris Bradley: Strategic planning is often just a cover for the real game, which is the three-year plan. Once you have anchored your strategic plan on the numbers, you’ve lost the plot because now you’re negotiating. What do you do about that? We go from budgets to moves, and what I mean by that is, don’t start with the numbers you’re going to achieve; start with the moves you’re going to make.

The enemy here is the base case, which is usually an extrapolation enabled by Excel, because when you click on a cell and you get the little crosshair and you drag it across, it’s easy just to extrapolate. The problem with it is that you extrapolate away the fact that the management team before you worked very hard to get those results—that’s not a base case. But you lay your strategic initiatives on top of it anyway, and then usually there is a gap in your waterfall chart to budget that says “stretch.”

That doesn’t work. What we propose instead is to ask, what is the momentum case of the business? In other words, if you just kept your current policies and capabilities, with no new initiative or investment, what would happen to the business? Some businesses do OK; they may have a lot of tailwind. For most businesses, however, the momentum case will be frightening. If you take your pedal off the metal, most companies will fade out pretty fast. So, if you’re a retailer and you stop refurbishing your stores, your comparable sales will fall quickly, and when your comp sales fall, that will very quickly leverage into your bottom line. It’s frightening, but that’s the right basis, because then you can calibrate. “OK, if that’s my momentum case, how much do I need to do to get to my aspiration? And what will get me there?” It focuses the discussion on the moves you need to make.

The most important thing to start with is, know your business really well. Often, we think the hard part of strategy is that we have to guess the future. I think the hard part of strategy is busting your own myths. The most important question a strategist can ask is, why do we make the money? I think of it like being on a dirt road in the Australian outback and you look in your rearview mirror. It’s very hard to see where you’ve been because a lot of dust has been kicked up. For the social side of strategy, this ambiguity about the past ends up being really useful, because you can say that when you did well, it was management prowess, and when things were tough, it was because of the weather. Remember, in the strategy room, it’s important to look good.

Rather than negotiating a financial promise, put some calibration around your moves. There is an increasing trend of basing investments purely on artificial intelligence, which judges an investment story based on many variables, then spits out a probability. That’s a good way of also getting the approving of budgets out of the way. And then AI [artificial intelligence] will tell you, based on how much you are investing and your technology and the sector you’re in, what your budget should be—as an outcome, not as an input.

If you want to drive strategic change in your company, you should be its chief liquidity officer. You can’t move resources that aren’t liquid. In other words, you cannot reallocate if you don’t also de-allocate. Chris Bradley

Sean Brown: Once the company has decided on which moves to make, the next challenge is following through and allocating sufficient resources to those priorities. That’s not easy. Chris talked about how to free up those resources. He then explained how managers can overcome sandbagging and risk aversion.

Chris Bradley: There is often a rude awakening. While we’ve all agreed that we will move resources to businesses B and C, on Monday morning we discover that we don’t have any resources to move. The reality is, most companies can’t responsibly move those levels of resources on a dime. In a recent survey my colleague Tim Koller did, only 30 percent of managers agreed that their budgets were aligned with the three-to-five-year plan. That’s a lot of dissonance.

So how do you create liquid resources? If you want to really drive strategic change in your company, you should be its chief liquidity officer. You can’t move resources that aren’t liquid. In other words, you cannot reallocate if you don’t also de-allocate. By the way, in a survey we did , this was the shift that respondents admitted they struggle with the most. Only 5 percent agreed that resources at their companies are freed up ahead of time to create a kitty of contestable funds in the annual budget.

A root cause of this is that managers are not charged an opportunity cost. I work a lot in retail, and I’m always bugging CEOs to measure their buyers on return on space, because otherwise they will never give shelves back to you. If they are measured on sales, they will always want more space. I’m sure you can apply the same principle in other businesses.

Here is another idea. Everyone has heard of zero-based budgeting, but it’s completely unrealistic. I can’t zero-base my bank branch network tomorrow because it’s already there. But what about 87-percent-based budgeting, or 93-percent-based budgeting? In other words, create a norm where you force contestability over that last bit of resources. A big part of this is about de-anchoring next year’s budget from being this year’s budget.

Let me introduce another problem. My colleague Dan Lovallo is a professor who works in applying psychology on biases to management topics. A simple test he did at an investment bank showed that if you applied the CEO’s risk tolerance to all the investment decisions made at lower levels rather than the more junior decision makers’ risk tolerance, the decisions would have had a 32 percent better outcome. So, there is this tax of risk aversion, and it makes sense: if you’re the CEO, you feel pretty diversified because there are probably 20 or 30 bets sitting in your portfolio, so you can afford a few fails. But you are asking your business-unit leaders to take undiversified risk, and then get killed on their key performance indicators when they don’t hit the numbers. It should be little surprise then that a lot of the risk gets edited out of the system.

The shift I want to encourage here is to go from this sandbagging to open risk portfolios. In other words, go from your strategy being lots of mini hockey sticks that you add together to one big hockey stick that has many risk trade-offs made at the enterprise level. There is a simple way of doing that: don’t have cross-subsidization by creating attacker units that report separately. That’s super-important in a world of digital disruption. Companies often try to protect their earnings core from growth businesses. One way to undo the package deal is to separate those different types of businesses.

Sean Brown: Chris then went on to explain how CEOs can promote the mind-set that will encourage business-unit leaders to take the risks that will help the overall company reach its aspiration.

Eight shifts that will take your strategy into high gear

Eight shifts that will take your strategy into high gear

Chris Bradley: We get what we incentivize. We ask our managers to hit their budgets 90 percent of the time and then criticize them for being too risk-averse. We love scenario analysis at strategy planning time, but who has ever seen that scenario analysis brought out again at performance review time?

One thing I propose is throwing out balanced scorecards. They are not very good because you end up having 20 goals, each at 5 percent, and therefore no individual one matters. Unbalanced scorecards are much better, because then the total potential bonus is driven by financial outcomes, but it may be reduced by how you got to that outcome. We have to reengineer how we evaluate people, particularly in risky contexts. Rather than “you are your numbers,” take a holistic performance view.

How do we make sure noble failures get rewarded and dumb luck does not? It’s interesting that in our survey, by far the most respondents said they believe their companies, when evaluating performance, penalize noble failures and don’t recognize the risks someone took. There is some missed wiring in the way the incentive system works, so it’s little surprise that we are not getting these big moves to happen. One innovation private equity brought in is basing incentives on having more skin in the game over a longer period of time.

Sean Brown: The final shift Chris discussed is the move from long-range planning to forcing the first step. He described how you can’t finish the strategy meeting until you have figured out what you will do tomorrow to start putting it into action.

Chris Bradley: I’ll describe this last shift with a story that’s relayed by my co-author Sven Smit. He was with insurance executives and everyone had just listened to this truly inspiring presentation about the paperless future of insurance. The CEO asked an inconvenient question: “I love this presentation, but how much paper are we budgeted to use next year?” And there was a bit of shuffling of feet, and I think someone had to go out of the room to find the number. The answer turned out to be 5 percent more paper. The CEO said, “I love the paperless future, but maybe next year can we do minus 5 percent paper use? Can we start there?”

So, a lot of this is about setting the most radical goal that’s achievable in a six-month period. That should be the first challenge.

I want to take the pressure down a bit here. These shifts are hard to do. If you get good at even a few of them, you are straightaway putting yourself into some seriously rare territory. There is a reason, aside from the fact that markets are competitive, that companies aren’t making big moves. It’s because the social side of strategy overwhelms them. Maybe make some of these shifts, think boldly, be aspirational, and do it not just by having fancier presentations and nicer-sounding initiatives but by really getting inside the social side of strategy in your company.

Sean Brown: Thank you for joining us for Inside the Strategy Room today. You can learn more about these shifts to the strategy-development process in “ Eight shifts that will take your strategy into high gear .” You can also do the Eight Shifts Diagnostic  to see how well your executive team is performing on each of the eight shifts and how your performance compares to other companies. And, of course, you can find more information in the book, Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick: People, Probabilities, and Big Moves to Beat the Odds .

Chris Bradley is a senior partner in the Sydney office, and Sean Brown is the firm’s global director of communications for strategy and corporate finance, based in the Boston office.

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4 Strategic Planning Tools and Models for 2021 and Beyond

Let’s take a hypothetical trip back in time to January of 2020. Your house cleaning business revenue has been steadily growing for three years and the forecasting tool in your financial software tells you that you should expect your best year yet. You increase sales goals, plan to invest in new vacuums and vehicles, and hire 20 new employees throughout the year. Through the first month, everything is going according to plan.

Then, on March 11, the World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a global pandemic, much of the world shuts down, and your strategic planning for the year loses all meaning.

Last March, we surveyed more than 300 small business leaders and found that nearly 75% would be altering their strategic plan due to COVID-19, with nearly 20% anticipating “significant” changes (methodology below).


Even in a relatively stable year, the traditional approach to strategic planning—reviewing last year’s results, making incremental adjustments, setting targets, then budgeting, communicating, and executing the new plan—is woefully ill-suited for rapidly evolving markets.

Gartner research has found that executives believe more than half of their time spent in strategic planning is wasted, and the quality of those plans fail to meet expectations.

“Strategic assumptions are often sound when they are first formed, but in today’s environment (they) are more vulnerable to becoming outdated or obsolete due to a rapid increase in the pace of change,” says Matt Shinkman, vice president with Gartner’s Risk and Audit Practice.

While it’s unfair to suggest that any business should’ve been ready for COVID-19, there are strategic planning tools and models that would have been more adaptable when the market was turned on its head.

Let’s take a look at four different approaches that you can use so you’re ready the next time the market takes an unexpected turn.

What are strategic planning tools?

Strategic planning tools are techniques and models that business leaders use to determine where their business is at present, where they want it to be in the future, and which key metrics and initiatives they should track and pursue to achieve that target state.

A few common examples of strategic planning tools include:

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis

OKR (Objectives and Key Results)

PEST (political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological) analysis

Balanced scorecard

Let’s take a closer look, along with strategies for making these tools more adaptable to changing conditions.

1. SWOT analysis

How does it work? In SWOT analysis, strategic planning teams brainstorm to come up with several strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for their business, then list those items in four quadrants.


Source: Most Popular Decision-Making Frameworks Among Project Managers

Teams can then look for connections between the quadrants (especially connections between strengths and opportunities) to inform their strategy.

How can it be adapted for a post COVID-19 market? The great thing about SWOT analysis is that it can be used for annual strategic planning, or everyday decision making. Adapt SWOT analysis to a rapidly evolving market by using it at the individual project level.

For example, say your office cleaning service was considering expanding just before COVID-19. Using SWOT, you could come up with the following assessment:

Strength: Efficient, established cleaning teams.

Weakness: Limited client base.

Opportunity: Expand services to home cleaning.

Threat: Market is nearly saturated with existing home cleaning services.

In this case, the business could match their strength to the opportunity to expand and leverage their experienced teams to make headway in an already competitive market.

What type of businesses should use this? While SWOT analysis can be adapted for a variety of situations, it is ideally suited for growth businesses that are able to make significant changes to their strategy in order to take advantage of market opportunities. These businesses might include startups and solopreneur operations.

2. Objectives and Key Results

How does it work: Famously used for strategic planning by Google, Microsoft, and Intel, OKRs work by establishing a clearly defined goal (the objective) along with a handful of key results —that is, measurable checkpoints that build toward the target goal.

Example OKR adjustments  

Ideally, teams should only have about a 70% success rate on key results. If teams are constantly hitting 100%, it likely means that the ultimate goal was not ambitious enough.

How can it be adapted for a post COVID-19 market? One strength of OKRs is that they are highly adjustable. For example, if your goal at the beginning of the year is to double the size of your business, and key results include increasing revenue by $150k, hiring 10 new employees, and adding three new high-value clients, you can scale those numbers to account for the market changes. Say, increasing the size of your business by 150%, increasing revenue by $100k, hiring 7 new employees, and adding two new high-value clients.

What type of businesses should use this? OKRs are a good fit for established, profitable businesses that might need to make incremental adjustments to continue growing without throwing off a successful formula.

3. PEST analysis

How does it work: With PEST (political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological) analysis, strategic planning teams weigh socioeconomic factors into their business forecasting. PEST analysis is also frequently modified to include legal and environmental factors (PESTLE analysis). For PEST analysis to be used effectively, it helps to have representatives on the strategic planning team with a working knowledge of the component factors.

How to use PEST analysis for beginners

How can it be adapted for a post COVID-19 market? PEST analysis is somewhat complex, due to the breadth and depth of the factors it accounts for.

On one hand, this necessitates an experienced strategic planning team to effectively use PEST analysis. On the other hand, this makes PEST adaptable for changing conditions. Think of each of the factors that make up PEST as levers. When the market changes, you may have to pull one or more of those levers to adjust your planning.

For example, when COVID-19 struck, you likely had to make major adjustments to your economic and political strategic planning, while your socio-cultural and technological levers might have only needed minor tweaks.

What type of businesses should use this? Due to its complexity and the experience required to use PEST analysis effectively, it is best suited for larger, established businesses with sufficient resources.

4. Balanced scorecard

How does it work: Balanced scorecard is a strategic planning model designed to incorporate both financial and non-financial (customer, internal, innovation) measures. Its precise origins aren’t clearly defined, but it was popularized in a 1992 article by Robert Kaplan and David Norton published in the Harvard Business Review .

To use the balanced scorecard, strategic planning teams seek to answer the following four questions:

How do customers see us?

What must we excel at?

Can we continue to improve and create value?

How do we look to shareholders?

Teams should answer those questions in four quadrants, linking them together where possible (similar to SWOT analysis), then translate those answers into operational strategy, individual performance goals, and business planning.

How can it be adapted for the post COVID-19 market? The balanced scorecard can be adapted for the post COVID-19 market by looking at it through an agile lens, that is by communicating about your strategy, making iterative improvements, and responding to changing needs regularly. For more on incorporating an agile mindset into your strategic planning, read the next section.

What type of businesses should use this? The balanced scorecard is open-ended enough to be used by almost any type of business , including automotive, financial, healthcare, manufacturing, technology, education, and almost anything in between.

Strategic planning software can streamline your efforts by automating all the tools we’ve discussed in this article, and through features like a strategy map and milestones. Check out our strategic planning software buyer’s guide for top products, common features, and more. 

If you’d like a more guided approach, we have trained advisors standing by and ready to help you choose the perfect strategic planning software for your business. Best of all, it’s free for you and you can get started right away. Click here to schedule an appointment for a phone call or start a live chat here.


The strategic planning software guide on Software Advice ( Source )

When in doubt, try agile strategic planning

What better way to prepare for an unpredictable market than to use agile planning? It’s not enough to just take the principles of agile project management –communication, iteration, responsiveness–and slap them onto your planning process, though. It helps to have a strategy.

Here are a few key points, from our guide on strategic planning for small businesses :

Ongoing customer interaction. Your customers determine the success of your business, so their needs should always be accounted for in your strategic planning. Identify your customers or end users and account for them in during every cycle of strategic planning. If you have the resources, soliciting customer feedback through surveys is great. But even if you don’t have that capacity, creating a customer persona and building your plan around that persona is a starting point.

Organizational accountability. If your marketing team is working toward one set of goals while your research and development team is working toward a different set of goals, your ship will fall apart and sink. Having a good strategy isn’t enough, that strategy has to be communicated and collaborated on across teams. Establish cross-functional teams and meet frequently to ensure strategic alignment.

Situational-specific strategies. Every good plan can benefit from room for improvisation and recalibration. Whatever your plan is at the beginning of the year, it’s helpful to have space built in for strategic readjustments, whether it’s weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Encourage your managers to surface ideas for improvement throughout the year rather than “sticking to the plan.”

Want to learn more about agile decision making? Read our complete guide , with tips on:

Gathering iterative feedback

Balancing alignment and autonomy

Getting comfortable with good enough

Placing time limits on decisions

And Avoiding sloppiness

Survey methodology

The Software Advice COVID-19 Reactions survey was conducted via Amazon Mechanical Turk in March 2020 and involved nearly 1,000 respondents all based in the United States. The number of respondents varied by question. The questions were worded to ensure each respondent fully understood the meaning and topic at hand. The information contained in this article has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.

Strategic Plan Examples | Best 11 Tools For Effective Strategic Planning, Updated in 2023

Strategic Plan Examples | Best 11 Tools For Effective Strategic Planning, Updated in 2023

Jane Ng • 17 Sep 2023 • 10 min read

Looking for Strategic Plan Examples? Having a strategic plan is essential for any business or organization’s growth. A well-crafted plan can make all the difference in the success of your venture. It helps you have a realistic vision for the future and maximize the company’s potential.

So, if you struggle to develop a strategic plan for your business or organization. In this blog post, we will discuss a strategic plan example and tools that can serve as a guide to help you create a successful plan.

Table of Contents

What is a strategic plan, strategic plan examples, tools for effective strategic planning, how ahaslides help you with strategic planning, key takeaways, frequently asked questions, tips for better engagement.

  • Strategy Formulation
  • Scenario Planning Examples

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Looking for a tool to engage your team?

Gather your team members by a fun quiz on AhaSlides. Sign up to take free quiz from AhaSlides template library!

A strategic plan is a plan that outlines an organization’s long-term goals, objectives, and strategies for achieving them.  

It is a roadmap that helps your organization prepare and allocate resources, efforts, and actions to achieve its vision and mission.

Strategic Plan Example

Specifically, a strategic plan usually lasts 3-5 years and may require the organization to evaluate its current position with its strengths, weaknesses, potential, and competitive level. Based on this analysis, the organization will define its strategic goals and objectives   (they need to be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound).

Following that, the plan will list the required steps and actions to achieve these goals, as well as the resources needed, timelines, and performance measures to track progress and success.

To guarantee success, your strategic plan needs tools that help with planning, management, communication, collaboration, and accountability to help the organization stay focused and stick to the workflow.

Here are some strategic planning models your business can use:

1/ SWOT Analysis – Strategic Plan Example 

The SWOT Analysis model was developed by  Albert Humphrey . This model is a well-known business analysis model for organizations that want to create a strategic plan by evaluating four factors:

  • S – Strengths
  • W – Weaknesses
  • O – Opportunities
  • T – Threats

strategic planning model example

With these factors, your organization can understand its current situation, advantages, and areas where need to improve. In addition, your organization can identify the external threats that may affect it and the opportunities to seize in the present or the future.

After having such an overview, organizations will have a solid basis for effective planning, avoiding risks later.

Strategic Plan Example:   To help you better understand how to use SWOT analysis to develop a strategic plan, we will give an example.

You have a small business that sells handmade soap products. Here is a SWOT analysis of your business:

Based on this SWOT analysis, your business can develop a strategic plan that focuses on

  • Expand product distribution channels
  • Developing new product lines
  • Improve online marketing and advertising

With this strategy, you can leverage your strengths, such as high-quality products and personalized customer service.

2/ Balanced Scorecard Model – Strategic Plan Example 

Balanced Scorecard Model is a strategic planning model that helps businesses develop sustainably and reliably through all 4 aspects:

  • Financial:  Organizations need to measure and monitor financial results, including fixed costs, depreciation expenses, return on investment, return on investment, revenue growth rate, etc.
  • Customers:  Organizations need to measure and evaluate customer satisfaction, along with their ability to meet customer needs.
  • Internal process:  Organizations need to measure and evaluate how well they are doing.
  • Learning & Growth:  Organizations focus on training and helping their employees develop, helping them improve their knowledge and skills to maintain a competitive edge in the market.

Strategic Plan Example: Here is an example to help you understand more about this model:

Assuming you are the owner of a famous coffee brand, here is how you apply this model to your strategic plan.

The Balanced Scorecard model ensures that a business is considering all aspects of its operations and provides a framework for measuring progress and adjusting strategies as needed.

3/ Blue Ocean Strategy Model – Strategic Plan Example 

Blue Ocean Strategy Model  is a strategy of developing and expanding a new market in which there is no competition or competition is unnecessary.

There are six basic principles for the successful implementation of a blue ocean strategy.

  • Reconstruct market boundaries:  Businesses need to rebuild market boundaries to break out of competition and form blue oceans.
  • Focus on the big picture, not the numbers:  Businesses need to focus on the big picture when planning their strategy. Don’t get bogged down in details.
  • Go beyond the existing demands:  Instead of focusing on existing products or services, they need to identify those who are non-customers or potential customers.
  • Get the strategic sequence right:  Businesses need to create a value proposition that differentiates them and adjust internal processes, systems, and people.
  • Overcome organizational obstacles.  To successfully implement the Blue Ocean Strategy, the business will need buy-in from all levels of the organization and communicate strategy effectively.
  • Strategy Execution.  Businesses implement strategy while minimizing operational risks and preventing sabotage from within.

strategic planning model example

Strategic Plan Example: The following is an example of applications of the Blue Ocean Model.

Let’s continue to assume that you are an organic soap business owner. 

  • Reconstruct market boundaries:  Your business can define a new market space by creating a line of soaps that are only for sensitive skin.
  • Focus on the big picture, not the numbers:  Instead of just focusing on profits, your business can create value for customers by emphasizing natural and organic ingredients in soap products.
  • Go beyond the existing demands:  You can tap into new demand by identifying non-customers, such as those with sensitive skin. Then create compelling reasons for them to use your product.
  • Get the strategic sequence right:  Your business can create a value proposition that sets it apart from competitors, in this case with natural and organic ingredients. Then align its internal processes, systems, and people to deliver on that promise.
  • Overcome organizational obstacles:  To successfully implement this strategy, your business needs support from all levels of stakeholders for this new product. 
  • Strategy Execution:  Your business can build performance metrics and adjust the strategy over time to ensure they’re performing effectively.

Here are some popular tools to help you have an effective strategic plan:

Tools For Data Gathering and Analysis

#1 – pest analysis.

PEST is an analysis tool that helps your business understand the “big picture” of the business environment (usually macro-environmental) in which you are participating, thereby identifying opportunities and potential threats. 

strategic planning model example

PEST Analysis will evaluate this environment through the following 4 factors:

  • Politics:  Institutional and legal factors can affect the viability and development of any industry.
  • Economics:  Organizations need to pay attention to both short-term and long-term economic factors and government intervention to decide which industries and areas to invest in.
  • Social:  Each country and territory has its own unique cultural values and social factors. These factors create the characteristics of consumers in those regions, which make a huge impact on all products, services, markets, and consumers.
  • Technology:  Technology is an important factor because it has a profound impact on products, services, markets, suppliers, distributors, competitors, customers, manufacturing processes, marketing practices, and the position of organizations.

PEST analysis helps your business understand the business environment. From there, you can map out a clear strategic plan, make the most of the opportunities that come your way, minimize the threats and easily overcome the challenges.

#2 – Porter’s Five Forces

Five Forces represent 5 competitive forces that need to be analyzed to assess the long-term attractiveness of a market or a segment in a particular industry, thereby helping your business have an effective development strategy. 

Here are those 5 forces

  • Threat from new opponents
  • Power of suppliers
  • Threat from substitute products and services
  • Power of customers
  • The fierce competition of competitors in the same industry

These five factors have a dialectical relationship with each other, showing the competition in the industry. Therefore, you need to analyze these factors and develop strategies to identify what is particularly attractive and outstanding for the business. 

#3 – SWOT Analysis

More than being a model for strategic planning, SWOT is a valuable tool for conducting market analysis. By utilizing SWOT, you can pinpoint the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your organization before implementing a successful strategy.

Tools For Strategy Development and Implementation

#4 – scenario planning .

Scenario planning is a strategic planning tool that considers multiple future scenarios and evaluates their potential for an organization. 

The scenario planning process has two stages:

  • Identifying the key uncertainties and trends that could shape the future.
  • Developing multiple response scenarios based on those factors.

Each scenario describes a different possible future, with its own unique set of assumptions and outcomes. By considering these scenarios, your organization can better understand various possible futures it may face, and develop strategies that are more resilient and adaptable.

strategic planning model example

#5 – Value Chain Analysis

The Value Chain Analysis model is an analytical tool for understanding how the activities within your organization will create value for customers.

There are three steps to performing a value chain analysis for an organization:

  • Divide the organization’s activities into main activities and supporting activities
  • Cost breakdown for each activity
  • Identify the fundamental activities that create customer satisfaction and organizational success

From the three steps above, your organization can more effectively measure its capabilities by identifying and evaluating each activity. Then each value-creation activity is considered a resource to create a competitive advantage for the organization.

#6 – Critical Success Factors

Critical Success Factors (CSF) refer to the causes that lead to the success of a business or set out what employees need to do to help their business to achieve success.

Some helpful questions for determining your business’s CSF include:

  • What factors are likely to lead to the desired outcome of the business?
  • What requirements must exist to produce that result?
  • What tools does the business need to achieve that goal?
  • What skills does the business need to achieve that goal?

By defining the CSF, your business can create a common reference point for what it needs to do to achieve its goals, thereby motivating the workforce to get there.

strategic planning model example

#7 – A Balanced Scorecard

Besides being a model for strategic planning, A Balanced Scorecard is a performance management tool that helps you track progress toward your strategic objectives. It also helps you to measure and communicate your progress to stakeholders.

#8 – Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas

Apart from functioning as a strategic planning model, the Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas assists in recognizing new market opportunities by aligning your organization’s offerings with those of your competitors. 

By using this tool, you can identify areas where your organization can stand out and generate new demand.

Tools For Measurement and Evaluation

#9 – key performance indicators.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is a tools to measure and evaluate work performance. KPIs are usually expressed through numbers, ratios, and quantitative indicators, to reflect the performance of groups or divisions of the business.

KPIs help businesses monitor and evaluate the performance of employees in a transparent, clear, specific, and fair manner thanks to specific data.

strategic planning model example

>> Learn more about  KPI versus OKR

Tools For Brainstorming  

#10 – mind mapping.

Mind mapping is a visual tool that can be used during the strategic planning process to help with brainstorming and organizing ideas. It is a method of visually representing information and ideas by drawing a diagram. 

Besides helping discover new ideas, it helps to find connections between various strategic objectives, which can ensure that the strategic plan is comprehensive and effective.

AhaSlides  offers several  features  that can be useful for your strategic planning.

AhaSlides allows you to create engaging and interactive presentations that can be used to communicate complex ideas or gather feedback. Along with  pre-made templates , we also have features like  live polls ,  quizzes , and live  Q&A  sessions that help you encourage engagement. As well as ensuring that all stakeholders have a voice and can provide input into the planning process.

Besides, the  word cloud  allows team members to collaborate and generate new ideas during strategic planning, which can help identify new opportunities or solutions to challenges that may arise.

Overall, AhaSlides is a valuable tool for strategic planning since it promotes communication, cooperation, and data-driven decision-making.

Having a well-defined strategic plan example is critical for any organization to achieve its goals and objectives. Therefore, with the information in the article, your organization may develop a complete strategic plan that is in line with its vision and mission, resulting in long-term growth and success.

And do not forget by using various strategic planning tools and models such as SWOT analysis, Balanced Scorecard, and Blue Ocean Strategy,… your organization can identify its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, track progress toward its goals, and develop innovative strategies to differentiate itself in the market. 

Besides, digital tools like AhaSlides can aid in the effectiveness of the strategic planning process. 

Best IT strategic plan example?

Creating a comprehensive IT strategic plan is essential for organizations to align their technology initiatives with their overall business goals. While there isn’t a single “best” IT strategic plan that fits all organizations, please remember that the Key Initiatives should include: (1) Identification of major IT initiatives and projects for the planning period. (2) Detailed descriptions of each initiative, including objectives, scope, and expected outcomes. and (3) Alignment of each initiative with specific strategic goals.

What is effective strategic planning?

Effective strategic planning is a structured and forward-thinking process that organizations use to define their long-term vision, set clear objectives, and determine the actions required to achieve their goals. Effective strategic planning goes beyond creating a document; it involves engaging stakeholders, aligning resources, and continually adapting to changing circumstances.

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Basic descriptions of the different strategic planning models, learn strategic planning without incurring travel costs.

The Series Facilitating Strategic Plannin g from the Consultants Development Institute provides virtual courses and numerous downloadable tools to learn to facilitate strategic planning. Concurrently you customize your own relevant and realistic Strategic Plan and earn a Certificate in Facilitating Strategic Planning.

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC . (The reader might best be served to first read the information on the topic of Strategic Planning .)

Sections of This Topic Include

Model one – conventional strategic planning, model two – issues-based strategic planning, model three – organic strategic planning.

  • Model Four – Real-Time Strategic Planning
  • Model Five – Alignment Model of Strategic Planning
  • Model Six – Inspirational Model of Strategic Planning
  • Be Careful About Just Filling In a Template !

To Begin Customizing Your Approach to Strategic Planning …

Also, consider Related Library Topics

Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Strategic Planning Models

In addition to the information on this current page, see the following blogs which have posts related to Strategic Planning Models. Scan down the blog’s page to see various posts. Also, see the section “Recent Blog Posts” in the sidebar of the blog or click on “Next” near the bottom of a post in the blog.

  • Library’s Business Planning Blog
  • Library’s Leadership Blog
  • Library’s Project Management Blog
  • Library’s Strategic Planning Blog

Choose the Best Model — and Customize It as You Go Along

There is no one perfect strategic planning process, or model, to use the same way all the time with every organization. Each organization should customize the best approach to suit the culture of its members, the current situation in and around the organization, and the purpose of its planning.

This Web page briefly describes several different models of strategic planning, along with basic guidelines for choosing each. There is no strong agreement among experts in strategic planning as to which approaches are indeed “models” or how each is best implemented. The purpose of this Web page is to present different perspectives and options regarding strategic planning to help planners ensure their plans are the most relevant, realistic, and flexible.

Planners can select the most appropriate model and then modify it to suit the nature and needs of their organization. For example, different organizations might have different names for the different phases and emphasize certain phases more than others in the model.

This document does not include detailed descriptions and directions for implementing each model. Those are available in the articles and books referenced in the topic “All About Strategic Planning” in the Free Management Library at

NOTE: The following models can be done with different styles. For example, some may prefer a rather top-down and even autocratic way of planning and making decisions. Others might prefer more inclusive and consensus-based planning. Some might prefer a very problem-centered approach, while others might prefer a more strength-based approach, for example, to use Appreciative Inquiry.

This is the most common model of strategic planning, although it is not suited for every organization. It is ideal for organizations that have sufficient resources to pursue very ambitious visions and goals, have external environments that are relatively stable, and do not have a large number of current issues to address. The model usually includes the following overall phases:

1. Develop or update the mission and optionally, vision and/or values statements.

2. Take a wide look around the outside and a good look inside the organization, and perhaps update the statements as a result.

3. As a result of this examination, select the multi-year strategies and/or goals to achieve the vision.

4. Then develop action plans that specify who is going to do what and by when to achieve each goal.

5. Identify associated plans, for example, staffing, facilities, marketing, and financial plans.

6. Organize items 1-3 into a Strategic Plan and items 4-6 into a separate one-year Operational Plan.

This model works best for organizations that have very limited resources, several current and major issues to address, little success with achieving ambitious goals, and/or very little buy-in to strategic planning. Using the conventional model of strategic planning for these organizations is a bit like focusing on the vision of running a marathon and deciding the detailed route and milestones — while concurrently having heart problems, bad feet, and no running clothes.

This model might include the following phases:

1. Identify 5-7 of the most important current issues facing the organization now.

2. Suggest action plans to address each issue over the next 6-12 months.

3. Include that information in a Strategic Plan.

After an issues-based plan has been implemented and the current, major issues are resolved, then the organization might undertake the more ambitious conventional model. Many people might assert that issues-based planning is really internal development planning, rather than strategic planning. Others would argue that the model is very strategic because it positions the organization for much more successful outward-looking and longer-term planning later on.

The conventional model is considered by some people to be too confining and linear in nature. They believe that the approach to planning too often produces a long sequence of orderly activities to do as if organizations will remain static and predictable while all of those activities are underway. Other people believe that organizations are robust and dynamic systems that are always changing, so a plan produced from conventional planning might quickly become obsolete.

That is true, especially if planning is meant to achieve a very long-term vision for many people, for example, for a community or even generations of people. The organic model is based on the premise that the long-term vision is best achieved by everyone working together toward the vision, but with each person regularly doing whatever actions that he or she decides to do toward that vision. The model might include the following phases:

1. With as many people as can be gathered, for example, from the community or generation, articulate the long-term vision and perhaps values to work toward the vision.

2. Each person leaves that visioning, having selected at least one realistic action that he or she will take toward the vision before the group meets again, for example, in a month or two.

3. People meet regularly to report the actions that they took and what they learned from them. The vision might be further clarified during these meetings.

4. Occasionally, the vision and the lists of accomplished and intended actions are included in a Strategic Plan.

Model Four — Real-Time Strategic Planning

Similar to the organic model of planning, this model is suited especially for people who believe that organizations are often changing much too rapidly for long-term, detailed planning to remain relevant. These experts might assert that planning for an organization should be done continuously, or in “real time.” The real-time planning model is best suited, especially to organizations with very rapidly changing environments outside the organization.

1. Articulate the mission, and perhaps the vision and/or values.

2. Assign planners to research the external environment and, as a result, to suggest a list of opportunities and threats facing the organization.

3. Present the lists to the Board and other members of the organization for strategic thinking and discussions.

4. Soon after (perhaps during the next month) assign planners to evaluate the internal workings of the organization and, as a result, to suggest a list of strengths and weaknesses in the organization.

5. Present these lists to the Board and other members of the organization for strategic thinking and discussions, perhaps using a SWOT analysis to analyze all four lists.

6. Repeat steps 2-5 regularly, for example, every six months or year, and document the results in a Strategic Plan.

Model Five — Alignment Model of Strategic Planning

The primary purpose of this model is to ensure strong alignment of the organization’s internal operations with achieving an overall goal, for example, to increase productivity or profitability, or to successfully integrate a new cross-functional system, such as a new computer system. Overall phases in this model might include:

1. Establish the overall goal for the alignment.

2. Analyze which internal operations are most directly aligned with achieving that goal, and which are not.

3. Establish goals to more effectively align operations to achieving the overall goal. Methods to achieving the goals might include organizational performance management models, for example, Business Process Re-engineering, or models of quality management, such as the TQM or ISO models.

4. Include that information in the Strategic Plan.

Similar to issues-based planning, many people might assert that the alignment model is really internal development planning, rather than strategic planning. Similarly, others would argue that the model is very strategic because it positions the organization for much more successful outward-looking and longer-term planning later on.

Inspirational Model of Strategic Planning

This model is sometimes used when planners see themselves as having very little time available for planning and/or there is a high priority on rather quickly producing a Strategic Plan document. Overall phases in this model might include:

1. Attempt to gather Board members and key employees together for planning.

2. Begin by fantasizing about a highly inspirational vision for the organization — or by giving extended attention to the wording in the mission statement, especially to include powerful and poignant wording.

3. Then brainstorm exciting, far-reaching goals to even more effectively serve customers and clients.

4. Then include the vision and goals of the Strategic Plan.

While this model can be highly energizing, it might produce a Plan that is far too unrealistic (especially for an organization that already struggles to find time for planning) and, as a result, can be less likely to make a strategic impact on the organization and those it serves. Many experts might assert that these planners are confusing the map (the Strategic Plan document) with the journey (the necessary strategic thinking). However, it might be the only approach that would generate some outword-focused discussion and also a Plan that, otherwise, would not have been written.

To begin customizing your approach to strategic planning, including the model to choose, see Always First Do “Plan for a Plan”

For the Category of Strategic Planning:

To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

  • Related Library Topics
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Home Blog Business A Comprehensive Guide to Strategic Planning for Success

A Comprehensive Guide to Strategic Planning for Success

PPT High Level Overview Strategic Planning

Every organization has grand goals on their business agenda. However, there’s a long way between formulating those goals and seeing the results of their successful accomplishment. A lot of things can happen in-between – the project can get side-tracked, the timeline may change and new threats may emerge. To get a better sense of what needs to be accomplished and how? most managers regularly engage in strategic planning (short and long term).

Table of Content

What is Strategic Planning?

Why is strategic planning important, benefits of strategic planning, business plan vs. strategic plan: what’s the difference, when strategic planning should occur, strategic planning models, strategic planning frameworks.

  • A Vision Statement
  • The Mission Statement
  • Core Values
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Long-Term Goals
  • Shorter-Term Goals
  • Action Plans

How to Create a One-Page Strategic Plan (OPSP)


A strategic plan is a document that reflects how a company plans to function and grow over a significant period of time, usually three-to-five years. It is based on a mission/vision statement, stated core values, and goals.

A strategic plan also includes all the steps an organization needs to take in order to get where it needs to be. Why is strategic planning important? Because it focuses on an entire organization on long-term goals and allows managers and supervisors to develop plans that will work toward meeting them.

Strategic planning serves as the foundation for an organization’s success by providing a clear roadmap for achieving its goals and objectives. It offers several essential benefits that contribute to its significance:

  • Proactive Approach: Strategic planning allows organizations to be proactive rather than reactive. By anticipating future challenges and opportunities, organizations can position themselves to capitalize on favorable circumstances and mitigate potential risks.
  • Alignment of Efforts: A well-developed strategic plan aligns all departments and functions of an organization toward a common purpose. This alignment fosters unity, reduces silos, and promotes collaboration among teams.
  • Resource Allocation: Strategic planning enables organizations to allocate resources effectively by directing investments toward initiatives that align with the overall strategy. This prevents the wastage of resources on unrelated or redundant projects.
  • Informed Decision-Making: With a strategic plan in place, decision-makers have a clear framework to guide their choices. This ensures that decisions are consistent with the organization’s long-term goals and vision.
  • Performance Measurement: Strategic plans provide measurable goals and objectives, allowing organizations to track their progress and measure success. This measurement provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of strategies and the need for adjustments.
  • Engagement and Buy-In: Involving stakeholders in the strategic planning process fosters engagement and ownership. When employees understand the organization’s goals and how their roles contribute, they are more motivated to work toward its success.
  • Adaptability: A strategic plan equips organizations with a structured approach to adapt to changing environments. Whether facing disruptions or opportunities, organizations with strategic plans can adjust quickly and effectively.
  • Clear Direction: Strategic planning provides a clear direction for the organization, ensuring that everyone is working towards the same goals.
  • Improved Decision-Making: Strategic plans guide decision-making by aligning choices with long-term objectives, reducing uncertainty, and fostering better choices.
  • Enhanced Resource Allocation: By identifying priorities and allocating resources strategically, organizations make the most of their available resources.
  • Increased Accountability: Clearly defined goals and action plans make it easier to hold individuals and teams accountable for their contributions.
  • Better Communication: A strategic plan serves as a communication tool, conveying the organization’s mission, vision, and objectives to stakeholders.
  • Cohesive Teamwork: When everyone understands the big picture, collaboration and teamwork improve, leading to more effective outcomes.
  • Effective Performance Measurement: Strategic plans provide measurable benchmarks for tracking performance and success over time.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Strategic plans are designed to be adaptable, allowing organizations to respond to changing circumstances effectively.
  • Stakeholder Alignment: Engaging stakeholders in the planning process fosters alignment and commitment to the organization’s goals.
  • Competitive Advantage: A well-executed strategic plan positions an organization ahead of competitors by capitalizing on strengths and seizing opportunities.

Strategic plans should not be confused with business plans. A business plan is a document that is developed when launching a business describing the business model and its components, explaining the business potential and attempting to raise capital (loans or investment). Once a company is established (up and running), it is time for a detailed strategic plan that would outline growth and perhaps digital transformations .

There is no single time that is right for all businesses, but, rather, it depends on the company’s unique situation and its industry. But there are certain times when it’s worth to think about it:

  • If the industry is evolving quickly and competition is becoming brisk.
  • At the time of product launch, if the products/services are fully developed, as part of the go-to-market strategy.
  • At the beginning of a new fiscal year.
  • If government regulations are causing a change in process, production, etc.
  • If the company itself is contemplating a new initiative.
  • If a previous strategic plan is old and in need of re-evaluation.

So, how does a manager go about designing a strategic plan? The first step would be to choose the right model or framework.

The Basics of Strategic Planning: Models and Frameworks

All strategic plans sit atop of a model and a framework. A model is a structure that you design for your plan, while the strategic planning frameworks are the details that you place within that model to achieve and evaluate progress toward the goals of your plan – for example, specific objectives, action plans, resources, and evaluative process.

Strategic Planning Models

Over the years, a number of models and related frameworks have been developed. So, let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones, along with several strategic planning templates.

The Basic Plan : Open up with a mission statement, formulate the mid-range goals, and specify strategies for achieving these. Sometimes, loftier goals may be divided into smaller strategic objectives. In any case, however, there should be action plans for each objective, spelling out what is to be done, when it will be done, and who will be responsible for each task.

The Cascade Strategy Planning Model : The model begins with a vision statement, much like the mission statement in the model above. It states why the organization is in existence. Beyond this, the structure includes value statements/core beliefs, areas for focus (goals), and then specific objectives that are translated to action plans or projects. The model includes lists of KPI’s and how those will be measured.

The Scenario Model : The idea behind this model is to construct a variety of scenarios that could occur due to external events or changes – regulations, demographics, etc. – and make plans for addressing those issues. The business identifies its vulnerabilities or threats, including the best and worst-case outcomes, and then develops a series of action plans for each one. Usually, the scenario model attempts to anticipate issues that might be faced over a long period of time, generally three-to-five years.

The Goal-Based Model : As the title implies, organizations establish prioritized goals/objectives, and then align them with respective action plans. Some goals will be short-term, some – intermediate, and some long-term. The structure is created after goals a prioritized and followed by action plans for achievement. This model also includes monitoring and assessment of progress at stated intervals.

Remember, frameworks are the actions you will take as you develop your strategic plan and the details that will go into its structure. Here are some of the popular ones in strategic management:

SWOT stands for strengths , weaknesses , opportunities  and threats . Strengths and weaknesses are internal conditions; opportunities and threats refer to external forces. Identifying each of these elements will point out to the organization their areas for growth and improvement are and will assist them in developing the goals for their strategic planning.

SWOT Diagram for PowerPoint by SlideModel.

PEST is an acronym for Political, Economic, Socio-cultural, and Technological . These are all external factors that could impact a business, for good or bad. They are identified and plans then made to respond to each factor.

PPT Template for PEST Analysis

PEST Analysis Template for PowerPoint by SlideModel

Gap Planning : As the name implies, the gap planning framework allows an organization to identify where it is now and where it would like to be at some point in the future. This framework is generally used when internal, not external, conditions can be changed/improved. Check our separate post about how to perform a gap analysis for more insights.

PPT GAP Analysis Template

Gap Analysis PowerPoint Template by SlideModel

Blue Ocean : Organizations often live in a red ocean – an environment in which there is lots of competition, and strategic goals must relate to competing in an existing marketplace, beating that competition, and working to gain more of an existing customer base. The goal of this framework is to determine how an organization can move into a blue ocean of new marketplaces and new customer bases.

Blue Ocean vs Red Ocean PPT Template

Blue Ocean Strategy PowerPoint Template by SlideModel

VRIO stands for “value, rarity, imitability, organization.” The framework allows a company to identify opportunities for growth, how to become more competitive with products/services that cannot easily be imitated, and how an organization can be structured to take advantage of the value and rarity it has planned for.

VRIO Model PowerPoint Template

VRIO Model PowerPoint Template by SlideModel

Now that you have some tools and editable strategic planning templates at your disposal, let’s take a closer look at the key strategic planning steps.

How to Write a Strategic Plan Using The 7 Elements Technique

Strategy development and planning are complex tasks and it’s easy to approach them from the wrong angle. The easiest way to approach this task is to base your strategic planning outline around the following 7 elements.

How to Write a Strategic Plan Using The 7 Elements Technique

1. A Vision Statement

This is your “big” statement, taking into account what the ultimate goal for your business is. It’s what you want when you finally can say, this organization is a great success.

Here are several inspiring vision statements for reference:

  • Teach for America: One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.
  • WWF: We seek to save a planet, a world of life.
  • Toms Shoes: The responsibility of providing for the comfort of children in impoverished regions worldwide.

2. The Mission Statement

A mission statement is one of the key elements of a strategy. It helps to formulate and formalize what your organization does, why it does what it does, and who it does it for. What value does your product or service bring to your target customers? What gap in your niche/industry are you filling? How will you improve people’s lives through your product or service? Brainstorm answers to these questions as part of your strategy development session.

3. Core Values

These relate to how you intend to do business and usually reflect a larger picture . Are you committed to product quality? How about diversity? Are environmental sustainability and social responsibility a part of your company’s actions and behaviors? Is full customer satisfaction an abiding focus? Sit down with your team and come up with values to which everyone should commit – three or four that will guide everyone’s behaviors. To complement this section, you can use one of the core values slides for presentations.

4. SWOT Analysis

Performing a SWOT analysis will help you understand how you currently stand out in your niche, what will it take to grow your business further and what vulnerabilities and risks you should address. A standard SWOT analysis accounts for both internal and external factors . To complement this section, you can reuse one of our SWOT slide templates for PowerPoint and Google Slides.

5. Long-Term Goals

Looking beyond just the next year is critical for a business that intends to grow. These may not necessarily be included in your current strategic plan, but you must have those in mind as you develop annual goals/objectives. And you may want to develop a three or five-year strategic plan and then strategic sub-plans on an annual basis.

6. Shorter-Term Goals

These should usually be annual in nature, and they may relate to various parts of an organization, depending on its needs. You might have an annual sales increase goal; you might develop a goal that relates to bringing technology up to date to streamline supply chain management or customer service.

7. Action Plans

Next, for each goal you’ll have to develop an action plan that accounts for the following:

  • What activities will occur to bring about the change?
  • Who is responsible for the activities that will take place?
  • What is the timeline for the completion of the activities?
  • What resources (money, staff, etc.) will be required?
  • What stakeholders need to be kept informed of activities and progress?

Once you’ve developed a draft, ask the following questions:

  • Is the plan clear, and do all participants understand exactly what their roles are?
  • Have any outside participants been included (e.g., are there regulatory agencies that must be involved or communicated with)?
  • Does the plan anticipate potential events that could have positive or negative progress?
  • Is there an activity in place to evaluate progress and success?

These 7 elements are sufficient for creating a detailed 3- to 5-year strategic plan. However, you can also settle for a shorter, more agile version – a one-page strategic plan.

Can this even be done, given all that must-go into a strategic plan? The short answer is yes. Verne Harnish, CEO of Gazelles consultancy, originally popularized this concept. His main idea is that if you want to ensure that all people in your company are on board with the new strategy, you should be able to fit it into just one page.

There are plenty of OPSP templates that a manager can use to develop this type of plan, and here are a few tips as one is completed:

  • Include mission/vision statement(s) and goals (targets) – include long-term goals and from those the focus goals for the next years.
  • Answer the questions who, what, when, where, how, and why relative to goals/action plans.
  • Ask and answer the challenging questions: Should We do this? Why? These identify the core values.
  • List action plans and responsibilities, as well as time frames.

Note : Full action plans will obviously include much more detail than space will allow on the OPSP. These can be developed separately, including stakeholders in the process, and available for anyone to view if and when they wish.

PPT Template One Page Strategy Plan

Strategic planning is a complex process. It involves many steps and many key elements of a plan, no matter what specific frameworks or templates are chosen for the design and development. To recap, the keys to successful planning are the following:

  • Involve as many stakeholders as possible, especially those who will be responsible for managing the implementation and the action plans.
  • Involve representatives from top to bottom of an organization, so that there is much buy-in and sense of ownership as possible.
  • If a business is new to this process, it may be wise to bring in a strategic planning consultant for the initial plan development.
  • Without the element of measuring progress and achievement, a strategic plan is just a document to go into a file. Focus and accountability will just not happen.

Most of all, remember this: strategic plans are not inflexible documents. Internal and external environments change; things just happen. Re-visiting, modifying, and updating will always be necessary.

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One Response to “A Comprehensive Guide to Strategic Planning for Success”

An excellent summary of how a strategic plan is done. A must have for business administration students.

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