What is Strategic Planning, Really? (4 mins)

By Erica Olsen

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What is Strategic Planning, Really?

Before starting any strategic planning process, it is essential to make sure your staff or team members have the same expectations of what the outcomes will be. This video explains the different possible outcomes that can arise from strategic planning. It can range from simply having an articulated plan to a full-blown organizational transformation. Choose the result that is right for your organization.

For more resources on building your strategic plan, view the Essentials Guide to Strategic Planning.

Video Transcript

Hi. My name is Erica Olsen.

Today’s topic is about what is Strategic Planning really. Strategic Planning means different things to different people, and we have found that if we’re not really clear about what we mean by strategic planning for an organization upfront before we get started, we tend to have some problems getting people engaged in the middle of the process or there’s just roadblocks or people’s resistance gets in the way.

So here are the different types of things we mean when we talk about Strategic Planning and there are different outcomes most of the time that leaders are seeking when they’re engaging in a Strategic Planning process, these built.

So let’s talk about them sequentially, and then you can think as we’re moving through what you’re really looking for in your Strategic Planning process. So at the very base level, a Strategic Planning process is an articulated plan. People want an articulated plan for their organization.

So what do I mean by that? That means we have a mission. We have a vision. We have goals, objectives, et cetera on articulated plan. Sometimes we want to add on to that, that that plan is actually strategic and you may say, “Well, it’s a strategic plan,” but that’s not necessarily true unless you bring in external data. If you don’t bring in external market data, such as what your customers think, what your competitors are doing, what’s happening in your environment, in your industry, you’re not going to have a strategic plan. You’re just going to have a plan.

Now, sometimes we don’t need a strategic plan. Sometimes we just need an articulated set of mission, vision, goals, objectives. But sometimes we really need to figure out what our strategic differentiation is in the marketplace, and in which case, to do so, you need to add in to your process that market data collection, use it to make strategic decisions about what you’re doing and not doing such as your plan actually articulates how you’re different.

Okay. So a plan that’s strategic that also drives organizational engagement. How do we drive organizational engagement? We cascade goals. And cascaded goals mean that everybody in the organization knows what their piece of the strategy in the plan are. That drives organizational engagement. And you may say, “Well, of course, I want everybody engaged,” and sometimes we want that in organization but we don’t have the wherewithal to actually make that happen, and sometimes that’s not necessary right now.

So it’s important to know if your strategic planning process is intended to drive organizational engagement or not. And if it is, you need to make sure that your plan goes all the way down to the individual levels, so everybody knows their piece of the future. So sometimes we add on to that, the want to actually drive organizational transformation using a strategic planning process. And how do we do that?

We have an articulated plan that’s strategic, that’s cascaded through the whole organization that we talk about on a regular basis and we make changes to as we move along the way, and we help shift behaviors, and we help drive choice. And we do that by visibly talking about it in specific meetings and calling quarterly business reviews. You may call them something else, but the point is we’re using this information to drive decision making and drive behavior, and we’re talking about it and we’re being visible about it.

So as you’re thinking about your strategic planning process, think about what’s important to your organization right now and get everybody on the same page about what the real outcome of your process is intended to be.


Erica Olsen

Erica Olsen is the COO and a co-founder of OnStrategy. She has developed the format and the user interface for the award-winning OnStrategy on-line strategic management system. In addition, she is the author of Strategic Planning Kit for Dummies, 2nd Edition. Erica has developed and reviewed hundreds of strategic plans for public and private entities across the country and around the world. She is a lecturer at University of Nevada Reno and University of Phoenix. She holds a BA in Communications and an MBA in International Management.
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