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, with OnStrategy. Today’s whiteboard session is, what is strategic planning, really? And I wanted to do this whiteboard session because oftentimes we debate the merits of strategic planning and what it really is or isn’t. That’s a no-win discussion. What really matters is understanding what the strategic planning process needs to do for your organization now. One way to think about this is by asking what’s different because of the strategic planning process 12 months from now.

But, before I sort of jump into this, there is no right answer, there is just the right fit. Everybody on your executive team, or your board, or whomever the decision makers are in your organization, must you all agree on, “Yes, this is the outcome from the process and this is what strategic planning means to us at this place, in this time.”

Outcome 1 – Articulated Plan
The very first part of strategic planning is having an articulated plan. An articulated plan is very simply, where are we going and why. That’s the first place to start when you think about a strategic planning process – simply having a strategic plan that gives you focus.

Outcome 2 – Strategic Differentiation
If you want the strategic plan to be strategic, you need to take it out to the next level of expression. This means adding in an understanding of your differentiation. What are we best at, where we’re going to play, how we’re going win. You need to do the research from a competitive perspective, a market perspective, and a customer perspective to answer those questions.

Outcome 3 – Organization Alignment
The next expression of planning is aligning our organization around our plan. This answers what’s important right now and who must do what. What this looks like is taking the big ideas in your strategic plan, those big priorities you’re focusing on and breaking them down through the organization. Everybody wants organizational alignment, but taking this one step at a time is important. So, perhaps you articulate implementing one set of focus this year and then take it a step further in the next year.

Outcome 4 – Organizational Transformation
So, we have a plan that’s strategic and our organization is aligned it. If we want to take it further and experience organizational transformation, we need to put a process around managing the plan so it doesn’t just sit on the shelf. It answers the question, “Are we making progress and do we need to adapt the strategy?”. So this is the agility part of having a strategic plan – having a static plan is a big complaint people have about strategic planning. Make it dynamic by putting a rhythm in place. We recommend a monthly or quarterly review process to talk about progress against plan, making adaptations, and feeding it throughout the organization.

So, different each outcome builds on each other. Having an articulated plan that focuses on your strategic differentiation, aligning your organization around your priorities, and driving the ongoing execution process will transform your organization.

With that, good luck, clarify your outcomes, happy strategizing.


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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