Strategic Planning Guide: Definition, Steps and Benefits

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 3 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Strategic planning refers to creating a plan that helps businesses achieve long-term goals. Executives use a predefined strategy to navigate processes, allocate resources and accomplish goals in the most efficient way. Learning about strategy planning can help you put together a full set of requirements and tasks that lead to the best results. In this article, we explain what a strategic planning guide is, explain which stakeholders can contribute to one and discuss the benefits of strategic planning.

What is a strategic planning guide?

A strategic planning guide is a vital part of a company's success as it helps a team navigate goals, tasks, performance indicators and obstacles. Here's an overview of the most essential steps:

1. Analyse the current position

Creating a feasible and measurable strategic plan requires you to understand the current performance metrics. This stage involves a detailed analysis of the company's issues, vision, assets and KPIs. Organise a meeting with stakeholders to gather market trends, customer feedback and insights from employees.

The initial analysis can begin with a SWOT diagram that describes the company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Use data from both internal and external sources that may influence the position in the market and growth potential. Besides SWOT, conduct a PEST analysis that covers political, economic, socio-cultural and technological risks and opportunities that the business bears.

Related: How to Create KPIs to Boost Performance

2. Determine the goals

Taking the time to understand the company's current operating environment can allow you to identify objectives that can help the company excel. It's also helpful to align your goals with the company's vision and core values. After you have determined the most significant objectives, prioritise them in the order that can bring the most benefits and efficiency. For example, choose the goals with the greatest positive impact first, such as customer acquisition or increase in revenue. Also, consider prioritising goals that are easier and quicker to achieve rather than years-long objectives.

It's imperative to set measurable goals with clear KPIs to evaluate the success of your actions. The objectives can include lead generation, revenue growth or click-through rates for the ads and other marketing campaigns. Without clear quantifiable measurements, it can be challenging to assess results objectively and improve strategy.

Related: Goals and Objectives: What's the Difference? (With Tips)

3. Develop a strategy map

Strategy maps are used to create a visual plan for the entire organisation to follow. It shows a clear connection and causality between different objectives. Visualising your strategy can help you understand the action plan on a deeper level and uncover areas for improvement. The map also includes a clear timeline that helps you meet deadlines and plan short-term goals to attain long-term success.

The process of strategy mapping can enhance communication across the company and allow employees to agree on the goals and tactics in simple terms. Map development also requires reaching compromises and sacrificing or pushing some goals that may be less vital at this moment. Establishing clear and open communication channels within the company can help with your future projects.

4. Assign ownership for each step

Redesign your vague strategy map into a concrete plan with granular tasks and milestones. Match each small objective with corresponding KPIs and assignees that are responsible for the execution and success of the planned actions. Finally, determine the check-in points and organise individual and collective meetings to discuss the direction, possible issues and solutions.

5. Reevaluate your plan

Analyse the performance indicators of each step of the plan and identify its weaknesses. If you want to adapt to the ever-changing market quickly, staying flexible is a key part of long-term success. Meet with your team regularly to reevaluate your strategy and come up with new or updated actions. This step requires you to restart the entire strategic planning process, from market analysis, goals resetting and strategy map development to execution.

Related: What Is Business Operations? (With Components and Tips)

Strategic planning stakeholders

Strategic planning is a process that includes several stakeholders, such as senior managers, strategists and board members. Whether you're a senior team member or an entry-level one, you can become a crucial part of the process and affect the entire outcome.

If you're deciding who to involve, any motivated team member who expresses a desire to participate and contribute can help, even if they're not in leadership positions. If you're not sure about whom to involve, invite them to the initial meeting and evaluate their attitude. People who actively collaborate and voice their opinions are worth keeping on your strategic team. Consider inviting an external consultant to keep your meetings professional, calm and objective. It may be difficult for executives to make some decisions about the company and remain unbiased about their previous accomplishments. An outside consultant can stay impartial.

Strategic planning advantages

The central benefit of strategic planning is to create an easy-to-understand roadmap that can lead to long-term business success. Here's a list of the most crucial benefits that strategic planning can bring to a business:

Improves communication across the company

Strategy planning is a collaborative activity that involves employees, executives, suppliers, investors and customers. Even entry-level employees might have important insights that can potentially result in drastic improvements. Vendors and business partners can bring in crucial market expertise and a unique perspective that can help a business swiftly adapt to the changing industry. Finally, involve customers in the planning process by allowing them to share their thoughts about the company as a whole to identify potential problems.

Including all stakeholders in the process requires establishing a transparent and trusting work environment that encourages candidness. To pursue this model, make sure that employees and other participants feel comfortable sharing their opinions, thoughts and concerns. If you're in an executive position, a good leadership tip is to demonstrate the practice yourself by brainstorming ideas and encouraging others to join in with their thoughts without criticism.

Increases productivity

Following a clear and defined strategy plan helps employees to focus on their tasks. If you're an executive or manager, write down the strategic plan and explain it to everyone involved so that people know what exactly they need to do and when to accomplish their goals. Employees who were a part of the strategy creation process are more likely to have a sense of shared responsibility for the company's success and work harder on delivering quality work.

Related: Business Development Defined (With Answers to FAQs)

Reveals shortcomings

Strategy planning is an ongoing process that occurs every quarter, which allows you to stay alert about the company's performance indicators. By continuously learning and analysing the weaknesses of the company, you increase predictability and minimise the chances of failure. Assessing the strengths of the company and the market can help you discover hidden opportunities and expand the business.

When to perform strategic planning

The right time to begin strategic planning depends on the company itself and the market situation. The most common reasons for launching a strategic plan are the following:

Vast market fluctuations

If the industry you work in is experiencing unexpected fluctuations, it might be the perfect time for strategic planning, as it can help you adapt quickly to change. These changes can be seasonal and predictable or caused by external factors, such as economic crises. Addressing them in your strategy and attempting to maximise the benefits can help you achieve desirable outcomes in performance metrics and revenue.

Internal changes

If you're working on a new initiative that might influence the company, conducting a thorough company analysis followed by a comprehensive strategy might be highly beneficial. For example, during a business expansion or acquisition, a business can undergo many operational changes. Thinking about them in advance can give you a chance to make the transition easier for everyone.

New industry guidelines or initiatives

Another common reason for creating a strategic plan is to make sure an organisation complies with new regulations and laws in your industry. For example, new data privacy laws or green initiatives can significantly impact your operations and product line. Sometimes these laws come into effect with no prior warning. This puts the responsibility of compliance solely on your stakeholders.

Unsatisfactory performance results

If you're working in a startup, launching a strategic planning session in the starting days of the company might be unnecessary. In fact, you require initial KPIs to start out and move along the pipeline to achieve better indicators. After a few months, when you have a better understanding of the market and the product, a strategic plan can be more precise, meaningful and feasible.

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