Strategic Planning: Actionable Steps Toward Meeting Goals

John Cousins
March 4, 2023
4 min read

Strategic Planning is the application of strategic thinking to create actionable steps toward meeting goals. It’s a process of codifying the steps an organization needs to take to progress towards accomplishing its mission. Strategic planning creates organizational focus by providing criteria for consistent decision-making that is aligned with the organization’s goals.

It’s about setting goals and developing a roadmap to get from here to there. Strategic planning is assembling the pieces of the puzzle in the most effective way to achieve those goals.

Strategic planning is done as a periodic process of planning session involving strategic thinking and brainstorming. It might be an annual retreat for a day or weekend. The participants convene with the initial goal of reaching consensus on the desired future of the organization. Once the goals are identified, the strategic thinkers develop a set of guidelines and decision rules for pursuing that future.

Strategic planning focuses on core competencies and what is required to create the desired fit between the organization and the external environment. Strategy is seeking to set the conditions for optimal performance.

Strategic planning is a negotiated process that incorporates consensus and judgment. It requires evaluating and analyzing performance metrics to double down on successes and address problems.

There are programmatic ways to conduct strategic planning sessions to stay on track and complete the plan in the fixed amount of time set for the sessions. These sessions aren’t just free-for-alls, they need to be kept orderly and led. The strategic planning process provides a sequential series of steps for creating a strategy document.

The end product is a document: the strategic plan. This document reflects the thinking of the moment, but it should not be taken as set in stone. The planning process is dynamic and ongoing. The plan is a static representation of the process at a given time.

The plan is open to modification as we encounter new information. It is not the plan per se, but the planning process that is most useful.

“Plans are useless, but planning is invaluable.”

Winston Churchill

Strategic planning provides guidelines and guard rails for decision-making and operations.

Strategic planning takes analyzing and understanding the current situation and the competitive landscape. It takes the analysis of the internal and external environment and develops the optimal fit between an organizations core competencies, competitive forces, and customer needs and desires.

The process is to develop and refine the organization’s direction. Success is measured by an organization’s effectiveness in its environment.

A common mission, vision, and set of organizational values and goals drive strategy. This is the directional strategy or “what the organization wants to do”.

Strategic goals are not just a question of what management wants to do, but what the organization is capable of.

The organization’s operations, resources, competencies, and capabilities influence strategy. This internal assessment represents “what the organization can do.”

Strategy Implementation

Implementation is a crucial component of strategic management. Implementation is taking the results of the plan and creating actionable elements that are infused through the organization.

Implementation is where we turn the plan into practice and performance. It’s easy to sit around and dream up great things to do, it is another to roll up the sleeves and get down to the doing.

Decision consistency is a hallmark of strategic implementation. Successful strategic implementation is indicated when an organization exhibits consistent behavior.

Implementation plans prioritize the key areas that create value for an organization. These include how products and services are developed and delivered and what support activities are required.

Implementation is how we make strategy work. This takes buy-in and ownership by all the stakeholders that are ultimately relied upon to affect the strategy.

It is also critical in the implantation phase to consider that for every strategic initiative you attempt to make actionable, you also create pernicious effects on employee behavior. Its human nature to figure out the best way to game a system to one’s benefit and you must be on the look out for these unintended consequences.

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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