What Is Strategic Planning? Definition, Steps and Examples

Updated February 3, 2023

Companies often have goals, both broad and specific, of how they want to achieve success in certain ways. Strategic planning helps businesses set objectives and timelines to accomplish those goals. It provides a focus for how a company operates and makes decisions.

In this article, we will define strategic planning, discuss strategic planning techniques and give examples of effective strategic planning.

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What is strategic planning?

Strategic planning creates achievable goals through several factors, such as time management and resource allocation. Done well, strategic planning improves operations, provides focus, sets priorities and increases collaboration. It can guide and shape the future of an organization. 

If a company is new or experiencing significant change, team members may work together to create or update the strategic plan. Decision-makers may be managers, department leaders or team leaders

Related: Ultimate Guide to Strategic Planning

How to create a strategic plan

If you are part of a strategic planning committee, you can follow these steps to create an effective plan:

1. Clarify the company’s vision

One of the first steps in strategic planning is defining the vision, values and mission for the organization. The vision is the long-term objective of the business, and you should base it on ambitious but realistic goals. Values are beliefs that create the foundation for the company, and affect every part of the business, from marketing strategies to workplace culture. Values should be beliefs that you want employees to practice regularly, while the mission defines your purpose as a company. 

This could be one of the lengthier processes since your group will need to agree on the same definitions for all high-level components of the organization. 

2. Make an outline

You should create an outline that includes everything you want to discuss during your planning session. The outline guides you through a series of steps, including the assessment stage, formulating the strategy and communicating the actions necessary to advance the company toward the strategic vision.

Department leaders should research and gather information about their departments to contribute to the outline. The planning team must understand the current status of the business as well as factors that will affect it in the future. The outline also determines which employees should complete tasks to ensure the team meets objectives. 

3. Create detailed goals

Once you establish your mission and outline, discuss the goals the team wants to set. These goals should be specific with established deadlines and metrics. For example, a marketing department team could decide they want to write five articles for the company website and get a total of 15,000 page views in the next 30 days. Every week, they can review their analytics to see how close they are to meeting that goal.

Related: Setting Goals to Improve Your Career

4. Decide how to track your progress

An essential part of the strategic planning process is creating a system for tracking your progress. You can do this by regularly creating and reviewing reports. Your company may already create reports that apply to your planning. Use these to document your progress and connect your work to your strategy.

5. Involve all employees

Every employee contributes to the success of a company. Your team should communicate the mission and outline with all team members and ask for their input. Employees may have a better understanding of what the company can and can’t do. Communication with all employees also ensures that everyone is working toward the same objectives and gives them an active role in planning the company’s future.

6. Follow up routinely

Once you finish the strategic plan, revisit it periodically. Meet with employees and review how the company is progressing toward its objectives. If a goal is lagging behind, discuss why with employees and see how it can be improved. You should also share your progress with the entire company regularly.

Related: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

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Strategic planning example

Here is an example of a strategic plan to improve customer satisfaction:

You are part of a strategic planning team that sets a goal in the beginning of January to have clients consider you as a trusted partner. You also would like to increase their satisfaction rate from 80% to 85% by the end of the quarter. To accomplish this goal, you want to improve your annual client conference. There are various tasks you must achieve, such as identifying the venue and date, creating the agenda, inviting speakers, developing social events, creating menus and sending out invitations.

Your strategic team assigns specific departments in the company to complete each task. You hold weekly meetings to ensure there are no delays in the plan. You also plan a company-wide meeting at the beginning of February and March so you can get opinions from the team and share developments. The team will schedule one final meeting on March 30 to review any last-minute details.

One week after the conference, your team will send your clients a survey to evaluate the satisfaction rate. One month after the conference, you will compile the results and share them with the entire company.

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