Strategic planning is a process and thus has inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes. This process, like all processes, has constraints. It may be formal or informal and is typically iterative, with feedback loops throughout the process. Some elements of the process may be continuous and others may be executed as discrete projects with a definitive start and end during a period. Strategic planning provides inputs for strategic thinking, which guides the actual strategy formation. The end result is the organization’s strategy, including a diagnosis of the environment and competitive situation, a guiding policy on what the organization intends to accomplish, and key initiatives or action plans for achieving the guiding policy.
Michael Porter wrote that formulation of competitive strategy includes consideration of four key elements , forally referred to as SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats):
- Company strengths and weaknesses;
- Personal values of the key implementers (i.e., management and the board);
- Industry opportunities and threats; and
- Broader societal expectations.
The first two elements relate to factors internal to the company (i.e., the internal environment), while the latter two relate to factors external to the company (i.e., the external environment). These elements are considered throughout the strategic planning process.
Strategic planning activities include meetings and other communication among the organization’s leaders and personnel to develop a common understanding regarding the competitive environment and what the organization’s response to that environment (its strategy) should be. The organization’s leaders may have a series of questions they want answered in formulating the strategy and gathering inputs, such as:
- What is the organization’s business or interest?
- What is considered “value” to the customer or constituency?
- Which products and services should be included or excluded from the portfolio of offerings?
- What is the geographic scope of the organization?
- What differentiates the organization from its competitors in the eyes of customers and other stakeholders?
- Which skills and resources should be developed within the organization?
The output of strategic planning includes documentation and communication describing the organization’s strategy and how it should be implemented, sometimes referred to as the strategic plan. The strategy may include a diagnosis of the competitive situation, a guiding policy for achieving the organization’s goals, and specific action plans to be implemented. A strategic plan may cover multiple years and be updated periodically.
Strategic Planning Templates
The collection of strategic planning templates can also be accessed below: