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"A failure to plan is ultimately a plan to fail......some form of strategic planning is evident in virtually all successful businesses."

Strategic Planning Steps

We hear a lot about strategic planning and its benefits. But there is often confusion about the steps involved in the process of actually developing such as plan. So, what exactly is strategic planning? The components of the strategic development process are relatively straightforward. Essentially, these are the strategic planning steps that will be followed:

Strategic Planning Steps:

  1. An internal analysis that encompasses assessing company strengths and weaknesses, financial performance, people, operational limitations, corporate culture, current positioning in the market(s), the overall characterization of the condition of the company and critical issues facing the organization.
  2. An external analysis that focuses on analyzing competitors, assessing market opportunities and threats, evaluating changing technology that could impact the organization, analyzing regulatory or legislative concerns, changes and trends in the market(s) the company operates in and other potential outside influences on the organization.
  3. Summarizing the current situation or “state of the organization” based on the information gathered and evaluated in steps one and two. This step is important to the process because it brings together relevant and critical data and information and allows members of the planning team to more easily get a feel for what opportunities and obstacles lie ahead.
  4. Development of a mission, vision or purpose statement. It really does not matter what it is called, but this step is important perhaps more because of the process that the team will go through to develop it than the words that eventually end up on paper. In this step, the team is starting the process of focusing the organization and its people on what the organization is all about and what is important to the organization.
  5. Goal setting. Every organization needs goals. Again, focus is a critical element in the success of any business. This step may be the most important of all of the strategic planning steps because it establishes the framework and basis for the development of the other key elements of the plan.
  6. Defining objectives that support the goals. Objectives are more specific in nature and are supportive of the goal. They bring into even greater focus the goals of the organization.
  7. Development of strategies. Strategies begin defining how the goals and objectives are going to be achieved.
  8. While not all strategic plans include tactics, a good strategic plan will include at least the key tactics thought to be important to supporting the strategies developed in step 7. Generally tactics are more fully developed and added to the plan as time goes on. Tactics are the specific tasks associated with carrying out strategies.

Some books on planning often add extraneous and unnecessary strategic planning steps to the process. The strategic planning steps identified above are inclusive enough to provide a sound basis for the development of a sound and effective strategic plan. The Strategic Planning Workbook is an excellent resource for use as a guide in developing a solid strategic plan. Click here for more information on this popular planning tool.