Strategic Planning

The history of strategic Planning began in the military. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, Strategy is “the science of Planning and directing large scale military operations of maneuvering forces into the most advantageous position prior to actual engagement with the enemy”. Although our understanding of the word strategy and its application in planning and management has been transformed from a point of military maneuvering to other areas that aim at achieving and giving a structural framework to reach a competitive advantage.

Taking its name and roots from the military model, early models of formal strategic planning reflected the hierarchical values and linear systems of traditional organizations. Undertaken by the planning functions at the top of the organization, its structure was highly vertical and time-bound. A certain period would be set aside to analyze the situation and decide on a course of action. This would result in a formal document. Once this was done, the actual work of implementation, which was considered a separate, discrete process, could begin.

Although individual definitions of strategy vary traditionally, theorists have considered planning an essential part of organizational strategy. Strategic Planning in organizations originated in the 1950s and was very popular and widespread between mid 1960s to mid 1970s, when people believed it was the answer for all problems, and Corporate America was obsessed with strategic Planning. Following that boom, strategic planning had fallen off and was cast aside for over a decade. The 1990s brought the revival of strategic planning as a process with particular benefits in particular contexts.

Early Developments/Model

Here is a brief account of several generations of Strategic Planning. Analysis model dominated Strategic Planning of the 1950s. The 1960s brought qualitative and quantitative models of strategy. During the early 1980s, the shareholder value model and the Porter model became the standard. The rest of the 1980s was dictated by Strategic intent and core competencies, including market-focused organizations. Finally, business transformation became a requirement in the 1990s.

Present models of strategic Planning were focused on adaptability to change, flexibility and importance of strategic thinking and organizational learning. “Strategic agility” is becoming more important than the strategy itself, because organizations need to have the ability to succeed by demonstrating quick adaptability to change and transform themselves based on changing climate. Being strategically agile enables organizations to transform their strategy depending on the changes in their environment.

THE ROLES OF STRATEGIC PLANNING IN THE EXECUTION OF OPERATIONAL PLANS IN AN ORGANIZATION/BUSINESS

Entrepreneur and business managers are often so preoccupied with immediate issues that they lose sight of their ultimate objectives. That is why a business review or preparation of a strategic plan is necessary.

This may not be a recipe for success, but without it, a business is very likely to fail. A sound plan should; serve as a framework for decisions or for securing support/approval, provide a basis for more detailed planning, explain the business to others in order to inform, motivate and involve, assist bench marking and performance monitoring, stimulate change and become building blocks for the next plan, and for inspiration.

A strategic plan should not be confused with a business plan. The strategic plan is a short document whereas a business plan is usually a much more substantial and detailed document. A strategic plan can provide the foundation and framework for a business plan. A strategic plan is not the same thing as an operational plan.

The strategic plan should be visionary, conceptual and directional in contrast to an operational plan which is likely to be shorter, tactical, focused, can be implemented and measured.

As an example, compare the process of planning a vacation (where, when, duration, budget, who goes, how to travel are all strategic issues) with the final preparations (tasks, deadlines, funding, weather, packing, transport and so on are all operational matters). A satisfactory strategic plan must be realistic and attainable so as to allow corporate executives and managers to think strategically and act operationally.

THE NEED FOR A REALISTIC, VISIONARY AND ACTIONABLE STRATEGIC PLAN

In creating a strategic plan, many Organizations or divisions can hit pitfalls if they do not turn the plan into action or use the process of creating the plan as a way to think differently about the business.

Some of the negative consequences of planning are; putting more form than substance into planning process, inability to lay fundamental groundwork concerning the nature of the business, the industry, and the key requirements for success, not developing a sufficient fact base to support identification of the most appealing strategic alternatives, not involving all the “Key players”.

Others are not paying enough attention to dissenting opinions or “Crazy” ideas, “analysis paralysis” the goal of the plan is to be used as a driving force and pull the team together on common initiatives. They also include treating strategic planning as an event rather than an ongoing process, failing to develop action plans at an operational level, and inability to integrate the strategic planning process with other management systems.

BENEFITS OF STRATEGIC PLANNING TO BUSINESS ORGANIZATIONS, SECURITY BODIES AND OTHER AGENCIES

Strategic Planning offers a number of potential benefits to organizations interested in thinking critically about their future and those willing to devote the time and effort needed to initiate and sustain an on-going planning process.

Experience has shown that strategic planning can provide a useful framework for making policy-level decisions and designing effective techniques to implement those decisions. The process of aligning an organization with its environment through a focused, systematic effort can produce both immediate and long-term positive impacts that can include better decision-making, improved communications, unity of purpose and most importantly, increased organizational effectiveness.

Strategic Planning is an action –oriented process that features strong implementation and bench marking elements. It allows an organization to establish a long-range overall perspective, to identify strategic issues, and to develop short-term goals, objectives, and action steps to address identified issues.

ACTIONS THAT CAN ENHANCE AND MAXIMIZE THE BENEFITS OF STRATEGIC PLANNING

However, having noted some of the benefits that strategic planning can produce, it is important to note that it is not a cure all. Strategic planning is a time-consuming, labour-intensive process that is not for every organization. It is simply a tool that can be used to help a committed entity work towards becoming more effective.

Strategic planning should never be considered an end in itself or a one-time deal. It is not just a written document that details the activities and results of the planning process. It is also more than the process of analyzing, strategizing, implementing, and bench marking.

No planning process, strategic or otherwise, can succeed without the commitment of key stakeholders and organizational leaders. Strategic planning, to be truly effective, means that organizational staff or public must think and act strategically each day.

Through such daily strategic thinking and acting, “planning” and “process” can be transformed into individual and collective strategic actions that enhance organizational value and effectiveness. This is what makes the strategic planning process valuable.