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Frequently Asked Strategic Planning Questions

Strategic planning can create a ton of questions. If you already have a long list of questions, you’re not alone. Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Who uses strategic plans?

Everyone uses strategic plans — or at least every company and organization that wants to be successful. Companies in every industry, in every part of the world, and in most of the Fortune 500 use strategic plans. Organizations within the nonprofit, government, and small to big business sectors also have strategic plans.

Does every strategic plan include the same elements?

A strategic plan usually consists of the following elements:

  • A mission statement and a vision statement

  • A description of the company’s long-term goals and objectives

  • Strategies the company plans to use to achieve general goals and objectives

  • Action plans to implement the goals and objectives

The strategic plan may also identify external factors that can affect achievement of long-term goals. Plans may vary in detail and scope (depending on how big the organization is), but for the most part, a strategic plan includes these basic elements.

Just exactly what is strategic planning?

The term strategic planning refers to a coordinated and systematic process for developing a plan for the overall direction of your endeavor for the purpose of optimizing future potential. For a profit-making business, this process involves many questions:

  • What’s the mission and purpose of the business?

  • Where do we want to take the business?

  • What do we sell currently? What can we sell in the future?

  • Who shall we sell to?

  • What do we do that’s unique?

  • How shall we beat or avoid competition?

The central purpose of this process is to ensure that the course and direction is well thought out, sound, and appropriate. In addition, the process provides reassurance that the limited resources of the enterprise (time and capital) are sharply focused in support of that course and direction. The process encompasses both strategy formulation and implementation.

What’s the difference between strategic planning and long-range planning?

The major difference between strategic planning and long-range planning is emphasis. Long-range planning generally means the development of a plan of action to accomplish a goal or set of goals over a period of several years. The major assumption in long-range planning is that current knowledge about future conditions is sufficiently reliable to enable the development of these plans. Because people assume the environment is predictable, the emphasis is on the articulation of internally focused plans to accomplish agreed-on goals.

The major assumption in strategic planning, however, is that an organization must be responsive to a dynamic, changing environment. Therefore, the emphasis in strategic planning is on understanding how the environment is changing — and will change — and on developing organizational decisions that are responsive to these changes.

What is strategic thinking?

Strategic thinking means asking yourself, “Are we doing the right thing?” It requires three major components:

  • Purpose or end vision

  • Understanding the environment, particularly of the competition affecting and/or blocking achievement of these ends

  • Creativity in developing effective responses to the competitive forces

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