What Is Strategic Planning? With Benefits and Tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When establishing processes within a workplace, creating specific, achievable plans can be a powerful way to fulfil objectives. Strategic planning, an intentional documentation of goals and action plans, can help managers and leaders develop procedures for success. Understanding how to create and use strategic planning can help you make informed decisions about your own professional processes. In this article, we define strategic planning, discuss the types of professionals who use it, describe its benefits and challenges and provide tips to help you implement strategic planning.

Related: What Does a Project Planner Do? With Duties and Skills

What is strategic planning?

If you're a member of management or leadership, you may be wondering, 'What is strategic planning?' You may also wonder how you can implement it into your daily procedures. Strategic planning is an effort to document and establish direction within an organisation. This process involves assessing the current state of processes, past strategies and evaluating future long- and short-term goals. A strategic business plan often provides a single source for organisations to document and record their mission, vision, values, long-term goals and action plans.

Who uses strategic planning?

Strategic planning can be greatly beneficial for a variety of professionals, but most often the following job titles maximise the benefits of strategic planning:

General management

Members of the general management team may benefit from using strategic planning to organise and monitor objectives and progress within several departments at once. General managers in nearly every industry can maximise the benefits of strategic planning by developing specific action plans, identifying areas of improvement and tracking the success of individual employees. Strategic planning may also help general managers review their own performance and the performance of their management team.

Project managers

Project managers are responsible for leading and supervising team efforts to complete specific, time-based deliverables. Project managers may exist in a variety of industries, including construction, design and marketing. Strategic planning can help project managers align the expectations of their project team and clients, review progress, set standards by which to measure success and establish timelines for project completion.

Sales professionals

Sales professionals may find strategic planning useful for managing and assessing sales goals and projects. For sales managers, strategic planning can help them establish department-wide objectives, track the progress of individual sales employees and determine the effectiveness of specific sales strategies. For non-management level sales employees, strategic planning may help them organise their own efforts, ensure their processes align with company values and track their progress.

Business owners

Business owners and entrepreneurs can benefit from strategic planning by using it to create business development strategies. It can also help them plan and effectively execute each phase of business creation and development. Using strategic planning, business owners and entrepreneurs can also assess and establish the core values, mission and morals of their organisation or enterprise.

Related: What Does a Project Manager Do? (Plus Requirements and Pay)

What are the benefits of strategic planning?

There are several benefits of using strategic planning, including:

Aligning goals

One of the most notable benefits of implementing a strategic plan in your workplace is the alignment of goals and expectations. Using a single document to outline your core values, mission and required processes can allow employees and departments to reference these essential ideas. The alignment of goals within an organisation can help to increase productivity, enhance the quality of performance and streamline processes by implementing consistency and accountability.

Tracking progress

Another notable benefit of strategic planning is its ability to allow organisations to track their progress. By documenting short-term and long-term goals, organisations can reference these objectives against their current progress. This can help individual employees and organisations understand how their daily deliverables contribute to the larger goals of the company. It can also help organisations review how effectively their plans have helped them reach their objectives and in which areas they can make improvements.

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Establishing core values

Establishing core values is an important part of a successful organisation. Core values and mission statements help employees and team members understand the morals, philosophies and practices their organisation believes in. By aligning understanding of core values, employees and leaders within an organisation may be able to make more informed decisions about their daily contributions, selecting processes and deliverables that enhance the core values of their workplace.

Creating accountability

By providing an accessible strategic plan, you can create a greater sense of accountability within an organisation. Strategic plans can often work as reference guides for employees, leaders and departments within an organisation. The clearly defined processes and standards within these plans can help to ensure that each member of a team contributes effectively and completes their tasks in accordance with the standards and requirements of their organisation.

Measuring performance

Strategic plans can be a useful method of measuring the success and quality of performance within an organisation or team. By including specific goals, quality requirements and timelines, employees and teams may have a more consistent reference to which they can compare their progress. Using strategic plans to track success can help organisations identify areas in which they can improve and processes that successfully contribute to the success of the organisation.

What are the challenges of strategic planning?

While strategic planning can provide valuable structure, documentation and alignment of goals, there may be some challenges to overcome during the process. Some of these may include:

Unforeseen circumstances

Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances may make achieving the goals of a strategic plan difficult. These types of situations could include changes to the local economy, employment fluctuations or special requests from clients during the completion of a project. When these circumstances arise, it's important for the developers of a strategic plan to consider ways in which to respond effectively.

For example, if a short-term goal of a manufacturing project is to deliver a model of the finished product to stakeholders by a predetermined deadline, but the stakeholders are reviewing the model earlier than anticipated, project managers may reevaluate the number of team members they have working on that deliverable. They may add more team members to that effort or assign individuals they know can complete the model on time.

Changes to company structure

Changes to company structure can also pose challenges to strategic plans. Most often, this includes changes within departments or the company. Sometimes, it could include changes to executive-level management or ownership. These changes can cause disruptions to strategic plans by adding or removing employees from the workforce or introducing new ideas from management and business owners. Developers of strategic plans can overcome this challenge by discussing the elements of their plan with new managers or adjusting their department-specific deliverables to account for changes in staffing.

Alignment of expectations

Depending on the size of an organisation, it may be challenging to ensure that all employees understand their individual contributions to the objectives outlined in a strategic plan. Aligning expectations in this way is important so that individuals and teams can make informed decisions about their efforts and the way they contribute to the company goals, values and mission.

Developers of strategic plans can ensure that all employees understand their expectations by posting the plan in an accessible, communal space, circulating it throughout the workplace or holding meetings whenever there are changes to the existing plan. It can also be beneficial to carefully review strategic plans when onboarding new employees.

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Tips when creating strategic plans

If you're considering using strategic planning in your workplace, consider the following tips:

Create specific goals

Creating specific objectives within your strategic plan can help to ensure clarity of deliverables and expectations. Specific goals are also much easier to track and measure than vague objectives. To create specific goals, consider using the SMART acronym. SMART stands for goals that are:

  • specific

  • measurable

  • achievable

  • realistic

  • time-based

Be flexible

While it's important to have detailed and specific goals in your strategic plan, it's also important to remember that changes and unforeseen events may cause you to reevaluate your plan. If this happens, try to remain open-minded and think of creative, flexible solutions. This can include changing your deliverables, action items and long-term goals to maintain a strategic plan that's attainable and effective.

Include employee input

Considering employee input is a powerful way to ensure your goals and expectations are attainable and realistic. Employees and department leaders may have insight into the capabilities and talents of their teams. Understanding their abilities can help you create goals within your plan that are achievable. To gather employee input, consider sending surveys or holding department meetings to discuss the items of your strategic plan.

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