Many scholars have defined strategic planning in various ways. Strategic planning can be defined as specific plans, goals and objectives of an organization or a company that includes the policies and the resources employed to achieve the said plans, goals and objectives.
These plans, goals and objectives basically answer two very simple questions:
1) What does the organization or company want to be in the future?
2) How does the organization or company plan to get to that position in the future?
Plans, goals and objectives must be specific so that it will be easily understood and measured against an agreed standard and framework. Too generalized plans, goals and objectives do not fit into the strategic planning framework. It will be difficult to understand and difficult to measure.
Strategic planning also includes policies and resources that are tangible or intangible. Although policies might seem outdated to those who advocate a liberated office environment, it is still an essential component in a business or organization for purposes of order and the smooth flow of company operations.
Resources that are tangible or intangible form an integral part of the strategic planning framework. The intangible element comes to the fore in the form of ideas, dreams, musings that the strategic planner may often experience when he/she starts to conceptualize the strategic plan suitable for the company or organization. From these intangible elements then materializes the tangible aspects, the unique colors and fonts of a company logo, the timeless advertising slogans, the company colors and a host of other things.
Many academics believe that the intangible element, the thinking process or the brainwork is what makes or breaks the strategic plan. That is the reason why many companies and organizations give careful attention and give magnanimous opportunity to people who possess this unseen, yet very powerful company asset. They in effect will be the ones who can answer the question of what does the company want to be in the future? And how does the company hope to get there?
While strategic planning may be easily defined and understood, it is a complex and daunting task in the real world. Our world today is becoming more and more complex by the day. The complexity of the company and the workplace is multiplied many times over by the complexity of the companies and organizations that it comes into contact with; there are employees from the company, from other companies, suppliers, customers, contractors, sub-contractors; the list could go on and on
Why use Strategic Planning?
Strategic planning is a basic tool for business apart from which no business would attain to a measure of success. In business as in any other undertaking, tools make the difference between having an excellent product or to having a shabby or inferior product. And tools may the difference of a company that may well last into the next decade and a company that may go bankrupt in just a few months or years.
One reason why many companies to not formally have a strategic plan is the reason that they have been in existence for so long and all has been well. They actually have an unwritten strategic plan which they use over and over again or which they copy from companies in similar or familiar industries. The price strategy is a classic example: a business might lower the price to attract would be customers from its competitor and the competitor might do likewise to retaliate.
There are similarities between war and business. And these similarities are so obvious when you take a closer look at strategic planning. Why use it? Business on closer analysis is war on a different plane; price war, discounts war, service war, delivery war, perks war and so on. Since business is war, strategic planning should be a must. You want to succeed in your business or organization, employ strategic planning.
Strategy actually comes from strategia which means generalship. And generals are masters at the art of planning and directing overall military operations and movement in a war or battle to achieve the desired goal of victory!
Who needs Strategic Planning?
Those who manage or lead a business enterprise or any organization for that matter need strategic planning. While the venture may not be primarily for profit, as in the case of non-government organizations and foundations, the need to plan strategically is still there.
Organizations involve vast resources, including people, who need to know what they can contribute to achieve the specific plans, goals and objectives. This calls for a need to have a strategic plan. Business likewise, have people, equipment, raw materials, facilities and all these have to be integrated in such a way that they can make contribution to the specific objective and plan of the company.
Is strategic planning limited to companies and organizations? Of course not! The principles of strategic planning are very useful to a host of other applications. Governments and nations can make use of strategic planning to assure them that national resources and effort will not go to waste but will make an accumulated contribution to specific plans, goals and objectives. Strategic planning is a necessity for survival in the past paced, modern world.
When is Strategic Planning needed?
If you are heading a company or organization as President or General Manager and you do not yet possess a strategic plan, then the time to do it is now. The earlier you act on it, the better it will be for your organization.
Companies or organizations that are in the process of organization may find it easier and more convenient to prepare their strategic plan because of the absence of certain factors. Transaction is at a minimum, people are yet coming in to be hired and there is more flexibility. However, companies or organizations that have been in operation for a number of years can still prepare their strategic plans. The earlier they can prepare it the better it will be for them.
A proper approach for a going concern, such as a company or organization, will be to organize a team for the said strategic plan. Selection of qualified people should be paramount because as mentioned earlier, the strategic plan can make or break the organization.
People who are dreamers, who can envision what the company will be like in the future, would make a good composition to the team. People also who have good analytical skills would have to be included. The key is to have the right mix and balance of dreamers, planners, analyzers and implementers.