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    Strategic plans are often created and then forgotten until the next planning cycle begins.

    That is one reason that strategic execution often takes too long and costs more than originally anticipated. In fact, only 8% of strategy leaders report a success rate of 90% or more on long-term strategic initiatives.

    Done well, a strategic plan turns the enterprise strategy into specific initiatives and actions that provide a clear roadmap to execute the strategy and meet business goals.

    By using simple tools and templates, functional leaders can map and communicate their priorities on a page or two and make it easier for everyone to understand why and how to execute the plan.

    3 Things to Know About Strategy When Doing Strategic Planning

    A clear tie between strategy and strategic plans

    It is easy to confuse the essence of strategy with a more detailed strategic plan, especially when conditions are changing fast and the horizon for change is short, but Job No. 1 is to know the difference and why it matters.

    • Strategy defines the long-term direction of the enterprise, articulating what the enterprise will do to compete and succeed in its chosen markets or, for the public sector, what the agency will do to achieve its mission.
    • Strategic plans define how the enterprise will realise its long-term ambitions. Functional strategic plans define the roadmap of initiatives and portfolio of investments required to achieve those strategic objectives. In it, functional leaders document the choices and actions needed for the function to deliver on its contribution to the enterprise business model and goals.
    • Operational plans deal with the execution of specific projects and changes, as well as any operational tasks not contained in the strategic plan.

    If you are responsible for a functional strategy, that means creating strategic frameworks focused only on what is material. Focus on critical assumptions, relevant metrics and the key initiatives your function needs to contribute effectively to organisational goals, even as they shift.

    A way to scope key trends and disruptions

    It is critical to scan and respond to trends and disruptions that could impact your strategy and strategic plans — and for which you need working strategic assumptions

    To ignore or devalue these areas of disruption, now or in the longer term, could leave critical gaps in your strategic planning process — as you overlook both threats and opportunities for your value proposition and competitive positioning.

    A recent Gartner survey found that only 38% of organisations have a formal process for this type of trend spotting. Gartner scopes the seven key areas of disruptive change as a “Tapestry” of trends — to reinforce the interconnected nature of the acronymised trend areas (TPESTRE). 

    Executives across functions and teams can use this TPESTRE construct to identify key trends — from augmented human experience to purpose-driven organisations and digitally enabled sustainability — and analyse their impact, and build strategic assumptions as they begin to map what actions might be needed in terms of business models, people/capabilities and IT systems.

    Adaptive approach to strategy

    The faster the rate of change in operating conditions and the more disruptions you need to integrate into long-term strategy, the more adaptive your strategy models must be.

    An adaptive strategy approach is what makes sure your organisation can spot new opportunities earlier and respond more quickly than your competitors — making you most likely to succeed in a dynamic digital world.

    A truly adaptive strategy approach is consistent with four core practices designed to move the enterprise from a rigid, top-down, calendar-based process to a more adaptive, event-driven strategy approach. Functional strategy can incorporate the same principles.

    Download your function-specific strategic planning template
    Commonly Asked Questions About Strategic Planning

    What is strategic planning?

    “Strategy” creates a common understanding of what the enterprise wants to achieve and what it needs to do to achieve it. Strategic plans bridge the gap from that overall direction to the specific projects and day-to-day actions that ultimately execute the strategy.

    What are the four types of strategic planning and the three levels of strategic planning?

    Strategic planning starts with setting strategy at the enterprise level, but that strategy must then be turned into actions. The three levels of strategic planning typically refer to corporate versus business-unit and functional. The four types of plans are typically strategic, operational, tactical and contingency.

    Why is having a strategic plan important?

    An effective strategic plan helps leaders improve the focus and responsiveness of planning activities critical to achieving their long-term strategy. Leaders responsible for functional strategy can use strategic frameworks to focus their teams on what is most material. 

    What are the steps involved in the strategic planning process?

    To build a successful strategic plan with a consistent and sequential process, functional leaders should:

    1. Ensure consistent usage of terms to minimise confusion in strategic planning and set a baseline for collaboration.
    2. Build a strong foundation for more detailed planning by setting or pressure-testing mission, vision and goal statement first.
    3. Streamline stakeholder input by limiting mission, vision and goal-setting to senior leadership, and leaving objective, action-plan, measure and metric development to managers with execution expertise.

    What are the elements of strategic planning?

    The key elements of a successful strategic plan include:

    • Mission and vision. The organisation’s mission articulates its reasons for being, and the vision lays out where the organisation hopes to be. The strategic plan, which links the two, must be adaptive enough to respond if the context changes during execution.
    • Strategic assumptions. To build a successful strategic plan, leadership should scope for trends and disruptions, and assess their potential impact on enterprise goals.
    • Strategic plan design. A rigorous strategic planning design effectively translates the strategy into plans that can and will be executed. Poor plans lead to poor execution.

    What are the key terms in strategic planning?

    • Mission: Organisation’s purpose. 
    • Vision: Desired future state. 
    • Goal: Aim. 
    • Objective: How to reach goals. 
    • Action plan: What is needed to achieve objectives. 
    • Measures and metrics: Track progress toward goals. 

    How to design a strategic planning system?

    Strategic planning “systems” refer to the tools used to document strategic plans. Gartner urges organisations not to focus on strategy in terms of the document they are creating. Instead, focus on turning strategy into an easily communicated action plan.

    What is a strategic action plan?

    The strategic action plan is a formal document that serves as the primary source of information for how objectives will be executed, monitored, controlled and closed. Many organisations also deploy an associated but separate “action plan” for achieving the operating model. 

    What are strategic measures and metrics?

    Measures are observable outcomes that allow organisations to evaluate the efficacy of their action plans. Metrics quantify those observed changes to enable an organisation to concretely quantify its progress and stay aligned to its chosen measures.

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