Work tips: Four important principles of strategic planning

A strategic plan guides decision-making and helps marshal resources

Mention the word “plan” to most managers, and the image that springs to their minds might look like a travel plan – clear, certain and linear. But not all types of plans have that level of precision. In a fluid, unpredictable business environment, you need to have a very different understanding of plans and planning.

All too often, executives seem to share the traveller’s understanding of planning. The trick to helping them create a strategy that will actually work lies in getting them to rethink that view. Here are four principles of strategic planning:

1 Think of the plan as a guidance tool The problem for many managers is that their expectations are all skewed from what can be realistically achieved via a strategic plan. In their eyes, the strategic plan becomes a device for control rather than one of guidance.

2 Look for disagreements and toward the future Even though your plan is liable to become immediately irrelevant, you still need to invest in writing it up. This can help draw out disagreements that may otherwise remain hidden. It can also provide a platform from which change can be leveraged.


3 Focus on the organisation and key stakeholders A plan can't be "strategic" if it's simply about action by individuals. Develop business strategy for each stakeholder in turn, but also acknowledge the causal link between them.

4 Assume the plan is a work in progress A strategic plan is a living and breathing document that guides decision-making and helps marshal resources. Revisit your plan regularly. This allows you not only to update the document due to changed conditions but also to go through the actions that were scheduled as part of the execution process. – Copyright Harvard Business Review 2016