Strategic planning in five easy steps

Jan 19 2016 by James M. Kerr Print This Article

Strategic planning doesn’t need to be complicated. Here’s a simple process you can follow to demystify it and put in place an effective strategic planning structure for your organization.

There are five phases in what I call the ‘Strategic Planning Life Cycle’ (SPLC). Organizations that are serious about strategic planning can follow this simple SPLC to establish a solid strategic planning environment that will stand the test of time. Here are the five phases that comprise the SPLC:

Vision Storytelling Phase: This step is crucial to setting strategic direction for an enterprise. Often dismissed as “motherhood and apple pie,” by the misinformed, this phase enables a senior leadership team to describe their organization’s future state. Vivid and compelling, the vision story must describe what the organization looks like, its customers, products and services as well as who works there, how the work is done and supported. The more detailed and captivating the story, the greater the level of staff engagement - an essential ingredient to the ongoing success of the strategic planning program.

Strategic Planning Phase: This phase reinterprets the major vision story elements and translates them into a series of projects and programs required to enable the achievement of the strategic vision. By comparing the current business environment to the target (as defined by the vison story), a leadership team can discern the work that must be accomplished to move an organization forward.

Planning Governance Phase: This element of the SPLC is concerned with putting the “right” planning infrastructure in place to enable the ongoing success of the strategic plan. Such items as executive steering, new opportunity identification, priority-setting and project sponsorship are topics to be addressed in this phase.

Strategic Planning Office Phase: No strategic planning program would be complete without the creation of a Strategic Planning Office (SPO). This SPLC step designs the SPO needed to maintain the strategic plan for the enterprise. Some SPOs are staffed by full-time resources, others are “virtual” in nature. Regardless, the SPO staff has the responsibility to ensure that the strategic plan remains synchronized with the organization and is accurately updated on an ongoing basis.

Project Portfolio Execution Phase: The transformation of the strategic plan into a project portfolio is the last step in the SPLC. The project portfolio contains all of the initiatives needed to evolve the organization towards its strategic implementation. Typically, it is under the direction of the executive steering committee (as defined in the Planning Governance Phase) that the SPO oversees the execution of the project portfolio.

To sum, these are the five easy pieces that encompass the Strategic Planning Life Cycle. The vision work sets the parameters for change, the strategic plan defines how to get there and the governance and planning office efforts determine the means by which the evolving project portfolio is managed and executed. It is my hope that this discussion helps to demystify the process of strategic planning so that more organizations can embrace it and gain all of the power that good planning has to offer.

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About The Author

James M. Kerr
James M. Kerr

James M. Kerr is a long-time author, management consultant, vision maker and coach to some of today's best leaders. His latest book, Indispensable: Build and Lead A Company Customers Can’t Live Without was published in February 2021.