Strategic Planning Models
for all seasons

When choosing strategic planning models for your organisation, avoid going to extremes. I like to avoid extremes. That sometimes puts me off side with everyone!

Choice of strategic planning models

<--- Only one 'right' model -----
At one extreme is the claim that there is only one model of strategic planning for all organisations and at all times.

---------- no possible model --->
Everything is so fluid, always changing, and each organisation is unique, that no formal model of strategic planning can be of any help.

If only life were so simple!

It may be true that no single formal strategic planning model will suit all organisations in all circumstances.

However, a very few formal procedures can be the basis of a small number of models of strategic planning, to suit a large number of organisations in most circumstances.

There may well be conditions in which no strategic planning framework is currently relevant or useful.

When not to use a formal strategic planning model

Under the following circumstances no strategic planning models are relevant -

  • When the organization is failing financially
  • When the organization is very young and still knows exactly what it is doing for whom and is clearly on track for achieving it
  • In any organization run by an autocrat
  • When a brief major upheaval is in prospect

In other conditions you can choose planning process models using the following key criteria.

Keep the five strategic planning essentials in mind

Various planning models have evolved over the years to suit the needs and cultures of various types of organisations, management styles, and the state of understanding of the strategic dynamics of the particular organisation in its environment.

The useful models that have survived usually have all or nearly all of five essential procedures.

Any effective strategic planning approach has to have means of -

  1. Setting objectives for long term performance of the organisation
  2. Analyzing the factors internal to the organisation and in the environment of the organisation that give rise to the most important issues for any strategic plan to address
  3. Generating strategic options for addressing the most important issues
  4. Deciding among the options
  5. Monitoring the results of implementing the strategies.

A number of useful strategic planning models or approaches have developed to suit different organizational contexts and management styles.

Factors and variables in choosing
strategic planning models

Some of the considerations in selecting and assessing strategic planning models include -

  • organizational environment
  • organizational health
  • stage of development of the organization
  • organization size
  • structure of the organization
  • organizational purpose
  • attitudes to 'planfulness'.

Organizational environment
The degree of stability or turbulence of the environment may influence the duration and sequence of elements in the strategic planning process. A very stable environment may permit or encourage a more considered, or 'leisurely' approach, with a great deal of time for data analysis, and widespread consultation. a rapidly changing or very turbulent environment may require a more rapid fire approach.

The kind of influence exerted over the governance of the organisation and what is, and who is, included in any strategic planning process may influence the model of strategic planning employed. For example, a government business enterprise (GBE) or public service agency may be required by legislation to follow a particular approach to strategic planning, or as it is still sometimes called in the public sector ‘corporate planning’.

Organizational health
The state of organizational health may influence the strategic planning approach. The above list of things warning against doing planning at all should be considered.

An organization in some kind of trouble may be advised not to do strategic planning at all, and a small thriving organisation may be able to manage strategic thinking informally. When a company is going bust, the focus should be on immediate rescue or winding up processes, not long range performance improvement through strategic planning. Any organization run by an autocrat would be wasting everyone's time by engaging on elaborate participative processes. When a brief major upheaval is in prospect, then the quality of attention needed for strategic planning may be in short supply, and should be deferred.

Stage of development of the organization
Where an organizational is in its life cycle may be important in the choice of strategic planning.

The small and very entrepreneurial start-up organisation may be so driven by an almost missionary zeal, by the focus on a particular market, application of a new invention, or similar passion, that no special formal effort at strategic planning is required.

As an organisation grows it reaches a threshold where it needs to introduce more professional management practices, and one of these probably should be formal strategic planning. However the model of strategic planning appropriate for the first formal introduction of the process might be a good deal simpler than that required in the complex group structure of a multinational business.

Structure of the organization
The structure of managerial accountability, the geographic scope, multiplicity of lines of business, may all require adjustments to the sequencing of tasks, and issues around who should be involved in various decision processes, as well as the sophistication of necessary data gathering for the decision-making.

Organizational purpose
The strategic planning approach used may also be influenced by whether or not an organisation is a for-profit business or a non-profit organisation.

Strategic planning models for nonprofits can become especially complex. This is because of the usual insistence on having multiple objectives, and including scope for a multiplicity of stakeholders or interest groups. In this case a structured planning model can be very useful.

Go here for a description of a strategic planning model in the area of land resources and community economic development. It not only represents the planning tools required for a comprehensive strategic plan, it also captures the key elements of project management, stakeholder consultation and process feedback loops to ensure that there is flexibility built into the process that will allow for adjustments during the project life cycle.

Attitudes to 'planfulness'
Some organizations by tradition or by management style, or the kind of people employed in them have different attitudes to being involved in formal planning processes. Academic institutions have issues over status of the persons involved in planning and decision making that may not correspond to the managerial accountability hierarchy in the administrative area of the organization, and this may set up a need for separate lines of data analysis and decision making, as well a structuring clear opportunities for different groups to be involved in debating the issues to be addressed. Some creative organisations in the arts area for example may reject anything that seems excessively formal, rationalistic, or bureaucratic in nature. Selecting you strategic planning framework needs to take these things into account.

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