Basic Overview of Various Strategic Planning Models

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Adapted from the Field Guide to Nonprofit Strategic Planning and Facilitation.

(The reader might best be served to first read the information in the topic Strategic Planning.)

Sections of This Topic Include

Many Approaches to Strategic Planning ... It Depends

Model One - Vision-Based or Goals-Based Strategic Planning
Model Two - Issues-Based Planning
Model Three -- Alignment Model
Model Four - Scenario Planning
Model Five - “Organic” (or Self-Organizing) Planning
Model Six - Real-Time Planning

Also see
Related Library Topics

Also See the Library's Blogs Related to Strategic Planning Models

In addition to the information on this current page, see the following blogs which have posts related to Strategic Planning Models. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog.

Library's Business Planning Blog
Library's Leadership Blog
Library's Project Management Blog
Library's Strategic Planning Blog


Many Approaches to Strategic Planning ... It Depends

There is no one perfect strategic planning model for each organization. The approach, or model, for strategic planning depends on:

  • The purpose of strategic planning, for example, if planning is meant to add a new product or program, then the process will probably include market research to verify the need, markets, pricing, etc., for the new product or service. .
  • Whether the organization has done planning before, for example, if the organization has not done planning before, then extensive attention to mission, vision and values statements is probably warranted.
  • The culture of the organization, for example, some cultures might prefer a "linear" approach from mission, vision, values, quantified goals, strategies, action plans, financial analysis, etc. Other cultures might prefer a more organic and unfolding approach, such as telling stories.
  • Whether the environment of the organization is changing rapidly, for example, if the environment is changing rapidly, then planning should probably be a shorter term than for an organization who's environment is fairly stable.
  • Whether the organization has had success in planning in the past, for example, if an organization has done planning in the past, but planners do not believe it was successful, then the organization should perhaps undertake a simple, short-term planning process for now.

Each organization ends up developing its own nature and model of strategic planning, often by selecting a model and modifying it as they go along in developing their own planning process.

The following models provide a range of alternatives from which organizations might select an approach and begin to develop their own strategic planning process. Note that an organization might choose to integrate the models, e.g., using a scenario model to creatively identify strategic issues and goals, and then an issues-based model to carefully strategize to address the issues and reach the goals.

Model One - Vision-Based or Goals-Based Strategic Planning

This very basic process is typically followed by organizations that are extremely small, busy, and have not done much strategic planning before. The process might be implemented in year one of the nonprofit to get a sense of how planning is conducted, and then embellished in later years with more planning phases and activities to ensure well-rounded direction for the nonprofit. Planning is usually carried out by top-level management. The basic strategic planning process includes:

1. Identify your purpose (mission statement) - This is the statement(s) that describes why your organization exists, i.e., its basic purpose. The statement should describe what client needs are intended to be met and with what services, the type of communities are sometimes mentioned. The top-level management should develop and agree on the mission statement. The statements will change somewhat over the years.

2. Establish a vision statement - This statement describes the future state of your customers/clients and your organization at some point in the future.

3. Select the goals your organization must reach if it is to effectively work toward your mission and achieve your vision - Goals are general statements about what you need to accomplish to meet your purpose, or mission, and address major issues facing the organization.

The vision and goals might be long-range, for example, for 3-5 years into the future.

4. Identify specific approaches (or strategies) that must be implemented to reach each goal - The strategies are often what change the most as the organization eventually conducts more robust strategic planning, particularly by more closely examining the external and internal environments of the organization. Small organizations might not refer to strategies and, instead, go the next step about action planning for each goal.

5. Identify specific action plans to implement each strategy (or objectives to achieve each goal) - These are the specific activities or objectives that each major function (for example, department, etc.) must undertake to ensure it’s effectively implementing each strategy (or achieving each goal). Objectives should be clearly worded to the extent that people can assess if the objectives have been met or not. Ideally, the top management develops specific committees that each have a work plan, or set of objectives.

5. Compile the mission, vision, strategies and action plans into a Strategic Plan document. Ensure that upper management approves the Plan.

6. Monitor implementation of the Plan and update the Plan as Needed - Planners regularly reflect on the extent to which the goals are being met and whether action plans are being implemented. Perhaps the most important indicator of success of the organization is positive feedback from the organization’s customers.

Model Two - Issues-Based Planning

Organizations that have very limited resources; several current, major issues; little success with achieving future-oriented goals; or very little buy-in to strategic planning might use the issues-based approach to planning instead of the goals-based approach.

1. Identify the current, major issues facing the organization. Write down 3-5 major issues.

2. Brainstorm ideas to address each major issue. It's not important that the ideas be the perfect ideas -- it's important for now to identify at least a reasonable approach to address each issue.

The issues and ideas are usually short-range, for example, for 9-12 months in to the future.

3. Compile the issues and ideas into a Strategic Plan document. Ensure that upper management approves the Plan.

4. Monitor implementation of the Plan and update the Plan as Needed - Planners regularly reflect on the extent to which the goals are being met and whether action plans are being implemented. Perhaps the most important indicator of success of the organization is positive feedback from the organization’s customers.

Model Three -- Alignment Model

The overall purpose of the model is to ensure strong alignment among the organization’s mission and its resources to effectively operate the organization. This model is useful for organizations that need to fine-tune strategies or find out why they are not working. An organization might also choose this model if it is experiencing a large number of issues around internal efficiencies. Overall steps include:

1. The planning group outlines the organization’s mission, programs, resources, and needed support.

2. Identify what’s working well and what needs adjustment.

3. Identify how these adjustments should be made.

4. Include the adjustments as strategies in the strategic plan.

Model Four - Scenario Planning

This approach might be used in conjunction with other models to ensure planners truly undertake strategic thinking. The model may be useful, particularly in identifying strategic issues and goals.

1. Select several external forces and imagine related changes which might influence the organization, e.g., change in regulations, demographic changes, etc. Scanning the newspaper for key headlines often suggests potential changes that might effect the organization.

2. For each change in a force, discuss three different future organizational scenarios (including best case, worst case, and OK/reasonable case) which might arise with the organization as a result of each change. Reviewing the worst-case scenario often provokes strong motivation to change the organization.

3. Suggest what the organization might do, or potential strategies, in each of the three scenarios to respond to each change.

4. Planners soon detect common considerations or strategies that must be addressed to respond to possible external changes.

5. Select the most likely external changes to effect the organization, e.g., over the next three to five years, and identify the most reasonable strategies the organization can undertake to respond to the change.

Model Five - “Organic” (or Self-Organizing) Planning

Traditional strategic planning processes are sometimes considered “mechanistic” or “linear,” i.e., they’re rather general-to-specific or cause-and-effect in nature. For example, the processes often begin by conducting a broad assessment of the external and internal environments of the organization, conducting a strategic analysis (“SWOT” analysis), narrowing down to identifying and prioritizing issues, and then developing specific strategies to address the specific issues.

Another view of planning is similar to the development of an organism, i.e., an “organic,” self-organizing process. Certain cultures, e.g., Native American Indians, might prefer unfolding and naturalistic “organic” planning processes more than the traditional mechanistic, linear processes. Self-organizing requires continual reference to common values, dialoguing around these values, and continued shared reflection around the systems current processes. General steps include:

1. Clarify and articulate the organization’s cultural values. Use dialogue and story-boarding techniques.

2. Articulate the group’s vision for the organization. Use dialogue and story-boarding techniques.

3. On an ongoing basis, e.g., once every quarter, dialogue about what processes are needed to arrive at the vision and what the group is going to do now about those processes.

4. Continually remind yourself and others that this type of naturalistic planning is never really “over with,” and that, rather, the group needs to learn to conduct its own values clarification, dialogue/reflection, and process updates.

5. Be very, very patient.

6. Focus on learning and less on method.

7. Ask the group to reflect on how the organization will portray its strategic plans to stakeholders, etc., who often expect the “mechanistic, linear” plan formats.

Model Six -- Real-Time Planning

Many experts assert that conventional strategic planning has become rather out-dated because the world is changing much more rapidly than before, to the extent that conventional (especially long-range) plans quickly become obsolete. These experts might assert that planning be done continuously, or in "real time." The process might look like the following:

1. Initial discussions to clarify mission, vision and values. Ideally, these are documented, such that changes are easily recognized and communicated.

2. Discussions in, for example, Board and staff meeting that clarify current, major priorities. It's important that these discussions be based not only on people's current opinions, but that they also be based, as much as possible, on verified impressions from accurate data, for example, from environmental scans, market research, brainstorming or product/program evaluations. It's important that the updated/changed priorities also be documented.

A challenge in this type of planning is that many investors and funders expect to see "stable" documented strategic plans. Many might infer that regular changes are the result of poor planning, rather than from a new type of strategic planning.

 

Return to the topic Strategic Planning.


Submit a link


For the Category of Strategic Planning:

To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

Related Library Topics


Recommended Books

For-Profit Specific

Nonprofit Specific



For-Profit Specific

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Nonprofit-Specific

Nonprofit Strategic Planning and Facilitation - Book Cover Field Guide to Nonprofit Strategic Planning and Facilitation
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Step-by-step guidelines to customize and facilitate planners to implement the best strategic planning process to suit the particular nature and needs of their nonprofit. This is one of the few books, if any, that explains how to actually facilitate planning. Includes many online forms that can be downloaded and used by planners. Many materials in this Library's topic about strategic planning are adapted from this book.

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Also See for For-Profits

Business Planning -- Recommended Books

Business Development -- Recommended books

Financing Your Business -- Recommended Books

Organizational Sustainability -- Recommended Books

Product Development -- Recommended books

Planning and Project Management -- Recommended Books

Also See for Nonprofits

Business Planning (nonprofit) -- Recommended Books

Social Entrepreneurship (Nonprofit) -- Recommended Books

Capacity Building (Nonprofit) -- Recommended Books

Organizational Sustainability -- Recommended Books

Fundraising -- Recommended Books

Program Management -- Recommended Books

Planning and Project Management -- Recommended Books




Find a Topic