Basic Overview of Various Strategic Planning Models
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© Copyright Carter
McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC. (The reader might best
be served to first read the information in the topic Strategic
Sections of This Topic Include
Model One – Conventional Strategic Planning
Model Two – Issues-Based Strategic Planning
Model Three – Organic Strategic Planning
Model Four – Real-Time Strategic Planning
Model Five – Alignment Model of Strategic Planning
Model Six – Inspirational Model of Strategic Planning
Related Library Topics
Learn More in 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”
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post in the blog.
There is no one perfect strategic planning process, or model, to use the same
way all the time with every organization. Each organization should customize
the best approach to suit the culture of its members, the current situation
in and around the organization, and the purpose of its planning.
This Web page briefly describes several different models of strategic planning,
along with basic guidelines for choosing each. There is no strong agreement
among experts in strategic planning as to which approaches are indeed “models”
or how each is best implemented. The purpose of this Web page is to present
different perspectives and options regarding strategic planning to help planners
ensure their plans are the most relevant, realistic and flexible.
Planners can select the most appropriate model and then modify it to suit the
nature and needs of their organization. For example, different organizations
might have different names for the different phases and emphasize certain phases
more than others in the model.
This document does not include detailed descriptions and directions for implementing
each model. Those are available in the articles and books referenced in the
topic “All About Strategic Planning” in the Free Management Library
at managementhelp.org .
NOTE: The following models can be done with different styles.
For example, some may prefer a rather top-down and even autocratic way of planning
and making decisions. Others might prefer more inclusive and consensus-based
planning. Some might prefer a very problem-centered approach, while others might
prefer a more strength-based approach, for example, to use Appreciative Inquiry.
This is the most common model of strategic planning, although it is not suited
for every organization. It is ideal for organizations that have sufficient resources
to pursue very ambitious visions and goals, have external environments that
are relatively stable, and do not have a large number of current issues to address.
The model usually includes the following overall phases:
1. Develop or update the mission and optionally, vision and/or values statements.
2. Take a wide look around the outside and a good look inside the organization,
and perhaps update the statements as a result.
3. As a result of this examination, select the multi-year strategies and/or
goals to achieve the vision.
4. Then develop action plans that specify who is going to do what and by when
to achieve each goal.
5. Identify associated plans, for example, staffing, facilities, marketing
and financial plans.
6. Organize items 1-3 into a Strategic Plan and items 4-6 into a separate one-year
This model works best for organizations that have very limited resources,
several current and major issues to address, little success with achieving ambitious
goals, and/or very little buy-in to strategic planning. Using the conventional
model of strategic planning for these organizations is a bit like focusing on
the vision of running a marathon and on deciding the detailed route and milestones
— while concurrently having heart problems, bad feet and no running clothes.
This model might include the following phases:
1. Identify 5-7 of the most important current issues facing the organization
2. Suggest action plans to address each issue over the next 6-12 months.
3. Include that information in a Strategic Plan.
After an issues-based plan has been implemented and the current, major issues
are resolved, then the organization might undertake the more ambitious conventional
model. Many people might assert that issues-based planning is really internal
development planning, rather than strategic planning. Others would argue that
the model is very strategic because it positions the organization for much more
successful outward-looking and longer term planning later on.
The conventional model is considered by some people to be too confining and
linear in nature. They believe that approach to planning too often produces
a long sequence of orderly activities to do, as if organizations will remain
static and predictable while all of those activities are underway. Other people
believe that organizations are robust and dynamic systems that are always changing,
so a plan produced from conventional planning might quickly become obsolete.
That is true, especially if planning is meant to achieve a very long-term
vision for many people, for example, for a community or even generations of
people. The organic model is based on the premise that the long-term vision
is best achieved by everyone working together toward the vision, but with each
person regularly doing whatever actions that he or she regularly decides to
do toward that vision. The model might include the following phases:
1. With as many people as can be gathered, for example, from the community
or generation, articulate the long-term vision and perhaps values to work toward
2. Each person leaves that visioning, having selected at least one realistic
action that he or she will take toward the vision before the group meets again,
for example, in a month or two.
3. People meet regularly to report the actions that they took and what they
learned from them. The vision might be further clarified during these meetings.
4. Occasionally, the vision and the lists of accomplished and intended actions
are included in a Strategic Plan.
Similar to the organic model of planning, this model is suited especially for
people who believe that organizations are often changing much too rapidly for
long-term, detailed planning to remain relevant. These experts might assert
that planning for an organization should be done continuously, or in “real
time.” The real-time planning model is best suited, especially to organizations
with very rapidly changing environments outside the organization.
1. Articulate the mission, and perhaps the vision and/or values.
2. Assign planners to research the external environment and, as a result, to
suggest a list of opportunities and of threats facing the organization.
3. Present the lists to the Board and other members of the organization for
strategic thinking and discussions.
4. Soon after (perhaps during the next month) assign planners to evaluate the
internal workings of the organization and, as a result, to suggest a list of
strengths and of weaknesses in the organization.
5. Present these lists to the Board and other members of the organization for
strategic thinking and discussions, perhaps using a SWOT analysis to analyze
all four lists.
6. Repeat steps 2-5 regularly, for example, every six months or year and document
the results in a Strategic Plan.
The primary purpose of this model is to ensure strong alignment of the organization’s
internal operations with achieving an overall goal, for example, to increase
productivity or profitability, or to successfully integrate a new cross-functional
system, such as a new computer system. Overall phases in this model might include:
1. Establish the overall goal for the alignment.
2. Analyze which internal operations are most directly aligned with achieving
that goal, and which are not.
3. Establish goals to more effectively align operations to achieving the overall
goal. Methods to achieving the goals might include organizational performance
management models, for example, Business Process Re-engineering or models of
quality management, such as the TQM or ISO models.
4. Include that information in the Strategic Plan.
Similar to issues-based planning, many people might assert that the alignment
model is really internal development planning, rather than strategic planning.
Similarly, others would argue that the model is very strategic because it positions
the organization for much more successful outward-looking and longer term planning
This model is sometimes used when planners see themselves as having very little
time available for planning and/or there is high priority on rather quickly
producing a Strategic Plan document. Overall phases in this model might include:
1. Attempt to gather Board members and key employees together for planning.
2. Begin by fantasizing a highly inspirational vision for the organization
— or by giving extended attention to wording in the mission statement, especially
to include powerful and poignant wording.
3. Then brainstorm exciting, far-reaching goals to even more effectively serve
customers and clients.
4. Then include the vision and goals the Strategic Plan.
While this model can be highly energizing, it might produce a Plan that is
far too unrealistic (especially for an organization that already struggles to
find time for planning) and, as a result, can be less likely to make a strategic
impact on the organization and those it serves. Many experts might assert that
these planners are confusing the map (the Strategic Plan document) with the
journey (the necessary strategic thinking). However, it might be the only approach
that would generate some outword focused discussion and also a Plan that, otherwise,
would not have been written.
To begin customizing your approach to strategic planning, including the model
to choose, see
First Do “Plan for a Plan”
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.
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