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Strategic Thinking vs. Strategic Planning

Planning and strategizing are two of the most critical aspects of a business – at all stages. In essence, you can’t get where you want to go if you don’t know where you want to go. Setting goals gives you targets to aim for to achieve progress. The business world has come up with many different strategies for setting and achieving goals, which are themselves constantly evolving into better, more efficient ways of doing things. Strategic thinking and strategic planning are two exercises that can help you build comprehensive goals and the steps you need to achieve them, but they are also two distinctly different events. Here is the difference between strategic thinking versus strategic planning.

Strategic thinking

Strategic thinking is essentially brainstorming with a more specific focus. Strategic thinking definitely encourages outside-the-box thinking but attempts to keep ideas somewhat close to the box, rather than encouraging even thoughts far from left field. With brainstorming, all ideas, no matter how ludicrous or seemingly ridiculous are encouraged. There is certainly value in brainstorming, such as when you are faced with an entirely new challenge no one has the slightest idea of how to solve or when you are deeply mired in a serious rut. Strategic thinking, however, generally starts off with a more specific problem to solve and some specific parameters to stay within. Brainstorming can help you solve seemingly impossible problems, while strategic thinking aims to solve more moderate issues with more moderate solutions.

Strategic Planning

Once you use strategic thinking to come up with a list of possibilities, you need to narrow it down to one or two best options, then come up with a series of actions steps or if/then statements to achieve them. For instance, if you want to target a new market, but are not sure if your product will really fly in that market or not, you might organize some focus groups or do some A/B testing. If the product shows a certain level of promise in that market, then you set a next action step. If it doesn’t show promise in that market, then you can pre-arrange a direction you want to head instead. Strategic planning allows you to have one session that covers multiple outcomes and gives you the next steps based on almost any outcome.

3 Times When Strategic Planning Should Not Be A Team Effort

Sometimes, plans can benefit from having the contributions of a wide range of viewpoints. Different people are able to envision different problems, which allow possible solutions or even alternative plans to be built directly into the plan. In other cases, however, to make cooks spoil the broth. While there are times a wide range of viewpoints can help make plans more comprehensive, there are also times when plans are better-made solo. Here are three times when strategic planning should not be a team effort.

1. When everyone has a competing agenda

There are times when everyone genuinely wants to make a plan better, but in other cases, they just want to get something for themselves. In that case, team planning meetings have a tendency to simply devolve into chaos. If you need to make strategic plans for something the team itself has a direct stake in, it is far better to make those plans yourself or to leave them to a single individual.

2. When the plans are for yourself

It does not matter what you are planning, there are always going to be people that have an opinion about what you should do. From going on vacation to planning a wedding, everyone will have an opinion and some will share it whether you ask for it or not. Some people can even get quite pushy about taking their advice. In some cases, it is better to keep it to yourself that you are even making plans at all and only ask a few qualified individuals for their input.

3. When you are first starting to make plans

Strategic planning is an ongoing process, not a singular event. The first step in the process is to develop at least some idea of what you want the end result to be. Then you can slowly begin letting people in on the plan that can help you flesh it out and make it more comprehensive. The stronger your plan grows, the more it can handle the weight of the mass of conflicting opinions that are sure to come. The more people that are involved, the more ideas, opinions, and agendas your idea will have to stand up to, so make sure it is as solid as possible before making it public.

Data & Business Strategy

Data has become an important factor in operating just about any business. While new IoT (Internet of Things) devices help business owners collect data, it’s also important to develop a system for curating that data. Without some way of analyzing that data and applying it to the business’ practices, it does little good to collect this information.

As a business leader, your ultimate goal should be to use data to help you promote a product that already has the potential to perform well. You may want to boost sales on an already popular product, or you may recognize a demand for a product you don’t yet manufacture. In either case, collecting data that relates to that product can help you reach the goals you have for marketing and selling that product.

Data collection can also be useful in helping you enter unfamiliar markets by giving you an indication of consumer spending habits. By analyzing the purchases of consumers in that market, you can measure how well your products will be received. This can help you devise a marketing strategy that will be customized to consumers in that market.

Often, people think of data analysis as a free tool that can help you compete in a global market. While that can be true up to a point, there are costs associated with collecting and using data that you should consider. For instance, what devices and software applications will be needed to collect and analyze that data? How will this data be stored? How long will you keep data on your system? These are all questions that will help you determine a strategy for collecting data, while also outlining the expenses associated with amassing and analyzing the data. Once you understand what’s involved in using data to grow your business, you’ll be better prepared to develop a strategy for collecting and using the data that’s most relevant to your business goals.

In the future, collecting data may become an even more essential aspect of operating your business. Data analytics may be used to help you determine what products to manufacture, when to order the raw materials to produce those products, and which consumers are most likely to buy those products. However, this doesn’t mean all data will be useful. Determining what data to collect will become as important as choosing the right hardware for storing that data.

Strategic Planning Strategies

Strategic planning gives an organization the opportunity to set priorities, assign resources, and harmonize energy towards achieving a common goal. For an organization to thrive in the market today, it should invest in proper strategic planning and management practices. Involving multiple stakeholders is the only way to ensure that the organization collectively moves forward. The entire organizational strategic planning process is quite complex, with multiple steps and stakeholders. To increase the likelihood of success, organizational strategic planning should involve four main parts.

Involving all the parties

For an inclusive strategic planning process in an organization, it is essential to engage the multiple parties concerned. The most important of these parties include the various departments in the organization, the senior and junior administrative structure, the employees, and even shareholders. Involving all the parties gives the organization the opportunity to win the incentives and the support of everyone whose input is crucial to the ultimate success of the planning process.

Setting milestones

Successful strategic planning should focus on setting specific milestones, deadlines, and goals to be achieved. Bringing all the stakeholders involved in the planning process to agree on common deadlines for specific tasks helps ensure that everyone within the company works towards a common goal. Without milestones, persons responsible for specific tasks in the outlined goals will not be able to set the momentum.

Work with action steps rather than goals

Before wrapping up the strategic planning process, it is highly essential to set in place the strategic action steps that are required to achieve the strategic goals. Working with action steps allows your organization to achieve its milestones within the desired time as compared to working with broad goals. The steps should define the particular actions that the organization needs to put in place in order to achieve the identified milestones.

Have a strategic review in place

After completing the strategic planning process, it is vital to have in place opportunities for strategic reviews to be done. The idea behind strategic reviews is to have the company evaluate its past performance in terms of the progress made within a given duration of time. If the review process identifies that the organization is lagging on various milestones, it should prompt the company to contemplate the necessary corrective measures and adjustments.

Strategic Planning’s Steps To Success

Strategic planning in business is one of the core corporate activities that should be conducted on a regular basis. Good strategic planning helps a business set its priorities right, realign its resources, and strengthen its operations to ensure that it is competent enough for long term success. Strategy planning should focus on, among others, 5 key areas.

 

  • Industry assessment

 

Conducting an assessment of a business’s industry or area of investment gives the business owners an opportunity to evaluate its competitors, the market pricing trends, trends in products and services, and customers’ purchasing power. All micro and macro-economic trends that define how the market flows should also be defined.

 

  • Comprehensive SWOT analysis

 

A SWOT analysis gives the business an opportunity to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses while pointing out any unexploited opportunities as well as threats that confront the business. A comprehensive business SWOT analysis should define a business’s position in the market while defining certain areas of possible strategic improvements that should be focused on along the way.

 

  • Definition of mission and vision

 

After the external business analysis, an internal definition of the business’s vision and mission should reaffirm to the owners why the business exists in the first place. The business’s vision is a definition of the strategic direction that the business is supposed to take in the short and long-term while the mission remains relatively constant as it defines the business’s core existence.

 

  • Definition of corporate goals

 

Every business should define what it needs to achieve and the specific outcomes and targets. When defining the corporate goals, it is important to focus on all areas of the business, ranging from sales and marketing to financial resources, employee targets, financial targets, and operational targets. These goals help a business to stay competitive, organized, and dedicated.

 

  • Harmonization of departmental objectives

 

comprehensive business strategic plan should also focus on the broad corporate objectives as well as the individual departmental objectives. Comprehensive planning ensures that the business achieves an all-round development where no particular department falls behind. Each department should have its own sub-objectives, which all work together towards fulfilling the larger corporate objectives.

 


 

Originally posted to Gorman’s website.

Keys To Success In Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is a crucial part and parcel of business management practices. It allows a business to position itself strategically for success while guiding its prospects in the market. As a business owner, investing in organizational strategic planning enables you to set goals and priorities that will define your business’s market value. Successful strategic planning should focus on five important steps and areas.

 

Industry assessment

 

The first important step to take is to assess market trends and the general flow of the industry in which the business has invested. The assessment should give you an overview of external forces that may be shaping the industry, including legislation, regulatory measures, competition, and general market trends. The insights developed can help you make decisions on how to realign your business for prospects.

 

Internal assessment

 

The next level in the strategic planning process should take you to conduct a comprehensive internal organizational review and evaluation. Evaluating your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) draws your attention to how well organized your business is its positives, and market potential. The strengths should be reinforced, the weaknesses worked on, the opportunities exploited, and the threats readily addressed.

 

Reviewing of organizational mission and vision

 

The third level of strategic planning should take you to evaluate your organization’s mission and vision to determine whether the business has been competently operating in the market. Sometimes, due to market changes, an organization may need to realign its mission, vision, and values to adapt accordingly. Industry changes within your area of the investment may require you to make a few alterations in what your business stands for.

 

Setting goals and priorities

 

After the internal and external assessment, it is essential to set goals and priorities on what to focus on in the short and long-term for your business to achieve the universal goal of sustainable operations. For instance, if industry changes and external analysis reveals that the market trend is being shaped by technology, then your business must set priorities of digitizing its operations.

 

Tracking progress

 

Progress evaluation is a crucial aspect of strategic planning. In this regard, your business should focus on using relevant key performance indicators to assess its progress. The tracking of progress should be accompanied by various slight adjustments for optimal performance to be realized.

 


 

Originally posted on Gorman’s website.

The Essentials of Forming a Strategic Plan

Strategic planning is how a business transforms from a struggling startup to a thriving organization and it involves adaptability and innovation. Successful organizations that have developed strategic plans have fulfilled their long term visions by adequately planning their priorities and making decisions that fit into the best interests of their company.

When everything comes together at a business it’s not without having properly aligned priorities. It’s important that any plan that’s made is including the correct use of resources and monitoring its impact throughout the process to ensure things are moving in the right direction.

There are a few essential points of strategic planning to transform a company.

 

Begin with Leadership

There are certain things that leaders must delegate, however strategic planning is not one of them. The leadership of the organization must be committed to the planning process. To move forward with success those in charge must demonstrate their faith in the plan and explain to their team the why behind each step. With a strategic plan in place goals can be set and accomplished, only when everyone is on the same page.

Inclusivity

This goes hand in hand with the first essential factor of strategic planning. Beginning at the top, leaders need to have a clear vision of what the plan will accomplish. After that is established it is vital that everyone across the board is included and has a fundamental understanding.

Employees should feel that their voices matter and are heard so that everyone can put ideas together and gather insight. This is important so that the entire company has a passion for the work and cares about the future of the business. Brainstorming sessions are a great tool to help gain the feeling of inclusivity and develop a plan that will be successful. Collaboration between every branch will boost momentum.

Refer to Plan When Making Decisions


Any decision an organization reaches should be made only after referring to the strategic plan. Use the plan as a guide to base everything else off of. Refer to the plan often when making choices that can directly affect the company’s mission. Is everything aligning with the core values? One decision could affect the focus of the mission. As time passes, strategic planning is important to review to clarify that budgets and timelines are in order.

Involve Different Skill Sets


Any successful leader will tell you to surround yourself with people that can do things that you, yourself cannot. When making a strategic plan involve all types of skill sets. You need strategists and planners, but you also need craftsmen and designers. For the goals of a company to be reached there will need to be answers to all sorts of questions and to get the correct ones you’ll want a team that has knowledge in every aspect of the business. When everyone comes together there will be enough passion, skill, and understanding of the plan to have a significant impact.

 


Business Trends to Watch in 2020

The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, believed that our world is controlled by the laws of change. He has been quoted as saying that “change is the only constant in life.” That phrase is never truer than in the world of business. Industry trends come and go constantly. Some stick around for only a short while, while others gain momentum and evolve with the times, becoming part of our natural way of life.

For future entrepreneurs, it helps to know what the future holds for them so they can pursue a successful path. Technology is sure to be a large presence over a broad range of industries. The first commercial-grade computer was invented in 1937, with the first transistor ten years later. The timeline has sped up exponentially since then, with personal computers and the internet arriving in the 1970s, and artificial intelligence beginning to take hold in 2017. And it shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. By the year 2020, the AI industry is expected to be worth over $70 billion. Global players in the field include Microsoft and Google.

One trend that is gaining momentum is drone technology. Originally only used in a military capacity, drones are now being incorporated into our daily lives as delivery vessels. People can have packages and groceries delivered by air directly to their doorstep, and some states have gotten FAA approval to let UPS fly urgent medical packages to select destinations within a specified radius.

Augmented and virtual reality have both really taken off in recent years as well. This technology is used in a variety of applications, both recreationally and for business purposes. As time goes on, the quality of the imagery is expected to have a higher resolution and be more authentic. The devices worn are also expected to become more comfortable and portable and the ability to control and navigate systems will become more fluid.

Another area that is going to continue to evolve is the concept of wearables. The idea of turning everything you eat and drink into measurable data is changing the way people are controlling their own healthcare needs. Now people can monitor their sleep patterns and the number of steps taken as well as their precise levels of energy output throughout the day. They can also measure heart rates and look for any signs of danger. In more than a handful of cases, a person’s activity tracker has been able to detect a heart issue that enabled its wearer to get to a hospital in time for the proper treatment.

 


 

Originally posted to Gorman’s website.