The Debate: Is Strategizing the Same as Planning?

Is strategizing the same as planning?

We can all agree that strategizing and planning are part and parcel of running a successful business. In some organizations, strategic planning is conducted around the end of the fiscal year of the business.  These planning sessions are supposed to help a department and the organization plan for the upcoming year include planning around financials, marketing, staffing, projects and more.  They are meant to guide the organization in terms of operations and decisions.  Great leaders understand the importance of strategic planning, operational plans and using plans to drive the business.

However, the problem is not every manager really understands the vast difference between a “Strategy” and a “Plan.” Most of them just love calling every quarterly meeting “strategic planning” session like it’s some kind of instant formula to success. Strategizing and planning may be the best tools for success but only if you understand them hand how to use them in the proper way. So before you gather your team for yet another “strategic planning”, you owe it to them to come up with realistic, doable steps that’s more than just a long document of business lingo that only you can understand.

Here’s a quick review of these terms in their simplest definition, which is how you should translate it to your team. Now, these aren’t just definitions, these definitions should change your plans and expectations for your company’s next “strategic planning” session.

Strategy

A strategy is an overarching wisdom and guiding principle that will tie in all of your plans in place. Before you jump into budgeting and manpower and all the other specific steps, you need to have a single, common strategy for all business transactions. This will serve as the blueprint or foundation that will help your staff to accomplish the goals you set.

Plan

A plan is the list of initiatives you will take based on the company strategy. After you have finalized your strategy, you can now develop a list of steps towards the end goal. These are the how, when, where, and what that are all coherent to your strategy.  This is the meat and guts.  It identifies specific goals in each area of your operation, with details on how you will achieve those goals.

Take note that a strategic planning session begins with drawing out an integrated set of strategies that may lead to the desired outcome. Consider every possible factor around you and draw out the strategy that answers the question “why?”

Now, that you have a better grasp of these two terms, here are a few quick steps to help you create an effective strategy. Remember, all strong leaders know the art of strategic planning and have mastered the skills of operational planning.

1.  Identify your organization’s long-term aspirations. What is the goal of the business? Do you aim to expand? Do you want to be the fastest selling brand?  What do you want to be known for?

2.  Review your existing market. Who are your competitors? How do you compare with them? How do you plan to win against the competitors?  How much market share do you have and do you want to change it?  Do you want to add additional products or services to your current offerings?

3.  Identify the resources you will need to be able to have a winning chance against your competition. This may include the finances, skills, and facilities you will need.

4.  What are some external factors that may likely challenge your business’s ability to compete against others in the market? These factors may be totally out of your control.

5.  Now, draw up your strategy for success based on all the useful information you have gathered.

Remember that this strategy will be your overarching principle and guide as you move on to making your specific plans. Successful strategic planning equates to good business leadership.  Once you have developed the strategy, it will inform your decisions around the specifics of the plan.

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