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  • Writer's pictureRita Simmons

5 Tips for Strategic Planning Success

Strategic planning has become an invaluable tool for business development. Some industries use strategic plans to guide cost-cutting, some to show return on investment, or others because of increased regulations driving the need for change. Many companies have fully adopted a planning mindset, however, they often miss the mark with execution and thus waste a significant amount of time and money.

Consider these five tips before you begin your strategic planning session to avoid some of the most common pitfalls.

1. Planning should involve employees from all levels in the planning process

One of the leading reasons for strategic planning failure is the lack of adoption inside the organization. Your people are the key to the successful integration of new ideas and concepts and it’s critical to involve them in the change process. Include employees from various departments and segments of the company in the strategic planning process to connect them with the organization’s vision and goals and increase their investment in plan execution.

2. Develop the strategic plan based on organizational goals

Companies often believe it is advantageous to allow individual divisions to conduct plan development and implementation, however, divisional plans lack an organizational mission and strategy to follow and rarely lead to positive results. When plans are created in silo’s, they often fail to identify resources required from other parts of the company, leading to poor communication and wasted resources. For the best results, create an overarching strategic plan for the organization with inputs from divisional teams. This will make sure everyone is aligned with the company mission, vision, and goals.

3. Understand the difference between a strategic plan and an operational plan

It is much easier for employees to think of success at work in terms of daily tasks and “to-do” lists. This is necessary because businesses often develop day-day and week-week plans to meet company deliverables and customer needs. However, this type of list-making, and task-oriented planning, typically referred to as an operational plan, is not a replacement for a strategic plan. A strategic plan is meant to drive the direction of your organization over the next 1-3 years. In an ideal world, your organization would employ both types of plans, connecting them to operationalize your strategy. This will focus resources in the proper areas, make execution easier, and ensure that you strive for future success while operating effectively from day-day.

4. Remember that perfection should not be the goal

A strategic planning group never feels they have enough time to complete their task. They often spend far too much time on the process and do not focus on the desired outcomes. Allocate a sufficient amount of time to create a plan that incorporates two or three primary short and long-term goals, associated enabling objectives, and then a well-thought-out strategy of how to achieve those goals. It often helps to have a facilitator that can guide the planning team in their discussions and ensure they stay on track. Once the plan is finalized, distribute, and execute. It is far better to have a really good plan and actually implement it, then to try and reach the “perfect” plan that never gets executed. The goal is to optimize both planning and execution to optimize success.

5. A strategic plan must be a living document

The leadership team must drive the vision of the company and individuals within the organization must adopt the vision, execute the plan, and provide feedback and updates. This is the only way that a strategic plan influences the strategic decisions of leaders and executives and, in turn, drives the organization forward. For many companies the process can be difficult and why most need a system in place to collect updates, monitor progress, and feed changes into the plan to ensure relevance and that the plan adapts to a changing business landscape or company processes and goals. Another way a company can improve the quality of their strategic plan is to utilize trained planners to guide the plan’s development, implementation, and monitoring. The overarching goal is to become a company that knows who they are, where they are going, and how they are going to get there. This spells success for any business.


Rita Simmons is the founder and lead consultant of Novelle, where she provides business and research consulting to companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Simmons leverages her drive for innovation and excellence along with her extensive executive and military experience to help business owners grow their business, drive revenue, and achieve strategic goals. When you’re ready to take your business to the next level, contact Dr. Simmons at or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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