The Harvard Business Review Article from January 2014 makes a significant point that all strategic plans look remarkably alike. They start out with a vision or mission statement that sets out a relatively lofty and aspirational goal. Second, there is a list of initiatives—such as product launches, geographic expansions, and construction projects—that the organization will carry out in pursuit of the goal. This part of the strategic plan tends to be very organized but also very long. The length of the list is generally constrained only by affordability. Finally, they have financial projections and budgets that cover the next fiscal year.
But is this really “strategic” planning? Maybe strategic planning is not about planning at all. Maybe it’s really the process we go through to examine the opportunities available to us. Under this way of thinking your strategic plan might look more like of list of opportunities with their pros and cons. The real strategy then becomes the decision of which to pursue and perhaps even more importantly, which to not. Once you have your strategy in place, then the planning can start.