Does Strategic Planning Need to be that Complex?

A key part of strategic planning is asking and answering a number of key questions. Good planning of any kind is based on asking the right questions (why) before giving the right answers (how or what’s stopping us).

Strategic planning is planning which focuses on the “WHYS”, (the longer term vision, mission, values, pillars and goals of the organization), and ties them to the “HOWS”, (the more everyday activities of the organization). Like everything, it is best when kept simple.

Through many years in the trenches, we have observed a number of problems with strategic planning:

  1. Many organizations want a “strategic plan”… without really knowing what that really means and therefore no clear idea as to how to create it.
  2. Most organizations want to agree on a high level direction for where they are going in the future.
  3. Many organizations do annual retreats that they desire to be strategically focused but nothing happens afterwards.

In fact, most fear that their work will “end up on a shelf” rather than being owned and implemented which just causes frustration. In fact, many organizations have hired expensive consulting companies to prepare their strategic plan for them. The resulting plan often ends up on the shelf and everyone goes back to their jobs doing their routine work. Nothing changes and a large opportunity has been missed.

One of things that makes strategic planning more complicated than it needs to be is that there are many interchangeable terms used. These words often mean different things to different people. They include:

  • Vision or Big Picture representing a high level view of the organization;
  • Mission which some might refer to as purpose;
  • Pillars, which are often referred to as imperatives;
  • Values or Guiding Principles;
  • Goals or Objectives or tactics, strategies or priorities;
  • Initiatives or Programs, Action Plans;
  • There are scorecards or targets, measures, and KPIs;
  • SWOT, referring to an analysis that outlines the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

This is only a sampling. No wonder people find strategic planning confusing.

Simplexity Thinking employs a 4-step strategic planning process that starts with fact-finding and ends with action planning.  Additional steps include challenge finding and challenge mapping.  Each step has a divergence and convergence step and we discuss to better understand and agree before moving on.

Action planning is the last step.  With a strategic plan normally having a 3 to 5 year time horizon, it is crucial to create detailed action plans that convert initiatives into specific steps and includes answers to: who does what, how, when and where?

Operational Plans that include budget preparation usually are 1-year out, but it is important to remember that strategy always comes before operational planning. In this way it is possible to ensure the budget is aligned with the strategic direction of the organization.

So there you have it strategic planning does not have to be so complex. Please drop us a line ( or give us a call (905-690-4903) to learn more about Simplexity Thinking and your strategic planning efforts.  Our experience ranges from Fortune 100 organizations, non-profits and government to fledgling entrepreneurial start-ups.  We guarantee an experience that will change how your organization operates and how all of your resources can be focused on achieving a well thought out strategic plan (on one page!) with consensus and buy-in from everyone involved.