Strategic Planning The Reality of Making It Work

There's often a gap between the theory and principles behind strategic planning, and the reality of business life, and planning. Here are a few things to keep in mind before, during and after the planning process.

It's Non-Linear!

Models of strategic planning sometimes suggest that the process is logical, rational, and linear...where each step follows the previous one. In reality, this isn't the case...or at least not the whole story. Sometimes you will find that something you generate in a later step must be fed back to a step that you already finished. That's normal. Sometimes strategic planning can work in a straight line, and sometimes it works in loops.

It's a Human Endeavor!

Strategic planning is a process carried out by people with different opinions, and different perceptions of which "facts" are valid and relevant. Again, it is a process that isn't quite so logical as it appears on the surface. That means differences of opinion and sometimes arguements. It happens! One important human aspect of the process is the need to build consensus.

It Takes Time!

Strategic planning always takes more time than you think. See "It's A Human Endeavor".


It makes sense to finish your strategic planning prior to budget or estimates submissions. Then you link your budget justifications to your plan. Then again, some would suggest that it is pointless (at least these days) to do any planning until you know what money and people you will have left after budgets and estimates. You have to decide what will work for you.

The Desk Drawer Syndrome!

The desk drawer syndrome refers to the tendency for strategic plans to be put in the back of one's desk drawer, never to be removed (except to houseclean three years later). This tends to occur when strategic planning is undertaken without any commitment to actually make use of it (as in "the CEO wants to see our plan, so maybe we should make one up".) This is plain silly! If the CEO wants to see a plan, and you are going to spend all that time making one up, then the least you can do is use the darn thing to guide your decision making.

The Executive Privacy Act!

When executive and management work to develop strategic plans, and then refuse or forget to share them with staff, a good amount of the benefit derived from doing a plan is lost. One important purpose of planning is to create a common vision within the entire organization.


Strategic planning, when properly implemented, involves a cascading process. Departmental planning is done first. Then, divisions within the department take that plan and incorporate it in their divisional planning. Then region/branch planning occurs. At the end, the plan of the region/branch fits into the division plan which fits into the departmental those little Russian dolls.

(c) 2005, Robert Bacal, Bacal & Associates. You are welcome to "reprint" this article online as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including the "about the author" info at the end) all links are made live, and this copyright notice and indication of authorship are included.

Robert Bacal is a noted performance management author, consultant and trainer, and is the author of a number of books published by McGraw-Hill including Performance Management - A Briefcase Book, Manager's Guide to Performance Reviews and Perfect Phrases For Performance Reviews.

Robert has created The Business and Strategic Planning Resource Center at where you will find hundreds of articles on all aspects of planning -- from strategic planning, planning effective meetings, financial planning, disaster recovery, through to career planning.

In addtion to these planning resources, he has created similar free sites on customer service, conflict management, relationship improvement. To access a complete index of resources, go to

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