Smart organizations use strategic planning because it helps them:

1. Get where they want to be. Smart organizations know that to be successful, they need to have a clear understanding of their current status (where they are now), a vivid vision of where they want to be, a plan for how they will reach their vision and methods to measure their progress. Strategic planning provides the road map that guides them on the journey to their success. It identifies where they are now, helps them determine where they want to go, develops an action plan on how they will get there and measures their success.

2. Understand their current environment. Smart organizations know it is critically important to understand their marketplace, their customers, their vendors, and trends that are or may impact the marketplace. They also know that it is just as important to understand themselves – their internal strengths and weaknesses. Mark Twain says, “It’s what we know, that just ain’t so.” Sometimes our own “in-house” perspective can distort the reality of the environment in which we operate. Market research gathers objective information for the smart organization to analyze before it sets off on its journey. Well-designed market research provides the basis for smart decisions. Decisions about product lines, direction, cost-savings strategies, growth, etc. are only as good as the information upon which they are based. Market research provides smart organizations that solid, objective basis of information before it begins to invest money and human resources in implementation.

3. Clarify their thinking. Smart organizations know they need to continually challenge their thinking. In today’s chaotic economic environment, smart organizations know they must live by their core values, be driven by their mission and be guided by their vision. The strategic planning process provides the framework to examine the factors that are impacting their environment.

4. Focus. Smart organizations know they must focus their energies and resources on a few key strategic issues. The strategic planning process helps organizations to target the key three to five issues that will result in quantum leaps towards the vision. Focusing on relatively small number of prioritized key strategic issues improves the chances for success. Teams clearly know the priorities. Attention and resources are focused.

5. Build an action plan. Smart organizations know they must have a detailed action plan to address each of the key strategic issues. The strategic planning process maps out the steps, resources, timelines and people who are needed to implement the action step. It connects the strategic thinking to detailed operational planning.

6. Measure results. Smart companies know they must continually measure their progress. Measuring outcomes provides the opportunity to fine tune, make mid-course corrections. The strategic planning process develops measurement strategies as part of the action planning.

7. Celebrate their successes. Smart organizations know that there are many intermediate successes on the road to their ultimate goal. Celebrating these mid-course successes is important to maintaining energy, enthusiasm, commitment and continuing progress. The strategic planning process emphasis on measurement creates the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the small achievements that are part of reaching the ultimate goal.

© 2011 Center for Strategic Change, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Judy Whalen is founder & CEO of the Center for Strategic Change, LLC ( a consulting firm that helps business and nonprofit leaders get clarity, maintain focus and take action that leads them to strategic change so they can achieve the quantum leaps they desire. Since 1992, she has been advising CEOs, Boards of Directors and Senior Leadership Teams in the areas of strategy, market research and communications. You can reach Judy at or by calling 608-455-2090. You can follow her on Twitter at or