Strategic Planning Models: Let’s Look At Five

We’ve talked at length in the past about strategy frameworks. Such as why strategy frameworks are useful, how you can use them, and apply them to your strategic plan. In this article, we’ll be covering five strategic planning models you can use in your planning and on your framework(s).

By the way, you can find plenty of resources on our blog, that walk you through:

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Strategic Planning Models VS Frameworks

We should first clarify the difference between strategic planning frameworks and strategic planning models. While I was researching online, I found some articles that confused the two, and spoke of them interchangeably.

Traditionally, a model refers to the presence of something in a graphic way and usually simplifies a situation. Hence, the modeling technique determines the way in which the situation is represented in a schematic way. Popular modeling techniques include process models, workflow models, life cycle models.

In contrast, a framework is, or contains, a structure or system for the realization of a defined set of result/goal. A framework can be managed through one model, or sometimes multiple models can be blended to create a hybrid.

So, for example, we may use a familiar framework, such as the balanced scorecard. The balanced scorecard revolves around 4 key areas of the organization. So, we can apply any one of the strategic planning models below, to help us discover issues and solidify goals.

We’ll cover five models that provide a wide range of alternatives, which can be integrated by an organization to develop their own modeling. For example, one might choose a scenario model to try and predict future situations, but then switch to an issue-based model to focus on resolving issues that come up with the scenario model.

The goal here is not to steer you to a particular strategic planning model, as your situation is unique, so these options are here to give you perspective on how you can approach your planning before you determine a framework to follow.

1st Model:

Strategic Planning Models. The Basic Model

This process usually fits well with a smaller organization. The scenario typically involves very busy people that have not really had much chance to plan, but are aware that some planning is required (or they will hit a wall at some stage). Basic strategic planning tends to be carried out in the first year, with more details added as the organization moves forward.

The Basic (or conventional) Strategic Planning Model looks a little bit like this:

  1. Identify the purpose (vision statement) – This is the statement(s) that describes why the organization exists, i.e. its basic purpose. The statements can evolve over the years (check out this article).
  2. Pick the goals the organization has to reach if it is to turn the vision into a reality. This includes Goals that are general statements about what the organization needs to accomplish along with any other major issues they need to address.
  3. Outline specific approaches that must be implemented to reach these goals. The strategies are often what changes the most as the organization eventually conduct more robust strategic planning, particularly by more closely examining the external and internal environments of the organization.
  4. Outline the action plans to implement each strategy. These are the specific activities that each person or team must undertake to ensure they’re effectively implementing each strategy.
  5. Monitor and update the plan. This is pretty self-explanatory, yet crucial. Use internal and external feedback to check the pulse of the plan.

strategic planning models

2nd Model:

Strategic Planning Models. The Issue – Based (or Goal – Based) Model

Organizations that start with the conventional or basic model, usually evolve to a more involved approach, using a more comprehensive type of planning. These are the key steps covered, but not every organization will follow these every time they plan their strategy. Usually what tends to happen, is the organization will tackle 3 key steps, then apply these to the basic strategic planning model when ready.

  1. Run an internal and external assessment to outline SWOT (Strength, weakness, opportunity, threats).
  2. Identify major issues and goals
  3. Design major strategies (or programs) to address issues/goals
  4. Update vision, mission, and values
  5. Establish action plans (objectives, resources, implementation roles)
  6. Record issues, goals, action steps into plans, etc.
  7. Create a yearly operating plan (based on the multi-year plan)

You can simplify the Issue-based Model in the 3 key phases or steps mentioned earlier:

  1. Identify the most important current issues facing the organization now (5 max).
  2. Suggest action plans to address each issue over the next 6-12 months.
  3. Include that information in a Strategic Plan.

strategic planning models

You could argue that this model can be approached in two ways. First of all being the full 7 step process, or simply focus on the 3 key phases and turn it into a more of an ‘internal development planning’ sort of model.

3rd Model

Strategic Planning Models. The Alignment Model

The point of this models is to make sure there is strong alignment with the vision, and ensure that the resources effectively support the organization. This model is really useful for organizations that are trying to figure out what isn’t working in their current strategy. Also, you may choose this model if you’re experiencing a large number of issues around internal efficiencies, such as productivity.

  1. The planning group outlines the organization’s mission, programs, resources, and needed support.
  2. Next, identify what’s working well and what needs adjustment.
  3. Identify how these adjustments should be made
  4. Include the adjustments as strategies in the strategic plan.

strategic planning models

Much like the Issue-based Model, you could argue that this is more of an internal development planning process, rather than a strategic one. But, it can also be argued the alignment model is a VERY strategic process that puts the organization that streamlines the strategic process.

4th Model:

Strategic Planning Models. The Scenario Model

To ensure everyone in the organization truly embraces strategic thinking, use the scenario model in combination with other models. The model may be useful, particularly in identifying strategic issues and goals.

  1. Choose a number of external forces and imagine changes to them that may affect the organization, e.g., regulatory, demographic, political, etc. Scanning current affairs often suggest these possible changes or scenarios.
  2. For each change in a force, discuss three different future organizational scenarios (including best case, worst case, and OK/reasonable case) which might arise with the organization as a result of each change. Reviewing the worst-case scenario often provokes strong motivation to change the organization.
  3. Suggest what the organization might do, or potential strategies, in each of the three scenarios to respond to each change.
  4. Planners soon detect common considerations or strategies that must be addressed to respond to possible external changes.
  5. Select the most likely external changes to affect the organization, e.g., over the next three to five years, and identify the most reasonable strategies the organization can undertake to respond to the change.

strategic planning models

5th Model:

Strategic Planning Models. The Organic Model

Strategists have traditionally considered the process of strategic planning as ‘square’, so to speak.  In the sense that it travels from general to specific, with cause-and-effect approach (funnily enough, this is why we use the ‘CASCADE’ concept in our software. You then have an analysis to conduct, helping you focus on goals and issues, and developing specific strategies to address these… well, forget all that (kidding)!

The idea in this strategic planning model is to carry a more ‘organic’ and conversational approach to the strategic process. This involves regular referencing to the common values during the dialogue so that a shared reflection of the vision takes center stage. It’s more about the ‘journey than the destination’ as they say. General steps can include:

  1. Clarify and articulate the organization’s cultural values. Use dialogue and storyboarding techniques.
  2. Articulate the group’s vision for the organization. Use dialogue and storyboarding techniques.
  3. The group needs regular dialouge about what processes are needed to achieve the organisations vision. Also what the group is going to do now about those processes.
  4. Continually remind yourself and others that this type of naturalistic planning is never really «over with,» and that, rather, the group needs to learn to conduct its own values clarification, dialogue/reflection, and process updates.
  5. Be very, very patient.
  6. Focus on learning and less on method.
  7. Ask the group to reflect on how the organization will portray its strategic plans to stakeholders, etc., who often expect the «mechanistic, linear» plan formats.

strategic planning models

Think of this as the ‘free spirit’ of the strategic planning models!

Combine strategic planning models together and use them at different points in the strategic planning process. Certainly, you don’t have to stick to one exclusively, but you probably wouldn’t want to chop and change too much. Changing your model frequently may confuse those involved in the strategic process and/or the stakeholders.

The goal here is to show you can use the model to really maintain a dynamic approach to your strategy. Furthermore, showing you’re able to inject life into your strategy well after you’ve settled on the key elements it entails. Key elements such as your vision, values, goals, etc. When you begin creating your strategy, use a model to assist. However, if you’ve completed your strategic plan, pick a model to help get more value out of your current process.

Strategies don’t have to follow exactly the process outlined for each of the models above. Hopefully though, this gives you ideas on the various processes you can follow while you carry out your strategic planning.

Before you start strategy plan modeling, claim your FREE 14 day trial of Cascade

Cascade is the complete strategy execution platform and will help you to model your strategic plan and much more. Easy to use, incredibly powerful and trusted by some of the largest (and smallest) brands in the world. Pricing starts at $29 per month

  • Frank

    I have exams tomorrow and this article has proved very refreshing.

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