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The strategic planning process has been around since man first picked up a rock to throw it at another.  Since that time our military has refined the strategic planning in order to cope with the ever changing roles our military plays in the world.  In the business world we can use the strategic planning process to attack the competition.


Yet, before you start the process of strategic planning, it is important that you first understand the strategic plan definition, as well as how to make the strategic planning process work. Clicking this link will open up in a new page so that you don’t lose this page. 


The following are the components of
the strategic planning process.


Step One: Conduct a Gap Analysis. This first step is where you getting crystal clear as to where you are today, and where you want to be at a specific time in the future (1,3,7,10, 20 years from now).  This is your End Result.  It may be in any given area:  Revenue, Profits, Market Share, Innovation, Cash Flow, Cash Reserves, Expenses, Employee retention, Customer satisfaction, Repeat Customers…


Most people kind-of know where they are, and have an idea where they want to be.  Both of these need to be specific.  This way you will have a benchmark of where you started, and will be able to gauge your progress. 

Wanting to “improve customer service” is not quantifiable.  Having a customer satisfaction rating of 78 percent, and wanting to improve to 85 percent is quantifiable.  This is paramount to the strategic planning process.


The difference from where you are today, to where you want to be ( the End Result) is “the Gap” that you must close.


           Step Two:  Writing a mission statement.  In this component of the stategic planning process you develop the mission statement.  It should at a minimum state Who must do What by When, Where, and Why.  The “Why” is the Desired Outcome from the Gap Analysis.


Step Three: Conduct a SWOT analysis.  You must objectively analysis your organizational Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

          Step Four: Develop the Leader’s Vision Statement.  Bar none, by far the most important component of the strategic planning process, for all time and will always be is The Leader’s Vision Statement!!!

 We are getting into the heart of
the Stategic Planning Process

Step Five:  Course of Action (COA) Development.  This step is the dependent upon brainstorming as many ideas as possible.  Here empowered subordinate planners generate as many courses of action as possible.  Given the end result and any constraints implied by the Leader’s Vision, there is an endless array of options. Depending on time, you want as many different courses of action as time allows. 

You need a minimum of two if you are absolutely running out of time, but developing three or more courses of action is much more preferable. It really just depends on the complexity of what you are trying to accomplish.  


Step Six:  Course of Action Analysis.   This component of the strategic planning process involves war-gaming the different Course of Actions..  It is paramount during this phase of planning that you remember that the competition and your customers have a vote. You do this unbiased analysis for each course of action and document the results.


Step Seven: Course of Action Comparison.  The empowered subordinate planners compile the different courses of action and the subsequent war-gaming results. They compare these war-gaming results and balance them against any criteria specified by the Leaders.  You can use whatever criteria the Leader directs or which is implied by him or specified by his Leader’s Vision.  Other COA criteria can come from the SWOT analysis where you looked at your unit’s Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats.  Examples of COA criteria might be:

 -Suitability – Will it complete the mission and meet the        Leader’s Vision?

- Feasibility – Is it possible?

- Acceptability – Are the risks acceptable?

- Completeness – Can it be completed on time?

- Simplicity – Are there fewer moving parts?

- Flexibility – Can you easily adapt it if the situation                        changes?

Next, assign a weight to the comparison criteria because not all criteria are created equal.  With this information, we can fill in a decision matrix.


The Stategic Planning Process
Decision Making Matrix



















2 (4)

1 (2)

1 (2)








1 (3)

3 (9)

2 (6)



2 (4)

1 (2)

3 (6)







Evaluate the course of actions separately and individually from each other.  Do not compare them against each other!  Only comparing them against the criteria.  Depending how well the COAs meet the criteria in the decision matrix, a value of 1-3 is assigned with 3 being the highest or best.  (Depending on the complexity of the analysis you can use a grading scale of 1-3, 1-10, 1-100. For simplicity sake, I used 1-3 for this example.)


Remember to “weigh” the appropriate criteria. Then add up the columns. 


It is apparent that COA 3 is the best choice because it scored higher in the analysis than the other two.  At this point, you would go back and brief the Leaders on the plan. 

The Leader has not necessarily been physically present throughout the planning process.  It is important to realize that he was there in spirit because he gave his Leader’s Vision Statement to guide and steer his staff in the planning process. 

If the leader does not like the plan, the leader simply tells them the aspects he or she doesn’t like and send the planners back for re-planning.

Understand that even if a Leader has empowered planners and the plans are developed bottom up (from subordinate to Leader), the Leader is still the leader. Think of it as participative planning with autocratic decision-making. If the plan in no good, won’t solve the problem, or violates the Leader’s Vision, make them change it.


Step Eight:  Produce and disseminate the approved strategic plan throughout the organization.


Step Nine:  Execute the strategic plan. 


Step Ten:  Monitor the progress of closing The Gap.


Using this strategic planning process, you, your subordinates and superiors will find better, well thought out, documented, and innovative solutions from the most minor to the largest Gaps you face.

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