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Operational Planning: How to Make an Operations Plan


The operations of your business can be defined as the sum of all the daily activities that you and your team execute to create products or services and engage with your customers, among other critical business functions. While organizing these moving parts might sound difficult, it can be easily done by writing a business operational plan. But before we learn how to make one, let’s first understand what’s the relationship between strategic and operational planning.

Operational Planning vs. Strategic Planning

Operational planning and strategic planning are complementary to each other. This is because strategic plans define the business strategy and the long-term goals for your organization, while operational plans define the steps required to achieve them.

What Is a Strategic Plan?

A strategic plan is a business document that describes the business goals of a company as well as the high-level actions that will be taken to achieve them over a time period of 1-3 years.

What Is an Operational Plan?

Operational plans map the daily, weekly or monthly business operations that’ll be executed by the department to complete the goals you’ve previously defined in your strategic plan. Operational plans go deeper into explaining your business operations as they explain roles and responsibilities, timelines and the scope of work.

Operational plans work best when an entire department buys in, assigning due dates for tasks, measuring goals for success, reporting on issues and collaborating effectively. They work even better when there’s a platform like ProjectManager , which facilitates communication across departments to ensure that the machine is running smoothly as each team reaches its benchmark. Get started with ProjectManager for free today.

Gantt chart with operational plan

What Is Operational Planning?

Operational planning is the process of turning strategic plans into action plans, which simply means breaking down high-level strategic goals and activities into smaller, actionable steps. The main goal of operational planning is to coordinate different departments and layers of management to ensure the whole organization works towards the same objective, which is achieving the goals set forth in the strategic plan .

How to Make an Operational Plan

There’s no single approach to follow when making an operation plan for your business. However, there’s one golden rule in operations management : your strategic and operational plans must be aligned. Based on that principle, here are seven steps to make an operational plan.

  • Map business processes and workflows: What steps need to be taken at the operations level to accomplish long-term strategic goals?
  • Set operational-level goals: Describe what operational-level goals contribute to the achievement of larger strategic goals.
  • Determine the operational timeline: Is there any time frame for the achievement of the operational plan?
  • Define your resource requirements: Estimate what resources are needed for the execution of the operational plan.
  • Estimate the operational budget: Based on your resource requirements, estimate costs and define an operational budget.
  • Set a hiring plan: Are there any skills gaps that need to be filled in your organization?
  • Set key performance indicators: Define metrics and performance tracking procedures to measure your team’s performance.

strategic planning in operations management

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Operational Plan Template

Use this free Operational Plan Template for Word to manage your projects better.

What Should be Included in an Operational Plan?

Your operational plan should describe your business operations as accurately as possible so that internal teams know how the company works and how they can help achieve the larger strategic objectives. Here’s a list of some of the key elements that you’ll need to consider when writing an operational plan.

Executive Summary

An executive summary is a brief document that summarizes the content of larger documents like business plans, strategic plans or operation plans. Their main purpose is to provide a quick overview for busy stakeholders.

Operational Budget

An operational budget is an estimation of the expected operating costs and revenues for a given time period. As with other types of budget, the operational budget defines the amount of money that’s available to acquire raw materials, equipment or anything else that’s needed for business operations.

It’s important to limit your spending to stay below your operational budget, otherwise, your company could run out of resources to execute its normal activities. You can use our free operating budget template for Excel to track your operating costs.

Operational Objectives

It’s essential to align your operational objectives with your strategic objectives. For example, if one of your strategic objectives is to increase sales by 25 percent over the next three years, one possible operational objective would be to hire new sales employees. You should always grab your strategic plan objectives and turn them into one or multiple action items .

Processes & Workflows

Explain the various business processes, workflows and tasks that need to be executed to achieve your operational objectives. Make sure to explain what resources are needed, such as raw materials, equipment or human resources.

Operational Timeline

It’s important to establish a timeline for your operational plan. In most cases, your operational plan will have the same length as your strategic plan, but in some scenarios, you might create multiple operational plans for specific purposes. Not all operational plans are equal, so the length of your operational timeline will depend on the duration of your projects , workflows and processes.

Hiring Plan

Find any skills gap there might be in your team. You might need to hire a couple of individuals or even create new departments in order to execute your business processes .

Quality Assurance and Control

Most companies implement quality assurance and control procedures for a variety of reasons such as customer safety and regulatory compliance. In addition, quality assurance issues can cost your business millions, so establishing quality management protocols is a key step in operational planning.

Key Performance Indicators

It’s important to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the productivity of your business operations. You can define as many KPIs as needed for all your business processes. For example, you can define KPIs for marketing, sales, product development and other key departments in your company. This can include product launch deadlines, number of manufactured goods, number of customer service cases closed, number of 5-star reviews received, number of customers acquired, revenue increased by a certain percentage and so on.

Risks, Assumptions and Constraints

Note any potential risks, assumptions and time or resource constraints that might affect your business operations.

Free Operational Plan Template

Leverage everything you’ve learned today with our template. This free operational plan template for Word will help you define your budget, timeline, KPIs and more. It’s the perfect first step in organizing and improving your operations. Download it today.

ProjectManager's free operational plan template for Word.

What Are the Benefits of Operational Planning?

Every plan has a massive effect on all team members involved, and those can be to your company’s benefit or to their detriment. If it’s to their detriment, it’s best to find out as soon as possible so you can modify your operational plan and pivot with ease.

But that’s the whole point of operational planning: you get to see the effect of your operations on the business’s bottom line in real time, or at every benchmark, so you know exactly when to pivot. And with a plan that’s as custom to each department as an operational plan, you know exactly where things go wrong and why.

How ProjectManager Can Help with Operational Planning

Creating and implementing a high-quality operational plan is the best way to ensure that your organization starts out a project on the right foot. ProjectManager has award-winning project management tools to help you craft and execute such a plan.

Gantt charts are essential to create and monitor operational plans effectively. ProjectManager helps you access your Gantt chart online so you can add benchmarks for operational performance reviews. You can also create tasks along with dependencies to make the operation a surefire success.

A screenshot of a gantt chart in ProjectManager

Whether you’re a team of IT system administrators, marketing experts, or engineers, ProjectManager includes robust planning and reporting tools. Plan in sprints, assign due dates, collaborate with team members and track everything with just the click of a button. Plus, we have numerous ready-made project reports that can be generated instantly, including status reports, variance reports, timesheet reports and more.

project status report builder

Related Operations Management Content

  • Operational Strategy: A Quick Guide
  • Operations Management: Key Functions, Roles and Skills
  • Operational Efficiency: A Quick Guide
  • Using Operational Excellence to Be More Productive

Operational planning isn’t done in a silo, and it doesn’t work without the full weight of the team backing it up. Ensure that your department is successful at each benchmark. ProjectManager is an award-winning pm software dedicated to helping businesses smooth out their operational plans for a better year ahead. Sign up for our free 30-day trial today.

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What is a Strategic Plan?

What is strategic management what is strategy execution.

strategic management

Strategic management is the comprehensive collection of ongoing activities and processes that organizations use to systematically coordinate and align resources and actions with mission, vision and strategy throughout an organization. Strategic management activities transform the static plan into a system that provides strategic performance feedback to decision making and enables the plan to evolve and grow as requirements and other circumstances change.  Strategy Execution is basically synonymous with Strategy Management and amounts to the systematic implementation of a strategy.

What Are the Steps in Strategic Planning & Management?

There are many different frameworks and methodologies for strategic planning and management. While there are no absolute rules regarding the right framework, most follow a similar pattern and have common attributes. Many frameworks cycle through some variation on some very basic phases:

  • Analysis or assessment, where an understanding of the current internal and external environments is developed
  • Strategy formulation, where high level strategy is developed and a basic organization level strategic plan is documented
  • Strategy execution, where the high level plan is translated into more operational planning and action items, and
  • Evaluation or sustainment / management phase, where ongoing refinement and evaluation of performance, culture, communications, data reporting, and other strategic management issues occurs.

Related: What Are the Nine Steps to Strategic Planning and Management?

steps in strategic planning

A strategy map is a simple graphic that shows a logical, cause-and-effect connection between strategic objectives (shown as ovals on the map). It is one of the most powerful elements associated with the balanced scorecard methodology, as it is used to quickly communicate how value is created by the organization. Strategy mapping can vastly improve any strategy communication effort. Most people are visual learners and so a picture of your strategy will be understood by many more employees than a written narrative. Plus the process of developing a strategy map forces the team to agree on what they are trying to accomplish in simple, easy-to-understand terms. With a well-designed strategy map, every employee can see how they contribute to the achievement of the organization’s objectives.

What Are the Attributes of a Good Planning Framework?

attributes of good strategic plan

For more information about strategic planning and management in general or for about how we can help you, please contact us  directly.

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The strategic planning process in 4 steps, to help you throughout our strategic planning framework, we have created a how-to guide on the basics of a strategic plan, which we will take you through step-by-step..

Free Strategic Planning Guide

What is Strategic Planning?

Strategic Planning is when organizations define a bold vision and create a plan with objectives and goals to reach that future. A great strategic plan defines where your organization is going, how you’ll win, who must do what, and how you’ll review and adapt your strategy development.


Overview of the Strategic Planning Process:

The strategic management process involves taking your organization on a journey from point A (where you are today) to point B (your vision of the future).

Part of that journey is the strategy built during strategic planning, and part of it is execution during the strategic management process. A good strategic plan dictates “how” you travel the selected road.

Effective execution ensures you are reviewing, refreshing, and recalibrating your strategy to reach your destination. The planning process should take no longer than 90 days. But, move at a pace that works best for you and your team and leverage this as a resource.

To kick this process off, we recommend 1-2 weeks (1-hour meeting with the Owner/CEO, Strategy Director, and Facilitator (if necessary) to discuss the information collected and direction for continued planning.)

Strategic Planning Guide and Process

Questions to Ask:

  • Who is on your Planning Team? What senior leadership members and key stakeholders are included? Checkout these links you need help finding a strategic planning consultant , someone to facilitate strategic planning , or expert AI strategy consulting .
  • Who will be the business process owner (Strategy Director) of planning in your organization?
  • Fast forward 12 months from now, what do you want to see differently in your organization as a result of your strategic plan and implementation?
  • Planning team members are informed of their roles and responsibilities.
  • A strategic planning schedule is established.
  • Existing planning information and secondary data collected.

Action Grid:


Step 1: Determine Organizational Readiness

Set up your plan for success – questions to ask:

  • Are the conditions and criteria for successful planning in place at the current time? Can certain pitfalls be avoided?
  • Is this the appropriate time for your organization to initiate a planning process? Yes or no? If no, where do you go from here?

Step 2: Develop Your Team & Schedule

Who is going to be on your planning team? You need to choose someone to oversee the strategy implementation (Chief Strategy Officer or Strategy Director) and strategic management of your plan? You need some of the key individuals and decision makers for this team. It should be a small group of approximately 12-15 people.

OnStrategy is the leader in strategic planning and performance management. Our cloud-based software and hands-on services closes the gap between strategy and execution. Learn more about OnStrategy here .

Step 3: Collect Current Data

All strategic plans are developed using the following information:

  • The last strategic plan, even if it is not current
  • Mission statement, vision statement, values statement
  • Past or current Business plan
  • Financial records for the last few years
  • Marketing plan
  • Other information, such as last year’s SWOT, sales figures and projections

Step 4: Review Collected Data

Review the data collected in the last action with your strategy director and facilitator.

  • What trends do you see?
  • Are there areas of obvious weakness or strengths?
  • Have you been following a plan or have you just been going along with the market?

Conclusion: A successful strategic plan must be adaptable to changing conditions. Organizations benefit from having a flexible plan that can evolve, as assumptions and goals may need adjustments. Preparing to adapt or restart the planning process is crucial, so we recommend updating actions quarterly and refreshing your plan annually.

Strategic Planning Pyramid

Strategic Planning Phase 1: Determine Your Strategic Position

Want more? Dive into the “ Evaluate Your Strategic Position ” How-To Guide.

Action Grid

Step 1: identify strategic issues.

Strategic issues are critical unknowns driving you to embark on a robust strategic planning process. These issues can be problems, opportunities, market shifts, or anything else that keeps you awake at night and begging for a solution or decision. The best strategic plans address your strategic issues head-on.

  • How will we grow, stabilize, or retrench in order to sustain our organization into the future?
  • How will we diversify our revenue to reduce our dependence on a major customer?
  • What must we do to improve our cost structure and stay competitive?
  • How and where must we innovate our products and services?

Step 2: Conduct an Environmental Scan

Conducting an environmental scan will help you understand your operating environment. An environmental scan is called a PEST analysis, an acronym for Political, Economic, Social, and Technological trends. Sometimes, it is helpful to include Ecological and Legal trends as well. All of these trends play a part in determining the overall business environment.

Step 3: Conduct a Competitive Analysis

The reason to do a competitive analysis is to assess the opportunities and threats that may occur from those organizations competing for the same business you are. You need to understand what your competitors are or aren’t offering your potential customers. Here are a few other key ways a competitive analysis fits into strategic planning:

  • To help you assess whether your competitive advantage is really an advantage.
  • To understand what your competitors’ current and future strategies are so you can plan accordingly.
  • To provide information that will help you evaluate your strategic decisions against what your competitors may or may not be doing.

Learn more on how to conduct a competitive analysis here .

Step 4: Identify Opportunities and Threats

Opportunities are situations that exist but must be acted on if the business is to benefit from them.

What do you want to capitalize on?

  • What new needs of customers could you meet?
  • What are the economic trends that benefit you?
  • What are the emerging political and social opportunities?
  • What niches have your competitors missed?

Threats refer to external conditions or barriers preventing a company from reaching its objectives.

What do you need to mitigate? What external driving force do you need to anticipate?

Questions to Answer:

  • What are the negative economic trends?
  • What are the negative political and social trends?
  • Where are competitors about to bite you?
  • Where are you vulnerable?

Step 5: Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths refer to what your company does well.

What do you want to build on?

  • What do you do well (in sales, marketing, operations, management)?
  • What are your core competencies?
  • What differentiates you from your competitors?
  • Why do your customers buy from you?

Weaknesses refer to any limitations a company faces in developing or implementing a strategy.

What do you need to shore up?

  • Where do you lack resources?
  • What can you do better?
  • Where are you losing money?
  • In what areas do your competitors have an edge?

Step 6: Customer Segments


Customer segmentation defines the different groups of people or organizations a company aims to reach or serve.

  • What needs or wants define your ideal customer?
  • What characteristics describe your typical customer?
  • Can you sort your customers into different profiles using their needs, wants and characteristics?
  • Can you reach this segment through clear communication channels?

Step 7: Develop Your SWOT


A SWOT analysis is a quick way of examining your organization by looking at the internal strengths and weaknesses in relation to the external opportunities and threats. Creating a SWOT analysis lets you see all the important factors affecting your organization together in one place.

It’s easy to read, easy to communicate, and easy to create. Take the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats you developed earlier, review, prioritize, and combine like terms. The SWOT analysis helps you ask and answer the following questions: “How do you….”

  • Build on your strengths
  • Shore up your weaknesses
  • Capitalize on your opportunities
  • Manage your threats


Strategic Planning Process Phase 2: Developing Strategy

Want More? Deep Dive Into the “Developing Your Strategy” How-To Guide.

Step 1: Develop Your Mission Statement

The mission statement describes an organization’s purpose or reason for existing.

What is our purpose? Why do we exist? What do we do?

  • What are your organization’s goals? What does your organization intend to accomplish?
  • Why do you work here? Why is it special to work here?
  • What would happen if we were not here?

Outcome: A short, concise, concrete statement that clearly defines the scope of the organization.

Step 2: discover your values.

Your values statement clarifies what your organization stands for, believes in and the behaviors you expect to see as a result. Check our the post on great what are core values and examples of core values .

How will we behave?

  • What are the key non-negotiables that are critical to the company’s success?
  • What guiding principles are core to how we operate in this organization?
  • What behaviors do you expect to see?
  • If the circumstances changed and penalized us for holding this core value, would we still keep it?

Outcome: Short list of 5-7 core values.

Step 3: casting your vision statement.


A Vision Statement defines your desired future state and directs where we are going as an organization.

Where are we going?

  • What will our organization look like 5–10 years from now?
  • What does success look like?
  • What are we aspiring to achieve?
  • What mountain are you climbing and why?

Outcome: A picture of the future.

Step 4: identify your competitive advantages.

How to Identify Competitive Advantages

A competitive advantage is a characteristic of an organization that allows it to meet its customer’s need(s) better than its competition can. It’s important to consider your competitive advantages when creating your competitive strategy.

What are we best at?

  • What are your unique strengths?
  • What are you best at in your market?
  • Do your customers still value what is being delivered? Ask them.
  • How do your value propositions stack up in the marketplace?

Outcome: A list of 2 or 3 items that honestly express the organization’s foundation for winning.

Step 5: crafting your organization-wide strategies.


Your competitive strategy is the general methods you intend to use to reach your vision. Regardless of the level, a strategy answers the question “how.”

How will we succeed?

  • Broad: market scope; a relatively wide market emphasis.
  • Narrow: limited to only one or few segments in the market
  • Does your competitive position focus on lowest total cost or product/service differentiation or both?

Outcome: Establish the general, umbrella methods you intend to use to reach your vision.


Phase 3: Strategic Plan Development

Want More? Deep Dive Into the “Build Your Plan” How-To Guide.

Strategic Planning Process Step 1: Use Your SWOT to Set Priorities

If your team wants to take the next step in the SWOT analysis, apply the TOWS Strategic Alternatives Matrix to your strategy map to help you think about the options you could pursue. To do this, match external opportunities and threats with your internal strengths and weaknesses, as illustrated in the matrix below:

TOWS Strategic Alternatives Matrix

Evaluate the options you’ve generated, and identify the ones that give the greatest benefit, and that best achieve the mission and vision of your organization. Add these to the other strategic options that you’re considering.

Step 2: Define Long-Term Strategic Objectives

Long-Term Strategic Objectives are long-term, broad, continuous statements that holistically address all areas of your organization. What must we focus on to achieve our vision? Check out examples of strategic objectives here. What are the “big rocks”?

Questions to ask:

  • What are our shareholders or stakeholders expectations for our financial performance or social outcomes?
  • To reach our outcomes, what value must we provide to our customers? What is our value proposition?
  • To provide value, what process must we excel at to deliver our products and services?
  • To drive our processes, what skills, capabilities and organizational structure must we have?

Outcome: Framework for your plan – no more than 6. You can use the balanced scorecard framework, OKRs, or whatever methodology works best for you. Just don’t exceed 6 long-term objectives.

Strategy Map

Step 3: Setting Organization-Wide Goals and Measures


Once you have formulated your strategic objectives, you should translate them into goals and measures that can be communicated to your strategic planning team (team of business leaders and/or team members).

You want to set goals that convert the strategic objectives into specific performance targets. Effective strategic goals clearly state what, when, how, and who, and they are specifically measurable. They should address what you must do in the short term (think 1-3 years) to achieve your strategic objectives.

Organization-wide goals are annual statements that are SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, responsible, and time-bound. These are outcome statements expressing a result to achieve the desired outcomes expected in the organization.

What is most important right now to reach our long-term objectives?

Outcome: clear outcomes for the current year..

Strategic Planning Outcomes Table

Step 4: Select KPIs


Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are the key measures that will have the most impact in moving your organization forward. We recommend you guide your organization with measures that matter. See examples of KPIs here.

How will we measure our success?

Outcome: 5-7 measures that help you keep the pulse on your performance. When selecting your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), ask, “What are the key performance measures we need to track to monitor if we are achieving our goals?” These KPIs include the key goals you want to measure that will have the most impact on moving your organization forward.

Step 5: Cascade Your Strategies to Operations

NPS Step #5

To move from big ideas to action, creating action items and to-dos for short-term goals is crucial. This involves translating strategy from the organizational level to individuals. Functional area managers and contributors play a role in developing short-term goals to support the organization.

Before taking action, decide whether to create plans directly derived from the strategic plan or sync existing operational, business, or account plans with organizational goals. Avoid the pitfall of managing multiple sets of goals and actions, as this shifts from strategic planning to annual planning.

Questions to Ask

  • How are we going to get there at a functional level?
  • Who must do what by when to accomplish and drive the organizational goals?
  • What strategic questions still remain and need to be solved?

Department/functional goals, actions, measures and targets for the next 12-24 months

Step 6: Cascading Goals to Departments and Team Members

Now in your Departments / Teams, you need to create goals to support the organization-wide goals. These goals should still be SMART and are generally (short-term) something to be done in the next 12-18 months. Finally, you should develop an action plan for each goal.

Keep the acronym SMART in mind again when setting action items, and make sure they include start and end dates and have someone assigned their responsibility. Since these action items support your previously established goals, it may be helpful to consider action items your immediate plans on the way to achieving your (short-term) goals. In other words, identify all the actions that need to occur in the next 90 days and continue this same process every 90 days until the goal is achieved.

Examples of Cascading Goals:


Phase 4: Executing Strategy and Managing Performance

Want more? Dive Into the “Managing Performance” How-To Guide.

Step 1: Strategic Plan Implementation Schedule

Implementation is the process that turns strategies and plans into actions in order to accomplish strategic objectives and goals.

How will we use the plan as a management tool?

  • Communication Schedule: How and when will you roll-out your plan to your staff? How frequently will you send out updates?
  • Process Leader: Who is your strategy director?
  • Structure: What are the dates for your strategy reviews (we recommend at least quarterly)?
  • System & Reports: What are you expecting each staff member to come prepared with to those strategy review sessions?

Outcome: Syncing your plan into the “rhythm of your business.”

Once your resources are in place, you can set your implementation schedule. Use the following steps as your base implementation plan:

  • Establish your performance management and reward system.
  • Set up monthly and quarterly strategy meetings with established reporting procedures.
  • Set up annual strategic review dates including new assessments and a large group meeting for an annual plan review.

Now you’re ready to start plan roll-out. Below are sample implementation schedules, which double for a full strategic management process timeline.

Strategic Planning Calendar

Step 2: Tracking Goals & Actions

Monthly strategy meetings don’t need to take a lot of time – 30 to 60 minutes should suffice. But it is important that key team members report on their progress toward the goals they are responsible for – including reporting on metrics in the scorecard they have been assigned.

By using the measurements already established, it’s easy to make course corrections if necessary. You should also commit to reviewing your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) during these regular meetings. Need help comparing strategic planning software ? Check out our guide.

Effective Strategic Planning: Your Bi-Annual Checklist


Never lose sight of the fact that strategic plans are guidelines, not rules. Every six months or so, you should evaluate your strategy execution and strategic plan implementation by asking these key questions:

  • Will your goals be achieved within the time frame of the plan? If not, why?
  • Should the deadlines be modified? (Before you modify deadlines, figure out why you’re behind schedule.)
  • Are your goals and action items still realistic?
  • Should the organization’s focus be changed to put more emphasis on achieving your goals?
  • Should your goals be changed? (Be careful about making these changes – know why efforts aren’t achieving the goals before changing the goals.)
  • What can be gathered from an adaptation to improve future planning activities?

Why Track Your Goals?

  • Ownership: Having a stake and responsibility in the plan makes you feel part of it and leads you to drive your goals forward.
  • Culture: Successful plans tie tracking and updating goals into organizational culture.
  • Implementation: If you don’t review and update your strategic goals, they are just good intentions
  • Accountability: Accountability and high visibility help drive change. This means that each measure, objective, data source and initiative must have an owner.
  • Empowerment: Changing goals from In Progress to Complete just feels good!

Step 3: Review & Adapt

Guidelines for your strategy review.

The most important part of this meeting is a 70/30 review. 30% is about reviewing performance, and 70% should be spent on making decisions to move the company’s strategy forward in the next quarter.

The best strategic planners spend about 60-90 minutes in the sessions. Holding meetings helps focus your goals on accomplishing top priorities and accelerating the organization’s growth. Although the meeting structure is relatively simple, it does require a high degree of discipline.

Strategy Review Session Questions:

Strategic planning frequently asked questions, read our frequently asked questions about strategic planning to learn how to build a great strategic plan..

Strategic planning is when organizations define a bold vision and create a plan with objectives and goals to reach that future. A great strategic plan defines where your organization is going, how you’ll win, who must do what, and how you’ll review and adapt your strategy..

Your strategic plan needs to include an assessment of your current state, a SWOT analysis, mission, vision, values, competitive advantages, growth strategy, growth enablers, a 3-year roadmap, and annual plan with strategic goals, OKRs, and KPIs.

A strategic planning process should take no longer than 90 days to complete from start to finish! Any longer could fatigue your organization and team.

There are four overarching phases to the strategic planning process that include: determining position, developing your strategy, building your plan, and managing performance. Each phase plays a unique but distinctly crucial role in the strategic planning process.

Prior to starting your strategic plan, you must go through this pre-planning process to determine your organization’s readiness by following these steps:

Ask yourself these questions: Are the conditions and criteria for successful planning in place now? Can we foresee any pitfalls that we can avoid? Is there an appropriate time for our organization to initiate this process?

Develop your team and schedule. Who will oversee the implementation as Chief Strategy Officer or Director? Do we have at least 12-15 other key individuals on our team?

Research and Collect Current Data. Find the following resources that your organization may have used in the past to assist you with your new plan: last strategic plan, mission, vision, and values statement, business plan, financial records, marketing plan, SWOT, sales figures, or projections.

Finally, review the data with your strategy director and facilitator and ask these questions: What trends do we see? Any obvious strengths or weaknesses? Have we been following a plan or just going along with the market?

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A Framework to Design an Effective Operations Strategy

Erica Golightly

Senior Writer

December 12, 2023

Why do some companies align on strategic priorities and operate at peak efficiency while others have a stockpile of unsuccessful projects? 

The short answer is the shelf life of an operations strategy hinges on day-to-day implementation.

In a 2023 ClickUp global survey of hundreds of business leaders, 35% of respondents said operational efficiency is their top focus for business success. This is a call to action for Outcome Champions—operations management professionals coordinating resources, processes, and people to achieve operational excellence. ✨

The fundamental question to ask before taking any steps is a two-parter: What are your organization’s logistical and culturally relevant strategies, and how do you sustain a best-in-class partnership between all leadership levels and teams for success? 

Building strategies isn’t just about solving problems. Instead, it should leverage the capabilities of technology and build a workplace that removes fear-based opinions about trying new ideas. And that type of innovation is fuel for both strategic work and production .

5 Key Elements of an Effective Ops Strategy

  • Types of operations strategies

Step 1: Define what the operations strategy will impact or transform 

Step 2: identify and secure the essential resources required for successful strategy execution, step 3: co-create an action plan to secure the flow of materials, information, and resources, step 4: leverage technology and be the driving force behind the strategy’s implementation, step 5: set checklists and decision rules for continuous improvement, what is an operations strategy.

Operations strategy is the actionable plan that guides how a company manages its processes and resources in alignment with its overarching organizational goals. These processes involve the production and delivery of products or services that the company offers. 

Beyond the jargon, there’s a concept that molds a workplace’s culture, productivity, and business goals. Any company—small, mid, and large—does this to fit what they’re doing, where they’re doing it, and how they want to be different from others in their field.

While it could be perceived as an overlap with strategic planning , there is a distinction to be mindful of as we explore this guide: Strategic planning sets the overall vision and direction for the organization, often done annually or semi-annually. The operation’s main goals describe the processes and workflows that will be used to complete the work. ⚙️

Let’s take a look at operation strategy examples of specific functional areas within the organization:

Types of operations strategies for improvement, efficiency gains, and innovation

These operations strategies are not mutually exclusive. And this is good news! No one wants to be locked into a single business strategy. An integrated approach lets organizations optimize their operations for different products/services, customer segments, and markets. 🎯

When an organization invests in operations strategy and implementation, it invests in employee productivity. With a direct line of sight to the why and how behind their tasks, they aren’t forced to navigate high levels of ambiguity.

Instead, they are prepped with clear instructions to complete the right tasks. 

If you’re eager to begin process mining and outline your operational objectives right now, download the Operational Plan Template by ClickUp . It’s time to declutter your mental garage to make space for exciting, growth-oriented projects.

Extend invitations to your nearest collaborators and organize a systems architecture workshop, whether in real-time or asynchronously! 📧

ClickUp Operations Strategies Template

So far, we’ve learned the inner workings of an operations strategy. Let’s see this in practice.

How to Build the Elements of an Operational Strategy Into Project Plans

This compact guidebook is built for an operations manager to implement the best core business processes and workflows into project plans. 

So, why is this guide compact? Disclaimer: We’re all in the same sitcom but reading different scripts. While there are business models and industries we can sort ourselves into, every company has a different set of core values that reflect its purpose and guiding principles. 

For this reason, the systems you’ll read below are the key success factors all operational strategies need. Teams can reach their peak performance by putting just one insight into action!

Hawke Media uses ClickUp to deliver client projects and meet customer expectations

Think short-term perspective (competitive priorities) and long-term vision (trade-offs). 

Short-term planning meets immediate customer requirements, helps allocate resources at the right place and time, and provides benchmarks for evaluating team performance.

Long-term planning allows organizations to invest in modern technology solutions, guide market expansion opportunities, and redesign logistics. 

Your operational plan should have a narrower scope and be concerned with the day-to-day activities and actions necessary to implement the strategic plan . The key to securing leadership approval and support is articulating your plan’s value, feasibility, and alignment.

This is where co-creating easily measurable KPIs with teams and all levels of leadership is essential to provide each team member with a sense of ownership in their tasks. 🔑

ClickUp Retrospective Whiteboard Template

Putting together a task force for the operations strategy is a group effort, especially when partnering with other teams. Collaborators in finance, marketing, human resources, and more will help fill knowledge gaps and advocate for enhancing efficiency , reducing costs, and delivering greater value.

Every department has business-as-usual tasks that keep the ship moving. If your operations strategy requires a significant chunk of time, there needs to be conversations with department leads about the best approach to minimize disruption. 💬

Because operation managers have a complex and multifaceted role, these discussions are teachable moments to influence the outcome of projects. 

Three valuable tools—capacity planning, resource planning, and process mapping—will take the guesswork out of this step. 

  • Capacity planning gives visibility into whether you have enough company resources to meet the demands of a project’s needs
  • Resource planning answers the question: What projects are our resources currently working on?
  • Process design mapping outlines the sequence of events, tasks, and activities involved in a business process

ClickUp Project Management CTA

This action plan will take multiple rounds to finish, but it won’t be complete even then because priorities may evolve as circumstances change. The best safeguard for transparency in any shift in the strategy is having a single source of truth to revisit and make micro-adjustments. ⚖️

The contents of your action plan will vary based on your company’s business model and operational processes. At minimum, the contents of your action plan document should include: 

If it feels as if the universe gets bored and starts making things happen on its own because it takes you over a week to draft an action plan, try ClickUp AI . We’ve covered you with 100+ tools that use research-based prompts tailored to specific roles! 🤖

Are teams feeling comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns, and feedback? Is there a rise in delayed projects because of a lack of accountability? Are team members asking, “What should I do today?”

Your leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills are essential to the operation strategy’s success. Because you’re working between different teams, you’ll have to organize assorted information that’s coming at you from different channels. 👨‍💻

You’ll need the right task management container to set everyone up for success and communicate expectations for executing projects. If you think the action plan you wrote in step 3 will be “good enough,” consider this: 

Managing tasks through a static action plan can overwhelm larger teams or complex projects. There’s too much noise and clutter to scroll through daily. Dedicated task and project management software sets the stage for individual and team productivity at scale.

Manual models can’t keep up with the demands of an agile workforce, and being agile is a non-negotiable in today’s marketplace as industry-tailored AI use cases continue to grow. Your time and attention should be spent on high-value tasks and activities that move teams closer to their goals.

ClickUp Daily Action Plan Template

Take a quick water break, then download the Daily Action Plan Template by ClickUp . This template has all the ingredients to organize task assignments, milestones, deadlines, and contributors. 

As ClickUp users, your teams and stakeholders have all the tasks and documentation within reach to monitor progress closely throughout the implementation phase!

Warning: The hidden costs of shortcuts

It’s easy to underestimate the impact of small, seemingly mundane tasks that accrue over time. However, these “save for later” tasks can quickly snowball into a significant team problem. 

Let’s take a closer look at the hidden costs of shortcuts: 

  • Workplace cultural debt : Workplace cultural debt refers to the negative consequences of neglecting the company’s culture and core values, like low employee morale, high turnover, and decreased productivity, which can harm their long-term success
  • Technical debt : Technical debt arises when software or technology solutions are developed quickly or with suboptimal coding practices to meet immediate needs
  • Process debt : Process debt refers to accumulating inefficiencies and shortcomings in an organization’s workflows and procedures over time
  • Knowledge debt: Knowledge debt occurs when organizations fail to invest in continuous learning and development for their employees

Technical Debt Statistic and Graphic from Gartner

Tackling any debt is a team effort. Here are a few quick methods to pull out of your productivity toolbox and tackle small tasks for minimum impact on your production initiatives: 

  • Prioritize tasks : Prioritize tasks using the Eisenhower Matrix (urgent and important tasks come first, followed by important but not urgent ones)
  • Team session blocking : Schedule focused time blocks for small tasks, avoiding multitasking to minimize distractions
  • Task batching : Group similar tasks together and address them in batches to reduce context-switching
  • Delegate when appropriate : Delegate action items and tasks that others on your team can handle

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program! 🎬

Considering that other routine tasks and special projects are running simultaneously in your workload, how do you maintain group momentum in the operations plan?

Begin with questions to help the operations management team systematically gather and analyze data on a centralized dashboard. This will reduce cognitive burden and allow team members to make confident decisions. 

These checklists and rules can be as detailed as you need them to be for internal use. If it helps to assess their true usefulness, run it through a beneficiary test. Give them to project leads, stakeholders, and senior leadership to confirm whether or not they’re focusing on the right questions to evaluate day-to-day implementation. 📊

ClickUp Dashboards Improvement Pie Chart Breakdowns

So, how can operations managers apply checklists and decision rules on a tactical level when they’re up against tight timelines? 

Deliver a consistent experience to your team with a scheduled routine. 

Here’s a breakdown of operational strategy tasks at intervals. Is there anything you notice that can be added to your personal or team schedule? 🗓️

What’s Next?

With your newly acquired operations strategy framework in hand, apply it in the context of your company’s operations and processes . From supply chain management to software and everything in between, you’ll have the tools to coordinate even the toughest operations strategies. 💪

Lastly, if you’ve ever experienced fleeting progress in your responsibilities, it might be because you’re not focusing on the right things at the right time. It’s okay—no, it’s allowed —to ask your peers to challenge your observations when you get stuck. 

Count on the team at ClickUp as one of your peers, and reach out if you need help stepping out of a revolving door of unsuccessful implementation. Happy planning! ✍️

Questions? Comments? Visit our Help Center for support.

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Why Is Strategic Planning Important?

Above view of team creating a strategic plan

  • 06 Oct 2020

Do you know what your organization’s strategy is? How much time do you dedicate to developing that strategy each month?

If your answers are on the low side, you’re not alone. According to research from Bridges Business Consultancy , 48 percent of leaders spend less than one day per month discussing strategy.

It’s no wonder, then, that 48 percent of all organizations fail to meet at least half of their strategic targets. Before an organization can reap the rewards of its business strategy, planning must take place to ensure its strategy remains agile and executable .

Here’s a look at what strategic planning is and how it can benefit your organization.

Access your free e-book today.

What Is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning is the ongoing organizational process of using available knowledge to document a business's intended direction. This process is used to prioritize efforts, effectively allocate resources, align shareholders and employees on the organization’s goals, and ensure those goals are backed by data and sound reasoning.

It’s important to highlight that strategic planning is an ongoing process—not a one-time meeting. In the online course Disruptive Strategy , Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen notes that in a study of HBS graduates who started businesses, 93 percent of those with successful strategies evolved and pivoted away from their original strategic plans.

“Most people think of strategy as an event, but that’s not the way the world works,” Christensen says. “When we run into unanticipated opportunities and threats, we have to respond. Sometimes we respond successfully; sometimes we don’t. But most strategies develop through this process. More often than not, the strategy that leads to success emerges through a process that’s at work 24/7 in almost every industry.”

Strategic planning requires time, effort, and continual reassessment. Given the proper attention, it can set your business on the right track. Here are three benefits of strategic planning.

Related: 4 Ways to Develop Your Strategic Thinking Skills

Benefits of Strategic Planning

1. create one, forward-focused vision.

Strategy touches every employee and serves as an actionable way to reach your company’s goals.

One significant benefit of strategic planning is that it creates a single, forward-focused vision that can align your company and its shareholders. By making everyone aware of your company’s goals, how and why those goals were chosen, and what they can do to help reach them, you can create an increased sense of responsibility throughout your organization.

This can also have trickle-down effects. For instance, if a manager isn’t clear on your organization’s strategy or the reasoning used to craft it, they could make decisions on a team level that counteract its efforts. With one vision to unite around, everyone at your organization can act with a broader strategy in mind.

2. Draw Attention to Biases and Flaws in Reasoning

The decisions you make come with inherent bias. Taking part in the strategic planning process forces you to examine and explain why you’re making each decision and back it up with data, projections, or case studies, thus combatting your cognitive biases.

A few examples of cognitive biases are:

  • The recency effect: The tendency to select the option presented most recently because it’s fresh in your mind
  • Occam’s razor bias: The tendency to assume the most obvious decision to be the best decision
  • Inertia bias: The tendency to select options that allow you to think, feel, and act in familiar ways

One cognitive bias that may be more difficult to catch in the act is confirmation bias . When seeking to validate a particular viewpoint, it's the tendency to only pay attention to information that supports that viewpoint.

If you’re crafting a strategic plan for your organization and know which strategy you prefer, enlist others with differing views and opinions to help look for information that either proves or disproves the idea.

Combating biases in strategic decision-making requires effort and dedication from your entire team, and it can make your organization’s strategy that much stronger.

Related: 3 Group Decision-Making Techniques for Success

3. Track Progress Based on Strategic Goals

Having a strategic plan in place can enable you to track progress toward goals. When each department and team understands your company’s larger strategy, their progress can directly impact its success, creating a top-down approach to tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) .

By planning your company’s strategy and defining its goals, KPIs can be determined at the organizational level. These goals can then be extended to business units, departments, teams, and individuals. This ensures that every level of your organization is aligned and can positively impact your business’s KPIs and performance.

It’s important to remember that even though your strategy might be far-reaching and structured, it must remain agile. As Christensen asserts in Disruptive Strategy , a business’s strategy needs to evolve with the challenges and opportunities it encounters. Be prepared to pivot your KPIs as goals shift and communicate the reasons for change to your organization.

Which HBS Online Strategy Course is Right for You? | Download Your Free Flowchart

Improve Your Strategic Planning Skills

Strategic planning can benefit your organization’s vision, execution, and progress toward goals. If strategic planning is a skill you’d like to improve, online courses can provide the knowledge and techniques needed to lead your team and organization.

Strategy courses can range from primers on key concepts (such as Economics for Managers ), to deep-dives on strategy frameworks (such as Disruptive Strategy ), to coursework designed to help you strategize for a specific organizational goal (such as Sustainable Business Strategy ).

Learning how to craft an effective, compelling strategic plan can enable you to not only invest in your career but provide lasting value to your organization.

Do you want to formulate winning strategies for your organization? Explore our portfolio of online strategy courses and download the free flowchart to determine which is the best fit for you and your goals.

strategic planning in operations management

About the Author

  • Business strategy |
  • 7 strategic planning models, plus 8 fra ...

7 strategic planning models, plus 8 frameworks to help you get started

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Strategic planning is vital in defining where your business is going in the next three to five years. With the right strategic planning models and frameworks, you can uncover opportunities, identify risks, and create a strategic plan to fuel your organization’s success. We list the most popular models and frameworks and explain how you can combine them to create a strategic plan that fits your business.

A strategic plan is a great tool to help you hit your business goals . But sometimes, this tool needs to be updated to reflect new business priorities or changing market conditions. If you decide to use a model that already exists, you can benefit from a roadmap that’s already created. The model you choose can improve your knowledge of what works best in your organization, uncover unknown strengths and weaknesses, or help you find out how you can outpace your competitors.

In this article, we cover the most common strategic planning models and frameworks and explain when to use which one. Plus, get tips on how to apply them and which models and frameworks work well together. 

Strategic planning models vs. frameworks

First off: This is not a one-or-nothing scenario. You can use as many or as few strategic planning models and frameworks as you like. 

When your organization undergoes a strategic planning phase, you should first pick a model or two that you want to apply. This will provide you with a basic outline of the steps to take during the strategic planning process.

[Inline illustration] Strategic planning models vs. frameworks (Infographic)

During that process, think of strategic planning frameworks as the tools in your toolbox. Many models suggest starting with a SWOT analysis or defining your vision and mission statements first. Depending on your goals, though, you may want to apply several different frameworks throughout the strategic planning process.

For example, if you’re applying a scenario-based strategic plan, you could start with a SWOT and PEST(LE) analysis to get a better overview of your current standing. If one of the weaknesses you identify has to do with your manufacturing process, you could apply the theory of constraints to improve bottlenecks and mitigate risks. 

Now that you know the difference between the two, learn more about the seven strategic planning models, as well as the eight most commonly used frameworks that go along with them.

[Inline illustration] The seven strategic planning models (Infographic)

1. Basic model

The basic strategic planning model is ideal for establishing your company’s vision, mission, business objectives, and values. This model helps you outline the specific steps you need to take to reach your goals, monitor progress to keep everyone on target, and address issues as they arise.

If it’s your first strategic planning session, the basic model is the way to go. Later on, you can embellish it with other models to adjust or rewrite your business strategy as needed. Let’s take a look at what kinds of businesses can benefit from this strategic planning model and how to apply it.

Small businesses or organizations

Companies with little to no strategic planning experience

Organizations with few resources 

Write your mission statement. Gather your planning team and have a brainstorming session. The more ideas you can collect early in this step, the more fun and rewarding the analysis phase will feel.

Identify your organization’s goals . Setting clear business goals will increase your team’s performance and positively impact their motivation.

Outline strategies that will help you reach your goals. Ask yourself what steps you have to take in order to reach these goals and break them down into long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals .

Create action plans to implement each of the strategies above. Action plans will keep teams motivated and your organization on target.

Monitor and revise the plan as you go . As with any strategic plan, it’s important to closely monitor if your company is implementing it successfully and how you can adjust it for a better outcome.

2. Issue-based model

Also called goal-based planning model, this is essentially an extension of the basic strategic planning model. It’s a bit more dynamic and very popular for companies that want to create a more comprehensive plan.

Organizations with basic strategic planning experience

Businesses that are looking for a more comprehensive plan

Conduct a SWOT analysis . Assess your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with a SWOT analysis to get a better overview of what your strategic plan should focus on. We’ll give into how to conduct a SWOT analysis when we get into the strategic planning frameworks below.

Identify and prioritize major issues and/or goals. Based on your SWOT analysis, identify and prioritize what your strategic plan should focus on this time around.

Develop your main strategies that address these issues and/or goals. Aim to develop one overarching strategy that addresses your highest-priority goal and/or issue to keep this process as simple as possible.

Update or create a mission and vision statement . Make sure that your business’s statements align with your new or updated strategy. If you haven’t already, this is also a chance for you to define your organization’s values.

Create action plans. These will help you address your organization’s goals, resource needs, roles, and responsibilities. 

Develop a yearly operational plan document. This model works best if your business repeats the strategic plan implementation process on an annual basis, so use a yearly operational plan to capture your goals, progress, and opportunities for next time.

Allocate resources for your year-one operational plan. Whether you need funding or dedicated team members to implement your first strategic plan, now is the time to allocate all the resources you’ll need.

Monitor and revise the strategic plan. Record your lessons learned in the operational plan so you can revisit and improve it for the next strategic planning phase.

The issue-based plan can repeat on an annual basis (or less often once you resolve the issues). It’s important to update the plan every time it’s in action to ensure it’s still doing the best it can for your organization.

You don’t have to repeat the full process every year—rather, focus on what’s a priority during this run.

3. Alignment model

This model is also called strategic alignment model (SAM) and is one of the most popular strategic planning models. It helps you align your business and IT strategies with your organization’s strategic goals. 

You’ll have to consider four equally important, yet different perspectives when applying the alignment strategic planning model:

Strategy execution: The business strategy driving the model

Technology potential: The IT strategy supporting the business strategy

Competitive potential: Emerging IT capabilities that can create new products and services

Service level: Team members dedicated to creating the best IT system in the organization

Ideally, your strategy will check off all the criteria above—however, it’s more likely you’ll have to find a compromise. 

Here’s how to create a strategic plan using the alignment model and what kinds of companies can benefit from it.

Organizations that need to fine-tune their strategies

Businesses that want to uncover issues that prevent them from aligning with their mission

Companies that want to reassess objectives or correct problem areas that prevent them from growing

Outline your organization’s mission, programs, resources, and where support is needed. Before you can improve your statements and approaches, you need to define what exactly they are.

Identify what internal processes are working and which ones aren’t. Pinpoint which processes are causing problems, creating bottlenecks , or could otherwise use improving. Then prioritize which internal processes will have the biggest positive impact on your business.

Identify solutions. Work with the respective teams when you’re creating a new strategy to benefit from their experience and perspective on the current situation.

Update your strategic plan with the solutions. Update your strategic plan and monitor if implementing it is setting your business up for improvement or growth. If not, you may have to return to the drawing board and update your strategic plan with new solutions.

4. Scenario model

The scenario model works great if you combine it with other models like the basic or issue-based model. This model is particularly helpful if you need to consider external factors as well. These can be government regulations, technical, or demographic changes that may impact your business.

Organizations trying to identify strategic issues and goals caused by external factors

Identify external factors that influence your organization. For example, you should consider demographic, regulation, or environmental factors.

Review the worst case scenario the above factors could have on your organization. If you know what the worst case scenario for your business looks like, it’ll be much easier to prepare for it. Besides, it’ll take some of the pressure and surprise out of the mix, should a scenario similar to the one you create actually occur.

Identify and discuss two additional hypothetical organizational scenarios. On top of your worst case scenario, you’ll also want to define the best case and average case scenarios. Keep in mind that the worst case scenario from the previous step can often provoke strong motivation to change your organization for the better. However, discussing the other two will allow you to focus on the positive—the opportunities your business may have ahead.

Identify and suggest potential strategies or solutions. Everyone on the team should now brainstorm different ways your business could potentially respond to each of the three scenarios. Discuss the proposed strategies as a team afterward.

Uncover common considerations or strategies for your organization. There’s a good chance that your teammates come up with similar solutions. Decide which ones you like best as a team or create a new one together.

Identify the most likely scenario and the most reasonable strategy. Finally, examine which of the three scenarios is most likely to occur in the next three to five years and how your business should respond to potential changes.

5. Self-organizing model

Also called the organic planning model, the self-organizing model is a bit different from the linear approaches of the other models. You’ll have to be very patient with this method. 

This strategic planning model is all about focusing on the learning and growing process rather than achieving a specific goal. Since the organic model concentrates on continuous improvement , the process is never really over.

Large organizations that can afford to take their time

Businesses that prefer a more naturalistic, organic planning approach that revolves around common values, communication, and shared reflection

Companies that have a clear understanding of their vision

Define and communicate your organization’s cultural values . Your team can only think clearly and with solutions in mind when they have a clear understanding of your organization's values.

Communicate the planning group’s vision for the organization. Define and communicate the vision with everyone involved in the strategic planning process. This will align everyone’s ideas with your company’s vision.

Discuss what processes will help realize the organization’s vision on a regular basis. Meet every quarter to discuss strategies or tactics that will move your organization closer to realizing your vision.

6. Real-time model

This fluid model can help organizations that deal with rapid changes to their work environment. There are three levels of success in the real-time model: 

Organizational: At the organizational level, you’re forming strategies in response to opportunities or trends.

Programmatic: At the programmatic level, you have to decide how to respond to specific outcomes or environmental changes.

Operational: On the operational level, you will study internal systems, policies, and people to develop a strategy for your company.

Figuring out your competitive advantage can be difficult, but this is absolutely crucial to ensure success. Whether it’s a unique asset or strength your organization has or an outstanding execution of services or programs—it’s important that you can set yourself apart from others in the industry to succeed.

Companies that need to react quickly to changing environments

Businesses that are seeking new tools to help them align with their organizational strategy

Define your mission and vision statement. If you ever feel stuck formulating your company’s mission or vision statement, take a look at those of others. Maybe Asana’s vision statement sparks some inspiration.

Research, understand, and learn from competitor strategy and market trends. Pick a handful of competitors in your industry and find out how they’ve created success for themselves. How did they handle setbacks or challenges? What kinds of challenges did they even encounter? Are these common scenarios in the market? Learn from your competitors by finding out as much as you can about them.

Study external environments. At this point, you can combine the real-time model with the scenario model to find solutions to threats and opportunities outside of your control.

Conduct a SWOT analysis of your internal processes, systems, and resources. Besides the external factors your team has to consider, it’s also important to look at your company’s internal environment and how well you’re prepared for different scenarios.

Develop a strategy. Discuss the results of your SWOT analysis to develop a business strategy that builds toward organizational, programmatic, and operational success.

Rinse and repeat. Monitor how well the new strategy is working for your organization and repeat the planning process as needed to ensure you’re on top or, perhaps, ahead of the game. 

7. Inspirational model

This last strategic planning model is perfect to inspire and energize your team as they work toward your organization’s goals. It’s also a great way to introduce or reconnect your employees to your business strategy after a merger or acquisition.

Businesses with a dynamic and inspired start-up culture

Organizations looking for inspiration to reinvigorate the creative process

Companies looking for quick solutions and strategy shifts

Gather your team to discuss an inspirational vision for your organization. The more people you can gather for this process, the more input you will receive.

Brainstorm big, hairy audacious goals and ideas. Encouraging your team not to hold back with ideas that may seem ridiculous will do two things: for one, it will mitigate the fear of contributing bad ideas. But more importantly, it may lead to a genius idea or suggestion that your team wouldn’t have thought of if they felt like they had to think inside of the box.

Assess your organization’s resources. Find out if your company has the resources to implement your new ideas. If they don’t, you’ll have to either adjust your strategy or allocate more resources.

Develop a strategy balancing your resources and brainstorming ideas. Far-fetched ideas can grow into amazing opportunities but they can also bear great risk. Make sure to balance ideas with your strategic direction. 

Now, let’s dive into the most commonly used strategic frameworks.

8. SWOT analysis framework

One of the most popular strategic planning frameworks is the SWOT analysis . A SWOT analysis is a great first step in identifying areas of opportunity and risk—which can help you create a strategic plan that accounts for growth and prepares for threats.

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Here’s an example:

[Inline illustration] SWOT analysis (Example)

9. OKRs framework

A big part of strategic planning is setting goals for your company. That’s where OKRs come into play. 

OKRs stand for objective and key results—this goal-setting framework helps your organization set and achieve goals. It provides a somewhat holistic approach that you can use to connect your team’s work to your organization’s big-picture goals.  When team members understand how their individual work contributes to the organization’s success, they tend to be more motivated and produce better results

10. Balanced scorecard (BSC) framework

The balanced scorecard is a popular strategic framework for businesses that want to take a more holistic approach rather than just focus on their financial performance. It was designed by David Norton and Robert Kaplan in the 1990s, it’s used by companies around the globe to: 

Communicate goals

Align their team’s daily work with their company’s strategy

Prioritize products, services, and projects

Monitor their progress toward their strategic goals

Your balanced scorecard will outline four main business perspectives:

Customers or clients , meaning their value, satisfaction, and/or retention

Financial , meaning your effectiveness in using resources and your financial performance

Internal process , meaning your business’s quality and efficiency

Organizational capacity , meaning your organizational culture, infrastructure and technology, and human resources

With the help of a strategy map, you can visualize and communicate how your company is creating value. A strategy map is a simple graphic that shows cause-and-effect connections between strategic objectives. 

The balanced scorecard framework is an amazing tool to use from outlining your mission, vision, and values all the way to implementing your strategic plan .

You can use an integration like Lucidchart to create strategy maps for your business in Asana.

11. Porter’s Five Forces framework

If you’re using the real-time strategic planning model, Porter’s Five Forces are a great framework to apply. You can use it to find out what your product’s or service’s competitive advantage is before entering the market.

Developed by Michael E. Porter , the framework outlines five forces you have to be aware of and monitor:

[Inline illustration] Porter’s Five Forces framework (Infographic)

Threat of new industry entrants: Any new entry into the market results in increased pressure on prices and costs. 

Competition in the industry: The more competitors that exist, the more difficult it will be for you to create value in the market with your product or service.

Bargaining power of suppliers: Suppliers can wield more power if there are less alternatives for buyers or it’s expensive, time consuming, or difficult to switch to a different supplier.

Bargaining power of buyers: Buyers can wield more power if the same product or service is available elsewhere with little to no difference in quality.

Threat of substitutes: If another company already covers the market’s needs, you’ll have to create a better product or service or make it available for a lower price at the same quality in order to compete.

Remember, industry structures aren’t static. The more dynamic your strategic plan is, the better you’ll be able to compete in a market.

12. VRIO framework

The VRIO framework is another strategic planning tool designed to help you evaluate your competitive advantage. VRIO stands for value, rarity, imitability, and organization.

It’s a resource-based theory developed by Jay Barney. With this framework, you can study your firmed resources and find out whether or not your company can transform them into sustained competitive advantages. 

Firmed resources can be tangible (e.g., cash, tools, inventory, etc.) or intangible (e.g., copyrights, trademarks, organizational culture, etc.). Whether these resources will actually help your business once you enter the market depends on four qualities:

Valuable : Will this resource either increase your revenue or decrease your costs and thereby create value for your business?

Rare : Are the resources you’re using rare or can others use your resources as well and therefore easily provide the same product or service?

Inimitable : Are your resources either inimitable or non-substitutable? In other words, how unique and complex are your resources?

Organizational: Are you organized enough to use your resources in a way that captures their value, rarity, and inimitability?

It’s important that your resources check all the boxes above so you can ensure that you have sustained competitive advantage over others in the industry.

13. Theory of Constraints (TOC) framework

If the reason you’re currently in a strategic planning process is because you’re trying to mitigate risks or uncover issues that could hurt your business—this framework should be in your toolkit.

The theory of constraints (TOC) is a problem-solving framework that can help you identify limiting factors or bottlenecks preventing your organization from hitting OKRs or KPIs . 

Whether it’s a policy, market, or recourse constraint—you can apply the theory of constraints to solve potential problems, respond to issues, and empower your team to improve their work with the resources they have.

14. PEST/PESTLE analysis framework

The idea of the PEST analysis is similar to that of the SWOT analysis except that you’re focusing on external factors and solutions. It’s a great framework to combine with the scenario-based strategic planning model as it helps you define external factors connected to your business’s success.

PEST stands for political, economic, sociological, and technological factors. Depending on your business model, you may want to expand this framework to include legal and environmental factors as well (PESTLE). These are the most common factors you can include in a PESTLE analysis:

Political: Taxes, trade tariffs, conflicts

Economic: Interest and inflation rate, economic growth patterns, unemployment rate

Social: Demographics, education, media, health

Technological: Communication, information technology, research and development, patents

Legal: Regulatory bodies, environmental regulations, consumer protection

Environmental: Climate, geographical location, environmental offsets

15. Hoshin Kanri framework

Hoshin Kanri is a great tool to communicate and implement strategic goals. It’s a planning system that involves the entire organization in the strategic planning process. The term is Japanese and stands for “compass management” and is also known as policy management. 

This strategic planning framework is a top-down approach that starts with your leadership team defining long-term goals which are then aligned and communicated with every team member in the company. 

You should hold regular meetings to monitor progress and update the timeline to ensure that every teammate’s contributions are aligned with the overarching company goals.

Stick to your strategic goals

Whether you’re a small business just starting out or a nonprofit organization with decades of experience, strategic planning is a crucial step in your journey to success. 

If you’re looking for a tool that can help you and your team define, organize, and implement your strategic goals, Asana is here to help. Our goal-setting software allows you to connect all of your team members in one place, visualize progress, and stay on target.


Strategic Planning Vs Operational Planning: What’s The Difference?

Download our free Operational Strategy Template Download this template

Looking to learn the difference between strategic and operational planning and how to get better at each? 

You’re in the right place. 

In this guide, you’ll discover the key differences and how to keep up with the immediacy of operational tasks without losing sight of the strategic direction. 

We’ll cover:

  • What Is The Difference Between Strategic Planning And Operational Planning? 

The 4 Key Traits Of An Effective Operational Plan

Strategic and operational plan example.

Free Template Download our free Operational Strategy Template Download this template

What Is The Difference Between Strategic Planning And Operational Planning?

💡Strategic planning sets an organization's long-term direction and goals, considering market trends, business needs, and internal resources. Operational planning breaks down organizational goals into day-to-day activities and short-term objectives. The former establishes the high-level, organization-wide strategy, while the latter manages the roadmap to achieve it.

Let’s dive deeper by taking a closer look at the differences between strategic and operational planning.

strategic planning vs operational planning comparison table

What Is Strategic Planning? 

Strategic planning is the process by which an organization defines its strategy or direction and decides upon the allocation of its resources to pursue this strategy. It includes a high-level approach that shapes the organization's vision and long-term business goals to ensure its growth and position in the market. 

Responsibility for strategic planning rests with top-level management, including CEOs and Boards of Directors. These executives need to consider a variety of external factors—like market trends, economic conditions, and the competitive environment—as well as internal organizational capabilities and resources.

Strategic plan is typically reviewed annually or when major market shifts occur. Its planning time frame generally spans across the next three to five years.

📚Recommended read: Develop An Iterative Strategic Planning Process (+Template)

What Is Operational Planning?

Operational planning outlines the execution of your strategic plan. It includes specific, short-term actions, projects, and initiatives that contribute to achieving strategic objectives .

annual operating plan diagram

The responsibility for creating these operational plans rests with middle management and department heads. They are tasked with detailing the actions required to achieve the overall objectives and managing the allocation of resources to hit these targets.

Focusing on the immediate, day-to-day business operations, operational plans are generally developed for the current fiscal year and may be broken down further into quarters or monthly objectives.

To maintain alignment with long-term goals, operational plans need regular reviews and updates, ideally on a quarterly or monthly basis. 

📚Recommended read: How To Create An Effective Annual Operating Plan (+Template)

Here are some things you should consider both during and after your operational planning process to succeed in bridging the gap between the business strategy and operations: 


An effective operational plan is aligned with the strategic initiatives , but most importantly, it’s executable. To ensure your operational plan's success, increase accountability and focus of your team.

One effective way of doing this is to define one specific owner for every project, KPI, goal, or objective in your plan. That person will be responsible for the timely completion of the item. They might have contributors and a team working to achieve it, but they’ll be the ones responsible for its progress.

👉 How Cascade helps you: 

In Cascade , you can easily assign one (or more owners) to a specific initiative, project, or KPI. You can also add key milestones that should be achieved. This helps you enforce accountability and ensure everyone knows their responsibilities.


Successful execution of an operational plan requires that all team members are fully briefed on their roles and the plan's objectives. It must be documented clearly and shared on accessible platforms for easy reference. 

Regular meetings or messages to check in on progress help keep everyone on the same page. This transparency fosters a collaborative environment where contributions are recognized and roadblocks quickly addressed. 

With Cascade , you can build your operational plans with structure and ease by breaking down complexity into executable outcomes. You can bring in your different teams to speed up the collaboration and source progress updates to observe the execution of your operational plan in real time. 

cascade planner view

The main goal of an operational plan is to make the strategic objectives a reality. Creating a regional or departmental operational plan that doesn’t align with organizational goals costs time and money.

It takes up resources and splits the company’s efforts towards two (or multiple) distinct destinations. Aligning the entire organization with the company’s long-term vision and strategic goals is the toughest challenge large corporations face for one main reason. 

Most tools that most companies use are ineffective. Excel sheets and slides lack the dynamic properties to align actions and metrics with business objectives and goals. Updating these documents and redistributing them inside the organization takes weeks. Companies can’t afford this kind of delay in internal communication.

With Cascade’s Alignment & Relationships , you can visualize how your corporate strategy breaks down into operational and tactical plans. It allows you to directly link crucial business metrics and initiatives. By doing so, you can quickly identify misaligned initiatives and proactively address risks before it’s too late.

Monitored and evaluated 

Success of an operational plan is not guaranteed by the plan itself. What matters is the ongoing diligence in monitoring and evaluating its execution.  

In larger organizations, this approach usually meets four challenges: 

  • Static reporting tools like Excel cannot provide instant insights.
  • Departmental silos impede the free flow of information, essential for a holistic view of operations and real-time evaluations. 
  • Disconnected business software systems complicate the real-time collection and analysis of data.
  • Irregular and unstructured review meetings often miss the mark, concentrating on daily tasks rather than strategic alignment and key performance indicators (KPIs).

All of the above lead to delays and make the information less useful for real-time decision-making.

One way to get better at keeping execution on track is to build better reviewing habits on every organizational level. Run strategy review meetings on a quarterly or monthly basis. This is crucial to see actual results like improved accountability and focused execution . 

To make that habit stick, though, you’ll need to make it frictionless. For example, minimize the time it takes to collect data and build reports. 

👉 How Cascade helps you:  

With Cascade’s integrations , you can consolidate all your business systems and data sources in one place. 

Once you have all data centralized, you can use Reports and Dashboards to get an accurate and real-time picture of your organization’s performance. This will help you to quickly diagnose where you stand today and make fast, confident decisions.

What should an alignment between the overarching strategic plan and operational plans look like in practice? Here’s an example using Cascade’s Alignment Map . This map shows how operational plans are connected to, and support, the company's main objectives and primary focus areas within the strategic plan.

Alignment map in Cascade

Now, let's zoom in and examine a specific operational plan:

operational plan in cascade

In the example above, each strategic focus area contains several objectives. Each of these objectives breaks down into goals, projects, and KPIs. Every goal or project has a defined deadline, each KPI has a target value, and there is a designated owner responsible for achieving it. This granularity is crucial for any effective plan. 

The aim of using a dynamic digital environment for your strategy and operations is twofold: to enable real-time visibility and to decrease the number of tools used in the process.

A static graph showing how departmental plans align, without displaying their progress in real-time, is of little to no use.

What's the benefit of having three projects and their respective KPIs contribute to a higher-level KPI if updates to the children KPIs don't automatically reflect in the parent KPI?

Digitizing your operational plan addresses these inefficient activities by centralizing all information in one place.

Use Cascade To Centralize Your Strategy 🚀

Traditional approach to corporate strategy and planning often falters as it keeps strategy and operations in separate silos, struggling to synchronize them, particularly in larger organizations. Operational plan lags, failing to mirror rapid strategic shifts, and senior management is distanced from the frontline.

How can one expect spreadsheets and presentations to align thousands of employees worldwide? And how can leaders effectively manage business performance without a current snapshot of operations?

This alignment is impossible with static tools. Your strategy and operational plan must exist together in a centralized strategy execution platform like Cascade to bridge that gap.

Want to give it a try? Sign up today for free or book a 1:1 product tour with one of Cascade’s strategy experts.

What is the difference between business planning, strategic planning, and operational planning?

Business planning outlines a company's go-to-market plan, financial projections, market research, and business purpose. Strategic planning is focused on determining the organization's long-term goals and objectives. Operational planning is the process of breaking down the goals and objectives into specific tasks and activities that need to be completed in order to achieve them.

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strategic vs operational planning

Strategic vs operational planning: How to determine and execute on your vision

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Strategic and operational plans go together—but for many companies, these terms seem interchangeable at first glance. The distinction is important because both of these plans are truly essential aspects of planning inside organizations. Without the big picture and the tactical details, you simply don’t have a plan at all. 

What strategic plans and operational plans do within your organization makes a difference in reaching goals within your team, department, and company as a whole. 

What is a strategic plan? 

Strategic plans take a high-level approach to a company’s vision and apply it to the external environment to identify the right priorities. Your strategic plan helps you develop goals and coordinate internal resources accordingly to achieve those goals, generally over a specific time frame.

Within a strategic plan, you’ll typically find: 

  • Specific goals: Goals created from the mission and vision, directing organizational focus. 
  • Stakeholder perspectives: Input from people throughout your organization, bringing helpful and insightful viewpoints that shape the plan and content. 
  • Future projections: Overview of various scenarios you anticipate for the future and how the organization could respond. 
  • SWOT analysis: Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that your organization faces. 

For example, a strategic plan may observe a threat such as a new competitor entering your market—in response to the increased competition, your plan says your organization will revise your current pricing strategy. 

strategic planning in operations management

Learn how remote work has changed the way companies approach strategic planning—and why that's the better approach for the long haul.

What is an operational plan?

You can think of an operational plan as a “work plan” since it specifically directs work activities in your organization. Instead of working from projections and guesses about the future, your operational plan works within the present and serves to translate ideas from your strategic plan into action. 

Here’s what you’ll likely find inside an operational plan: 

  • Implementation tactics: With the strategic plan’s goals in view, the operational plan has more concrete goals along with specific approaches to implement operational goals. 
  • Short-term emphasis: Instead of looking far forward, operational plans highlight what your organization can do today. Operational plans are written frequently to stay relevant. 
  • Detailed action items: Operational plans might have hundreds of items in them. 

For instance, an operational plan may explain how your organization will create and implement a new pricing strategy, such as appointing a department and a champion to lead the change and assigning deadlines for specific tasks to manage the transition. 

Key differences between strategic and operational plans

Many people believe they have a strategic plan when they are actually creating an operational plan and vice versa. 

Essentially, the biggest distinction is in application. Strategic plans stay big-picture, and operational plans are specifically focused on implementation. As such, there are significant differences in how strategic and operational plans are designed:

  • Specificity: Strategic plans must stay relatively vague, but operational plans can be highly specific. Your operational plan is written for a department within your organization.
  • Time: In contrast to strategic plans, operational plans are very tactical and short term in nature.
  • Budgetary focus: With operational plans, short-term, department-level budgets are considered. Strategic plans involve budgets for the entire company. 
  • Authorship and reporting: Generally, your senior management writes your strategic plan, and individual departments write their own operational plans with input from leadership. Similarly, senior management will ensure that the company is on track to meet strategic planning goals while departments will do the same for their operational plans. 

As you can see, strategic plans and operational plans have significant differences in form, function, and creation. Both are important and allow your organization to stay focused on valuable goals for the company.

When to use strategic vs operational plans

Because strategic and operational plans work well together, creating both for your organization is usually ideal. Your strategic plan guides the creation of your operational plan, so consider starting with a strategic plan first and moving on to operational plans for different departments. Your operational plan allows you to execute on your strategic plan. Develop operational plans once you’ve used the strategic plan to determine where your organization is headed. 

Why a strategic plan isn’t enough 

If you’re tempted to stop with a strategic plan, keep in mind that it’s possible you’ll create a strategic plan that masquerades as an operational plan or that becomes a merged strategic and operational plan. Strategies are only effective if they’re implemented, and any tactics you develop for your strategic plan will just become an operational plan by another name. 

Or, worse, you could create a strategic plan and then create lists of implementation tactics without going through a systematic process of planning these operational approaches. 

This is risky for the following reasons:

  • Implementation uncertainty: With only a strategic plan, teams and individuals don’t know what to do. 
  • Misallocated resources: Time and other resources are easier to waste without tactics that are well thought out. 
  • Risk of conflict: Leaving strategic goals open to interpretation without an operational plan can introduce unnecessary conflict. Everyone could implement the strategic plan as they see fit, without sticking to guidance from an operational plan.
  • No road testing: In a sense, your operational plan also serves as a feedback mechanism for your strategic plan. A bad strategic plan will lead to problems at the operations level during implementation, giving your organization a chance to revisit the strategic plan if necessary. 

That strategic plan has value, even if you prefer to think about implementation tactics instead of a big-picture view. The questions you answer while developing your strategic plan enable you to create a strong operational plan.

Why operational plans aren’t enough either 

Similarly, your operational plan needs a strategic plan for guidance. Tactics should be directed towards specific goals that serve broader goals within your organization. 

With only operational plans, you may:

  • Win battles and lose wars: Tactics can work successfully and advance business goals, but without a compass, you may miss out on long-term steps your business needs. Strategic plans ensure your activities do lead somewhere beyond short-term planning. 
  • Collect KPIs without applying them: Metrics are important, but strategic planning helps to provide context that’s sorely needed to make sense of this data. 
  • Miss out on cumulative progress: Over the course of five years, your organization can be in a very different place. Think of how competitive pressures, your industry environment, and other influences can shape your business over time. 

For these reasons, an operational plan that can support your strategic plan is essential for any business. 

How to begin strategic planning

Given the value to your organization that these plans provide, you should seriously consider creating both types of plans and keeping them updated. Beginning with the strategic plan, these steps can guide you along the process: 

1. Involve stakeholders: Strategic plan creation is generally an activity for your senior leadership. Have them kick off the plan and gather input, as appropriate, from the rest of the organization to help with identifying the right strategic priorities.

2. Create a SWOT analysis: Exploring your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats will help you determine what should go inside your strategic plan. 

SWOT analysis

3. Develop your goals: By looking at your organization’s mission and vision, determine goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. 

4. Determine your KPIs: Know how to measure your progress as an organization towards goals in your strategic plan.

5. Document your plan: Write down your strategic plan and decide how often you’ll revisit it. 

6. Share with your organization: Be sure to share the strategic plan, as appropriate, with departments to help them develop their operational plans. 

After this process, individual teams can begin to create operational plans based on the strategy that’s been laid out. Each team or department should have its own operational tactics so they can stay on target. 

Strategic and operational plans are better together 

Using strategic planning and operational planning, you can keep your entire organization on track. Success as a business doesn’t happen by accident. The right plans allow you to measure your progress, set goals, and make important changes when necessary, helping your company stay competitive.

Take the first step by strategy mapping. We even have a Lucidchart template ready for you.

Lucidchart, a cloud-based intelligent diagramming application, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This intuitive, cloud-based solution empowers teams to collaborate in real-time to build flowcharts, mockups, UML diagrams, customer journey maps, and more. Lucidchart propels teams forward to build the future faster. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidchart.com.

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