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Choose the Best Model -- and Customize It as You Go Along
There is no one perfect strategic planning process, or model, to use the same way all the
time with every organization. Each organization should customize the best approach to suit
the culture of its members, the current situation in and around the organization, and the
purpose of its planning.
This Web page briefly describes several different models of strategic planning, along with
basic guidelines for choosing each. There is no strong agreement among experts in strategic
planning as to which approaches are indeed models or how each is best implemented. The
purpose of this Web page is to present different perspectives and options regarding strategic
planning to help planners ensure their plans are the most relevant, realistic and flexible.
Planners can select the most appropriate model and then modify it to suit the nature and
needs of their organization. For example, different organizations might have different names
for the different phases and emphasize certain phases more than others in the model.
This document does not include detailed descriptions and directions for implementing each
model. Those are available in the articles and books referenced in the topic All About
Strategic Planning in the Free Management Library at .

Model One Conventional/Basic Strategic Planning

This is the most common model of strategic planning, although it is not suited for every
organization. It is ideal for organizations that have sufficient resources to pursue very
ambitious visions and goals, have external environments that are relatively stable, and do
not have a large number of current issues to address. The model usually includes the
following overall phases:
1. Develop or update the mission and optionally, vision and/or values statements.
2. Take a wide look around the outside and a good look inside the organization, and perhaps
update the statements as a result.
3. As a result of this examination, select the multi-year strategies and/or goals to achieve
the vision.
4. Then develop action plans that specify who is going to do what and by when to achieve
each goal.
5. Identify associated plans, for example, staffing, facilities, marketing and financial plans.

6. Organize items 1-3 into a Strategic Plan and items 4-6 into a separate one-year
Operational Plan.

Model Two - Issues-Based Strategic Planning

This model works best for organizations that have very limited resources, several current
and major issues to address, little success with achieving ambitious goals, and/or very little
buy-in to strategic planning. This model might include the following phases:
1. Identify 5-7 of the most important current issues facing the organization now.
2. Suggest action plans to address each issue over the next 6-12 months.
3. Include that information in a Strategic Plan.
After an issues-based plan has been implemented and the current, major issues are
resolved, then the organization might undertake the more ambitious conventional model.
Many people might assert that issues-based planning is really internal development
planning, rather than strategic planning. Others would argue that the model is very strategic
because it positions the organization for much more successful outward-looking and longer
term planning later on.

Model Three - Organic Strategic Planning

The conventional model is considered by some people to be too confining and linear in
nature. They believe that approach to planning too often produces a long sequence of
orderly activities to do, as if organizations will remain static and predictable while all of
those activities are underway. Other people believe that organizations are robust and
dynamic systems that are always changing, so a plan produced from conventional planning
might quickly become obsolete.
That is true, especially if planning is meant to achieve a very long-term vision for many
people, for example, for a community or even generations of people. The organic model is
based on the premise that the long-term vision is best achieved by everyone working
together toward the vision, but with each person regularly doing whatever actions that he or
she regularly decides to do toward that vision. The model might include the following
1. With as many people as can be gathered, for example, from the community or
generation, articulate the long-term vision and perhaps values to work toward the vision.
2. Each person leaves that visioning, having selected at least one realistic action that he or
she will take toward the vision before the group meets again, for example, in a month or

3. People meet regularly to report the actions that they took and what they learned from
them. The vision might be further clarified during these meetings.
4. Occasionally, the vision and the lists of accomplished and intended actions are included in
a Strategic Plan.

Model Four -- Real-Time Strategic Planning

Similar to the organic model of planning, this model is suited especially for people who
believe that organizations are often changing much too rapidly for long-term, detailed
planning to remain relevant. These experts might assert that planning for an organization
should be done continuously, or in "real time." The real-time planning model is best suited,
especially to organizations with very rapidly changing environments outside the
1. Articulate the mission, and perhaps the vision and/or values.
2. Assign planners to research the external environment and, as a result, to suggest a list of
opportunities and of threats facing the organization.
3. Present the lists to the Board and other members of the organization for strategic
thinking and discussions.
4. Soon after (perhaps during the next month) assign planners to evaluate the internal
workings of the organization and, as a result, to suggest a list of strengths and of
weaknesses in the organization.
5. Present these lists to the Board and other members of the organization for strategic
thinking and discussions, perhaps using a SWOT analysis to analyze all four lists.
6. Repeat steps 2-5 regularly, for example, every six months or year and document the
results in a Strategic Plan.

Model Five -- Alignment Model of Strategic Planning

The primary purpose of this model is to ensure strong alignment of the organizations
internal operations with achieving an overall goal, for example, to increase productivity or
profitability, or to successfully integrate a new cross-functional system, such as a new
computer system. Overall phases in this model might include:
1. Establish the overall goal for the alignment.
2. Analyze which internal operations are most directly aligned with achieving that goal, and
which are not.

3. Establish goals to more effectively align operations to achieving the overall goal. Methods
to achieving the goals might include organizational performance management models, for
example, Business Process Re-engineering or models of quality management, such as the
TQM or ISO models.
4. Include that information in the Strategic Plan.
Similar to issues-based planning, many people might assert that the alignment model is
really internal development planning, rather than strategic planning. Similarly, others would
argue that the model is very strategic because it positions the organization for much more
successful outward-looking and longer term planning later on.

Model Six -- Inspirational Model of Strategic Planning

This model is sometimes used when planners see themselves as having very little time
available for planning and/or there is high priority on rather quickly producing a Strategic
Plan document. Overall phases in this model might include:
1. Attempt to gather Board members and key employees together for planning.
2. Begin by fantasizing a highly inspirational vision for the organization -- or by giving
extended attention to wording in the mission statement, especially to include powerful and
poignant wording.
3. Then brainstorm exciting, far-reaching goals to even more effectively serve customers
and clients.
4. Then include the vision and goals the Strategic Plan.
While this model can be highly energizing, it might produce a Plan that is far too unrealistic
(especially for an organization that already struggles to find time for planning) and, as a
result, can be less likely to make a strategic impact on the organization and those it serves.
Many experts might assert that these planners are confusing the map (the Strategic Plan
document) with the journey (the necessary strategic thinking). However, it might be the
only approach that would generate some outword focused discussion and also a Plan that,
otherwise, would not have been written.

McNamara, C. (2000). Field Guide to Nonprofit Strategic Planning and Facilitation,
Authenticity Consulting LLC, Minneapolis Minnesota


Strategic Planning Models

for all seasons
When choosing strategic planning models for your organisation, avoid going to extremes. I like to
avoid extremes. That sometimes puts me off side with everyone!

Choice of strategic planning models

<--- Only one 'right' model ----At one extreme is the claim that there is

---------- no possible model --->

Everything is so fluid, always changing,

only one model of strategic planning for

all organisations and at all times.

and each organisation is unique, that no

formal model of strategic planning can be
of any help.

If only life were so simple!

It may be true that no single formal strategic planning model will suit all organisations in all
However, a very few formal procedures can be the basis of a small number of models of strategic
planning, to suit a large number of organisations in most circumstances.
There may well be conditions in which no strategic planning framework is currently relevant or

When not to use a formal strategic planning model

Under the following circumstances no strategic planning models are relevant

When the organization is failing financially

When the organization is very young and still knows exactly what it is doing for whom and is
clearly on track for achieving it
In any organization run by an autocrat
When a brief major upheaval is in prospect

In other conditions you can choose planning process models using the following key criteria.

Keep the five strategic planning essentials in mind

Various planning models have evolved over the years to suit the needs and cultures of various types
of organisations, management styles, and the state of understanding of the strategic dynamics of the
particular organisation in its environment.
The useful models that have survived usually have all or nearly all of five essential procedures.
Any effective strategic planning approach has to have means of 1.

Setting objectives for long term performance of the organisation

Analyzing the factors internal to the organisation and in the environment of the organisation
that give rise to the most important issues for any strategic plan to address
Generating strategic options for addressing the most important issues
Deciding among the options
Monitoring the results of implementing the strategies.

A number of useful strategic planning models or approaches have developed to suit different
organizational contexts and management styles.

Factors and variables in choosing

strategic planning models
Some of the considerations in selecting and assessing strategic planning models include

organizational environment
organizational health

stage of development of the organization

organization size

structure of the organization

organizational purpose

attitudes to 'planfulness'.

Organizational environment
The degree of stability or turbulence of the environment may influence the duration and sequence of
elements in the strategic planning process. A very stable environment may permit or encourage a
more considered, or 'leisurely' approach, with a great deal of time for data analysis, and widespread
consultation. a rapidly changing or very turbulent environment may require a more rapid fire
The kind of influence exerted over the governance of the organisation and what is, and who is,

included in any strategic planning process may influence the model of strategic planning employed.
For example, a government business enterprise (GBE) or public service agency may be required by
legislation to follow a particular approach to strategic planning, or as it is still sometimes called in the
public sector corporate planning.
Organizational health
The state of organizational health may influence the strategic planning approach. The above list of
things warning against doing planning at all should be considered.
An organization in some kind of trouble may be advised not to do strategic planning at all, and a
small thriving organisation may be able to manage strategic thinking informally. When a company is
going bust, the focus should be on immediate rescue or winding up processes, not long range
performance improvement through strategic planning. Any organization run by an autocrat would be
wasting everyone's time by engaging on elaborate participative processes. When a brief major
upheaval is in prospect, then the quality of attention needed for strategic planning may be in short
supply, and should be deferred.
Stage of development of the organization
Where an organizational is in its life cycle may be important in the choice of strategic planning.
The small and very entrepreneurial start-up organisation may be so driven by an almost missionary
zeal, by the focus on a particular market, application of a new invention, or similar passion, that no
special formal effort at strategic planning is required.
As an organisation grows it reaches a threshold where it needs to introduce more professional
management practices, and one of these probably should be formal strategic planning. However the
model of strategic planning appropriate for the first formal introduction of the process might be a
good deal simpler than that required in the complex group structure of a multinational business.
Structure of the organization
The structure of managerial accountability, the geographic scope, multiplicity of lines of business,
may all require adjustments to the sequencing of tasks, and issues around who should be involved
in various decision processes, as well as the sophistication of necessary data gathering for the
Organizational purpose
The strategic planning approach used may also be influenced by whether or not an organisation is a
for-profit business or a non-profit organisation.
Strategic planning models for nonprofits can become especially complex. This is because of the
usual insistence on having multiple objectives, and including scope for a multiplicity of stakeholders

or interest groups. In this case a structured planning model can be very useful.
In the area of land resources and community economic development. It not only represents the
planning tools required for a comprehensive strategic plan, it also captures the key elements of
project management, stakeholder consultation and process feedback loops to ensure that there is
flexibility built into the process that will allow for adjustments during the project life cycle.
Attitudes to 'planfulness'
Some organizations by tradition or by management style, or the kind of people employed in them
have different attitudes to being involved in formal planning processes. Academic institutions have
issues over status of the persons involved in planning and decision making that may not correspond
to the managerial accountability hierarchy in the administrative area of the organization, and this
may set up a need for separate lines of data analysis and decision making, as well a structuring
clear opportunities for different groups to be involved in debating the issues to be addressed. Some
creative organisations in the arts area for example may reject anything that seems excessively
formal, rationalistic, or bureaucratic in nature. Selecting you strategic planning framework needs to
take these things into account.

There are a variety of perspectives, models and approaches used in strategic
planning. The way that a strategic plan is developed depends on the nature of the
organization's leadership, culture of the organization, complexity of the
organization's environment, size of the organization, expertise of planners, etc
(McNamara, 2000). As we have mentioned, there are a variety of strategic planning
models, including basic strategic planning, goal-based, alignment, scenario, and
organic model. However, in seeking to obtain a better fit between the models and
the organizations within the public sector, it is the models that must be adapted
rather than twisting the reality of the actual organizations (Poister and Streib, 2005).
BCRU developed its own model of strategic planning, by selecting mostly the
basic strategic planning and the issue-based (or goal-based) planning models and
modifying them depending on its processes and activities. Strategic planning for
public and non-profit organizations is important and probably will become part of
the standard repertoire of public and non-profit planners. It is important, of course,
for planners to be very careful about how they engage in strategic planning, since
every situation is at least somewhat different and since planning can be effective
only if it is tailored to the specific situation in which it is used (Ring and Perry,
1985). Since strategic planning tends to fuse planning and decision making, it

makes sense to think of decision makers as strategic planners and to think of

strategic planners as facilitators of decision making across levels and functions in
organizations and communities (Taylor, 1984). Strategic planning may help public
and non-profit sport organizations to think and act strategically. There appears to be
an ever increasing interest in this area, and further studies could prove to be
beneficial. Further research should explore a number of theoretical and practical
issues in order to advance the knowledge and practice of strategic planning for
public and nonprofit organizations within the sport sector. In particular, more
detailed strategic planning models should specify key situational factors governing
their use (Checkoway, 1986). STRATEGIC PLANNING MODELS 35 Conclusively,
strategic planning is not a static product, which, once being set, stays as it is
throughout the implementation of the strategy. It is a constantly evolving process,
trying to follow the continual changes in the environment (Stopford, 2001). Sport
organizations may develop their own model of strategic planning, often by selecting
a model or a combination of models in accordance with their own needs.
Checkoway, B. (1986). Strategic Perspectives on Planning Practice, Lexington Books,
Lexington, MA
McNamara, C. (2000). Field Guide to Nonprofit Strategic Planning and Facilitation,
Authenticity Consulting LLC, Minneapolis Minnesota
Poister, T.H. and Streib, G. (2005). Elements of Strategic Planning and Management
in Municipal Government, Public Administration Review, Vol. 65, No. 1, pp. 45-56
Porter, M.E. (1980). Competitive Strategy, The Free Press, New York
Ring, P.S. and Perry, J.L. (1985). Strategic management in public and private
organizations: implications and distinctive contexts and constraints, Academy of
Management Review, Vol. 10, pp. 276-286
Stopford, J. (2001). Should strategy makers become dream weavers?, Harvard
Business Review, Vol. 79, No. 1, pp. 165169