What Is the Difference Between Strategic Planning & Strategic Management?

In the private and non-profit sectors, issues involving strategy relate to the overall direction or mission taken by an organization, and the practical implementation of that mission. Within this general framework, the terms “strategic planning” and “strategic management” are used to describe very similar processes. Although there is some debate on this issue, most people agree that there are subtle differences between the two descriptions.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Strategic planning refers mainly to outlining the mission and goals of an organization, whereas strategic management also includes implementation of those goals.

Defining a Mission

According to USAID, the terms “strategic planning” and “strategic management” both involve defining and outlining the mission and goals of an organization. By having a clear mission statement or strategy for growth, an organization can better determine specific actions and allocation of resources that best serve its goals. A clearly defined set of goals also creates a better base for evaluation and feedback. The difference between strategic planning and strategic management is what happens after the goals are defined.

Implementing the Goals

Generally speaking, the emphasis on implementation is where strategic planning and strategic management differ. The use of the word “planning” implies definition and clarification of an overarching framework by which a company or other organization makes decisions; the word “management” implies active oversight in devising and executing specific steps in order to reach the goals defined by strategic planning.

Although forms of analysis used in strategic planning are also employed in strategic management, the relative emphasis on implementation or lack of it represents the major difference between these terms.

Some Possible Scenarios

An essential part of executing an overall strategy, the consideration of possible scenarios and outcomes can help an organization assess risks and take steps to mitigate them as much as possible. According to Fred Nickols, former director of strategy and planning for the Educational Testing Service, this is an aspect of strategy that typically falls under strategic management, rather than strategic planning, since it involves the nitty gritty details of implementing a general mission or set of goals.

Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses

Another major area of concern in an organization's strategy is awareness of internal strengths and weaknesses, both of the processes designed to implement a strategy, and also of the organization as a whole. This includes evaluation or feedback mechanisms, whereby an organization can assess how effective the implementation of the overall mission or goals is. Again, because this aspect of strategy has to do with the concrete realization of a mission or goal, it generally falls under the category of strategic management.