Vision without action is just daydreaming and action without vision is just passing the time. Good planning involves both vision (strategy) and action (implementation). Planning can be described as the act of envisioning of the possibilities open to the organization, as well as the development of procedures and operations conductive to achievement of the vision.

Strategic Plans

Strategic plans are concerned with the definition of objectives for the organization. They define the markets in which the organization will compete, as well as the tools that will be used to create a sustainable competitive advantage. As you must ground strategies in reality, the point of departure is the assessment of the customers, competitors and capabilities of the organization. A scope of three to five years is usual, as less than that may become too shortsighted while more will probably be too speculative given the ever-growing volatility of the business environment.

Implementation Plans

The strategic plan should be readily translatable into concrete, short-term objectives and achieved through specific functional areas such as marketing, finance and human resources. The implementation plans will be expressed in day-to-day terms and may involve monthly or quarterly periods and they will include mechanisms for monitoring, control and feedback.

Strategy to Implementation

The strategic plan must be integral to everyday management decisions and managers developing implementation and operational plans must keep the big picture in mind. While the strategic planning team must not replace the decision-making structure of the organization, it should meet periodically to asses the progress of the implementation. It must share progress reports with the management team and the feedback thus provided will help align implementation and strategy.

Common pitfalls

Strategic planning in itself is of little use to the organization, as the best plan in the world is useless without a good execution. A study of 94 CEOs of a wide range of businesses concluded that fewer than half of the interviewees even tried to integrate their strategic plans into the operations of the organization. The major causes of failure were lack of involvement/buy-in on behalf of the CEO, planning processes that failed to stimulate strategic thinking and planning processes that were not continuous, but sporadic and perceived as semi-academic exercises without specific implementation goals.