Strategic management is broadly concerned with how an organization's leaders create and implement goals. The process of strategic management involves considering how resources such as money, personnel and time impact the environment in which the organization operates. There are four key elements of the strategic management process: environmental scanning, strategy formulation, strategy implementation and strategy evaluation.

Environmental scanning is the foundational step in the strategic management process. This involves taking a deliberate look at how internal and external factors affect the success of an organization. For example, a company can look at how its human resources data, including employee turnover rates and staff satisfaction, have an impact on the organization's performance. The same organization might also look externally at its competition within the industry to determine at which level it can compete. This might involve creating a SWOT analysis, or Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats analysis. Understanding the SWOT is an important baseline for further strategic planning.

Once an organization has done its environmental scan and identified its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, it can then move on to formulating or drafting its strategies. These should be based on improving the key competencies outlined in the SWOT. For instance, an organization might want to capitalize on a new market opportunity, or increase its foothold in a particular technological arena. The important thing to remember is that a strategy should give the organization a sense of direction. This is what is commonly called "strategic direction," which business coach Steve Robbins says on his website is about envisioning what the future looks like for a company and making sure that all its leaders are onboard to take it to the next level.

Once a strategy plan has been formulated, it is then up to the organization's leadership to put that strategy into action. This is called strategic implementation and it is all about creating specific action plans for how the strategies will be achieved. Suppose a company wants to introduce a new customer relationship management system. The managers would need to set out clear steps toward the implementation of the CRM system. This might eventually turn into dozens of baby steps that each add up to taking the organization in a new direction. Of course, one of the elements of proper strategic management is making sure that all of the resources -- be they human or material -- are available to successfully implement a new strategic direction.

It might seem that the organization's job is done once it has successfully implemented a strategic plan, but there is actually still work to be done in evaluating the strategy's longevity and effectiveness. Evaluation is an ongoing part of the strategic management process because it allows the company's leaders to quantitatively and qualitatively evaluate the impact the new strategy has had on both day-to-day work flows and on the company's broader strategic direction. In some cases it may even be necessary for an organization to rethink its strategy and start the process all over again.