What Is the Difference Between a Strategic Plan & a Goal?
Most businesses set out a mission or vision as part of the early development process. These statements articulate the reason the business exists and what it wishes to achieve. Accomplishing the mission or achieving the vision requires the business to develop goals and create strategic plans that leverage the business’s resources into the service of both mission and goals. Though goals and strategic plans are interrelated, they are different.
A business goal typically articulates some aspect of the business’s long-term vision. Increasing market share or profit percentages represent two common business goals. On the whole, goals provide signposts for the business to look at while measuring progress. Effective goals provide specific points of reference, such as "increase market share by 10 percent over the next three years." This kind of goal lends itself to measurement and achievability. Vague goals, such as "make more money," offer too little in the way of achievability to either motivate or plan around. Goals do not aim to provide a specific approach or method for the business to use along the way.
Goal-based strategic planning takes the stated goal and builds a kind of map to reaching the goal. Building the strategic plan involves an analysis of the external marketing environment, as well as the internal environment and resources of the business. This analysis provides the groundwork for developing high-level strategy, such as whether to move into a new field, as well as lower-level operational plans that set out specific activities or initiatives in manufacturing or distribution that support goal achievement. Strategic plans may specify particular individuals or departments to carry out particular activities, as well as setting time frames for carrying out short and medium-term objectives.
Business goals, much like vision or mission statements, operate at the level of abstractions, albeit specific abstractions, such as increasing customer retention by 5 percent. Strategic plans, on the other hand, need to operate primarily on the level of concrete activities that lend themselves to documentation and measurement. Even high-level strategic planning, such as expanding into a new territory or offering a new service, ties to concrete actions including research, real estate acquisition and hiring appropriate staff.
Even with careful analysis and conservative thinking, goal-setting and strategic plans do not guarantee success. A variety of factors the business cannot hope to control may impact the viability of any given goal of plan. Innovations inside or outside an industry can render product lines obsolete. Economic shifts can stunt growth or shrink market segments, as well as push companies into price wars. Key components in manufacturing processes can rise abruptly in price due to natural disasters, political changes or outbreaks of violence in crucial regions.