Strategic Planning History

Strategic planning is an effort to develop coherence between what the organization is confronting today and what it needs to achieve tomorrow.

Earliest Origins of Strategic Planning

It is interesting that strategic planning dates a long way back in military history, but not so far back in other forms of human enterprise. There is evidence of Roman armies developing elaborate documented understandings about their relative situation and creating tactics to exploit advantages and destroy the competition. But there seems to be no evidence that Roman governments were using strategic planning to manage the largest empire in the world. One must move forward in history a long way to find other types of organizations; typically, businesses mastering the art of strategic planning.

Strategic Planning In the modern Era 

No doubt there was a symbiotic relationship between the rise of graduate business schools in the post World War 2 era and the victory of strategic planning in corporate organizations during the 1950’s, 60’s and into 70’s.

Early on strategic planning had a strong finance and accounting influence – setting the budget in the 50’s and 60’s became synonymous with establishing a strategic plan.  Later, a dominant feature of strategic planning was to undertake at the outset an environmental assessment. This includes identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your own organization and the threats and opportunities found in the marketplace.

A focus on Strategy

As time went on a focus on the competitive dimensions of the organization became paramount. In the past thirty years there has been a tremendous flourishing of business thought leadership, which has influenced strategic planning. Just take three important examples. Michael Porter’s 1985 seminal work entitled On Competition, used international data and ground-breaking theory to generate ideas about competition and competitive strategy. In 2005, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne examined a hundred years of history and thirty industries to demonstrate that companies can succeed by creating “Blue Oceans” of uncontested market space. In 2010, Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur created Business Model Generation and followed that up with Value Proposition Design. These publications are really handbooks for analysing or creating business models, as well as methodologies to consider creating products and services that customers want.

Put into a Framework

These three examples illustrate the rise of strategy within planning. But strategy is not the only ingredient in strategic planning. It’s also essential to consider the need for operational efficiencies. It is critical to address the need to strengthen our employees’ capacity to deliver on the promise of a strategic plan. The strategic plan for a business must show how the organization will develop and deliver sustained and profitable customer value. It is best presented within a framework.

In our consulting practice, we consider the following activities to fall within the Strategic Framework process – set the vision, decide the areas of focus, articulate measurable outcomes, create a dashboard of critical metrics, and identify priority projects needed to drive the achievement of your vision.

This strategic framework works for businesses and it is relevant for governments, nonprofits and associations.

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We have come some distance since the Roman armies.

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