When to use Strategic Analysis
Strategic planning is the process of developing a shared vision of your organization’s future and deciding upon the major steps you will take to move the organization in that direction. A strategic analysis is one of the key phases and requirements to the development of any strategic plan.
The strategic planning process determines:
(1) what your organization wants to achieve, usually expressed as strategic objectives and
(2) how you will direct the organization and its resources towards achieving these objectives over the next several years, usually expressed as strategic actions.
Such planning usually requires that decisions have been or are taken about:
- Your organization’s Vision and Mission.
- Whom you will serve – your so-called target customer or client group.
- Your organization’s “added value” (what marketing people might call your USP or Unique Selling Point).
- The kind of programmes, services or products you will develop and offer.
- The resources needed to deliver successfully – people, money, expertise, relationships, facilities, etc. and a realistic assessment of how much resource will be available over time.
How you can best combine these resources, programmes and relationships to accomplish your Mission in general and your new strategic objectives specifically.
Is strategic planning and analysis only appropriate for whole organization planning?
Strategic planning can be used effectively by whole organizations, by divisions or departments within an organization or by a number of organizations working together on one initiative. Whatever the scale of the plan, it is the Master Plan from which day to day operational plans are derived. having an appropriate analysis of “where we are now” out of an analysis process is critical.
Why have a strategy?
Having a strategic plan helps to ensure not only that you have long term direction but that your organization’s programmes, projects and day-to-day decisions fit in with these long term interests of your organization. A strategic plan also encourages people to work together towards common aims and to recognise what their organization is all about and how their own efforts – however small – contribute to achievements at the highest level.
What are the characteristics of a good strategist?
Every organization needs good strategists. A good strategist:
- looks ahead to where s/he wants to be and plans accordingly
- balances short and long-term needs
- sees problems as opportunities to improve
- can identify issues and choices to be made before they become critical
- keeps calm when the unexpected occurs
- is a team player
- is a skilled communicator and can inspire others with his/her vision for the future.
How is strategic planning linked to programme planning?
This is a critical question for every organization. Many inexperienced organizations design project proposals/ new project (service) launches in response to a perceived need but without sufficient consideration of their own capabilities and resources.
What are the potential benefits of strategic planning?
Strategic planning can help your organization in a number of critical ways:
- Improved results and confidence. Thinking about your vision of the future, setting of objectives and planning and monitoring accordingly can positively influence organizational performance and can contribute to a greater sense of purpose, progress and accountability.
- Focus. It is easy to lose all sense of organizational purpose and direction in the pre-occupation of day-to-day management. Good strategic planning forces future thinking and can refocus and re-energise a disorientated organization.
- Problem solving. Strategic planning focuses on an organization’s most critical problems, choices and opportunities.
- Teamwork: Non-Government Organizations usually involve people throughout the organization in developing their strategic plan. Strategic planning provides an excellent opportunity to build a sense of teamwork, to promote learning, and to build commitment across the organization. As a clear direction develops for the organization, people usually become committed to this direction if they have contributed significantly in forming it.
- Communication. Board members, staff, funders and other stakeholders are all interested in where the organization is heading and how their contribution will fit. Increasingly funders ask that an organization has a strategic plan in place as a condition of continued support. This requirement is likely to continue given the shift in emphasis from projects to longer-term relationships.
- Greater influence. Strategic planning can help an organization provide greater influence over its circumstances and the environment in which it operates, rather than simply responding to an unending series of problems.
What are the potential limitations of strategic planning?
- Costs can outweigh benefits. Strategic planning can consume a lot of time and money. This can be wasteful if the strategic planning is not successful.
- Poor plans may be developed. Faulty assumptions about the future, poor assessment of an organization’s capabilities, poor group dynamics and information overload can lead to the development of poor plans.
- Stability is important. Organizations need some stability in order to get through a strategic planning process or make very good use of such planning. “Now” is not always the right time for an organization to embark on a strategic planning programme.
- Implementation may be unlikely. If leaders have little intention of following through on plans, it may be wiser not to ask people to invest time and energy in such planning. Disillusionment, cynicism and feelings of powerlessness often result if people have contributed energy and ideas to a plan which ultimately is not implemented.
Tools used for strategic analysis
The proven ways are often the best. The often understood SWOT in association with PESTLE (PEST) and PRIMO-F are important, practical and yet efficient frameworks, and should not be overlooked just because “they have been around for a long time”. These apparently simple tools have a depth that many without experience often offer look, and as a consequence the value of these approaches is often misunderstood.