Envisioning a future that you desire, then deciphering that vision into well-defined goals and objectives as well as a series of steps that will help you achieve them, is the systematic process commonly referred to as ‘strategic planning’.

Strategic planning highlights the desired end-results and emphasizes on working our way backwards to the current status. It is basically a skill that will help you strengthen all your other skills, provide a basis for important decision making, and create an action plan for getting the highest possible rewards for the efforts made and achieving success ultimately.

Why is strategic planning important?

Whether it’s about that small business you are running or the Thanksgiving dinner you are hosting, remember that success isn’t just a happy chance event. If you wish to accomplish something, you must set out with a well-conceived plan. Therefore, if you wish to climb up the career ladder, you require strategic planning skills to help the organization prosper.

Its significance can be realized from the following roles that it plays:

  • Sets a direction. Strategic planning makes the purpose of the business distinct and sets a direction for you. Involving yourself in such an exercise helps you lead with a clear vision of the future. It helps you remain focused on the things that actually matter, as well as spells out the fundamental values and philosophy under which you wish to work. It helps you to know what exactly your next moves should be and why it’s important to you. Running an organization without the ability to plan strategically is basically a recipe for failure.
  • Higher effectiveness. It helps in better allocation of your resources such as money, talent and time. Strategic planning is, thus, a skill that will help in ensuring that these resources are effectively used by focusing on key priorities.

How to improve your strategic planning skills

Strategic planning tends to receive a lot of criticism from dissatisfied CEOs and other senior managers for the lack of its impact on the long term performance of the organization. This failure of the plan, however, can be largely attributed to the poor planning skills instead of implementation.

Following are the two most important factors required for the improvement of strategic planning skills:

  • Strategic Thinking. Thinking strategically is crucial because it helps us compare the desired future state with the current state by imagining the ‘what ifs’. This helps us improve upon our vision statement about the future as well as current situation analysis. The insights provided by strategic thinking then also help us come up with logical as well as creative solutions to bridge the gap, in the form of guiding policies or ‘strategies’ that help us achieve our desired end-results.
  • Engagement of the staff. The second factor, equally important for improving strategic planning skills, is to engage all levels of management in the process. This not only helps in the implementation phase, with the increased commitment of the entire staff to the end plan, but also helps in generating additional input for the planning process. This additional input from all levels of management provides a broader view and better insight into the available opportunities as well as the challenges and concerns being faced.