What is Strategic Planning and Management?

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Strategic Planning and Management
 is an approach to planning and management that assists decision-making in the context of rapid change. It is also a complex ongoing process of organizational change. To better understand this tool it is important to be aware of what SPM does, is and is not. 

There are many variants of SPM; however, all strategic planning and management are characterized by certain fundamental principles

What is strategic planning?

A strategic plan states the process and action to move from the current reality to the desired future. A plan that must be developed through dialogue with all the involve parties. A leading group manages the plan implementation, work plans and tactics, and provides guidance and leadership to the implementers.

The implementers are in bigger or smaller extent all the involve parties which functions depends upon their participating role. Plans recognize that new challenges and opportunities will arise. These will be assessed and measured against the Strategic Plan, to make Plan adjustments if need. In addition, detailed tactics, timelines and assignments of responsibility may require refinement, in keeping with financial and human resources, and as a result of updated information. The plan must supports critical thinking and reassessment of tactics while maintaining the integrity of the key directions and overall goals and priorities.

On regular basis, the plan must be monitored for progress confirming or updating the priorities. Therefore the Plan must be accountable for achievement of the vision. The plan must assures that the cycle of iterative planning continues.
The plan must evaluate the role of participating organizations and strengthen the definitions and implementations of their roles and responsibilities.


Conventional planning VS strategic planning

One of the major differences between conventional planning and strategic planning is that “conventional planning tends to be oriented toward looking at problems based on current understanding, or an inside-out mind set. Strategic planning requires an understanding of the nature of the issue, and then finding of an appropriate response, or an outside-in mind set” (Rowley, 1997, p. 36).“Long-range planning is a projection from the present or an extrapolation from the past. Strategic planning builds on anticipated future trends, data, and competitive assumptions. Long range planning tends to be numbers driven. Strategic planning tends to be idea driven, more qualitative; it seeks to provide a clear organizational vision/focus.” (CSUN strategic planning retreat booklet, April 1997).


Importance of foresight and anticipation

As conditions change ever faster in Asia and the Pacific in the field of water resources management, and external to it, the ability to anticipate change is key to good planning and management. It is obvious that the future can not be predicted, so foresight and anticipation are needed to identify situations that could occur, to ready the system to respond.

Foresight refers to the ability of institutions to identify (have on the “radar screen”) possible future significant changes in the environment in which they operate, anticipation refers to consideration of responses to possible changed conditions. System outcomes, for example in watershed management, beneficial or detrimental, are less the product of what happens to a system, than how the system responds to new circumstances. In fact, negative events can result in outcomes superior to what would have been the status quo case, if responses are effective. Appropriate responses are more likely, if changing circumstances are anticipated.


The following attributes, when combined, can define a comprehensive strategic planning process.

  • It looks at how the world could be different ahead.
  • It is aimed at creating the organization's future based on what this future is likely to look like.
  • Is based on thorough analysis of foreseen or predicted trends and scenarios of the possible alternative futures, as well as the analysis of internal and external data. 
  • Is flexible and oriented towards the big picture. It aligns an organization with its environment, establishing a context for accomplishing goals, and providing a framework and direction to achieve organization's desired future.
  • Enables organizations to respond to the emerging trends, events, challenges, and opportunities within the framework of its vision and mission, developed through the strategic planning process. 
  • Is a qualitative, idea driven process. It integrates ?soft? data, not always supported quantitatively, such as experiences, intuition, and ideas, involves the organization in the ongoing dialogue, and aims to provide a clear organizational vision and focus.
  • Allows organizations to focus, because it is a process of dynamic, continuous activities of self-analysis
  • Is an ongoing, continuous learning process, an organizational dialogue, which extends beyond attaining a set of predetermined goals
  • It aims to change the way an organization thinks and operates, and create a learning organization
  • When successful, it influences all areas of operations, becoming a part of the organization's philosophy and culture  

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