Strategic planning models exist as blueprints that we can follow when tackling the process of creating a strategic plan.
In this article, we’re going to look at 3 of the most popular examples of strategic planning models. We’ve chosen a range of different strategic model examples so finding one that suits you should be a breeze! We’ve also compiled this article into an eBook that you can download here.
What are Strategic Planning Models?
A strategic planning model is actually a collective term for a number of elements that contribute to the strategic planning process. The core components of a strategic planning model typically include:
- A templated structure for creating goals.
- Frameworks for helping you to actually decide what you want to work on.
- A loose structure of governance to help you manage and track your strategy.
You can think of strategic planning models as ‘templates’ into which you can drop your own ideas. At the end, you’ll come out with a strategic plan which is sensibly structured and gives you a clear set of actions upon which to work. Now that we’ve defined what a strategic planning model actually is, let’s look at the different elements that one should contain.
Essentially, there are three parts to any good strategic planning model:
Structure refers to the different components of your strategic plan and how they all fit together. For example, your structure may start with a Vision Statement, then flow into Values, Focus Areas, and any number of Goal levels.
Frameworks are essentially methodologies that you can apply to help you come up with your goals, as well as categorize your goals to ensure they’re balanced and will meet your needs. You can check out our guide to some of the more popular strategic frameworks here.
Governance refers to how you’ll go about actually tracking and reporting on the goal elements of your strategy.
We’ve deliberately selected only those examples of strategic planning models that include both Structure & Governance since we think that both are critical when it comes to actually implement your strategic plan. What’s the point in having an awesome strategy on paper if you have no effective way to actually execute it?!
For the purpose of this article, we’re only looking at the latter two elements of a strategic planning model, as we’ve already covered strategy frameworks in an earlier article.
Strategic Planning Models vs Strategic Frameworks
We should first clarify the difference between strategic planning frameworks and strategic planning models. Quite a few online resources use these terms interchangeably, but in reality, they’re quite different things.
You’ll find a few different takes on this subject, but the definitions that we find the most useful are as follows:
A strategic planning model refers to the overall structure that you apply to your strategic planning process. It roughly describes the various components and how they interact with one another. I’m going to use the example of an architect building an airport. A model of the airport would show you at a high level how the approach roads connect to the departure hall, and how the departure hall connects to immigration, which then connects to the terminals, the runways, etc etc. A strategic planning model functions much the same way, in that it describes each of the elements of a coherent strategy – what they do, how they fit together, and in what order.
A strategic planning framework refers to the conceptual approach you will bring to populating your strategic plan. In our airport example, we might apply a building frame that is designed to maximize the speed at which people move through the airport for efficiency. Or alternatively, we might apply a framework that is designed not to maximize speed, but rather to maximize the amount of time people spend in the airport shops. These are two very different approaches to building an airport – hence two different frameworks. However, they would most both use the same overall model.
Another way to put it would be to say that strategic planning models provide the high-level structure – whilst strategic planning frameworks provide design principles for the detail within our strategic plans. In other words, you should always start by selecting your strategic planning model and then move on to selecting your strategic planning framework. You could even mix and match multiple different frameworks into your model – i.e. you could start by doing a SWOT Analysis, and then apply McKinsey’s 3 Horizons of Innovation on top.
We’ll be covering 3 examples of strategic planning models in this article – but for examples of strategic planning frameworks, you’ll want to check out some of our other posts on famous frameworks such as the Balanced Scorecard or McKinsey’s Three Horizons of Innovation. The balanced scorecard revolves around 4 key areas of the organization. So, we can apply any one of the strategic planning models below, to help us discover issues and solidify goals.
The goal here is not to steer you to a particular strategic planning model, as your situation is unique, instead these options are here to give you perspective on how you can approach your planning before you dive into the detail.
One more point to note – all of the strategic planning model examples below are framework agnostic. That means that regardless of which strategic planning model you choose, you can apply any number of frameworks to help you actually come up with your goals!
So without further hesitation, let’s get into the detail and look at 3 examples of strategic planning models that we think are pretty awesome…
Model 1: The Cascade Strategic Planning Model
OK, let’s get this out of the way first – we hands-down think that this is the best example of a strategic planning model that you’re likely to find. We actually wrote a dedicated article on this strategic planning model. But if you want the summary version – read on!
This strategic planning model is simple enough to understand and has the benefit of also being easy to implement when it comes to the actual execution of your strategy. Here’s a quick look:
Let’s dive into two of the key elements of the Cascade Strategic Planning Model – structure and governance.
The structural elements of this strategic model are as follows:
- Identify your Vision Statement – this is the statement(s) that describes why the organization exists, i.e. its basic purpose. The vision statement can evolve over the years (check out this article).
- Define your Values – describe the way in which you want your organization to behave as it strives towards its Vision.
- Craft your Focus Areas – these articulate the key areas that you’ll be focusing your efforts on to help deliver you Vision.
- Create your Objectives – your strategic objectives define more specifically the outcomes you want to achieve under each of your Focus Areas.
- Define your KPIs – each of your Objectives should contain at least one or two KPIs to help you measure whether or not you’re close to reaching your desired outcomes (Objectives).
- Specify your Projects – these are one of the most critical elements in your strategic planning model, as they state exactly what actions you will take to deliver against your Objectives.
The governance elements are:
- Monthly Strategic Updates – these apply only to Objectives and require the owner to provide a narrative update on the overall progress towards the Objective.
- Project Updates – these are ad hoc updates made against the Project level of the plan and include general updates and progress.
- KPI Exceptions – these are required when KPIs are outside of their tolerance level and explain the difference and any actions being taken to address the gap.
When you combine the goal and the governance elements of this strategic planning model, you get a comprehensive set of tools that you can use not just for creating your plan, but also executing it.
Model 2: Hoshin Kanri
Hoshin Kanri is a strategic planning model used by organizations that want to drive a consistent focus throughout many levels of their structure. As such, it’s well suited to large organizations with different layers of management including at least ‘top level’ executive management, ‘middle managers’, and ‘front line’ staff.
A lot of the work we did to create the Cascade Strategic Model (above) was inspired by Hoshin Kanri – so it’s certainly a strategic planning model that we respect and admire here at Cascade. Let’s dive into the detail of the Hoshin strategic planning model with a quick visual:
Let’s dive into the structural elements of the Hoshin Kanri strategy model:
- The first level of the Hoshin Kanri strategic planning model refers to our vision – a distant horizon that will guide everything that sits beneath.
- We then move onto our 3-5 Year Strategies – these are high level summaries of what we want to achieve (both qualitatively and quantitatively).
- Beneath that, we will define Annual Objectives, which will be split between different departments.
- Finally, we have our Action Items – specific things we are going to do to reach our Annual Objectives
Now let’s take a look at the governance elements of this strategy model:
- Monthly Reviews – these are done against the Annual Objectives and require the owners of the goals to provide descriptive updates of progress.
- Annual Reviews – these are also done against the Annual Objectives however, happen at the end of the time period and encompass a decision point as to whether to mark the Annual Objective as complete or roll it over into another year.
There are actually quite a few different ways to implement the Hoshin Kanri strategic planning model – the above is simplified but covers most of the core elements.
Model 3: OKRs (Objectives & Key Results)
The OKR strategic planning model was popularized by Intel and more recently Google. It focuses on quarterly sets of ‘OKRs’ which are set and reviewed by every management level in the organization. We’ve written a detailed guide to OKRs here which you might also want to check out. The OKR strategic planning model looks something like this:
As with the Cascade Strategic Planning Model and Hoshin Kanri – the OKR strategy model is made up of two key elements being goals and governance. The structure looks like this:
- Objectives – These describe the outcome that you are looking for in the current quarter (remember, OKRs are designed to evolve each quarter).
- Key Results – These are specific measures that describe your progress towards your Objective in numerical terms.
- To-Dos – these are small ‘tasks’ that sit against each of your Key Results that when completed, should take you closer towards achieving that Key Result.
Governance is a critical component in the OKR strategic planning model. The typical governance on OKRs includes:
- Weekly Check Ins – Each Key Result should have a weekly check in which covers your confidence level in the achievement of that OKR as well as remediation steps and general progress updates.
- Quarterly Review – For each Objective, a formal quarterly review should be undertaken where that OKR is given a ‘score’ (usually from 0 to 1) and a decision is made on what to do with that OKR in the next quarter.
Choosing the Right Strategic Planning Model
In all honesty, the examples of strategic planning models that we’ve picked have quite a lot in common. That’s for a good reason – the best strategic planning models are simple, contain all the right elements, and combine goal setting with governance to give you a strategic planning model that will serve you well when it comes to execution.
As such, you can’t really go wrong with any of the strategic planning model examples we’ve outlined here. We’ve made no secret of the fact that we think that the Cascade Strategic Planning Model is arguably the best (that’s model number 1 above). But ultimately the choice is yours.
We’d love to hear your own thoughts of the best strategic planning models – did we miss any that you would have included? Don’t forget that you can also grab this complete article as an eBook that you can download here.