Strategy v. Planning

In this week’s planning segment… CEO Stewart Heath recently joined a “Mastermind” group, and in the first presentation, there was a guest: author Cameron Herold, who’s written several best-selling books. In his talk, he was summarizing all of his books for startup CEO’s or entrepreneurs who run small organizations. One of his comments got us thinking, because we engage a lot in planning and forecasting with clients. He said, “planning is not strategy.” He’s big on strategy as you would expect, and we know that they’re not the same, but we throw terms around like “strategic planning,” “strategic forecasting,” “let’s have a strategy meeting,” etc. We thought this would be a great post: what is the difference between planning and strategy? Do you know the difference?

Strategy is actually the process of figuring out what it is that you’re going to do. Here’s a quote from Excitant: “Strategy is choosing where to go, what to do. Planning is the process of figuring out how to do it.” Strategy can be brilliant. Bill Gates was brilliant in that. He figure out how to write the operating system for personal computers, and we don’t want to take anything away from that! The planning and execution of how to roll that out to every personal computer that would ultimately become the Windows base… that was also brilliant. We tend to have the realization and “aha! there’s an opportunity over there!” But opportunities do not execute themselves. They have to be well thought out, and they have to be planned. So they’re both critically important.

There is a trend in companies these days where you will see the top, sometimes just the CEO, or at least the top 2-3 people in an organization, who will go in and determine the strategy. The once they do that, they’l bring in the rest of the team to do all of the planning. Money is made in the execution. Profits are made in the execution. If you do not plan it by pursuing your strategy, you’re just going to make a bunch of mistakes. In the planning process, you can think hard enough to avoid a lot of mistakes.

Here are several great articles on this topic that you can review from, Harvard Business Review, and Frame Group. And check out Cameron Herold’s site and books. Our CEO was so impressed by him, and we think you’ll enjoy his work as well. If we can help you in any way, please let us know!

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