Have you ever felt like strategic planning sounds like a jumble of buzzwords and confusing acronyms? Let’s demystify that today and take a journey beyond jargon.

At its heart, strategic planning is about two deceptively simple yet profound ideas: seeing the world more clearly and understanding what matters most.

Straightforward right? Yet so much grows from these concepts.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A World in High Definition

Why are there so many four quadrant matrices in strategy?
Imagine looking at the world through a single pixel. Everything would be a blurry mess!

Instead, multiplying that one pixel into four, and layer on top of that another four, and another, layer upon layer. Suddenly, the world comes into sharp focus, like switching from a fuzzy old TV to the latest HD screen. That’s what strategic tools like the Balanced Scorecard, SWOT Analysis, and Ansoff’s  Matrix do for us (PESTLE also counts in spite of not being a matrix!).

Balanced Scorecard asks: How do we measure progress?

Ansoff’s Matrix asks: WHAT could we do and WHO could we do it for?

PESTLE asks: What is the environment and how might it evolve?

SWOT asks: How adapted are we to take advantage of the current and future environment?

These make crucial (strategic!) distinctions about the business and the world that sharpen our understanding, allowing us to see potential paths with greater accuracy, precision, and subtlety. It’s like having a high definition map helping us navigate the complexities of business and leadership.


The Art of Prioritization

If you don’t know where you’re going, anywhere will take you there!

– Alice in Wonderland

Hierarchies have a bad rep these days!
Yet, imagine if everything in your life had equal importance. You’d be stuck in a never-ending loop of weighing pros and cons, unable to make any meaningful progress. That’s where hierarchies of importance come in, because seeing clearly is not enough.

Prioritization is vital to translate data into action.

In strategic planning, this means having a clear Vision & Mission, the North Star guiding your journey. It involves defining  your values, which act like a psychological hierarchy, helping you decide not just WHAT to do, but the qualities for HOW to do it. It is why we gain so much from ranking the impact of each Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat in a SWOT analysis.

Combining all of the tools above, the strategic process culminates in identifying what is sometimes called “strategic thrusts” – the high-impact areas that most need attention to turn your vision into reality. Think of these as the minimum viable actions that will make your dreams come true, the 20% that  yield 80% of results.

It tells us the essence of what needs to happen.

You can do almost anything, but you can’t do everything.


The Perpetual Dance of Perception and Understanding

The magic happens when you combine these two: perceiving the world more clearly and understanding what’s important. This dynamic duo is the cornerstone of effective strategic planning; taking that HD view of the world and deciding what truly matters.

Where we can fail at doing this effectively is when we assume it is a static process.

As Eisenhower put it:

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.

Which might just be another way of saying:

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face

-Mike Tyson

It’s not the rigid adherence to a plan that matters most, but the ongoing process of planning, adapting, and adjusting to new insights and circumstances.


An existential question

From this perspective Strategic planning, at its heart, is more than a business tool; it’s a fundamental part of the human experience. These two questions are some of the most fundamental we must answer in every single moment:

What is true? 

What is important?

It’s a universal quest, an existential journey, one we all navigate in both personal and professional lives.

The business jargon and acronyms? They’re just signposts, giving structure to this broader, more profound quest.

So, when we talk about strategic planning, we’re really talking about the art of living deliberately.

Let’s learn the tools to sharpen our view of the world and make choices that align with our deepest values and aspirations.

Let’s sift through the noise to find our own music, the rhythm that will guide our steps.


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