Strategic Thinking and Planning: The Value of A More Robust Annual Plan

By Cathy McCullough


dateThu, Jan 30, 2020 @ 11:30 AM

Regardless of size, all businesses require strategic thinking to grow. Many leaders consider strategic The Value of Strategic Thinking: A More Robust Annual Planthinking (and the subsequent execution of their strategic plan) as one of the most challenging leadership tasks. So many times, though, leaders confuse strategic thinking and strategic planning with being tactical and task-oriented. 

While strategic thinking involves these two principles, it is not restricted to them. Rather, strategic thinking is the process of thinking, planning, and doing the work that will lead your company toward your preferred future. 

For this reason, it’s important for company leaders to possess a healthy understanding of the value of strategic thinking and how it helps in creating a strategic roadmap for growth. Strategic thinking is, in essence, a systematic mix of innovation, strategic planning, and operational planning. The aim is to develop strategies that improve the chances of success for your company.

The most common approach to launching new products or entering a new vertical (or any other strategic endeavor) is to gauge everything based on past performance. There’s nothing wrong with using past statistics, but more and more organizations are learning that these are not sufficient on their own for developing solid strategies for the future. They are lagging indicators. What’s needed are leading indicators.

It is not just about when to launch the next campaign and how to execute it. Businesses have to proactively work towards creating value for customers. This is where strategic thinking serves you best, by questioning the very reason for pursuing a business objective.

Key strategic questions to consider asking as a way of fostering your team’s strategic thinking are questions such as: 

  • How does the goal of this strategy link to my business goals?
  • What value will be created if the goal is achieved?
  • How will this decision impact our stakeholders?
  • What is it that we’re assuming to be true?
  • What might be the implications of our doing this—both positive and negative?

All in all, strategic thinking is valuable if you want to:

  • Be known as an innovator in your industry
  • Leverage changes in your industry
  • Keep your business free from complacency while instilling a continuous improvement approach
  • Have a proactive approach towards problem-solving
  • Have a whole systems approach

As you develop your Annual Plan (followed by your Quarterly Plan), strategic thinking forces meaningful conversations around what is defined as being most important to the company. It offers alignment in thinking and clarity to you and your team by providing a clear definition around your strategic priorities and the actions needed to support those priorities.

Strategic thinking will take you and your team far beyond the tactical and task-focused “to do” items of the day. It will create a flow that elevates the value of your discussions toward higher-level thinking. In turn, you create a robust Annual Plan that aligns with your longer-term vision and allows you to Think-Plan-Do with much greater strategic intent and ease.


Looking for more Annual Planning information to help get you started? Check out our additional resources:

How to Conduct an Annual Planning Meeting

Annual Planning Playbook: 5 Steps to Create a Winning Annual Plan

How CEOs Can Avoid High-Cost Mistakes in Annual Planning

Rhythm Systems Annual Planning Resource Center

Annual Planning Best Practices

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Cathy McCullough


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images