Summit Group Partners Blog

The ABCs of Strategic Planning - by Summit Group Partners Trusted Advisor, Susan Grattino

 You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.
- Yogi Berra, baseball catcher (1925-present)


Strategic planning. Not for the faint of heart, but probably more critical during slow economic periods than at any other time.


 When margins are thin and competition gets fierce, there is less room for companies to shift the burden of an underperforming product and less time to “wait and see” if the market improves. We’ve seen this situation time and again, especially since the dot-com bubble burst in 2001/2002, companies were able to skate on a free-flowing economy, often without any notable income stream and no idea how to monetize their product or service. Past planning for many companies used to be that a product would be developed, marketing would figure out how to market it, the sales folks would have to sell it and the financial folks would scramble trying to determine how to make money on it.


Strategic planning can take several forms. Vision-based planning is generally for the entire organization, (re)mapping out the mission, vision, values for the company as a whole. Goals-based planning may apply to just certain aspects of the business, a division, product line or department. Some well-known, large corporations often take a long view of strategic planning and undertake scenario planning to prepare for a future trend or major shift in the business environment. In the 1980s, one oil company I know of was already working on scenarios that anticipated a dramatic increase of women in the workplace. In any case, there are several ways to engage in the planning process.


The major components of a planning process include:

  • A hard look at where your company stands now. What are your strengths and weaknesses, and what external factors may affect your business

  • Where do you want your company to be

  • What goals do you have for your company once you get there (What does it look like 3-5 years out)

  • What strategies need to be in place in order to reach your goals

  • How do you measure your performance and more importantly how do you measure success

  • How do acquisitions fit within the plan

  • What contingencies will be in palace should the outcomes not be achieved or the market turns against you


The next question might be who is involved in strategic planning. Strategic planning may come from the top down, or start with a select group of team members. Certainly, it depends on how large a planning effort this will be. Ideally, you will have key members, at the C-suite or Vice President level and from all facets and levels of the organization involved. This would include finance, human resources, operations, marketing and sales.


Typical roles played by these representatives might be:


CEO - Setting the vision and direction. Establish the culture that is required to succeed

Marketing – Defining the market opportunity and delivering the right message at the right time to the right people

Sales – Helping management understand the needs of the customer and what they are willing to buy, and if there is truly a market for this product or service

Operations – Making sure the company is undertaking the right activities to meet customer demands in a cost effective and profitable manner

Finance – Investing the right amount in the right project and having the capital required available to execute the plan

Human Resources – Ensuring the right people are on board and having the right organizational design to meet the needs of the plan


A strategic plan is developed as a guide to move your business forward. Whether that plan will inform the company’s direction, a specific area for improvement, or a particular goal you’ve set out to achieve, the plan itself must be an evergreen document. As you live the plan in day to day operations, there will always be those bumps in the road, or issues not anticipated. The plan is there to be a guideline, set direction and be modified to fit the circumstances. Establishing periodic regular review periods helps keep the plan current and top of mind.


At Summit Group Partners we work with companies who are looking to accelerate the achievement of sustainable economic change through strategies of growth, expansion and operational excellence by supporting the development of plans that result in the company outperforming the industry and their own expectations. It all starts with having the vision and the plan to execute the vision.



About the author

Susan Grattino
Susan is an experienced marketing consultant who helps companies with the development of strategic and tactical marketing plans. Her specialty is market research, marketing planning and tactical implementation of marketing programs. Ms. Grattino was Director of Marketing Services for a marketing consulting company where she managed the development of strategic and tactical marketing plans, developed related revenue projections and budgets, and managed the execution of the related marketing programs. She has experience writing business plans, human resource training manuals and disaster recovery plans as an employee and as an independent consultant. She has worked both domestically and internationally throughout Europe, South America and Asia. She also has experience as a software developer, management consultant, and pre-sales consultant.

Susan holds a dual undergraduate degree in Management Information Systems and Accounting, and achieved Certified Public Accountant designation in 1996. Susan also holds a graduate degree in International Management from The American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) with a concentration in international marketing and finance.



Excellent article Susan. I really enjoy this blog and all of the informative articles - it is so well written and certainly encourages deep thought and strong thinking. Your contribution is no different and absolutely a great addition. Thank you for sharing.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Timely and spot on, Susan! I recently took my senior leadership team through this process. We experienced great benefits beyond the end result of a strategic plan. It not only refined our business model and vision for our future health and growth, but helped me personally to assess strengths/opportunities of individuals on my leadership team as engaging in the strategic planning process they transparently displayed whether they "got it" or not.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011
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