How many types of strategic planning are there?

And how many strategic plans do you need?

While you Google the answer, here are the types of strategic planning we see. We identified them several years ago while trying to explain what was happening in our corporation with so many different planning processes going at once.

3 Types of Strategic Planning

As best we could determine, there are three types of strategic planning.


1. Strategic Direction Planning

This is the major long-range planning effort. It's bigger, broader, and looks at an organization's strategic foundation, performance, brand and competitive positions, and opportunities and threats to the current business model. It addresses big initiatives and major priorities to change an organization’s prospects for the better.

2. Annual Planning

As the name suggests, this is yearly planning. Many companies squeeze it into the last few months of the year to prepare for January 1 of the next year. We talk to many executives whose companies deal with annual planning as a financial exercise since they HAVE to get a financial plan in place. Too often though, the financial plan becomes disconnected from what has to happen to bring it to fruition. That leads to the third type of strategic planning.

3. Initiative Planning

This planning becomes a catch-all for whatever doesn't get figured out in the other two planning processes. This is where it's imperative to decide who is going to do what to move the organization ahead in a coordinated fashion. These plans typically have shorter time horizons. They are generally prepared with greater frequency, perhaps even multiple times within a year, as initiatives are readied for launch.

How many strategic plans do you need?

If you've got a solid strategic direction plan, you may only update it every three-to-five years.

And even though we've called it "annual planning," you may be able to run annual planning on an eighteen-to-twenty four month cycle if you spell out enough detail. Initiative planning, however, pretty much happens every year IF you expect to have some type of coordinated plan to implement.

Wondering why we've grouped these all under “strategic planning”?

It's because to us, strategic isn't a description of time (i.e., near-term vs. long-term), but of the importance of what a plan is addressing. If a plan is addressing something that "matters," then it's strategic.

The good news in all this is if you play your processes right, you shouldn’t HAVE to do all three types of strategic planning at once! – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.