Strategic planning and long range planning differ in their emphasis on the “assumed” environment. Long-range planning is generally considered to mean the development of a plan for accomplishing a goal or set of goals over a period of several years, with the assumption that current knowledge about future conditions is sufficiently reliable to ensure the plan’s reliability over the duration of its implementation. In the late fifties and early sixties, for example, the US. economy was relatively stable and somewhat predictable, and, therefore, long-range planning was both fashionable and useful. On the other hand, strategic planning assumes that an organization must be responsive to a dynamic, changing environment (not the more stable environment assumed for long-range planning).
Certainly a common assumption has emerged in the nonprofit sector that the environment is indeed changeable, often in unpredictable ways. Strategic planning, then, stresses the importance of making decisions that will ensure the organization’s ability to successfully respond to changes in the environment.
Strategic planning is based on establishing a long-term plan to achieve a specified mission, through the attainment of objectives set. These objectives provide empirical information that the strategy is working. A strategic plan looks out over an extended time horizon, three to five years or more. The plan establishes where the business is currently, where management wants to go, how they will get there and how they will know when they have arrived.
Short-term Operational Planning
Within every long-term strategic plan there is a short-term operational plan. The purpose of operations is to generate or create value. Operations management is responsible for creating value by achieving the various objectives set forth in the strategic plan. These are the day-to-day business operations that set short-term goals or milestones of one to 12 months that provide validation and evidence of success toward achieving the mission of the company.
Benefits of Strategic and Short-term Planning
In some instances, companies are very good at articulating or designing a strategic plan but fail to execute a short-term operational plan, which comprises the toolkit required to achieve the strategic plan. Likewise, having short-term plans without a long-term strategy results in a lack of direction or focus as to the corporate vision and values of the company. By combining these two planning components, a company is able to set a general path based on company values, goals and objectives, while having the ability to adapt to changing environments.
Successful Business Management
Both long-term strategic and short-term operational planning are important to the future success of any organization. Focusing and implementing a strategic plan fails to account for the operational factors necessary in the short term to achieve the objectives of the company in the long term. Without a tactical short-term plan, operations management is unable to identify the milestones that are important to achieving the overall strategy set forth in the business plan. Therefore, it is necessary to coordinate operational short-term plans to ensure that they are effective in achieving the basic mission of the company.