Changing the Way the World Thinks about Strategy
Sound Strategy + Effective Implementation = Solid Success

The Simplified Strategic Planning Process

How It Works

There is no denying that strategic planning (aka strategy planning) involves complex issues. But finding your course and direction doesn’t have to be complicated.

Any strategy planning process involves digesting information and some fairly difficult analysis. Good strategy planning should be simplified, but not simplistic.

The Three Key Questions

The Simplified Strategic Planning process is a step-by-step roadmap for answering the questions at the heart of the matter. The three key questions:

What Are You Going to Sell?


To Whom Are You Going to Sell?


How Can You Beat or Avoid the Competition?

The first two questions define the breadth, scope and focus of your business. You must decide what you will do or will not do, and then you must decide who you will serve in the marketplace. These questions help you determine an appropriate focus.

We have found that many companies do not want to be focused and seem to go out of their way to avoid narrowing things down. The leaders of such companies usually can’t stand the idea of not pursuing a sale. Often, when asked the question, What are you going to sell? such leaders answer “Everything we can.” That’s not focus. That’s a pursue-everything approach – that person will also answer “Everyone we can,” to the question, To whom are you going to sell? The problem with the two answers, of course, is that there is a third question that really defines what you are capable of doing.

It’s that third question that brings a sense of realism to your planning process. When you get into the third question and begin examining your competencies, strengths, capabilities and infrastructure, you will really understand the importance of focus. You need to focus on applying your strategic competency and specific capabilities to what to sell to targeted markets. This will allow you to use your resources to gain a sustainable competitive advantage instead of just using them up.

These questions are the heart of the Simplified Strategic Planning model because at each step along the way you will be working towards answering them. As you do you will learn and grow. And as you learn and grow, you will create a well-considered plan. In the end, you will have a strategy that works and gives specific answers those three questions.

Simplified Strategic Planning Process Structure

Preliminary to beginning the process is the appointment of the team and the scheduling of the sessions.  The team should be the top management team, those reporting to the CEO who represent all areas of activity at the company. 

At the broadest level, the Simplified Strategic Planning process is a series of structured meetings in which you start by gathering some basic data and facts about your external and internal situation. Then, you try and build a consensus about some assumptions for the future, including opportunities, threats and scenarios. After you’ve researched the necessary facts and developed assumptions, you sit down and review them with your team and make sure everyone understands and agrees.  This is one of the key parts of any strategic planning process because the information and assumptions shape all further discussion about strategy.

From there, you will go on to develop your strategy (course and direction). Then you define goals and objectives and get into the questions of:

  • How do we get there?
  • How much is it going to cost?
  • When do we arrive?
  • Who is responsible?
  • Who will be involved, and will they have the time required?

The Simplified Strategic Planning process covers nine items in three meetings. The first meeting is two days, the second is three days and the third meeting is two days and you will do the following:

  • Gather information,
  • Assess capabilities,
  • Make assumptions,
  • Make strategic assessments of present and potential market segments,
  • Develop core business strategy, competitive strategy, development strategy and financial strategy,
  • Establish goals and objectives,
  • Develop action plans to turn your objectives into results,
  • Finalize action plans after considering resource requirements and availability,
  • Schedule reviews of developments, progress and performance.

The point of the Simplified Strategic Planning process is to make the plan manageable. If you want to create a beautifully-bound 700-page bookend that everyone has and no one uses, you’ll probably need a lot more meetings. But if you want to create a plan – a real, workable plan that everyone can relate to quickly, – the Simplified Strategic Planning process is for you.

  1. It starts with situation analysis – understanding your current situation and what your assumptions might be going forward.
  2. Then there is strategy formulation – making decisions based on those inputs.
  3. Finally, there is implementation planning – taking your decisions and driving them home in the organization to get results.

Remember the whole reason to do this is to get results. Implementation must be specific because when it is not it will inevitably fail. The Simplified Strategic Planning process leads to specific implementation of a strategy.

In total, the Simplified Strategic Planning process works out to about seven days of meetings, spread out over twelve weeks so that it won’t interfere with your day-to-day business.  There is also work to be done by the team between sessions.

Sound Strategy + Effective Implementation = Solid Success

At the end of the Simplified Strategic Planning process, you end up with action plans that support your objectives. You allocate money though budgets, and you allocate time through time worksheets, and you have things being done on time and on budget because you have a strategy that fits the best information at your disposal. You should have in hand 6 to 10 action plans of things that specific individuals are going to do at specific times. They will take specific amounts of time and of money – numbers that everyone will agree are realistic commitments – and they will get things done. That’s strategy with teeth. To learn more, visit the simplified strategic planning book page or the simplified strategic planning seminar page.

Poor strategic planning is worse than no strategic planning. It can be a big waste of time and money. Even worse, it can lead to disaster. Avoid all this with Simplified Strategic Planning – a proven process to focus for superior performance without straining your resources.

While various business improvement techniques such as Total Quality Management and Re-engineering are often extremely beneficial to the ongoing progress of a business, correct Strategic Focus remains the single most important element in a company’s success.

Since 1981, the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning (through its Strategic Focus on strategy and strategic management services) has provided client companies a lean but thorough strategy planning process, strategy planning tools and the leadership required to obtain superior strategic results.

We understand the challenges typically faced by our clients in installing systems and practices necessary to support growth, while maintaining day to day operations.

Center for Simplified Strategic Planning also provides clients and non-clients with  books, seminars, workshops and Strategic Planning Tools.

Our work with client companies is built around our proprietary Simplified Strategic Planning process. It is a streamlined, hands-on methodology designed to ensure that course and direction are well thought-out, and that the resources of the organization are sharply focused in support of that course and direction.

We do not tell you the solution to your problem or the prescribed strategy for your company. We stimulate good strategic thinking and lead your team along a logical path that will allow you to discover and communicate your own unique vision of the future and to take the steps necessary to turn that vision into reality.

A Few Testimonials

Simplified Strategic Planning provided us a straightforward process that helped our already successful organization set a much clearer direction for the future.
Ed Engle, Jr.

President, Rima Manufacturing Company

Our company is just completing its 2nd cycle of Simplified Strategic Planning. We are expanding the process to additional divisions for the 3rd cycle.
Scott Christensen

Project Manager, Hormel Foods

Thank you for providing me with what I firmly believe to be the two most productive days of my business career. What you provided us was a clearly developed step by step process for developing a strategy. We now have focus, commitment and high employee morale. In short, we now know where we want to go and how we are going to get there. This focus, commitment and morale has resulted in our company achieving the INC. Magazine list of the 500 fastest growing companies.
William J. Costello

President, Accu Bite Dental, Inc.

A system that is very well honed. Important for those who are serious about planning but need to make every second count.
G. Alex Bernhardt, St.

Chariman and CEO, Bernhardt Furniture Company

As the chairman of [the strategic planning] effort your program has given me the tools I will need to clearly move our organization through the development and ultimate implementation of our strategic plan. I’m confident that I am now ready to lead this effort for our company.
Kevin Lapanne

Executive VP, Dooley & Mack Constructors Incorporated

What we accomplished…was unprecedented in our company’s history…we have defined a consensus among the top management as to what kind of a company we will be for the next five years. Establishing this shared vision and the means to achieve it would not have been possible without strategic planning. This process is extremely well organized and compelling while allowing the special human attributes of our organization to flourish.
Harris C. Footer

President and CEO, Easy Day Manufacturing Company

A strategic planning process that is based on years of experience – not ivory tower theories. Appropriate for companies with no time for ‘fluff’.
Ruth Ann Church

Project Manager, Great Lakes Trade Adjustment Assistant

Using Simplified Strategic Planning, VPI tripled sales over 5 years. It has helped us identify opportunities, better understand our markets, and focus our resources to attain the business results we desired…it has contributed in a significant way to VPI achieving our growth and profit objectives.
T. Godfrey Mackenzie

VP, Vinyl Plastics, Inc.

The Simplified Strategic Planning process…provides a solid theoretical approach that is applied in a very ‘real world’ down-to-earth manner. The program does an excellent job of providing a defined framework for the planning process without turning it into a mechanistic ‘fill out the form’ exercise. The framework helped us make sure that we were identifying and analyzing the key issues; it did not do our thinking for us. Finally, I felt the emphasis on the development of specific objectives and action plans are the keys to ensuring that strategic planning isn’t just an interesting annual exercise that subsequently collects dust on a bookshelf. I know the strategic plan we produced will make a major difference in the performance of our business.
Roger A. Carolin

President and CEO, CFM Technologies, Inc.


“Simplified Strategic Planning provides a framework for creating direction in a manner that moves away from guesswork and toward intelligent selection. The end result: a destination of choice, not chance.”

Jack Lowe, Jr., Chief Executive Officer, TD Industries
#2 of Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work for in America