How long should it take to write a strategic plan

How Long Should it Take to Write a Strategic Plan?

My last 3 clients have taken less than ½ day.   

I was talking to a successful business owner recently who was telling me that he was so pleased that his Strategic Planning process was finally over as it had taken 6 months to finalise.  I was in shock.  I could only imagine the cost from every aspect – financial, emotional, engagement, and so on.  

In business, one of the things we aren’t clear on is often the difference between a strategic plan, an operational plan and your business plan.  And the interesting question is, where do you start?  

A Business Plan is the key document that identifies your initial business intentions. It is usually developed before you commence business or start a new venture. It describes the businesses purpose, it’s market approach, the size of the business opportunity and the businesses forecast financials. Business plans are often developed for bankers or financiers but may also be required in order to raise capital or gain approval to embark on a new business initiative from a parent organisation. In this regard business plans are a combination of a strategic plan and an operations plan and are often written for external audiences such as bankers or financiers.

A Strategic Plan documents the high level goals so that you can achieve your Business Plan.  This document is updated periodically to reflect changes in the businesses strategic direction and changes in market conditions. Typically a strategic plan has one Key Performance Indicator for each of the areas on the Balanced Scorecard – Financial, Systems/Processes, People/Culture, Marketing/Sales and Corporate Social Responsibility.

An Operational Plan contains the detail of the strategies (the tactics) needed to achieve your Strategic Plan.  

Here’s an example – A business may have been established to provide low cost clothing for people in a particular region. It’s initial market plan and anticipated performance will have been outlined in a Business Plan. Three years on, the business might be developing brand awareness and may be looking to establish an online presence along with new distribution channels. These might be highlighted in a high level in the businesses strategic plan. The operational plan will detail how the strategic plan is to be achieved. How the business intends to develop its brand awareness and how, when and where it plans to develop its new distribution channels including how and where it plans to sourse products to sell through these new channels. 

Often, people spend too much time on a Strategic Plan as they instead try to re-write their initial Business Plan.  Once you have a Business Plan, the Strategic and Operational Plans are simple documents that are reviewed periodically by the relevant parties. Progress towards the achievement of the strategic plan is usually tracked quarterly where as progress towards the operational plan may be tracked monthly.

The other trick is that Strategic Plan and an Operational Plan should ideally all be one page documents. The Business Plan is usually much more detailed as it is often designed to meet the needs of external financiers. 

To talk further about Strategic, Operational and Business Plans, please contact one of the team from Tweak HR via Corinne Butler at 

As the Director of Tweak HR, Corinne brings a wide range of HR expertise to add value to your business. Corinne has worked in management and consultancy roles across a range of industries including – health, transport, building, civil engineering, agricultural and construction. As a small business owner herself, Corinne understand the challenges (and opportunities!) of local businesses.

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