What Is Strategy: Strategy vs Planning

This post focus on strategy in a wider context, future posts will look at digital strategy and its many components in more detail. Strategy and planning are used almost interchangeable today as if they mean the same, but do they?

Strategy is what comes after a great idea and ideally before planning and execution.

There are still many that confuse strategy with planning, if you are one of them just remember that strategy is normally focused on the objectives and long term goals or vision, this is sometimes encompassed in a mission statement. Planning includes the more detailed course of action and tactics to be used.

Another way to look at it is that any good strategy, business, marketing, life, getting to work in the morning or back home safely after a night out would include a main plan, A and a plan B, C, D and so on. That is why common sense dictates that “the train was late” excuse for being late for that meeting, work or lecture rarely washes, you should have checked that the train was running on time and simply have an alternative in place and left early.

Below is a simple diagram that illustrates this in a more visual way:
strategy vs planning diagram
So let’s interpret it! We’ve got a strategy, that is to get that rather grey looking chap from point Y to point Z, where is complexion improves considerably, there are 4 plans, as above A, B,C and now also the “No-Plan Plan”.

  • Plan A : this is the shortest distance and the ideal plan to get from grey Y to clear Z, represented by a green line of consistent thickness, but things rarely go 100% to plan so we need a plan B.
  • Plan B: so plan B starts with a thicker line pointing down, until about half the way it can be assumed that it goes faster than plan A, but all is not what it seems and soon the plan goes array and we are literally walking a steep fine line. Yes, plan B also got us to point Z, but not only the journey was less consistent than in plan A, it was also a longer one.
  • Plan C: Plan C, as I’m sure it is now evident, if it was not not before, is just the reverse of Plan B. Where the fine line is walked first up to the mid point and then followed by the thick easy ride.
  • No-Plan Plan: with no plan he is going to stay at point Y, why? Because he doesn’t have a strategy to get out of there.

Final note

As a rule of thumb the more complex the project or the problem the more detailed and scrutinised the strategy and the subsequent plans, tactics and methodologies need to be.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post, either way be sure to let me below!

About Pedro Matias

I'm a central London SEO consultant and private tutor, also specialise in WordPress web design and training. All SEO, web consulting and training approaches are centred on user experience, minimalism, speed and engineering centric design. Run 10K for lunch most days for fun and health.
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  • car parking

    I should like to know if its important that a strategy sets its self dates for implementing its plans.eg My council is introducing a car parking strategy but has not given any dates for achieving it aim.

    • http://pedromatias.co.uk/ Pedro Matias

      Not necessarily it may just outline the vision or direction, implementation, operational strategy, action plan, these need to have a timeframe.

  • Achal jaiswal

    nice.. my ppt. topic is also planning v/s strategy,,,, nice work

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  • http://pedromatias.co.uk/ Pedro Matias

    Thanks for feeding back Vinit, it is much appreciated.

    Glad it was useful!


    Hey Pedro,

    I am a Software Quality Assurance/Testing person works in the Lead/Manager capacity. I worked in many projects, but never seen a good document stating the Strategy and Planning document.hence it was always a grey area for me. I am getting now better and better picture of it after reading a lot and discussion with 1-2 friends and my brother too.

    Thanks for putting it together anyway, it helped.