Systematic Review: Strategic Planning
Learn which of the four strategic planning approaches will help your business build a shared vision for a sustainable future.
Planning for the future is an essential part of business leadership, but traditional approaches to planning are limited in their ability to tackle current challenges. Greater change and complexity make it more difficult to project the future accurately, and problems increasingly require collaboration across multiple stakeholders.
In 2013, business leaders in South Africa asked
: “How can businesses engage in strategic planning that is linked to a shared vision for a sustainable future?” They wanted to understand how to integrate South Africa’s National Development Plan
into the strategies of private and public sector organizations. In response, NBS South Africa
(NBS-SA) commissioned Dr Martina Linnenluecke
, Dr Retha de Villiers Scheepers
, Mr Sarel Grönum
, and Ms. Chanel Venter
to study research on strategic planning. The researchers reviewed 195 academic and industry sources.
Download the full 100+ page Systematic Review
for an in-depth look at the research project. A condensed version of the Systematic Review is available as an Executive Report
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to planning. Research identifies four dominant planning approaches
in business: projection, adaptation, visionary planning (shaping the future) and transformation.
The research recommends that organizations ask three questions before choosing the planning approach that best fits them.
How complex is the issue at hand? For simple issues, future developments can be projected from past trends. However, solving complex problems with many influences requires different approaches.
What are our underlying beliefs and assumptions? The authors identify three main perspectives that are held by organizations: rationalism, naturalism, and humanism. The chosen planning approach should fit the belief systems held by the organization.
How active do we want to be in influencing societal change? A planning approach should reflect the participating organizations’ degree of engagement in actively shaping the future.
Depending on the answers to the questions above, organizations can choose between four planning approaches. These approaches differ from each other along two dimensions: 1) how engaged the organization is in influencing the future, and 2) how predictable future outcomes are.
The resulting framework is outlined below. The centre of the figure shows the four planning approaches (see white box). Each
is associated with particular planning tools (see dark blue). All are situated within a context of regulations, norms, and organization-level strategies, as well as underlying belief systems. This context influences managers’ choices. In turn, managers may influence this context through stakeholder engagement and collaboration.