Strategic Planning and Traditional Planning have essential differences. These differences can be illustrated by some well known MPB  (Popular Brazilian Music) song lyrics. Traditional Planning is portrayed in the stanza of Cazuza, in “O tempo não para” (“Time doesn’t stop”):

      Where the singer reflects on the inevitability of the passage of time and the way it happens, emphasizing that history repeats itself. What is new now, soon to be old, will be part of historical accounts, will belong to the past.

      This is what many businessmen, entrepreneurs, project managers do: they believe that the future will repeat the past…

     Now Strategic Planning is better represented in the song by brazilian musician Vandré, in: “Pra não dizer que não falei de flores” (“So that no one says I never sung of flowers”) or “Caminhando” (“Walking”):

“Quem sabe faz a hora, não espera acontecer…” / “Who knows make its own time, never waits for it to happen”

      The singer states that “waiting is not the same as knowing”, and stresses that anyone who is aware of the reality of the country cannot wait for things to change. Change and revolution will not be handed over to anyone; people will need to act quickly.

Strategic Planning – Some Definitions


      According to Peter Drucker:

Strategic Planning is the ongoing process of making business decisions in the present in a systematic way, and with the best knowledge of the future; of systematically organizing the efforts required to implement such decisions; and of measuring the results of these decisions against expectations, through systematic feedback. But the future is not a result of personal desire. The future requires decisions – now“,

in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities and Practices.

      SEBRAE  (Brazilian Micro and Small Enterprises’ Support Service) defines Strategic Planning as the “Method by which the company defines the mobilization of its resources to achieve the proposed objectives. It’s a short, medium and long-term global planning.

       According to Wikipedia, Strategic Planning “is a management process that concerns the formulation of objectives for the selection of action programs and their execution, taking into account the internal and external conditions of the company and its expected evolution. It also considers basic premises that the company must respect so that the whole process is consistent and sustainable.”

Strategic and Traditional Planning – Differences

The table below summarizes the differences between Traditional Planning and Strategic Planning.

Traditional Planning vs. Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning – Innovation



“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (American writer, poet and philosopher).

     The characteristic feature of Strategic Planning is Innovation, the ability to see new paths, not previously thought.

     There is a story, a tale, whose character can be modified according to the time or the taste of the one who reports the fact, evidently fictitious:

A tourist drove his car along the Seattle roads, along with a local friend, and saw in the trees along the way several targets, always with an arrow stuck right in the center, spot on. Curious, he said, “I see there’s a great archer here in Seattle… I’ve noticed that all the arrows are spot on!!!! His local friend replied, “Well, this is the art of young Bill, from the Gates family!” He first shoots the arrow, and then he draws the target!”


It is up to the reader to change the scenery and names to San Francisco, Steve, from the Jobs family, or even England, Richard, from the Branson family…

     But regardless of the character of your choice, the story illustrates the innovative spirit: Who would imagine the computer nowadays, without the mouse? Or, who would have thought of simply moving the screens with a light touch of the fingers?

      The creation of the mouse and touch screens was not something to meet the market’s demand (hit the target, spot on)… they were created so that the clients later would be desperate to have these novelties (draw the target after).


Strategic planning – the strategic, tactical and operational levels


     At the operational level, almost all decisions are structured, that is, routine decisions based on standards and procedures. The closer to the strategic level, decisions are increasingly based on new, high uncertainties. Robert Anthony’s triangle illustrates:

Strategic Planning: the decision process

Strategic Planning vs. Information

      Information systems turn data, which are in great quantity at the operational level, into information, that is, interpreted data, that are meaningful and useful in the decision process:

Efficiency vs. Efficacy:


Strategic Planning: efficiency vs. efficacy

Strategic Planning: Survival vs. Evolution

      The role of the strategic level executive is to monitor the external environment, catching the signs of changes, and achieving evolution.

Strategic Planning – Barriers

     Strategic Planning is not something for those who like to be in their “comfort zone” because it requires commitment, innovation, renewal, communication, so there are a number of invisible barriers to the implementation of effective Strategic Planning. These barriers were identified and quantified in a Symnetic survey:

Vision Barrier – Only 5% of the operational level comprises the strategy

People Barrier – Only 25% of the management level has incentives linked to the achievement of the strategy

Resource barrier – 60% of companies do not link financial resources to the strategy

Barrier Management 80% of managers spend less than 1 hour per month discussing strategy


Strategic Planning – Required Tools and Concepts

       In order to develop Strategic Planning, it is necessary to know well the concepts of Mission and Vision, which will be briefly addressed here, in a specific article. And the main tools for the preparation of Strategic Planning are the SWOT Analysis (Strengths and Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), and the Balanced Scorecard.


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Rodolfo Stonner, Mechanical Engineer (UFRJ), served as Senior Equipment Engineer at Petrobras, and was a Construction and Assembly Manager of the Extramural Works at Abreu e Lima Refinery (RNEST), in Pernambuco. Currently retired, he is a consultant and instructor in the areas of Project Management and Maintenance Management, and is working with Deloitte in the implementation of the PMO for the Talara Refinery, Peru. He likes to teach, exchange experiences and knowledge, is certified as a PMP (Project Management Professional) and RMP (Risk Management Professional) by the PMI, and CRE (Certified Reliability Engineer) by the ASQ.



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