Better navigate the complexities of strategic decision-making

Dwight Eisenhower once remarked that while plans themselves may not be paramount, the process of planning is. It’s imperative to streamline the strategic planning processes without sacrificing effectiveness. Drawing from my experience as a consultant specializing in entrepreneurial ventures and as a business professor, I offer a straightforward model designed to simplify and expedite strategic planning efforts. This is a common framework used in strategic planning textbooks and referenced in journal articles. The simple three step model is analysis, decision, action.

The analysis phase

In this initial stage of strategic planning, emphasis is placed on assessing both internal and external environments. Internally, this involves an examination of the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. Simultaneously, attention is directed toward macro-level factors, encompassing industry trends and competitor benchmarking. A practical tool for encapsulating this analysis is the SWOT analysis, delineating Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s crucial to engage employees and solicit customer feedback during this phase to garner diverse perspectives and assess the current situation. Furthermore, at this stage we may examine various future scenarios to imagine a new future and direction for our organization.

The decision phase

With insights gleaned from the analysis, the focus shifts to making informed decisions. This entails charting a new course through delineating goals and refining the mission statement. Additionally, strategic decisions may encompass cultural enhancements or reallocation of resources, spanning physical, financial and informational assets. The objective is to crystallize a strategic direction that aligns the organization’s resources with an overarching vision. Furthermore, we want to get every person and department pointed in the same direction.

The action phase

The culmination of strategic planning lies in the execution phase, where plans are translated into tangible actions. Recognizing that a common pitfall of strategic plans is inadequate implementation, time is devoted to defining milestones and assigning accountability. By delineating clear responsibilities, the organization ensures that strategic objectives are operationalized and progress is monitored effectively. While this does not ensure the accomplishment of the mission, it improves our probabilities and minimizes risks of not doing so.


This streamlined framework of analysis, decisions and action serves as a versatile blueprint applicable not only to resolving day-to-day operational challenges but also to crafting comprehensive strategic plans for organizations of varying scales. I have personally taught this framework in multiple strategy classes where students created life plans that they later implemented, including earning a Ph.D. In addition, I have used the same framework with entities from startup business, on-going enterprise and even nonprofits or educational institutions.

While the intricacies of organizational dynamics may be multifaceted, the essence of effective strategic planning lies in simplicity and clarity. By adhering to this structured approach, we can better navigate the complexities of strategic decision-making with confidence and efficacy. While simple, it is also an effective framework and powerful process. 

Dr. Eric Swift is a management consultant at the Institute of Entrepreneur Excellence, University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Eric Swift

Management consultant


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