How Strategic Planning and Strategic Thinking Differs

Strategic Planning

Many people confuse strategic planning and strategic thinking considering they are both the same. However, they could not be more wrong or heading in the wrong direction as the difference is apparent with the words ‘planning’ and ‘thinking’. Thinking about something and planning about it are two different things, and we end up with these processes a lot during our everyday life. To better understand what is strategic planning and what is strategic thinking and how both of them differ, we must first get clear on what is a plan and what is a thought.

According to a dissertation writing service, a thought is what comes as an idea, a concept, or even an opinion that enters our minds. A plan is what we put in place or develop when we decide to take action on that thought. In the same way, we can differentiate strategic thinking and planning.  With the right understanding of the basic concepts of what lies at the core, we can better work out the difference between strategic planning and thinking.

Difference Between Strategic Thinking And Strategic Planning:

The difference between strategic thinking and planning can be best explained by breaking them down and seeing what they both offer and how it helps businesses and individuals move forward.

Strategic Thinking:

Strategic thinking strives to discover new and resourceful strategies capable of working for keeping up with the competition. With the right strategic thinking, you can envision the future which is a different one from the present as it involves a lot of hard work and efforts to succeed and move a level higher.

The process of strategic thinking involves innovative thought and creative development that helps to come up with business strategies that can lead to success and edge over others in the society, market, or industry. It would not be wrong to consider strategic thinking as the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the business planning process as it is the way of seeing the big picture that is taking place.

People who are engaging with strategic thinking need a unique skill set to do it right. They must possess skills like creating, imagining, ideating, opening, seeing alternatives, problem-solving, and leading, among others. Along with these, they must be ready to engage in the brain activities that lead to the desired result, such as brainstorming, mediating, scenario planning, feasibility studies, and root cause analyses that play a crucial role in planning according to the given situations and circumstances.

Strategic Planning:

The main idea behind strategic planning is to put into action the strategies that have been thought of and developed through strategic thinking to support the overall business planning process. This process also takes into consideration the future but works with the vision in a broad spectrum by outlining defined goals, objectives, and a sequence of steps that help to achieve them. Strategic planning is more about the how, when, and who of the business planning process. It is a way of doing and acting from time to time to review, focus, and implement processes.

Organizing, prioritizing, focusing, detailing, implementing, and following up are some of the key skills that help in effective strategic planning. The tools are different from strategic thinking and focus on things like charts, timetables, task lists, utilization reports, S-curves, matrices, and other such things that help planners understand their next moves. Strategic thinking helps to feed the planning, helping it move forward, while strategic planning gives voice, action, and structure to strategic thinking.

Strategic planning and thinking have different scopes, as evident from their descriptions, but, it is essential to know that both are highly integrative and support each other when it comes to business development and expansion.  Without strategic thinking, there is no strategic planning, and it just becomes a waste of time with structures and processes. In the same way, without strategic planning, strategic thinking is a lifeless process of setting goals and objectives without any means to achieving or fulfilling them.


Strategic thinking proposes to envision or develop a solution. It also enables brainstorming of approaches that can help to meet the strategic intent and goals of a specific project or initiative. Strategic planning, on the other hand, proposes to conceptualize and create the actual steps or actions that will result in the project or the goals getting delivered.


Strategic thinking is a skill. It can be developed, leveraged, and improved. Thinking can be natural. Strategic planning is a process. It has to be conducted or carried out. It is a process that drives results or needs tactical actions to be carried out.


Strategic thinking is more of personal or individual competency and attribute. Strategic thinking delivers better results when it is done alone. Strategic planning involves multiple people or a team to come together and attain desired results.  A good leader can do both, think and plan strategically and work for their goals.


Many people who think strategically and conceptualize are not able to place in the same manner. Many people who plan strategically are not able to think in the same way as there is a distinct difference in inclination to usually do either.

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There are primary differences between strategic planning and thinking that set them both apart from each other.  There is no doubt that they seem to be linked in a seamless manner which goes on to show how they can have a significant impact on business and society.  However, there are fundamental differences, and the effect they have on organizations, or teams, is different. Strategic thinking can provide the right direction, but goals can only be achieved with the right strategic planning.

In the same manner, strategic planning can help in implementing an approach, but without strategic thinking, it will not deliver the much-needed results. Professionals who seek leadership roles need to understand the significance of both strategic planning and thinking to do right and work towards success. Knowing more about how both these elements work can help individuals and businesses making the right moves that guide them in the right direction and keep them motivated even when things do not seem to be working well.