Difference Between Strategic Thinking and Strategic Planning

Strategic Thinking and Strategic Planning

If you’ve read our previous blogs, you must be equipped or at least acquainted with the importance of ‘user’ in any product journey. 

After all, there’s hardly any product manager who can function effectively without understanding their users’ persona. 

However, no matter how much time you spend figuring out your user’s behavior or what sort of problems they are facing. If you don’t have an efficient method to work upon the roadmap, you’re dead in the water before starting.

Consumers undoubtedly have immense power and control in the market. The very inception of any product idea comes through user research and market milieu. 

So, if you are not gauging the pulse of the market and your customer needs, all your strategizing efforts might go futile. 

Sticking to a goal and executing it cannot be easy in this rapidly changing digital age. 

Hence, strategic thinking and strategic planning are critical. 

Once you have a product idea in place, you must lay down its development and management methodology

In demotic terms, assimilating ideas, adopting methodology, and creating a roadmap means ‘laying down a product strategy.’

Product strategy has two essential concepts: 

  • Strategy thinking 
  • Strategic planning

What Is Strategic Thinking?

Strategy thinking refers to thinking differently, critically, and rationally outside the box. 

It’s about solving problems creatively and coming up with innovative solutions different from what others have tried out in the market. 

Strategic thinking skills are highly sought after in businesses today. 

You can use strategic thinking skills to achieve business goals and objectives, overcome any challenges and obstacles, and set your foot ahead in the game. 

These skills will help you get solutions to the problems that would have otherwise taken weeks, months, and years to solve.

Here are the 4 elements of Strategic Thinking
Elements of Strategic Thinking

Following Are Some of the Strategic Thinking Skills:

Analytical

Skills that will help you analyze inputs from KPIs, financial statements, market competition and conditions, new business opportunities and trends, and so on, are analytical. 

Communication

No matter the size of your organization, putting together a strategic plan requires you to have good communication skills. These skills will give you an upper hand in:

Communicating Complex Tasks to Teams

Making sure everyone is working toward a common goal

Problem-solving

To implement the strategy plan, you need problem-solving abilities. They will help you address inefficiency in workflows, look at various challenges, set financial targets, compete with a new competitor in the market, and so on. 

Planning and Managing Skills

Once you have a solution to a problem, you will need vital planning and management skills to implement the ideas. 

Product strategy requires a lot of strategic thinking since it is an amalgamation of different ideas to form one coherent, thought-out plan.

Strategic thinking is the ability to bring together different ideas for creating a product or an idea that can impact or provide some benefit to society. Product management software tools can assist your teams in crafting excellent products for your customers. 

Strategic thinking also involves being able to learn from mistakes and all the failures that one might face while trying out something new. 

This way, you will be able to draw up new strategies for the future so that there are very few chances of failure when you are trying out something completely new.

What Is Strategy Planning?

Strategy planning is a process that the leaders undertake to discuss and define the company’s vision for the future. After that, they also identify the objectives and goals of the company. 

This second step helps decide the sequence in which teams must meet the objectives to reach the end goal sooner.

Planning is an ongoing process that you should frequently revisit to ensure that the product is still on track concerning customer needs and business objectives. It’s also necessary to continuously course-correct when required so that you don’t veer off track.

Typically the leaders outline the strategy planning for mid to long-term goals. Teams can accomplish these goals within three to five years or go beyond that. 

Following Are the Steps in Strategic Planning:

  • To understand the current business position and identify the ways to plan.
  • Prioritizing the goals that are most important, urgent, and relevant to the company’s progress
  • Organizational leaders and the other stakeholders collaborate and develop the strategic plan using tools such as a strategy map.
  • Implementing the strategy plan and ensuring it stays on track.
  • Responsibilities, investments, and other policies and processes need to be in motion through clear communication and strategic management.
  • Finally, it is a must that you review the strategic plan periodically. The updates help to revise, adjust and reevaluate the goals and priorities as opportunities emerge.

You may use this concept of strategic planning to create a product roadmap. That involves generating a sequence of steps or phases required for developing an idea/concept into a final product ready to be launched into the market

Teams can create a product roadmap using product roadmap software to get a template. 

The creation of a roadmap involves setting timelines for each phase.

Teams do this so that there’s no delay once your product enters one cycle after another until you have completed all development activities.

Many people misconstrue the two concepts and conflate the two, but they are in no way similar to each other.

The concept of strategic planning seems relatively easy, but it’s not as simple as it looks. 

Many feel they have decent strategic skills but don’t understand how important it is to plan your steps/phases before taking action. 

At this stage comes the role of a  product manager. They can take all that strategic thinking and turn it into a practical plan which the team can use as a guideline to achieve their goals. 

Product management software like Chisel can help them in planning. 

the elements of effective strategic planning
The elements of effective strategic planning

Why Is Strategic Thinking Important for Product Managers?

The product manager’s role is multifaceted, with varying responsibilities across teams. Therefore to work smoothly and attain their goals, they need to use product management software

The main distinction between the roles of a product manager and owner is the skill of strategic thinking. The product management team thinks more profoundly about the product, crafts roadmaps with product roadmap software, and brings revenue to the company. 

On the other hand, the product owner works with the teams for functionality and execution purposes, 

Following Are the Roles Product Managers Play in an Organization:

  • A product manager has to be good at strategic thinking and have the ability to see things from different perspectives
  • They also need to understand customer needs and develop products/services that meet those needs. 
  • Additionally, they need to be able to manage the team and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal. 
  • Lastly, they need to evaluate the product and make changes/improvements constantly. 


For this purpose, they can use many product management tools available at their disposal. 

Here Are Some Key Concepts Which, if Followed Carefully, Can Help You Create a Robust Strategy for Your Business:

Identify Your Market Positioning

When identifying your market positioning, the first thing that comes into play is ‘the problem.’ 

Before you plan anything else, you must clearly understand what problem you are trying to solve, who the customer is, and who you’re solving this problem.

Understand Your Competitors

Next in line, it becomes imperative to carefully study your competitors and their offerings to stay ahead of them. 

You can study and analyze sources, including financial statements, patents, news articles, etc.

Set Your Objectives

Once you clearly understand all the factors mentioned above (and, most importantly, your customer’s needs), you can set your product development goals accordingly. 

Doing this will help determine what kind of features need attention and which ones must be left behind. 

These goals must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).

Create a Roadmap

At this step, things will start to take shape. With your product goals in hand, you can now create a roadmap that outlines the steps needed to achieve them. Team leaders can take assistance from the product roadmap software for this purpose. 

The level of detail will vary depending on the complexity of your product. 

The product roadmap should include what teams must do and when they must complete the work at a very high level. 

Gather feedback and iterate

The final step is to put your product out in the market and gather feedback from customers. Use this feedback to improve your product and make course corrections as needed.

Difference Between Strategic Thinking & Strategy Planning

Now that you have a slight idea that strategic thinking and planning are the same tree branches. Let’s look at a few major distinguishing points between the two and how they are bought in synergy to achieve maximum output.

Nature

First, let’s consider how strategic planning and strategic thinking differ according to the nature of their work. 

Strategic thinking is dynamic and ongoing, while strategic planning can be static in specific projects

Teams must conduct both strategic thinking and planning simultaneously.

It is because merely insights never work without a well-made implementation plan and the other way around.

Time Horizon

Strategic thinking is future-oriented. On the other hand, strategic planning can be short-term and long-term oriented.

Scope or Focus

The focus of strategic thinking is on creating options for organizational success. 

Whereas the focus of strategic planning is on choosing a particular path to achieve desired outcomes

Level of Detail

Another way strategic planning and strategic thinking differ is according to the detailing. 

The level of detail in strategic thinking is high, as teams use it to generate alternative courses of action.

In contrast, the level of detail in strategic planning is lower because it involves making decisions about resources and time horizons.

Use of Tools and Techniques

The tools and techniques used in strategic thinking are creativity, intuition, and analysis. 

On the other hand, the tools and techniques used in strategic planning are more implementation and organization-based.

Purpose and Objective

Strategic thinking is about ‘What and When.’

While Strategic planning is about ‘How.’

For successful product development and management, all ‘What, when, and how need to be answered. 

Hence, none of the two concepts can function successfully in isolation. 

Strategic thinking requires setting a direction and objective through analysis of information and imagination. 

Strategic planning is needed to implement a chosen strategy through implementation plans, monitoring, and control.

Decision-making Process Used

Strategic thinking involves decision-making based on gut feeling as well as intuition. 

While strategic planning calls for rational decision-making, involving documentation is possible; factors such as resource availability also influence strategic planning decisions.

Process Involved

Strategic thinking is all about envisioning and insights and is optimal when done right before strategic planning.

While strategic planning is about translating and converting those insights into a plan of action, it is essential to note that each company’s sequence of events could be different. 

The product management process usually starts with market research and ends with product delivery

It covers everything, including concept development, requirements gathering, design, testing, and launch.

Primary Reason for Processes:

Teams conduct strategic thinking to gain an advantage over competitors. 

In contrast, strategic planning is relevant for companies who want to function at their full potential.

Time Frame Involved:

Strategic thinking requires only a short time frame since it deals with largely intuitive processes, which are not always linear or sequential. 

Strategic planning calls for a longer time frame since the process deals with many moving parts which need proper sequencing to work optimally together.

Skill Sets Required:

Effective strategic thinking requires empathy, creativity, open-mindedness, and seeing things from different perspectives

Strategic planners need to juggle multiple tasks and priorities simultaneously, have excellent organizational skills, be good at problem-solving and have a deep understanding of the company’s business model and industry.

A productive strategy is planning calls for organizational skills and prioritization. Both the concepts have to work in synergy.

Importance of Involving Everyone:

While a single individual can do strategic thinking, it is usually better if teams do it as a team exercise. 

Conducting strategic thinking in teams requires input from people with different backgrounds and knowledge bases. 

The goal is to develop a well-rounded solution that considers all aspects of the situation. 

On the other hand, senior management must do strategic planning to ensure the representation of all key stakeholders.

Strategic thinking and planning require a clear vision, and a clear goal is essential for any strategic initiative. 

Without one, it can be challenging to make decisions and stay focused on what teams need to do. 

A good goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

The strategic plan provides the details of how to achieve the desired outcomes. The product manager needs to come up with a strategy that is both realistic and achievable. 

A clearly defined goal ensures that teams can make all decisions based on what is required to reach this goal, making it a more efficient process.

Final Words

The life cycle of a product has several phases. One of the essential phases is strategizing, which ultimately determines the product’s performance. 

Strategic thinking and planning are supercritical. Not just that these two terms are also inseparable parts of product strategy. Therefore, teams must give equal emphasis to both these concepts.

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