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There are many books, journals and articles that are available on strategic planning. Strategic planning is a document that helps explain what the organisation is planning to achieve and how it plans to do it (Porter, M.E. & Kramer, M.R. 2002). This sets the direction for the organisation and enables all those involved to review how well the organisation is performing and to take appropriate action where needed. If there is no plan there is nothing in writing against which a review can be carried out, and performance and impact are left to personal opinion rather than clear facts (Michael L. Policastro,2001) Strategic planning establishes the priorities of an organisation and better servers the needs of the stakeholders. It is seen as a tool that defines the routes that a company will take to help get the business from where it is to where it wants to be.
It is a process that brings the mission and the vision of the business to life. The benefit of the discipline that develops from the process of strategic planning will lead to improves communication within the business. Strategic planning also facilitates effective decision making, better selection of tactical options and it leads to a higher probability of achieving the owners or stakeholders goals and objectives. According to Porter, M.E. & Kramer, M.R. (2002), strategic planning is seen as a formal process that organisations use once every three to five years to consolidate and refresh their strategic planning. Therefore with strategic planning new ideas can be created to better the organisation and set them apart from the competition (Michael L. Policastro,2001). Researching on this topic will show whether or not strategic planning creates a competitive advantage for an organisation and how it helps.
This study reviews the past findings of different researchers who have investigated the impact of strategic planning on a business and how it can lead them to create a competitive advantage. The researcher will highlight all different possible aspects of the topic and indicate which topics she agrees with. Using diagrams in the study will help address the aspects creating a competitive advantage for a firm and it will indicate which aspect has more of an influence. To highlight the benefits of the aspects the researcher will also provide recommendations at the end to further emphasise the findings.
MAIN BODY OF THE ESSAY
This is the main body of the essay which reviews the past researchers that are related to the topic of strategic planning. This part of the essay looks at the extent to which strategic planning creates a competitive advantage for a firm in comparison to the other factors that create a competitive advantage. This body of the essay also discusses the importance of strategic planning in every aspect of the business operations.
2.1 Factors that influence competitive advantage of an organisation
There are several factors, excluding strategic planning, that contribute to a firm creating a competitive advantage. The findings of the past researchers show that there are six different other factors discussed below that influences competitive advantage for an organisation. These factors are namely: strategic planning, knowledge management, pricing and differentiation, resource management, firms activities, industry and the environment.
Figure 1- Factors of competitive advantage including strategic planning
Source: Secondary data
X1- Strategic planning
X2- Knowledge management
X3- Pricing and differentiation
X4- Resource management
X5- Firms activities
X6- Industry/ Environment
Figure 1 looks at and compares the extent to which different factors influences a competitive advantage to be created in relation to the six other factors other than strategic planning. Using the findings of past researchers the diagram is critically discussed below.
2.1.1 Strategic planning
Tom Northup, 2005 stated that strategic planning combined with experience, education and perspectives helps develop a focus on management and competitive advantage in the market place. Figure 1 emphasises and displays that many researchers show that strategic planning has the highest frequency percentage. The fact that 90 percent of the results show that the factor strategic planning plays a vital role also indicates that it is widely used amongst companies to create a foundation. According to Policastro M.L, 2001, the most important factor that is considered as an investment of success is to understand how to produce a competitive advantage that is rooted in the company's actual strategy. Strategic planning recognises and identifies exactly what is needed to be done in order to create a competitive advantage and identify how it will be done to achieve it (Fraser D.L, Ronald J. Stupak, 2001). Strategic planning is done in order to ensure that a company's performance is carried out and that it actually impact the business (Morone J.G,1993). Looking at figure 1, Northup T, 2005 also added that a company needs to draw up a plan for all aspects of a business to clarify and define what the company wants to achieve and how they will achieve it.
2.1.2 Knowledge management
Knowledge management is defined as a process that focuses on the systematic analysis that tries to transform as much of the company's human capital as possible into its structural capital (Carneiro A, 2000). The structural capital will help the firm to develop a competitive advantage and help fulfil the main objectives by planning the activities and relationships within the firm. Looking at figure 1 research shows that the factor knowledge management contributes 40% to influencing the competitive advantage of the firm. Knowledge management is a cross-functional activity that remains within the competence of a company's strategic management (Carneiro A, 2000). Knowledge management is concerned with human value management and it examines the relationships between organisations competitiveness. Knowledge management alone is factor that influences a firms competitive advantage, but according to Carter T. 2005, it presents a set of considerations regarding how relationships affect strategic management and therefore requires strategic planning to ensure the formulation of human capital and innovation creates a competitive advantage and a competitive strategy is implemented (Carter T. 2005).
2.1.3 Pricing and differentiation
Pricing and differentiation is an outward evidence of a competitive advantage as it plays a role in an industry and the market (Bamberger I, 1989). According to the findings figure 1 display is that pricing and differentiation factor shows to influence a company's competitive advantage by 50% and is the third highest factor that is influential. The superiority of the firms products price and differentiation depends on how the customers perceive what it been offered and the value it creates to them. The above understanding of a competitive advantage allows a firm to bring a superior product and create customer value (Barney J.B 1997). Porter M.E 1985, shows that the defined value that a company creates can be measured by the price and differentiation which the customers are willing to pay for the product or service.
2.1.4 Resource management
Mahoney, J. T. and Pandian, R. J. 1992, both indicated the competitive advantage of a firm can be built on the firm's resources. These resources are vital for a firm's competitive advantage because they create value, they are rare, durable and they are limited to the competitors. According to the researcher's findings in figure 1, resource management factor influences competitive advantage by 45% which indicates the management of resources are important and should be used correctly to help create the competitive advantage that a firm wants. The firm's resources can be classified into physical, financial, human and organisational resources (Barney J.B, 1997). Tyson, S. 1997 mentioned that without planning and organising these resources properly a firm might miss the opportunity to create a competitive advantage and that the competitors could require information about those resources and use them to benefit them. Therefore strategically planning these resources can distinguish a company's completive position in the market and create a understanding of the opportunities and threats the company faces (Drucker P. 1974).
2.1.5 Firms activities
A firm's activities are the aspects that make up a business such as services offered, the customers, training staff members and ensuring they are consistently motivated. Looking at Figure 1 it indicates that the factor of the firm's activity influences a company's competitive advantage by 35% which means that these activities offered do help with creating a superior value to the customers. The firm's activities allow a company to offer superior value to the customers by offering similar products and services as the competitors at a reduced price or by offering superior services to the customers and making them want to come back (Judy D. Olian, Cathy C. Durham, Amy L. Kristoff, Kenneth G.Brown, Richard M. Pierce and Linda Kunder, T(1992-2010). Training the employees can help lead to a competitive advantage because the employees are getting the opportunity to further develop the knowledge and skills. This indicates that by strategically planning to develop the concept of a value chain creates activities to help the organisation to reach a competitive advantage (Judy D. Olian 1992-2010 et al).
According to Porter M.E 1981, there are some fundamental parameters within the industry and each industrial evolution can take many paths depending on the strategic choices that the firm actually makes. Therefore clear planning needs to be done in order to be prepared for what happens in the industry or the environment. Figure 1 shows that the factors industry and the environment influence the firm's competitive advantage by 60 % which is the second highest factor after strategic planning. Porter M.E, 1981 indicated that a firm's strategic choice regarding the competitors in the industry includes positioning a company in order for its capabilities to provide them with the best possible defence. This needs to be strategically planned in order to get management focused and aware or what is happening in the environment (Doz Y. and Prahalad C.K, T(1988).
Figure 2- Past researchers' findings on which factors they think influences competitive advantage
Source: Secondary data
A 1: Porter M.E,1981
A 2: Michael L. Policastro,2001
A 3: Barney J.B, 1997
A 4: Carter T, 2005
A 5: Judy D. Olian 1992 et al
A 6: Tom Northup, 2000
Figure 2 looks at and compares the extent to which 6 different researchers think that the different factors influences a competitive advantage to be created in relation to the six other factors other than strategic planning. These findings indicate the factors that the individual authors believe lead a company to achieve their competitive advantage and to what extent they believe it creates a competitive advantage. These findings are critically discussed below.
There are three aspects of the topic mentioned that the researcher agrees with while examining the findings on figure 2. The researcher discusses these aspects under three arguments. The first argument emphasises how strategic planning had a greater impact on a firms competitive advantage, the second argument emphasises how the other factors create a competitive advantage and lastly the third argument emphasises the impact strategic planning has on the emerging economies.
Firstly, as seen in Figure 3 although these six different researchers have their own factors that lead to competitive advantage, they all show that strategic planning is a main factor to the success. These researchers have done their research in different years and in different locations yet they all show a high common percentage of how strategic planning has helped the companies achieve their competitive advantage. Although each researchers result differ they all indicated strategic planning has played a role.Figure 3 displays that strategic planning in total should be included in business operation. Therefore with a set direction, the employees and managers know exactly what needs to be achieved in order to reach the mission and goal of the organisation in order to create a competitive advantage. The researcher's is opinionated that strategic planning has a greater influence on a firm's competitive advantage. This is because strategic planning sets a foundation for the firm and ensures that they know where they are going and know how they going to get there. Strategic planning according to the researcher creates an overall focus for the management team and the employees and this ensures that they reach their goals and objectives.
The second argument the researcher wants to point out is that although the information from other researchers show that there is other factors that influence and contribute to creating a competitive advantage. According to figure 2 although some researcher showed only a few of the factors creates a competitive advantage, strategic planning is shown to be in each bar. This indicates that strategic planning plays a vital role in any business that wants to create a competitive advantage no matter how they chose to get that competitive advantage to be created and which factor they use to implement and work towards. Planning according to the researchers findings indicate that it is used in all the factors that influence a company's competitive advantage and shows that without proper planning the firm has no clear direction or foundation to attempt to be competitive and create a competitive advantage.
The last argument emphasises how strategic planning can help emerge the developing organisations as well. The researcher thinks that because strategic planning allows the emerging larger companies to plan step by step will help create a set foundation and a clear direction for them to succeed. This planning will ensure that they are aware of their surrounding and their competitors. Planning for these companies will ensure that these developing companies know exactly what they want to achieve and how they will get there and achieve it. This overall helps emerging companies ensure they have realistic goal and objectives that are correspondent to the firms mission statement. The researcher however found that strategic planning is a time consuming task and requires a lot of effort to be put in therefore the researchers findings showed that strategic planning is mainly applicable for the larger companies who have a long term goal and objective that they want to achieve. The smaller companies do show they use planning in the daily activities but they do not follow the whole step by step process of strategic planning as smaller companies fight to survive and normally they plan for more short term goals. Therefore strategic planning however has a less impact on the smaller companies than on the larger companies.
2.2 Ways in which strategic planning creates a competitive advantage
This is the first in a series of articles in which will discuss how the strategies of war have the ability to help you in creating competitive advantages in your business so that you can overtake your competition and dominate your market. Strategic planning and focus is fundamental to creating a significant competitive advantage (Northup T, 2005). The findings of the past researchers are discussed below in order to gain a greater understanding of the impact that strategic planning has on a firm to create a competitive advantage.
Figure 3: Influences of strategic planning on a competitive advantage
Source: Secondary data
C1- Strategic planning help diversify employees and their way of thinking
C2- Planning strategically leads to a stronger company foundation
C3-Planning leads to an employee understanding of company direction
C4- Strategic planning is important for industry/environment adaptation
C5- Strategic planning prepares you for the company competitors
2.2.1Strategic planning helps diversify employees and their way of thinking
Successful Chief Executive Officers (CEO) understands that with effective strategic planning it helps direct the employee's knowledge. According to figure 3 it indicates that this factor has played a major influence of 60% of the firms reaching their competitive advantage. These companies stated that strategic planning helped their companies gain from different professional interests, experiences and perspectives and to implement it into the organisation. These aspects of the management team are combined in order to develop a focus for the management so that that can gain a competitive advantage in the market place. Strategic planning ensures that these interest and perspectives are organised to the way the employees think (Black J.S and Porter L.W, T (1991). It helps enhance creative thinking by allowing group interaction which causes individuals to rise above their personal limitations and biases (Tyson, S 1999).
2.2.2 Planning strategically leads to a stronger company foundation
A strategic plan creates a foundation for a company as it has proven to provide a concrete frame for the business. This frame of references helps an organisation make decisions about how they going to compete in the market place. According to figure 3 it indicates that this factor has played a major influence of 90% of the firms reaching their competitive advantage. The company's owners stated that with strategic planning it set a clear outline of the firm's functional and financial assets and the system requirements that is actually needed to achieve the plan. Strategic planning has lead some large company's into considering different point of views of the customers reasoning for buying a specific product or service. Therefore a strategic plan identifies the key success factors of a company that is needed in order to implement the plan and achieve the goals. According to Barney J.B, T(1997) strategic planning is fundamentally there to develop a competitive advantage.
2.2.3 Planning leads to an employee understanding of company direction
Strategic planning analyses and synthesis adult learning principles by collaborate the learning and creating critical reflection of what was learnt in order for one to understand what needs to be achieved (D. Larry Fraser, Ronald J. Stupak, T 2001). According to figure 3 it indicates that this factor has played a major influence of 80% of the firms reaching their competitive advantage. The companies owners stated that the acknowledgement of paying attention to these interrelated principles will help the organisation enhance their understanding and application processes. Many employees have little understanding of the nature of the business they work in. The dynamics of the employees identifying the changing of opportunities and identifying threats can impact the business over time. Therefore with strategic planning it helps set a guideline for the employees in order for them to understand what exactly the company wants to achieve and how they need to get there (Tung, R. 1981).
2.2.4 Strategic planning is important for industry/environment adaptation
According to Morone J.G 1993, the business industry and environment is always changing with new technology and more competition each day. These changes can make the availability of information limited and the running of a business even more difficult. According to figure 3 it indicates that this factor has played a major influence of 40% of the firms reaching their competitive advantage. Although this is a lower percentage the other factors does not mean that it does not help improve this area of a business. Therefore to adapt in an industry Morone J.G 1993 added that managers must learn to think quickly and have a strategic plan in place in order to react to the changes and influences. In an environment proactive strategic planning is a fundamental to the overall success of the business as it builds up personal motivation. Strategic planning brings members of the team together so that they become change agents and work together for the good of the company (Morone JG 1993). Strategic planning creates discipline and focus on the businesses unique strengths. Without that focus the resources are useless if not managed properly.
2.2.5 Strategic planning prepares you for the company competitors
According to figure 3 it indicates that this factor has played a major influence of 70% of the firms reaching their competitive advantage. Some researchers such as Porter, M.E. & Kramer, M.R. (2002) both stated that to achieve a competitive advantage a company must identify its competitors. Therefore this factor plays an important part in how a firm strategically plans as it identifies the competitors and allows the organisation to draw up a strategic plan on how to exploit the strengths and how to further expand the business. To be successful a company needs to have a clear focus and with strategic planning it helps define who the competitors are and creates a manoeuvre. Therefore strategic planning allocates the exact requirement that is needed to help guide an organisation and ensure that the competitive advantage is achieved (Porter, M.E. & Kramer, M.R. 2002).
2.3 Case study on strategic planning
A case study on General Accounting Office (GAO) was published by George L. Ward 2001 and emphasised how strategic planning helped the company anticipate problems and notify any significant deviations from previous agreed upon plans. The purpose of this case study is to capture the lessons that the company experiences and it examines the experience of how strategic planning guided the company.GAO developed the plan to involve the staff members and increase their efforts. This case will be further discussed below.
GAO developed a two year strategic planning process to complete a reorganisation of the company in order to get their employees involved at all levels and to get the stakeholders involved (Ward G.L 2001). The plan of involving these important people was to ensure that the company's mission and objectives were clarified and that there was a strong foundation created for them to understand the direction of the company (Ward G.L 2001). The company embarked on the planning process also to ensure that they would satisfy the criteria of the Government Performance and Results Act. GAO used the strategic planning process because they realised that it helps identify their specific priorities in their work area. The company realised that at one point there was a lack of focus and direction in the company and the employees were unsure of what the company wanted to achieve. Therefore the company did some research and realised that with strategic planning a company will be able to clarify exactly what needs to be done to gain a strong foundation for the company and create focus and strengthen the management team
Through the use of strategic planning GAO gained the advantage with planning ahead they were able to prepare for the possible challenges. They learned that proper planning ensured better interaction amongst the employees which lead to them been more motivated as they were getting good results and felt good about their achievements for the company. GAO realised that after they had implemented their strategic plan they started producing positive outcomes and they learned how to collaborate their activities more extensively. Previously the employees functioned in thirty-five semi-autonomous issue areas, but after implementing strategic planning they organised the employees in teams and offices. The offices each shared a defined mission, set of values, and clear goals and objective, which is all linked to the overall strategic plan of GAO. Ward G.L 2001stated that the company's most valued experience, while using a strategic plan, was how it strengthened the company and how it created a clear focus and direction.
GAO's strategic planning process involved the external stakeholders as well as the managers and staff within the company (Ward G.L 2001). They were able to produce a comprehensive strategy in order to help the company prioritize the efforts and help guide them. It also resulted in the in the company restructuring the headquarters and the agency's field office structure. Ward G.L 2001 stated that the planning process required a sustainable investment and significant resources to achieve their objectives and goals. Therefore the company's experience with strategic planning was exactly what they were hoping for and it created an organised company.
There are aspects of the topic mentioned that the researcher agrees with while examining the findings. The first argument emphasises how strategic planning impacts a firm's competitive advantage. The researcher discusses these aspects critically below.
As emphasised in figure 3 there are five important ways that strategic planning can help an organisation achieve its competitive advantage. The impact of each plays a role in a firm creating a competitive advantage. Therefore the researcher examined a case study to further support the reasoning of why strategic planning should be used. The researcher looked at how the strategic planning can impact the business and looking at the results strategic planning has shown to help companies create a stronger foundation. The result showed that 90 % of a foundation was created which helped the company's create that frame in order to know which direction they want the company to go in. Therefore that shows that strategic planning ensures that a company has what it takes and prepares for what they want to achieve.
The case study presents how strategic planning helped the company prepare for the future and act on the anticipated problems. With the figures shown on figure 3 this case shows that strategic planning has helped the company create a strong foundation and create a sensible direction for not only the company but for their employees and stakeholders. These are the two highest factors shown on the graph which proves to be a strong result and influential to a business. The company proved that with strategic planning you can achieve what you want as long as there is dedication from all the managers and employees. Strategic planning overall helped the company in each of the factor presented within figure 3. The company showed how planning can create that foundation that will ensure the company is heading in the right direction.
The subject of strategic planning is a very wide used aspect across most businesses and the researcher recommends that the strategic planning model is used by larger organisations that want to create a competitive advantage. This competitive advantage can be create because by setting a foundation and creating a direction with the strategic planning process can do just that. This might be complex and confusing for some businesses to stick to what they set out to do. The relationship between strategic planning and company success is heavily influenced by strategic planning. The aims is for the managers and the employees to know exactly what is expected of them and know exactly where the company wants to be and how it must be achieved.
To gain a competitive advantage a firm must be able to have capabilities that allow them to consistently outperform the competitors (Bamberger I, T(1989). There are many ways that a firm can create a competitive advantage, but ultimately through the study the researcher found that no matter what capability the firm uses to create a competitive advantage they must plan. Based on the finding of there been many ways to create a competitive advantage such as knowledge management, resource management, firms activities and industry/environment. Each of these findings have showed that it would not have been possible to achieve if they did not have a valid strategic plan in place on how they would achieve their goals, mission and create the necessary competitive advantage.
They staff members and managers that are in an organisation have shown to perform much better due to the fact that the company provided them with the strategic plan on how they should help the company reach competitive advantage. When a company does achieve its competitive advantage employees feel rewarded and feel like they have helped the company with its activities and performance making them feels valued and needed. The findings on each figure present strongly emphasis that strategic planning plays a vital role in business to be successful in their performances. Other findings that the researcher found was that to ensure that a competitive advantage is defiantly successful is to use strategic planning with a systematic formulation from strategic management. This systematic formulation
This study gives us the insight on the extent to which strategic planning influences the competitive advantage of an organisation in all aspects no matter what route of how to create that competitive advantage. The study also shows that the relationship between strategic planning and competitive advantage and to what extent it does create a competitive advantage. The researcher's findings show an overwhelming convergence in opinion that strategic planning is the most crucial aspects that creates a competitive advantage and performance for the company. Bamberger, I.1989 discussed that the competitive advantage of the organisation is creates through an organisation that strategically planned how they would achieve that.
The authors also highlighted the fact that strategic planning is a vital for the success of the organisation and that it helps the employees know the direction of the company. The researchers also highlighted the importance of how strategic planning creates the foundation for the organisation. It helps set the exact route on how the company will get to where it wants to be. Adler, N. J. & Ghadar, F. (1990) explained that the importance of having a strategic plan ensures quality performances which helps the company lead towards their competitive advantage. The findings of the researcher indicate that with strategic planning an organisation can be prepared for the challenges or opportunities it faces and can take necessary action.
The researchers also explained that managers and owners should continue communicating with the employees and inform them of necessary plans so that they know exactly where the company is headed. The researcher gives the different aspects that lead to a company creating a competitive advantage. Within each of the aspects mentioned, strategic planning occurred proving that it is vital to any business that wants to have a competitive advantage. Lastly, the researcher offered recommendations which can be used by managers in order to realise the effects that strategic planning has on the firms performances and competitive advantage.
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