What is a thought and what is a plan? A thought is what comes as an idea, a concept or even an opinion that comes in our minds. A plan is what we put in place or develop when we decide to make that thought actionable. That is the same difference that we need to apply when it comes to strategic thinking and strategic planning.

A good strategic management online course will help you distinguish between these two in a more detailed manner.


Difference between strategic thinking and strategic planning

  1. Purpose – The purpose of strategic thinking is to envision or develop a solution. It is also to enable brainstorming of approaches that can help to meet the strategic intent and goals of a specific project or initiative. The purpose of strategic planning, on the other hand, is to conceptualize and create the actual steps or actions that will result in the project or the goals to get delivered.
  2. Definition – Strategic thinking is a skill. You can develop it, leverage it or improve it. Strategic planning is a process. It has to be conducted or carried out. So while thinking in a certain manner can be a natural or a nurtured attribute, planning strategically is a process that drives results or needs tactical actions to be defined within its framework.
  3. Accountability –While both can be done by individuals or in groups, usually strategic thinking is more of personal or individual competency and attribute. Strategic planning involves multiple people or a team to come together. A leader or manager can do both – think and plan strategically. But the former has better results when done alone and the latter yields greater results when done in a group.
  4. Inclination –While these two go hand-in-hand, many people who are able to think strategically and conceptualize are not able to plan in the same manner, and vice versa. So there is a distinct difference in inclination to usually do either of these in an effective manner, within individuals.

These are the primary differences between strategic thinking and planning. They do seem to be linked in a seamless manner, which is how they can have a significant impact. But fundamentally they are different and the effect they have on organizations, or teams, is different. Strategic thinking can provide the right direction, but actual goal achievement takes place due to strategic planning. Conversely, strategic planning can help in implementing an approach, but without strategic thinking, it will not yield the results that are needed.


Professionals looking to move into a leadership role need to master both. Know more about strategic thinking and planning by enrolling into an online course in Strategic Management.


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