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A strategic plan or an action plan?

May 07,2022 - Last updated at May 07,2022

Experts and experienced practitioners know well the difference between a “strategic” plan and an “action” plan.

However, many in our society, including officials and leaders in the various sectors, often use the two terms interchangeably, which creates a lot of confusion. The inevitable result, in this case, is either inaction or erroneous actions.

Simply phrased, a strategic plan aims to determine what we intend to do over a specific period of time, usually five or ten years, taking into account our main goals, resources, opportunities, challenges and limitations.

The action plan refers basically to the specific steps to be taken to achieve what we intend to do, accompanied with timetables, distribution of roles and the availability of funds to cover expected costs.

If, for instance, we aim in the next five years to be a major world tourist destination, due to the numerous historic, natural, and archaeological treasures and wonders we have; we are thinking at a strategic level.  And what is required here is for us to prepare a detailed document embodying such strategic thinking, which we call a “strategic plan” or simply a “strategy”.

After that we draft what we call an “action“ or “working” plan, translating the strategy into practical steps, taking note also of who will be performing what, how, and when; and providing all the necessary resources for the implementation.

We do the same thing if we wish to effect a leap in investment, the industry, agriculture, education, culture, or any other sector.

“Great”, someone might say; “If the matter is so clear-cut, why are we at a standstill in this respect for years, despite our desire and efforts to move forward?”

Many reason, we say.

The first is what we cited above; namely, the mixing or mix-up between the strategic plan and the action plan in the minds of many responsible for leading the various sectors in our society forward.

If such basic distinction is not clear in the minds of those who are leading the change, they will definitely be confusing matters and coming up with actions that are either sporadic or haphazard, or simply out of context or even irrelevant.

The second is when we are content with just having a strategic plan. This has happened and still happens in our society. Not a long time ago, the idea of having a strategic plan became fashionable; and everyone in every sector started saying: “We need a strategy”; or “Where is your strategy?”

Most of our institutions, in fact, responded positively and either prepared strategies or had some experts prepare them for them.  They printed them and/or uploaded them on their websites.

And then what? Well, nothing. They showed them to visitors or referred to them in press conference, but no action plans followed; as if what is important is simply to have a strategy. A status issue!

The third is to have a strategy and a plan, and this happens again in our society, but to implement neither.

The fourth is to have a good strategy and a good plan, and to start implementing diligently by a capable leader or leadership team, and then this leader or the leadership team is changed all of a sudden.

The successor stops the follow-up or neglects it for whatever reason; or, as most often happens, shelves the strategy and the plan and asks for a new strategy to be drafted, thus taking us back to square one.

There are many other reasons and scenarios, of course.

What one wishes to say here is this: for professional, structured and meaningful change to happen, one needs to have a good strategy and a good action plan together, and to have a team who is both eager and able to implement diligently, within the time frame, and to provide us with the expected results at The expected time.

Otherwise, we continue to wish, offer clashing ideas, complain, or deride, exactly as is happening in many sectors at this point in time.

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