20 top strategic planning tools and frameworks [templates & examples]

Written by 
Bryan Kitch
April 12, 2024
An image of three people sitting at a desk in an office space smiling while looking at a computer
20 top strategic planning tools and frameworks [templates & examples]
Written by 
Bryan Kitch
April 12, 2024

If you want homemade bread, you need access to the right appliances and ingredients. And if your strategic plan is a loaf of sourdough, your strategic planning tools are the measuring spoons, the framework is the recipe, and your model is the oven. Each component works together to create the desired result.

Whether it’s baking fresh bread or increasing revenue or customer satisfaction, all goals take strategic planning initiatives — and in some cases, all-purpose flour — to accomplish. Let's go over the 15 most popular frameworks and five of our favorite strategic planning tools to achieve organizational success.

What is strategic planning?

The goal of developing a strategic plan is to communicate where your organization wants to go and determine what each team member needs to do to help get it there. Strategic planning helps your organization develop and document action items for carrying out the company vision and achieving business goals. 

While there are several models that can help you determine opportunities, priorities, and overall objectives, most strategic planning processes follow five general steps:

  1. Identify your organization’s vision
  2. Assess your current internal and external environments
  3. Outline goals
  4. Determine stakeholder responsibilities
  5. Measure and assess outcomes

Regardless of the process you choose, each of these steps will lead to the next, allowing you to build out a comprehensive strategic plan.

15 types of strategic planning frameworks

Strategic planning frameworks help teams with brainstorming in order to create specific goals from an overall vision. Frameworks are essentially roadmaps to take teams from ideas to actions. You don’t necessarily need to use a framework within a model — just like you don’t necessarily need to follow a recipe to bake a loaf of bread — but it helps you produce the best outcome. And don’t feel limited to using only one framework within a particular model.

Although it’s not a complete list, the 15 frameworks listed below are some of the most commonly used.

1. Balanced scorecard

Created by Dr. Robert Kaplan and Dr. David Norton, the balanced scorecard is designed for organizations that want to focus on their business as a whole, rather than solely on financial performance. It helps give leadership teams a look at how their operations are performing, particularly within quick timelines.

When using the balanced scorecard, you’ll reference four factors to set goals and assess performance:

  1. Customers or clients: How your users perceive your business
  2. Internal processes: Your organization’s efficiency when developing quality products or services
  3. Organizational capacity: Your company culture and the ways in which your business can improve and grow
  4. Financial capacity: Your organization’s potential profitability and the effectiveness of resource allocation

Once you determine where your organization stands with regard to the factors above, you can develop specific goals, measurable objectives, and the steps you’ll need to take to achieve these.

2. Objectives and key results (OKR)

Objectives and key results (OKR) is a straightforward strategic planning framework used to translate overarching business goals into specific measurable objectives. It helps you define:

  • Objectives: Identify three to five time-bound goals you want to achieve.
  • Key results: Determine three to five quantitative outcomes per objective.

The OKR framework helps your team build connections between their individual contributions and your company’s success. Your team should shoot for a 70% key result success rate. If they’re hitting 100% right out of the gate, your organization’s goals weren’t ambitious enough.

Related: OKRs vs. KPIs: What’s the difference?

3. SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis is a framework for strategic planning that helps you identify your organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats. You should use the SWOT framework at the beginning of your strategic planning process to align stakeholders and provide a common lens through which to view your company’s current position.

List your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats within the four quadrants of a 2x2 box. Once outlined, your team can seek connections between quadrants that will inform your strategy. The goal of the SWOT framework is to help you create a strategy that takes advantage of growth opportunities but also prepares for worst-case scenarios.

An image of the Mural SWOT Analysis template
Get started with the Mural SWOT Analysis template here

4. PEST or PESTLE analysis

A PEST analysis is a strategic planning framework that helps teams analyze external political, economic, sociocultural, and technological factors that could impact your business goals. It could also be modified to include legal and environmental elements (PESTLE).

Like a SWOT analysis, considering each factor of PEST or PESTLE within your industry environment gives your team advanced warning about any significant or immediate threats to your organizational goals. It also enables teams to pinpoint business opportunities within each of the framework’s factors.

5. Gap analysis

The gap analysis framework should be used to compare where your organization currently stands with where you want it to be and help you understand how to bridge the gap between the two. 

With the gap analysis framework — also called the strategic planning gap, need assessment, or need-gap analysis — you’ll be able to determine weak points and root causes (or potential causes) of performance issues by comparing what you’re currently doing with what you intend to do. It helps you identify internal organizational deficiencies and create a plan that addresses them.

6. VRIO framework

The VRIO framework helps you identify your organization’s competitive advantages and is composed of four elements:

  • Value: Do your resources help increase revenue or decrease costs, resulting in business value?
  • Rarity: Is there a lot of competition in the market for your resources? Are other companies able to create your products and services using these resources?
  • Imitability: Could a competing organization copy your products and services easily?
  • Organization: Does your organization have the right systems in place to capitalize on your resources?

By analyzing these elements, you’ll be able to refine your organization’s vision and create a plan that helps you meet your customers’ needs.

7. Porter’s Five Forces

Developed in 1979 by Michael Porter, the Five Forces strategic planning framework helps you identify and understand the factors that put competitive pressure on your organization.

The five forces are:

  1. Bargaining power of buyers: If the same products and services are offered elsewhere with minimal differences in quality, consumers will have the power to influence pricing.
  2. Bargaining power of suppliers: If there are fewer product or service alternatives for consumers, suppliers like large retailers will have the power to drive down costs.  
  3. Threat of new entrants: What are your industry’s barriers to entry? New companies in your marketplace will increase pressure on the cost of your products and services.
  4. Threat of substitute products or services: Can consumers easily substitute a competitor’s product or service for yours? Your business offerings need to create value.
  5. Rivalry among existing competitors: How'll your competitors’ growth impact your business? The more competition in the marketplace, the harder it'll be to create value with your business offerings.

These forces determine how economic value is divided among your competitors, so using this framework for strategic planning will help you identify your company’s position in the industry.

8. 7S model

The 7S model was developed by McKinsey consultants, and it emphasizes the value of strategically aligning internal departments with business processes. The key elements organizations should be looking to align include:

  1. Strategy: Your organization’s business plan for outperforming your competitors supported by your company’s mission and vision.
  2. Structure: How your internal departments and teams are organized; the chain of command.
  3. Systems: The procedures, daily duties, and technical infrastructure your organization uses to perform.
  4. Shared values: The beliefs and norms that guide your business decisions and actions; these reflect your company’s work ethic.
  5. Style: The way management and other stakeholders approach leadership.
  6. Staff: How employees are sought out and trained and what motivates them; your workers’ general capabilities.
  7. Skills: Your team members’ capabilities; the level of employee competence. 

The 7S model encourages leadership teams to explore the interconnectedness of these elements within the company and look for inconsistencies or areas of weakness. Once you’ve noted the areas that need to be strengthened, you can work toward realigning these elements to accomplish strategic goals in your organization.

Related: Tactical vs. strategic planning: Why you need both

9. Ansoff Matrix

The Ansoff Matrix framework was developed to help companies plan their growth strategies. The base for this framework is a 2x2 matrix with “products” on the x-axis and “markets” on the y-axis.

Each box within the matrix corresponds to a particular growth strategy. These are:

  • Market penetration: Sell an existing product in an existing market.
  • Market development: Sell an existing product in a new market.
  • Product development: Sell a new product in an existing market.
  • Diversification: Sell a new product in a new market.

Each business strategy is increasingly risky, with diversification being the biggest swing. The Ansoff Matrix helps organizations with financial decision-making and developing an action plan for business growth.

10. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) matrix

This matrix was developed by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in the early 1970s to help companies categorize products or business units based on their market growth rate and relative market share. The BCG matrix helps you prioritize resource allocation by identifying where to invest, divest, or maintain products or business units.

The four groups under the BCG matrix include:

  1. Stars: Products with a high market share in a fast-growing market. These top performers need investment to maintain growth.
  2. Cash cows: Products with a high market share in a slow-growth market. They churn out cash and require minimal investment.
  3. Question marks: Products or business units with a low market share in a high-growth market. They have the potential to be stars if given high investment.
  4. Dogs: Products with low market share in a stagnant market. They often drain resources and are candidates for divestment.

11. Feature market analysis

Feature market analysis is a strategic approach used to assess the potential of new product features or innovations in the market. 

Key steps in feature market analysis typically include:

  • Segmentation: Identifying specific market segments or customer groups with distinct needs and preferences to target with new features.
  • Market needs: Gathering data on customer preferences, pain points, and trends through surveys, interviews, focus groups, or other methods.
  • Competitor analysis: Studying competitors' products and features to understand what is currently available in the market and identify gaps or areas for differentiation.
  • Feature prioritization: Evaluating potential features based on criteria such as customer demand, feasibility, competitive advantage, and alignment with the overall product strategy.
An image of the Mural Feature Prioritization template
Get started with the (free) Mural Feature Prioritization template here

12. Lean canvas

The lean canvas is a one-page strategic management framework adapted from the Business Model Canvas by Ash Maurya. It helps startups and entrepreneurs efficiently develop and iterate on business strategy. 

Lean canvas provides a structured framework for identifying key elements of a business model, including:

  • Problem: Describes the top three problems your customers face.
  • Solution: Outlines your solution to the identified problems.
  • Key metrics: Lists the key performance indicators (KPIs) you'll use to measure success.
  • Unique value proposition: States the unique value your product or service offers to customers.
  • Unfair advantage: Highlights any strengths or advantages that give your business an edge over competitors.
  • Customer segments: Identifies the target customer segments for your product or service.
  • Channels: Specifies the channels through which you'll reach and acquire customers.
  • Revenue streams: Details how your business will generate revenue.
  • Cost structure: Outlines the fixed and variable costs associated with running your business.

13. Four corners analysis

The four corners analysis, developed by Michael Porter, helps you understand a competitor's intent, objectives, and strengths. It addresses four core questions:

  1. Drivers: This corner examines the driving forces behind your competitors' actions, such as market trends, customer preferences, and industry dynamics.
  2. Current strategy: This corner looks at your competitor's current strategy, including its objectives, goals, and the tactics it employs to achieve them.
  3. Management assumptions: This corner explores your competitors' beliefs and assumptions on market conditions and competitive dynamics.
  4. Capabilities and resources: This corner evaluates the competitor's strengths and weaknesses, such as technology, talent, brand reputation, and financial resources.

14. Pareto analysis

Pareto analysis helps you prioritize tasks, issues, or factors based on the principle that a small number of inputs (20%) typically lead to a large majority of outputs (80%).

During the strategic planning process, you often identify multiple issues or challenges you need to address to achieve your goals. With Pareto analysis, you focus on the ones that have the most significant impact on your organization's performance or objectives.

15. The 3 horizons model

This strategic framework is developed by McKinsey to help you balance focus between short-term optimization, medium-term innovation, and long-term transformation. 

The three horizons represent different timelines and levels of innovation:

  • Horizon 1: Represents products, services, and business models that drive current profitability and performance. The focus is on optimizing operations and improving efficiency.
  • Horizon 2: Includes emerging opportunities and initiatives that have the potential to become significant contributors to future growth and profitability.
  • Horizon 3: Represents disruptive innovations and future possibilities that have the potential to reshape industries and create entirely new markets.

5 great strategic planning tools

Strategic planning tools are software programs that help teams put frameworks into action. There are many tools out there, each offering a unique specialty or perspective.

There's no one platform that's perfect for every single company. But these five are all exceptional at helping companies build their strategic plans. Find the one that best fits your company to help with planning.


Not to brag, but… Mural’s visual work platform makes strategic collaboration easier. It gives teams the tools — like custom templates and asynchronous collaboration features (like anonymous voting) — to outline business goals, identify key performance metrics, and measure results.

Mural’s templates for strategy and alignment help teams start the planning process by providing structure for frameworks like OKR or SWOT analysis. And each template features facilitation assistance to walk your team through strategic planning activities.

Cross-functional collaboration is easy in Mural — in real time or asynchronously. The anonymous voting feature, for example, lets teams come to a consensus and reach internal alignment quickly. 


ClickUp is a project management tool that helps teams prioritize tasks and organize strategic plans.

ClickUp offers templates like matrices and visual timeliness so you’re able to plug in content quickly, process this information, and start coming up with plans faster.

There’s also a feature called ClickUp Goals that helps teams break objectives down into smaller tasks using Targets or ways to measure each item. These targets include number, true/false, currency, and task.

ClickUp is comprehensive, but the pre-built automations may be limiting to some users if too many are triggered at the same time or if your organization requires more customization.


Hive marries task management with strategic planning by helping teams manage complex timelines, large-scale projects, and workflows.

Hive has goal-setting and milestone-tracking features that help teams set task dependencies, follow progress, and share reports with relevant stakeholders. Its visualization tools allow you to toggle between overarching organizational goals and individual teammate objectives. 

You can use the Hive Pages feature as a dashboard for your workspace’s hub. You can set Pages as public or private, add and customize widgets within your Pages, and even export Pages to non-Hive users.

A chat function is available within the tool, but some users have reported losing messages within the platform. So, some may find other collaboration tools more reliable for communication.


Airtable is a next-generation platform that gives teams the power of relational databases in the form of user-friendly spreadsheets. It lets users organize, collaborate on, and store strategic plans within these databases.

Airtable offers an OKR tracking template that helps align teams and manage goals while maintaining accuracy. It also includes a Sync feature that updates workflows seamlessly across teams.

Airtable is a flexible tool but may have limitations, like lagging, when dealing with complex projects or datasets. Data processing functions and complicated calculations could lead to slower response times within the platform.


Trello is a Kanban-based project management tool. Its intuitive design features boards and cards, which can be used to structure strategic models and frameworks. 

Trello offers board templates for project and task management that provide organizational structures to help teams outline deliverables and assign tasks. It also features Timeline and Calendar views, so it’s easy to envision goals and schedule deadlines.

Power-Ups are Trello board features that allow you to use your favorite third-party apps directly within the platform. However, some users may find that combining Power-Ups from different vendors may cause friction in Trello’s functionality.

Bring your organization’s vision to life

There’s no one best framework or strategic planning tool — the right options for you'll depend on your organization’s vision, mission, and available resources. 

Regardless of methodology, most strategic planning begins with analyzing your current internal business environment and external factors, developing specific objectives, and creating action items to achieve these goals. 

Not sure where to start your strategic planning? Mural's template library includes preformatted, customizable frameworks (like this radar template!) to get your team on the path to success.

About the authors

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

Content Marketing Manager
Bryan is a Content Marketing Manager @ MURAL. When he's not writing or working on content strategy, you can usually find him outdoors.