On the surface level, development planning and strategic planning sounds like two terms for the same concept. This isn’t entirely wrong, considering that both of these types of plans focus on realistic, specific, and achievable goals to be reached in a certain amount of time. On a deeper level, however, the two types of planning are different enough that it wouldn’t be entirely correct to use them interchangeably. That being said, what are the differences to look for when deciding between development and strategic plans?


Development Planning


Development plans, also known as Individual Development Plans (IDP), focus purely on the individual. Five-year plans that some people make are prime examples of this. The individual decides a goal they want to achieve in a certain amount of time, and from there, determine what they need to do to achieve that goal. For some, that means attending free development classes hosted at schools or libraries to either build upon or learn a new skill that would help them in their future. People who make IDPs are self-aware in what they need to do to accomplish the end goal and will use outside resources to figure out their individual preferences when it comes to workplaces, work style, career choices, and so on. 


Within a company, employers may choose to sit down with their employees and figure out an IDP to further the skill sets needed for their current job position. This can mean training videos, shadowing senior members in their department, or finding ways to build upon skills while on the job. IDPs are beneficial for both the employer and employee, as it’ll expand upon the knowledge the employee has while helping them become more efficient at their job, thus improving productivity.


Strategic Planning


On the other hand, strategic planning is for the business overall. Rather than focusing on an individual, strategic plans are laid out to determine the overarching goals of the organization and how to achieve those goals efficiently. This is different from a business plan, as business plans focus more on specific programs or products within the business. Strategic plans are stepping stones to be taken by the organization’s members to fulfill their values and mission statement. This can be determined by focusing on those mission statements and values or focusing on how to resolve problems within the organization, something that is determined by the leader of the organization more often than not. From there, the leader works with other individuals or strategy teams to figure out the stepping stones needed to reach the end game. 


Ultimately, development plans are more detail-oriented and individual-focused, while strategic plans look at the big picture of the organization and how to complete that picture as a company. Even with these differences, though, both methods focus on bettering something or someone as a result of it. Still, knowing the difference between the two will help determine the steps needed to achieve whatever the end goal may be.