Strategy, Plan and Process are sometimes used interchangeably. But they mean different things, have different intents, and involve different tasks and activities.
The typical progression is top-down. We create a Strategy in response to a challenge. From the Strategy we derive goals and the Plans to achieve them. And within Plans, we create Processes for greater efficiency and to maintain quality.
Strategy: What we ultimately want.
A strategy is the articulated solution to a given challenge. It sets out the vision of success, the state of the playing field (over time if relevant), the identified certainties, strengths, opportunities and allies, and the foreseeable uncertainties, weaknesses, obstacles and enemies.
A strategy also broadly identifies the approaches to maximise advantage and minimise disadvantage.
A strategy enables big picture understanding and buy-in of the vision. It primarily involves thinking and imagining.
Plan: How we will realise our strategy.
Expands each means to maximise advantage and minimise disadvantage identified in the strategy into clear intentions and specific goals.
A plan will set out the cost-benefit analysis, resource and skill availability, timeframe, and other related factors such as the organisation’s brand personality/values and long term vision.
A plan engages the problem solving abilities of an organisation’s people to come up with and implement ways to achieve the goals. There is a balance of thinking and doing, as well as improvement.
Process: How we specifically perform a task.
A process mitigates variations to ensure consistent and quality output.
The thinking component is done in the design phase of the process. The execution phase of the process is primarily about doing.