Paper at the International Leadership Training Program held at Islamabad 22 December - 6 January 1996 by Prof Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.  MB ChB, MPH, DrPH (Harvard) Faculty of Medicine International Islamic University PO Box 70 Jln Sultan Petaling Jaya Selangor DE 46700 Fax (603) 757 7970



What is strategy?

Strategic planning

Strategic thinking

Strategic management

Strategy in the seerah and today

Strategy and change

Action planning

Planning and control

Effective plans

Classification of plans

Limitations of planning

Working without planning is common

Philosophical objection to planning

Resistance to planning

Fear of planning

Main elements of planning and strategy

Planning and reliance on Allah

Stages of strategy formulation

Uncertainty in strategy

Revision of plans

Impact of a plan

How much planning?



Humans can not know the future; they only guess

Trust in Allah: Prophet and Abubakr in the cave

Vision of conquest of Makka

Vision of paradise

Vision: conquest of Byzantine and Persia

Vision: conquest of Yaman, Syria, and Iraq

Vision of triumph of Islam in the peninsula

Niyyat (intention)

Resources: provisions for hijra

Internal weaknesses destroy the ummat




Organizational planning



Scenario casting

Preparing a mission statement


Stakeholder analysis

Analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats

Strategic issues identification

Collecting information

Outlining a strategic plan for our local area







Strategy is a rational approach to management of life's uncertainties. It involves assessment of the internal and external environments, forecasting the future, thinking forwards and reasoning backwards, and preparing for various hypothetical scenarios. Strategic planning  is a very powerful tool for leaders and managers. Strategic behavior is a vital necessity for living and succeeding in a complex environment in which your decisions and actions have an impact on others and are also influenced by what else is going on around you. Strategic concepts are used in leadership thinking, analysis, planning, management, and negotiations. Organizations that only want to react to events and have no strategies, are waiting for their death. It is a major mistake for leaders to be so absorbed in day-to-day operations that strategic planning is neglected.



Strategic planning is establishing strategic objectives and formulating plans to accomplish them.  Strategic plans answer three questions: where are we now? where do we want to be? how do we get there?. Strategic planning involves thinking forward and reasoning backwards, preparing for all possibilities. You have to develop contingency strategies to be implemented if a chosen plan does not work as envisioned. Strategic planning has many benefits. You are not completely surprised by events. You are pro-active and not reactive. You will not be easily provoked into wrong responses. You can take pre-emptive moves ahead of the competition. Strategic planning is difficult because it essentially involves achieving and maintaining objectives in a changing and unpredictable environment. It requires considerable intellectual effort and creativity.



Strategic thinking are intellectual processes that are a background to strategy formulation, planning, and management. Strategic thinking enables you to see through difficult and complex situations and make the right decisions. A strategic thinker prepares for and exploits unpredictability and surprises. He anticipates, sees through, and prepares for a rival's strategic move. His frame of mind is prepared opportunism being ready to exploit opportunities that arise unexpectedly.



Strategic plans call for strategic management. Strategic management is managing pursuit of organizational mission while managing relation of the organization to the environment. It is characterized by always being ready to deal with sudden changes in the environment. Strategic management in a highly uncertain rapidly changing environment can be likened to shooting at a moving target when riding on a galloping horse.



Careful study of the seerah reveals effective strategic thinking and planning at all stages of the forward march of the Islamic mission. Although the environment and technology have changed, human nature has remained basically the same. Thus many human behaviors today whether strategic or not have their parallels in the seerah. You can learn from the lessons of the past and build on them to develop your strategic skills for the modern era. Some of the major crises that contemporary organizations and movements went through could have been prevented if the leadership employed strategic thinking and planning skills. There is a need to develop strategic planning and management skills among the leaders and managers of today to be able to face the multi-faceted challenges of today. In many cases they are dealing with or opposing organizations that operate strategically and they have no chance if they do not have comparable or better skills.



Strategic plans must be flexible enough to be able to adapt to rapid environmental changes. The organization must have an inbuilt capacity for change if it is to succeed. Strategy formulation requires a determination of whether the organization wants growth or stability. The plans are different for each scenario. Strategies that emphasize stability are less innovative and are based on premises and facts that are not likely to vary a lot. Strategies of growth anticipate a lot of change and with it the uncertainty and risks that are inevitable. Risk management is a very important aspect of such strategies



Action planning is laying down the detailed tactical or operational plans. Action planning is problem-solving for the future. Plans made today have an impact on the future. Action planning is charting how to get from a point in time today to a point in the future. Action planning is important because it is a basis for other management functions. Leading, controlling, and organizing are directly determined by the plan. Action planning is preparation for and commitment to the future. It fosters pro-active decision-making and problem-solving while eliminating impulsive urges. A plan facilitates communication within and outside the organization. A plan helps the integration and coordination of organizational activities. An action plan defines what an organization is because it details what it wants to achieve; you are what you do. Organizations with plans are trusted; they know what they want to do and where to go.



Planning and control processes are closely linked and mutually influence one another. Control ensures that the plan is implemented well. The plan defines criteria for control. Control identifies deviations necessitating plan modification



Effective plans have 4 characteristics: specific, action-oriented, flexible, and consistent with organizational long-term goals and objectives. A plan must be specific and cover only a clearly demarcated and well defined scope of work. The more specific the plan is the more effective it will be. General and vague plans can not be implemented easily and it is difficult to evaluate their impact at the end. A plan must be an action-oriented and not a theoretical document. It must specify what actions need to be taken to achieve the desired objectives. A plan must be flexible so that there is room for creativity during the implementation. This is necessary to be able to deal with sudden or unexpected changes. A very rigid plan fails in implementation as soon as an obstacle is encountered. A plan can not be free-standing; it must be consistent with established organizational objectives. If the plan deviates from those objectives or even contradicts them it has little chance of success. If implemented without first formally changing the organizational objectives, the organization will lose its credibility among the general public.



The following shows classification of plans according to different criteria: (a) Objective: strategic, tactical/operational (b) Duration: short, medium, long-term (c) Specificity: general, specific (d) Complexity: complex, simple (e) Methodology: top to bottom, bottom to top (f) Scope: comprehensive, narrow  (g) Importance: major, minor  (h) Scale of measure: qualitative, quantitative (i) Security class: confidential, public (j) Formality: formal, informal  (k) Implementability: easy, difficult  (l) Flexibility: flexible, inflexible (m) Creativity: rational, intuitive, creative (n) Cost: expensive, cheap



While emphasizing the importance of plans and planning, you should be aware of the limitations. Whole countries, organizations and even individuals have collapsed because they planned and implemented plans without being aware of the limitations. There are many factors in the environment that are beyond your control let alone your knowledge. Only Allah knows and controls everything. You must therefore take this into consideration by distinguishing environmental factors over which you have control and those over which you have little control. You can plan exactly for what you have control over. A lot of flexibility should be built into the plan when dealing with what you have no control over. 



It is quite surprising that a high proportion of organizations do not have formal plans for guiding their activities. Most things are decided on an adhoc basis. All new issues are discussed from first principles in order to reach a decision there being no plan to act as a reference. It is therefore not surprising that many contradictions and wrong decisions are made. Many leaders and organizations are so eager to act that they proceed without first planning. They sometimes feel planning wastes time and delays action. They think of planning after making mistakes and meeting frustrations. Sometimes program failure is difficult to identify because there is no bench-mark plan against which to compare. Many organizations believe they have plans when they do not. They follow the leader's whims presented in the guise of secretly-concocted plans. Apparent contradictions are not explained on the excuse that information is secret. Some of these plans have no direct relevance to the methodology of work or the types of activity the organization should be engaged in. Failure to plan, whatever its reasons, will hurt the organization in several ways.



Philosophical objections to planning the future prevent some people from planning. They misunderstand the concepts of QADAR and ILM AL GHAIB. They reason that since only Allah knows the future and since everything is in His hands, it is preposterous for the human being to plan the future. The truth of the matter is that planning does not contradict QADAR or assumes knowledge of the unseen. It is just a human effort to organize human affairs in a better way. Like all human efforts it has its limitations and could be mistaken. Planning is therefore accepted as long as the planner is aware of the limitations and after making his plans places trust in Allah the almighty.



Resistance to change in large well established organizations and bureaucracies is the underlying reason to oppose planning. People want to continue business as usual. Planning is objected to because it may be a catalyst for asking fundamental questions about the operation of the organization and thus lead to changes. Failure to see planning as rational and creative is a reason for many people avoiding planning. This is because of the bad reputation that centralized government planning has acquired in the past. Incompetent bureaucratic planners who have no touch with reality, possess no understanding of the real problems, and who had no visions to guide them have produced monstrous plans that caused havoc and waste. Fear of commitment to plans once made is a major reason for leaders to refuse to plan. Once a plan is made and is known, there is bench-mark against which their performance will be measured within a given time frame. Accepting a plan implies being committed to a certain course of action. They want to retain their freedom to do what they want, when and how they wish. Unclear goals and objectives make it virtually impossible to produce any plans. A plan is in essence a restatement of goals and objectives and practical measures for achieving them. Excessive reliance on experience and failure to appreciate the need for fresh approaches and outlooks makes many long-standing leaders reject planning. Previous experience is good and should be used but there is a need for analysis of the situation and planning for the future. The future can not be the same as the past. It is a mistake to use yesterday’s solution for tomorrow without any modifications.



Fear of planning as a difficult and complex process better left to experts results in organizations not planning if they do not have experts in planning. Planning is a difficult intellectual exercise that many people are reluctant to undertake. The basics of planning are easy to grasp and a non-expert can make a fairly good plan. Ignorance of the methodology of planning rather than making organizations seek to acquire the necessary technics and skills, sometimes makes them recoil away from the process. Planning takes time, effort and money. Sometimes a small project or organization may feel that they can not afford the expense of planning and that it is easier for them to proceed with action. You should always think also in terms of the cost of not planning. Misplaced priorities, failed projects, costly mistakes, and repetition of the work are costly and may be more expensive than the cost of planning. Individual resistance to planning may turn into systematic organizational resistance. There are individuals or groups of individuals within the organization who will resist the plan. This may be on valid and rational considerations or it may be just the disinclination to accept the  systematic work that planning institutes, reluctance to change old and tried ways of working, or personal animosity to those formulating and executing the plans.



The following are the main elements in strategy and planning that are discussed in subsequent sections of this paper: (a) Vision (b) Mission (c) Goals (d) Objectives (e) Intentions (niyyat) (f) Sincerity (g) Forecasting (h) Scenarios (i) Trust in Allah. A vision is a broad general direction. Vision is very important. There can be no strategy in absence of a guiding vision. Human experience down the ages shows that there is always a direct association between what you envision and what you achieve. Vision is non-specific. It is at the conceptual and emotional levels. It defines the general direction for the organization. Vision is the visualization of what you want the organization to be at some point in the future. The more graphic the description, the more effective. Mission is line of work and how to proceed with it. Goals are a broad definition of the mission. Objectives are exact specific definitions of goals. Intention (niyyat) is internal more spiritual than conceptual.  Sincerity: intentions and objectives must be sincere for success. Forecasting is the ability to predict the future. The better the forecasting the better the planning. Forecasting depends on available information, study of current trends and a deep understanding of the people and institutions that you are working with. Forecasting does not assume ILM AL GHAIB. It is based on what is known at the moment. When forecasting you must know the human limitations and appreciate that you could be wide off the mark. Scenarios are various possibilities envisaged for the future. Scenario description must be as detailed as possible.



When planning never forget that the ultimate aim is pleasure of Allah. Goals, targets achieved without achieving the higher purpose of the pleasure of Allah are not worth much. You have to exert your best human effort in planning then entrust your affairs to Allah. The best of plans with very good execution can fail. Trust in Allah without planning and effort if TAWAAKUL and differs from TAWAKKUL which is effort followed by trust in Allah. Planning can not substitute for trust in Allah. He ultimately has final control over our destinies however much we plan. The trust we talk about is that which follows planning and taking all the humanly possible measures for success and then leaving it to the Lord. Blind trust without making any effort is not trust but failure and true religion can not countenance it.



Strategy formulation goes through the following steps: defining organizational vision and mission, clarifying externally-imposed mandates, analyzing stakeholders, analyzing the internal and external environments, identifying strategic issues, collecting information, making assumptions and forecasts, formulating general strategic approaches for various possible scenarios, choosing the most favored scenario and formulating detailed tactical plans for it. Each stage is based on the stages before it and in many cases there are functional interrelationships among the stages


The first and second stages are vision and mission clarification and they have already been described above. The third stage is clarification of mandates, internal and external. Mandates are expectations from the organization and its leaders. Internal mandates are expectations of the members. External mandates are expectations of those outside the organizations. Fulfilling internal mandates is necessary to maintain member morale and  support. Externally-imposed mandates can not be ignored. If you can not fulfil them for lack of resources or if they contradict your mission, you must at least recognize them as important and explain your situation.


The fourth stage is analysis of stakeholders. Stakeholders are people or organizations who have an interest or vested interest in what you are doing. They are usually influential and can either reward or punish you. You have to understand the stakeholders’ interest, inclinations, potential rewards if you please them and potential punishments if you annoy them. Stakeholders will not support your strategies if you carelessly brush aside things that they consider important and that they would like you to address. They could even actively oppose you. The best approach is to get the stakeholders on your side. If this is not possible try to make them neutral. It is a mistake to provoke them into active opposition to your plans. You want all your energies to be directed to achieving your objectives and not to be diverted to the side-issue of fending off attacks from a powerful stakeholder. Sometimes all energy is wasted in this type of defensive action leaving no effort for achieving what you set out to do in the first place!


The fifth stage is environmental analysis. The environment may be supportive, hostile or passively neutral. Strategic planning requires careful and correct assessment of the environment: internal and external. Your strengths and weaknesses reflect your internal environment. Opportunities and threats are in the external environment. The internal and external environments are organically linked. Your strengths correspond to the opportunities available to you. You need the strengths to be able to exploit the opportunities. Your weaknesses correspond to the threats that you face. Threats will hurt you from the points of weakness.


The sixth stage is identification of issues of strategic importance. Strategic issues are those that if not handled, the organization's continued existence, welfare, and successful performance will be affected negatively. You must be very careful in selecting strategic issues. You will be guided by your vision and those aspects of the environment that have a bearing on achieving or failure to achieve the organization’s objectives. Normally there are only a few issues that are really of strategic importance. A laundry list of issues indicates an unclear vision or an imperfect understanding of the environment in which you are operating


The seventh stage is information gathering. No successful strategic plan can be formulated without collecting, analyzing, and using all the available information relevant to the issues under consideration. It is not possible to collect all the information needed. The future is essentially unknown; only Allah knows 'ilm al ghayb. Some assumptions and forecasts will have to be made for information that is not available.


The eighth stage is forecasting future trends. The main ingredient of a strategic plan is forecasting the future. The more accurate that forecast is, the better the plan. Inadequate forecasts result into unsuccessful plans. Forecasting is best done in brain storming session. Current trends are identified and their future movement is predicted using information available about the environment


The ninth stage is working out possible future scenarios. Potential future scenarios are worked out using various combinations and permutations of the trends that were forecast above. A strategic planner should never be taken by surprise. He should formulate general plans for each possible future scenario. One of the scenarios is selected as the favored one based on certain pre-determined criteria. A detailed action plan is made for only the favored scenario. The other scenarios are kept as contingency plans


The tenth stage is analysis of the favored scenario. Once the favored scenario has been elaborated and the outlines of its action plans are clear, it should be analyzed using the following guidelines: Does it conform to the vision? Does it conform to the mission? How well does it address the mandates, internal and external? What are the likely reactions of the stakeholders? what will be your responses? What is the degree of uncertainty in the forecasts? How practicable are the actions envisaged? What in general will be the internal and external impacts? What reactions are expected? How will you deal with the reactions?


The final stage of planning is to translate the strategic plan into action/tactical plans. A strategic plan usually covers a long period of time. Its practical implementation is through a series of annual action or tactical plans.



A strategic plan should always incorporate a degree of uncertainty because forecasts of the future are not always perfect. When forecasts are made, the forecaster must include a statement of degree of confidence in the forecast or should use a confidence range. Situations may arise in which due to uncertainty, the strategic planning process ends with various contingency plans with no chosen plan. Since none of the plans is favored, you can wait for environmental factors to indicate which plans are to be selected. Each chosen plan must be subjected to a workability test: can it work in practice?, can the underlying vision be maintained, can the barriers be overcome?


Contingency plans should be ready for immediate implementation if the chosen plan fails or encounters obstacles. Contingency plans are based on the several scenarios that were generated in the process of arriving at the chosen strategy. Strategic planners do not stop to think how to get around an obstacle. They already have a plan for that contingency.



Strategic plans need constant revision as the basic information, assumptions, and forecasts on which the plans were based change with time and with implementation experience. In most normal circumstances the changes are small. Major radical changes could indicate either poor initial forecasting and planning or a radically changed environment.



Any chosen strategy will have external and internal impacts. Internally it will have an impact on action plans, resource allocation, policies, organizational structure & behavior, and motivation of the followers. Externally it may provoke other strategies that may be synergistic or competitive depending on the circumstances.



A final word about how much planning should be done. Too much planning could stifle creativity and growth as happened in centralized totalitarian societies.







 "Narrated Ibn Umar: Allah's Apostle ( may peace be upon him ) said, " Keys of the unseen ( knowledge ) are five which nobody knows but Allah nobody knows what will happen tomorrow; nobody knows what is in the  womb; nobody knows what he will gain tomorrow; nobody knows at what place he will die; and nobody knows  when it will rain"

Bukhari 2:82



If you help not ( your Leader ) ( It is no matter ): for Allah did indeed help him, when the Unbelievers drove him out: he had no more than one companion: The two were in the Cave, and he said to his companion, "Have no fear for Allah is with us" then Allah sent down His peace upon him, and strengthened him with forces which you saw not, and humbled to the depths the word of the Unbelievers. But the word of Allah is Exalted to the heights: for Allah is Exalted in might, Wise. Qur'an 9:40


"Narrated Abubakr: I was in the company of the Prophet ( may peace be upon him ) in the cave, and on seeing the traces of the pagans, I said, " O Allah's Apostle! If one of them ( pagans ) should lift up his foot, he will see us." He said, " What do you think of two, the third of whom is Allah". Bukhari 6:148, Hadith #185



Truly did Allah fulfill the vision for His Messenger: You shall enter the Sacred Mosque, if Allah wills, with minds secure, heads shaved, hair cut short, and without fear. For He knew what you knew not, and He reanted, besides this, a speedy victory. Qur'an 48:27



"Narrated Abu Huraira: the Prophet ( may peace be upon him ) said, " Allah said, " I have prepared for My righteous slaves ( such excellent things ) as no eye has ever seen, nor an ear has ever heard nor a human heart can ever think of". Bukhari 9:435-436, hadith # 589



"Narrated Jabir bin Samura: The Prophet ( may peace be upon him ) said, " If Caesar is ruined, there will be no Caesar after him; and if Khosrau is ruined, there will be no Khosrau after him; and, by Him in whose hand my soul is, surely you will spend their treasures in Allah's cause". Bukhari 8:408, Hadith #625



"Narrated Sufyan bin Abu Zuhair: I heard Allah's Messenger ( may peace be upon him ) saying " Yemen will be conquered and some people will migrate ( from Medina ) and will urge their families, and those who will obey them to migrate ( to Yemen ) although Medina will be better for them; If they but knew. Sham will also be conquered and some people will migrate ( from Medina ) and will urge their families and those who will obey them, to migrate ( to Sham ) although Medina will be better for them, if they but knew. Iraq will be conquered and some people will migrate ( from Medina ) and will urge their families and those who will obey them to migrate ( to Iraq ) although Medina will be better for them, if they but knew". Bukhari 3:56-57, Hadith # 99



"Narrated Khabab bin Al Art: We complained to Allah's Apostle ( may peace be upon him ) about our state ) while he was leaning against his sheet cloak in the shade of the Kaba. We said, " Will you ask Allah to help us? Will you invoke Allah for us?" He said, " Among those who were before you a ( believer ) used to be seized and, a pit used to be dug for him and then he used to be placed in it. Then a saw used to be brought and put on his head which would be split into two halves. His flesh might be combed with iron combs and removed from his bones, yet, all that did not cause him to revert from his religion by Allah! This religion ( Islam ) will be completed ( and triumph ) till a rider ( traveller ) goes from Sana ( the capital of Yemen ) to Hadramout fearing nobody except Allah and the wolf lest it should trouble his sheep, but you are impatient". Bukhari 9: 62, Hadith #76



"Umar b Al Khattab reported the Apostle of Allah ( may peace be upon him ) as saying: Actions are to be judged only by intentions, and a man will have only what he intended. When one's emigration is to Allah and His Apostle, his emigration is to Allah and His Apostle; but when his emigration is to a worldly end at which he aims or to a woman whom he marries, his emigration is to that for which he emigrated". Abu Daud 2:593-594, Chapter 727, Hadith # 2195



"Narrated Asma: I prepared the journey food for Allah's Apostle ( may peace be upon him ) in Abu Bakr's house when he intended to emigrate to Medina. I could not find anything to tie the food container and the water skin with. So, I said, to Abu Bakr, " By Allah, I do not find anything to tie ( these things ) with except my waist belt." He said, " Cut it into two pieces and tie the water skin with one piece and the food container with the other ( the subnarrator added, " She did accordingly and that was the reason for calling her Dhat un Nitaqain ( i.e. two belted woman). Bukhari 4:141, Hadith #222



"Thauban reported that Allah's Messenger ( may peace be upon him ) said: Allah drew the ends of the world near one another for my sake. And I have seen its eastern and western ends. And the dominion of my Ummah would reach those ends which have been drawn near me and I have been granted the red and the white treasures and I begged my Lord for my Ummah that it should not be destroyed because of famine, nor be dominated by an enemy who is not amongst them to take their lives and destroy them root and branch, and my Lord said: Muhammad, whenever I make a decision, there is none to change it. Well, I grant you for your Ummah that it would not be destroyed by famine and it would not be dominated by an enemy who would not be amongst it and would take their lives and destroy them root and branch even if all the people from the different parts of world join hand together ( for this purpose ) but it would be from amongst them, viz your Ummah, that some people would kill the others or imprison the others". Muslim 4: 1497, Chapter 1194, Hadith # 6904

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. December 1996