...It is absolutely essential. Think about it. Is there anything important in life that can be
better accomplished without a plan? Proposing to your girlfriend? Starting a family? A project at work? Building a house? While the planning process would look different for each of these, "winging it" would not be advisable. Imagine proposing to your girlfriend on the couch. While watching TV. Without a ring. How well would that be received? Or think about building a house without blueprints. I've been in construction... it would be a disaster. Consider working on piece of artwork without first considering the size of the canvas and where to begin painting. It would be very easy to run out of room.
Plans accomplish many things. They help with organization, prioritization, and communication. Ultimately, they provide direction for everyone involved. When it comes to a business or organization, direction is essential. A plan will help every employee know what to do and why. It will help leaders make decisions. And a plan will do all of this because it will define a destination.
Before going any further, it is important to define what a strategic plan is. A strategic plan is an expression of the what, why, and where-to that identifies the essence of an organization. If that sounds too nebulous, let me clarify. A good strategic plan will state what is intrinsically important, the primary purpose, and the desired destination for the organization. These (what, why, and where-to) are commonly called core values, mission, and vision.
Nowadays, it seems that business owners and boards of directors often pound out mission and vision statements simply because they think they are supposed to do so. They are just items on the "starting-a-business-checklist". I contend a strategic plan is much more vital than that, and they can be so much more helpful.