Jim Rose
EQ Consulting Services
611 Bear Den Road
Townsend, TN  37882


Your Strategic Planning Checklist for 2015

2015 Strategic Planning Checklist

What’s the difference between strategic planning and simply working hard to make your business succeed? After all, every company has objectives and some sort of game plan for getting work done.

So what goes into a successful strategic initiative? A lot of thought and care: company leadership must examine, explore, focus, and measure each initiative, all while keeping eyes on the company’s vision and goals.

The True Value of a Strategic Planning Checklist

Strategic planning can help you improve your business immediately, as well as affect your long-term success. A top-level strategic planning checklist is an excellent way to make sure you’re starting down the right path, even before you craft a specific action plan.

When you take a strategic approach to business planning, you’re simply more likely to succeed. Initiatives often go astray when you fail to follow through on the necessary steps, both in planning and execution – and that’s where a master checklist comes in handy.

If you don’t examine your organization’s vision when inventing new strategies, you risk missing your goals and alienating stakeholders. If you don’t monitor and evaluate throughout the process, you miss opportunities to make improvements and capitalize on the elements that work well.

Developing Your Own Strategic Plan

When you use my strategic planning checklist, you should be able to translate each item into actionable steps that are specific to your organization.

Strategic planning looks a little different for any given business. As you craft your own plans, be prepared to think creatively about how each step in the checklist should be applied to your business.

Leadership teams, for example, can vary in size. However, different initiatives may warrant the inclusion of different leaders. The right people and positions need to be represented.

The process starts by developing documents that describe a vision of the future and then steps for achieving it.

This strategic planning checklist is designed to help you prioritize and maintain your overall vision at each stage of the process. Consider it a starting point and a continuing guide — all part of a process that can bring you the change you’re looking for.

Get started now by downloading my free strategic planning checklist!

Strategic Planning Checklist

Do you have the right leadership team?



Before starting the process of managing change be sure that the right leadership group is in place and functioning as a “team”.  Having this will greatly increase the likelihood of realizing those dreams.  Accomplishing this is in my opinion is the most important responsibility of the organization’s leader.  The following are some thoughts to consider should you decide to do a review of your leadership team.

Size:  Is the size of the group is important?  Studies have shown that 6-7 is an ideal size group of people working together to accomplish an objective.  Less than this and you might not have enough different viewpoints to make the best decisions. When the group is larger than 6-7, having an effective working relationship and making the best decisions becomes more difficult.  Studies have been conducted have determined that when a group becomes larger than 12 the probability of working together effectively becomes extremely difficult.  You might need to have more than 6-7 to ensure that the appropriate groups are represented but remember that the larger the group the more difficult it is to function effectively.  One thought to consider, if you feel a need for a larger leadership team, is you could have some members of the team represent multiple groups which would reduce the size.  However, doing this means that they must truly represent all of their groups.

Who:  Having the right people is very important. I feel there are advantages to having representation from different age groups, both sexes, multiple races and probably other nationalities.  The characteristics of the individuals are also important.  I would question if it is appropriate to have people that are not respected by their peers or people that report to them.  I would recommend not having individuals that would have difficulty working in a teamwork environment.

Teamwork:  Next, it is important that this group truly functions as a team.  Examples would include: conducting highly effective meetings, reaching a consensus on most major decisions, participating in a way that is looking for what is best for the overall organization versus some individuals pushing what is best for them personally.  There are many other examples but I will be discussing teamwork in more detail in future postings.  If the leadership group is not functioning as a strong team this problem should be a top priority.  Consider finding and using a consultant with proven experience that can fulfill this need with a combination of training and facilitation.

Action Needed?  Have you been procrastinating on making changes to your leadership team that you know are needed?  Is postponing making that decision in your organization’s best interest?  How would a good consultant rate your team’s effectiveness?

Is your process for driving change meeting your needs? If not check this out.

0 Model

I developed this model and have been using it successfully for managing change for 15 years.  As referenced in a previous Blog article it can be called many things with most organizations calling it either Strategic Planning or a Managing Change process and both are good descriptors.  The purpose of this article will be to provide a high level overview of the steps in the model.  Then I will a series of articles with one devoted to each step with more details should you actually want to use some or all of the steps.

Vision: What is the organization striving to achieve.  I recommend three documents that collectively describe the Dreams of the Future

Strategies: High level guides that will lead the organization on its journey to its Vision

Measurement: A means for measuring progress on the journey; a report card

Initiatives: Identification of the small number of the most important changes to be making at this time

Implementation: A methodology that significantly increases the likelihood that each Initiative will be successfully implemented

Monitoring: Guidelines for the leadership team to meet on what is usually a monthly basis to ensure that the process is working and the Vision is achieved

Arrows at the Bottom: The dotted line going back to the Vision and Strategies represents that these documents are only updated periodically.  This is typically an annual process or when something significant occurs that should indicate that they should be revisited.  The line is solid going back to the last four steps in the process indicating that those documents should be reviewed and updated at each meeting.


Are there things identified above that might be useful to your organization?  If so please watch for future blog articles.


Is the vision for your organization appropriate and clear?


The vision is the first step in my model, is a combination of documents that describe what an organization is striving to achieve.  I frequently hear the question asked “is the high level vision or the tactical aspect of a Strategic Plan more important”.  My opinion is that both are critical.  My process starts with developing the appropriate Vision documents.

There are multiple documents that could be developed and there are no standard definitions for the various terms used to describe them.  What one group might call a mission; another might call a purpose.  I recommend developing three documents that will collectively comprise the Vision.  The following are the terms along with their definitions that I have been using with clients for fifteen years and they are pleased with this approach.

Mission: Why the organization exists. 

It is usually one or two sentences.  Examples from other companies can be found in books and on the Internet to serve as guides.  Knowing how documents will be used is important in their design.  This is a document that will be used primarily outside the organization with both current and potential clients.

Values: Guides for how business is to be conducted

They include things like teamwork, innovation, integrity, etc.  Again, examples can be found in books and on the Internet.  I recommend identifying multiple possibilities but ultimately deciding which are the 6-7 most important.  Do not include ones that just “sound good”.  It is critical that once identified they are become the culture.  They are descriptors of what you either have or are striving to achieve.  These rarely change.  The primary use for this document is internally within the organization.

Vivid Image:  What the organization is to to look like in 3-5 years. 

This document is not typically used but I have found it to be extremely valuable.  The document is to be written in the present tense as though it has already happened but should be limited to one page.  It is what reporters would see if they visited and conducted interviews with employees, customers and people in the communities where business is conducted.  This document should be used within the business.

The process for developing all of these documents is critical.  The design should be driven by leadership team but should include input from others.  The leadership team should eventually reach a consensus on these documents.

Once the documents have been finalized they need to be shared.  Methods of sharing can include: Internet Web Sites, business cards, posted throughout the organization, brochures, etc.


Is your organizations Vision clear and is your leadership team, along with the entire organization, committed to it?

Do you have the right strategies for your business?

2 Strategies

Establishing Strategies is the second step in my Strategic Planning Process model.  I define strategies as high level guides that will lead the organization on its journey to its Vision.  There are several areas where organizations should consider developing or updating their Strategies.  Below is a list of areas to consider along with some comments to assist with understanding the concept.  All areas will not all apply to any one organization but all should be considered.


This is a very important strategy but hard too hard to fully explain here. It is how do people choose who will get their business.  Is it the low price (like Wal-Mart), superior product/service provided (like Microsoft) or customer intimacy (like Nordstrom)?  You need to be superior in one of the areas and good in the other two.  You should not be perceived by your customers or future customers as poor in any of the three areas.  This concept is explained in the book “Discipline of Market Leaders” by Treacy & Wiersema.  It will be worth your time to read this book and apply the concept.


A list of what you provide today and what the list will be in the future

Geographic Markets:

Where do you cover today and what will it be in the future


A high level approach; areas of focus; what % of income to invest here; SM priority


Today and in the future


A description of what you need; quality standards; rent versus buy; location guideline


Partners or go for the lowest bid


Guidelines if you do R&D; % of income to invest here


An approach for continuously driving costs down (high volume, efficiency, etc.)


High level guidelines


What services are better provided by outsourcing


Organizations where it is important to have good informal working relationships


Are there organizations where you should strive for formal relationships


Important? If important what are guidelines for finding candidates


High level guidelines for levels


Guidelines like structure, creativity, efficiency, teamwork


Guidelines; importance; process control


Descriptors of the type of organization you would like to have


Descriptions of the culture you are striving to achieve


General guidelines for leadership styles and expectations


Guidelines for using temporaries; empowerment and accountability importance


How important is development; guidelines for how much is appropriate


Means for having good ongoing communications



It is important that the leadership team reach a consensus on all Strategies.  Once the Strategies are established you need to be striving to always follow.  Should you have questions regarding this topic, I am only a click or phone call away.

Are the Strategies for your organization identified and appropriate?  How long has it been since they have been reviewed?


Have an effective means for measuring your organizations progress toward its vision?

3 Measurement

The Measurement step in my model represents how progress toward achieving the Vision could be measured.  All organizations have things that they measure.  However, are you measuring and monitoring the most important ones?  Many organizations are trying to monitor too many numbers.  I believe it is best for an organization to identify and monitor the 4-6 most critical indicators and these need to cover all important areas.  I will refer to these critical few as KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).  A KPI is something you can measure, plot on a graph, establish goals both short and long range.  The following areas should be considered when selecting KPIs.  Examples are identified of what the KPIs could be to assist with understanding.  It is important to select the critical areas first and then decide what is best to measure.


ROI, RONA, gross margin, net margins, inventories


Complaints, repeat business, revenue


Turnover, training hours


Turnaround time, order processing time, set up times


Returns, reject rates


Serious injury frequency


Violations, emissions


% market share




The KPIs I have been referring to are for the overall organization.  Department or divisions in larger businesses can have their own KPIs which in some cases are the same as the overall and in some cases are unique to that group but support the overall.

Narrowing the list of possibilities to the critical 4-6 is not an easy task but I feel that the value is worth the effort.

A Sample KPI Graph for an example of a graph template in Excel format that can be used.


Are you satisfied that the “critical few” things that your organization measures and monitors are appropriate?


Are the three “most important” changes your organization needs identified?

4 Initiatives

An Initiative is an important specific change that an organization needs to make in order to achieve their Vision.  Most organizations have a very long list of changes they want to make and often attempt to work on too many,  This often results in not successfully implementing some really important ones.  One key for successfully managing change is to always focus on the critical few.  These become the A priorities.  Here you take the time to cross the T’s and dot the I’s to ensure that the A’s happen and in a quality and a timely manner.  I will be discussing how to radically increase the likelihood this can happen in my next article.

Selecting the Initiatives is a responsibility of the leadership team.  The process for selecting is as follows.


1. Each member of the leadership team should “independently” identify what they feel are the top three possibilities.  The following are things to consider:

Vision: Review these documents looking for performance gaps

Strategies: Review these documents looking for performance gaps

Measurement KPIs: Where is performance below goals; what could be done to improve

SWOT analysis: Weaknesses needing improved; opportunities, threats

Customer needs: What are they and how to better meet

Employee needs: What are they and how to better meet

System needs: Do you have any type of system that is currently not meeting your needs

Assessments: Problems that have been identified with any type of assessment or audit

External forces: Are there regulations or pending regulations that should be addressed

Other: Anything else

2. A list is compiled of all possible Initiatives

3. The list is edited to remove duplications, etc.

4. The leadership team uses tools techniques and methodologies to reach “consensus” on the top three (good facilitation would be helpful)

5. The other Initiatives are placed on a list for possible future Initiatives

6. Once one of the top three Initiatives has been completed another is selected

7. This process should go on forever


How confident are you that your organization is focused on the top three initiatives?


Would you like to be more successful implementing Initiatives?

5 Implementation

Implementation, the fourth step in my model, represents how to go about successfully implementing each critical initiative.  One key reason organizations are not successful is attempting to work on more initiatives that the organization has the resources to support.  The solution to this problem is described in my previous article.  So we will start this discussion assuming the organization has identified a small number of important Initiatives.  The following are the steps that can be used for each Initiative to significantly increase the likelihood of success:

  1. Charter: A document that is developed by the leadership team.  This document brings great clarity to exactly what is expected, by when and who is to be involved.  This is a chance to get others in the organization, besides the leaders, involved in the change process.  People that do the work in a process that is to be improved should be the ones involved in the redesign.  Their knowledge about the process can be extremely valuable and their involvement will also increase commitment to implementation.  Click here for a sample charter template.  Click here for a definition of terms used and this will assist you with understanding how to fill out the form.
  2. Initial team meeting: Representatives for the leadership team should meet with the charter team.  They should explain the importance of the Initiative and go over the Charter to ensure that expectations are clear.
  3. Develop plan: The team develops a high level plan for accomplishing the objective of their Initiative.  This plan is documented including what has to be done, who will do them and by when.  A format that I prefer is a Gantt chart and you can click here to see an example.
  4. Plan presentation: The proposed plan is presented to leadership for review, modifications are made if needed and approved.
  5. Implement plan: The team implements the plan.  The sponsor is a resource for the team, monitors the team’s progress and provides updates to the leadership team monthly.
  6. Closure: Upon completion the team is recognized and then disbanded.  The recognition should not be a gift of significant value.  It is more appropriate to be a token gift and would include a meeting with the leadership team.


See things that could assist your organization with improve Initiative Implementation?  Try them now.  The longer you wait the lower the likelihood of doing it.


Have you ever failed to follow through with a Strategic Plan?

6 Monitoring

Monitoring, the last step in this model, is the most important step.  It is how you can ensure follow through with the plan enabling you to actually achieve the Vision.  Strategic Planning should not be an annual event that often results in the documents ending up on a shelf and gathering dust until next year when it is dusted off and updated.  Strategic Planning should always be an ongoing process.

There are two aspects of this step in my process.  The first aspect is that it represents an ongoing meeting process for the leadership team and it is typically a monthly meeting.  During this meeting there is a sequence of events that take place starting with the Measurement step:

  1.      Measurement: the Key Performance Indicator graphs are reviewed for progress against the goals.
  2.      Initiatives: the group revisits the list of Initiatives to ensure that the three most important have been identified.
  3.      Implementation: most of the time is spent reviewing and discussing progress with implementation of the Initiatives.  They review their updated plan and see if they are on track for accomplishing their objectives.  If not satisfied with progress then the leadership team is to take action to see that these implementation plans get back on track.

The second aspect of this step in the process is that the leadership team must function as a team. There are many things to do to ensure that this happens and a few examples could be as follows.  The team should develop and follow what I call Team Operating Procedures.  These are guidelines that the team agrees will ensure that they are working effectively to drive this process.  The best way to explain this is by showing an example of Team Operating Procedures.  This should be modified to fit the specific needs of each team and the team should reach a consensus on what they are. Another activity is that the team should participate in teamwork training.  Lastly, the team should use an experienced facilitator to see that they are continuously improving as a team.  Teamwork is very important for a highly effective organization and must start with the leadership team.  Hopefully the consultant being used for the change process can also ensure that the group functions as a team.  I will be talking more about teamwork in general in future Blog articles.


How well has your organization done with following through with Strategic Plans?  If you are not satisfied what are you going to do differently?


How permanent are the changes that your organization makes?

6 Monitoring

Many organizations will form a team and assign them a project to improve a process and many are successful.  However, my observation is that as time passes the improvements made are frequently lost.  The following is a means for minimizing or eliminating that possibility.

First of all leadership needs to be sure that the improvement to be made is truly important and then assign it to an appropriate team of people.

Next the team makes the improvement.

After the team has made the improvement a very important task for them is to identify all the specific changes that required making the improvement.  These changes will need to be monitored through time to ensure the benefits are not lost.  These could include things like: procedures that need to be followed, graphs that will be updated regularly to show the benefits, etc.  The list should include who has the responsibility for doing those things.

Periodically (quarterly or semiannually is frequently a good time-frame) someone is assigned the task to conduct an audit to see if what is supposed to be done is still being done and present the findings to the leadership team.  The leadership team then takes the appropriate actions where needed to ensure that the benefits gained from the improvement are not lost.

This simple process works if the leadership team uses it.  Too often they just want to move on to other improvement opportunities.

How good is your organization at “maintaining the gains”?  If in reality your gains made frequently slip away through time, possibly you should evaluate this approach.


The Ongoing Strategic Planning Process Cycle

0 Model

The arrows across the bottom of the model represent a guide as to what is to happen at the leadership team meetings.  Since these meetings are typically monthly, it is not appropriate for the Vision and Strategies to be updated at each meeting.  This is why the line to them is a dotted line indicating that these documents should be reviewed periodically.  I recommend that they be reviewed annually or if some major event takes place, which would make it appropriate to revisit your Vision and Strategy documents. Examples could include the 911 event or if a major change takes place with one of your key competitors.

The arrow is solid to the Measurement step in the process representing that that step and the ones after it should be reviewed at each monthly meeting.

This process should go on forever.


Other comments about the Strategic Planning Process and the documents developed:

  • Soliciting input from others in the design of the Vision documents
    • The people reporting to the members of the leadership team
    • Sub groups
    • Possibly town hall meetings
  • Determine the most appropriate means for sharing the documents with employees
    • Meeting with all employees at once in smaller organizations
    • Meetings in sub groups for larger organizations
  • Uses for the documents
    • Posters, business cards and the website for the Mission
    • Have bulletin boards for documents
    • Posters for the Values
  • Have a means for accessing (Dropbox, server, etc.)

The Strategic Planning model described is for an entire organization.  In large organizations with divisions and departments there is application for a similar model in other groups.  My next blog article will explain how that can work


What are your first steps going to be to start improving your Strategic Planning Process?


Are all groups doing what they can do to support your overall organization’s Vision?

The model I have been referencing in previous blog articles is the process that can be used for an overall organization.  Each step in the process has been described in previous articles.

The model below it is the one that can be used in various groups within an organization to ensure the appropriate focus of efforts and I call this a Continuous Improvement Process.  Examples could include business units, divisions, departments, a group of production workers and actually any work group. 

The following describes the differences between the two models. 


The Vision step in the high level model as described previously includes three documents for the entire organization: Mission Statement, Values and a Vivid Image.  The first step in the model for groups is to just develop their Mission Statement.  Mission Statements for any group can ensure clarity to what they are trying to accomplish. They do not need a separate set of values.  I have found that a Vivid Image is not needed unless the group is an actual business unit. 


You will notice that Strategies are not a part of the model for groups as they are typically not needed.  Again, an exception could be if the group is a business unit. 

Measurement, Initiatives, Implementation and Monitoring:

The last four steps in the model are the same.


As these groups develop these documents they should keep in mind the documents developed by the leadership for the entire organization.  As groups develop their documents they need to share them with the top leadership team to ensure that they are supportive.

Once top leadership supports the group’s plans they need to be shared with the rest of the people in the group to let them know of the plans for the future, solicit their input and gain their support.

Are all of your people properly focused on the most important changes to be making?  


Do you have a “personal” vision for the future? If not you might want to check this out:


Most business people understand the importance of having a vision of the future for their organization and a means of driving changes necessary to achieve it.  However, not many people do the same for their personal lives and I would contend that the personal visioning process is even more important.  Should you want to consider doing that, I will offer the following suggestions.

1. First of all create a Vivid Image of what you would like to see your life look like several years from now and from many viewpoints.  This could include your life from the perspective of your family, personal growth, work, recreational, financial, Spiritual, etc.  Be very specific and detailed.  I suggest that in fill one sheet of paper.

2. Then determine the three most important things to do during the next few months to take you on the journey toward that vision.

3. Next develop a written plan for implementing each of those changes.  This should have very specific actions and include dates for accomplishing each.

4. Now pick a time each week to review this plan.  Put on your calendar or to do list what you will be doing that week to support each of these important activities.  During this weekly review process you can continuously fine tune your plan.

The biggest challenge most people face in accomplishing this is to truly do this weekly activity and follow through with the plan.  My suggestion to assist you with this process is as follows.  Identify a good friend that will be willing to assist you with this very important process.  Explain to them what you have committed to doing.  Ask them if they would be willing to be your coach or conscious.  Tell them conceptually what you are doing and then share your actual documents with them.  Ask them if they will check with you periodically and ask how you are doing and offer encouraging comments.    Occasionally do something special for this person to encourage them to continue.


What could be more important for you to do for yourself than this?