How to Create a Roadmap for a Strategic Plan

Do you have what it takes to drive a cab in London?

Before you say yes, consider this: To get licensed, applicants need to pass a test known as The Knowledge. This takes two to four years of preparation and involves memorizing an incredible 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks. 

Mastering this complexity—done without using a map—makes becoming a London cabbie a daunting task. In fact, the only thing more difficult is trying to master the business world without using a strategic plan roadmap.

As a strategic planning consultant, I know that having a cohesive plan is absolutely essential for navigating toward real success. And yet even well-crafted strategic plans sometimes fail. Why? Because too often there is no framework providing follow-through and accountability. This glaring omission is what causes some misinformed folks to claim, “Strategic plans never work.” 

My answer to naysayers is that strategic plan failures can usually be traced to one missing component—a “roadmap.” In an effort to achieve a quick fix, some business leaders “plan the work” but don’t “work the plan.” 

Fortunately, there is a solution. In my experience, having and following a roadmap can help any team fully execute their strategic plan.

Roadmap vs. Strategic Plan: What’s the Difference?

In my home state of Michigan, an amazing project is nearing completion. The stunning new Gordie Howe International Bridge is a six-lane span over the Detroit River built to link Detroit with Windsor, Ontario. When completed, the 1.5-mile bridge will be the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America.

Here’s why I bring it up: Business planning advisors like myself sometimes describe a strategy roadmap as a bridge—or link—between theoretical strategy and tangible execution. A strategy roadmap not only visualizes but also actualizes the key outcomes that must be delivered over a particular timeline in order to achieve an organization’s strategic vision.

So, what’s the difference between a strategy roadmap and a strategic plan? You could say a strategy sets the overall direction and goals, while a roadmap translates that strategy into actionable plans, timelines, and deliverables. Strategy focuses on the “what” and “why,” while a roadmap focuses on the “how” and “when” of executing the strategy.

(Actually, I consider this kind of roadmap to be an integral part of any good strategic plan, and not something separate.)

What’s in a Strategic Planning Roadmap?

Exact content may vary with the type and size of the business, but just about any strategic planning roadmap will contain pertinent information regarding the unique identity or “DNA” of your company. 

Ideally, a strategic planning roadmap provides an overview of an organization’s direction, detailing where it is now, where it wants to go in the future, and how best to get there. Created with the assistance of a consultant like myself, a proper roadmap will outline key strategic goals, initiatives, and timelines, while noting strengths, weaknesses, and potential obstacles. You’ll want your strategic planning roadmap to include five key elements: where you stand, who you are as a business, a summary of your strategy plan, any external factors that may affect your success, and specific action items to follow through on your intentions.

1. Where You Stand

You must know where you are before you can determine where you want to go. Every good strategic plan (and strategic planning roadmap) should start with perspective—taking an honest look at your current reality. You can’t begin to set goals and develop strategies until you do! This means candidly taking stock of where your company currently stands, using markers like:

  • Annual revenue
  • Number of employees
  • Number of clients/customers
  • Types of services
  • Typical sales pipeline
  • Year-over-year growth
  • Type of culture
  • Types of processes

2. Who You Are

Once we have the proper perspective, we can then work on the company’s vision, values, and goals—what it wants to achieve beyond making a profit. Determining (and agreeing on) your group’s objectives, overarching philosophy, and market strategies is essential for clear direction, communication, and alignment.

Covering certain key points nails down what makes the organization unique and serves to inspire employees to work together to achieve goals by connecting them to your non-negotiable principles. These include:

  • Unique mission 
  • Core values
  • Key strategies

3. Strategic Plan Summary

For maximum clarity and effectiveness, the strategic plan itself should be summarized in your roadmap in terms of:

  • Where you’re headed: Short-term goals are usually tied to your current performance and economic circumstances. Long-term goals are more linked to your mission, vision, and values. Goals for the near future can be stepping stones or actionable steps to reach a long-term goal down the road. In fact, long-term goals often consist of numerous “mini-goals.” That’s why it’s critical to determine and include your short-term and long-term goals side-by-side on your roadmap. 
  • How you’ll get there: A strategic roadmap is both a visual representation of a group’s strategic goals and the actionable steps needed to achieve them. Unlike “good intentions,” a roadmap is a tangible tool that unites groups around shared objectives. A good roadmap defines a goal, includes the major steps to reach it, and pegs the milestones needed to track progress. By outlining key processes and strategies, it manages expectations and facilitates forward motion.
  • Performance drivers: Key performance drivers (KPDs) are the day-to-day activities needed to produce the desired key performance indicators (KPIs). In other words, KDPs are the work that produces the KPI results. Because only the right activities will produce the right outcome, it’s critical to build the KDP tracking system into your roadmap. Performance drivers will focus on growth, stability, and profitability.

Long-Term Company Goals

Are you in the middle of a five-year plan? Did you just set a three-year vision as part of the strategy plan? Remember to prioritize your long-term goals by deciding which are most important and allocating resources accordingly. As you consider long-range objectives, make sure they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-specific (SMART). Finally, track progress by regularly monitoring your progress to stay focused and make adjustments. Wherever you’re headed—on whatever timeline—include this perspective in your roadmap.

4. External Factors That May Affect Your Plan

No business or organization exists in a vacuum—and no marketplace remains static. It’s important that leaders continually identify and track external factors that may affect their plan, performance and desired results. Factors to consider when creating your roadmap include:

  • External risks: Uncontrollable factors like pandemics, economics, politics, competitors, crime, customers, and even major weather events can influence your performance. Your stability and profitability are dependent on being able to quickly identify and respond to things like shifts in government policy or new regulations. Change is inevitable, so you must build contingency plans into your roadmap—with the flexibility to pivot. 
  • Industry trends: Technology is evolving so rapidly that even the futurists can’t keep up. Be a visionary in your business category and look far forward as you create your roadmap. Working in today’s global online environment means more influencers, interrupters, and competitors than ever. Make sure your strategic plan allows for emerging trends, unexpected developments, and constant innovation.
  • Client/customer values: Societal norms keep changing. What was once considered important or acceptable is no longer the case. Evolving attitudes and behaviors are based on cultural, social, and economic factors. Your roadmap must be sensitive to issues that affect shopping and spending—like ethical consumption, environmental sustainability, and fair labor practices. Purchasing criteria are fluid; be proactive to survive. 

5. Action Plans

Having detailed, time-bound action plans makes it far easier to achieve your expected goals within a stipulated time. Having this written checklist exponentially increases your group’s chances of hitting their objectives. An action plan makes your project path clear and direct, allowing you to track progress and make adjustments. Ideally, it includes specific tasks, essential resources, defined goals, and deadlines. This kind of roadmap gives a clear sense of direction, keeps staff engaged, clarifies roles, and defines the metrics for success.

Using a Strategic Plan Roadmap Template

StratOp’s “Plan on a Page”

When leading a client through the strategic planning process, I utilize the StratOp process, a strategic and operating system with six distinct phases.  One of the benefits of this process is the Plan on a Page, a literal one-page document that serves as a roadmap for executing the larger detailed plan. 

Gantt Charts

If you are not using a strategic planning system like StratOp, you can still build a roadmap using tools such as a Gantt chart. A Gantt chart is a visual representation of the steps and progress of any project. As the steps are entered into the chart, a series of horizontal lines will be built. These lines, which look like a graph, show the amount of progress made relative to certain periods of time and the overall planned work.

Project Management Software

You can also use a project management software system. Systems such as Wrike, Asana, and others allow you to lay out the tactics for your plan, then monitor and communicate as progress is being made. 

Keep in mind that Gantt charts and project management software systems are NOT strategic planning systems. They are simply tools. Before using any of these, make sure first to develop your strategic plan, then implement it with the tools and systems at your disposal. 

Create a Strategic Planning Roadmap

Are you ready to started on strategic planning? If so, I’d love to help. If you feel that my experience as a strategic planning consultant can elevate your team to a new level, let’s have an informal conversation.


View the Simple Plan on a Page