The Language of Strategic Planning

Keith C Norris
3 min readMay 22, 2019

The language of strategic planning is full of many similar terms that can cause confusion when used interchangeably. In order to communicate more effectively through the strategic planning process the following terms and definitions can quicken the communication and understanding that is transmitted in the strategic planning process.

This blog post is suggested as a stake-in-the-ground for all of these definitions. If you have another definition that you think is simpler, more concise, or more appropriate, please share your comments.

Definitions of Terms Used in Strategic Planning:

Culture: The way we do things around here.

Mission: Your main purpose for being.

Vision: A desired future state.

Tagline: Your mantra, a shortened version of your mission statement.

Value(s): Ideals that we consider desirable.

Principles: Universal Laws that govern nature or human behavior.

See this article on The Difference between Principles & Values

Goal: A stated objective, something you want to accomplish. Example: Increase revenue, Be a great place to work, Reduce Costs.

Strategy: A preferred method for achieving a desired future state (goal). A good strategy can start out by indicating a particular area of focus. Example: Focus on more of _____, and less of _____.

Objective: A broad statement of something you want to accomplish.

Metric: Something that can be measured in (#) Number of units, ($) Dollars, or as a (%)ratio of one thing divided by another. A Metric can be used to quantify progress toward a Goal. Example: Revenue($), # of New Customers, or % of Repeat Customers.

Target: A numerical value that indicates a desired numerical level of performance of a Metric. Example: Our Target for Revenue for 2023 is $100M. Revenue is the Metric, $100M is the Target.

Plan: A collection of steps to achieve a desired objective.

Project: A temporary endeavor undertaken to achieve a specific outcome.

Milestone: A noteworthy or significant accomplishment in a series of events to achieve something greater.

Initiative: An organized effort to achieve an objective.

Metric: Something that can be measured.

KPI/ Key Performance Indicator: A metric with elevated significance or greater importance. (note: not every metric is a “KPI”)

Lead Measure: A measure that is predictive.

Lag Measure: A measurement that can only be taken at the end of a sequence.

Visual Management System: A system that is simple to understand and visual. Think of a red, yellow, or green light as a way to indicate if a process is going as planned.

Leader/ Change Leader: A person taking responsibility for making change happen.

Manager: The process, activity, or job of making sure a defined process or piece of work takes place.

Sponsor: A person who has the authority or organizational power to help make something happen.

Team Member: A member of the project team

Are there other terms that you hear used in strategic planning that you wish had more concrete definitions? Comment below.

About Keith Norris

Keith C. Norris is an author, entrepreneur, proud husband and father, tandem road cyclist, and ice hockey player. Keith’s day job is CEO of Complete XRM, Inc. (PlanPlus Online ,, and Connect with Keith on LinkedIn.



Keith C Norris

CEO of Complete XRM, inc, Fanatic about Planning, husband, father, and road bike enthusiast.