Do you ever get stuck with a big list of items and struggle to make sense of it all?

We have been working with a client that had done a lot of strategic planning exercises about a new initiative. They identified a wide array of ideas related to what they were currently doing to carry out the initiative. This was even before formally launching the initiative.

The challenge with using the big list of ideas they had created was they simply documented the list in the order in which each idea was identified. Because of this, the list was worthless for doing what I suspect everyone hoped it would do: provide a starting point for the strategic thinking needed to back into a definition of and explanation for what the new initiative would turn out to be.

Taking a look at the list, we started trying different approaches to arrange the big list of ideas from their strategic planning exercises into sensible groups to help stimulate progress.

6 Ways to Organize Ideas from Strategic Planning Exercises


Some natural possibilities for arranging a big list could include organizing items:

  • From Earliest to Latest
  • From Latest to Earliest
  • Mostly Alike to Mostly Not Alike
  • In Groups of Items Doing Similar Things
  • With Items Coming from Similar Sources
  • With Things Creating Similar Results

Those are six starting places we often use when trying to organize big lists of ideas coming from strategic planning exercises. What other approaches do you use?

Another possibility is always combining two of these groupings to create a matrix or a table!

If you have enough possibilities and really want to group everything tightly, you could create a table with multiple groupings. That's what we did for this client's big list of ideas. We organized the list into two groups based on one cut of what each item did. We then broke each of these groups into three separate groups based upon them doing similar things. And further divided the list into current and future activities. With those changes, we turned the previous work into a platform to both describe the new initiative and help brainstorm ideas for what new, future programs they could introduce to support it.

Several people from the client commented that they finally had something they could work with to move forward. The thing is, they had done the hard strategic thinking and already had all the raw material they needed. Their list just wasn't put in order and organized.

If you’re dealing with a list of ideas from strategic planning exercises, but it isn’t helping you move forward, we suggest regrouping - no pun intended. Take the time to organize and order the list in compelling, action-inducing ways! - Mike Brown

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