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What is a strategy map and how does it work?

By March 11, 2020Strategy

While many business leaders have well-defined organisational strategies, implementing and executing them is a challenge that few have mastered. Why is that? 

Management fantasy or iterative exercise?

Some strategies are perhaps overly optimistic ‘management fantasies’ as described by Sir Lawrence Freedman in his seminal work, Strategy: A History, “…far exceeding organizational capabilities, with goals defined as if the future could be predicted.” Strategy, Freedman tells us, is not about reaching a prior objective, it ‘starts with an existing state of affairs and only gains meaning by an awareness of how, for better or worse, it could be different.’ 

Strategy is an iterative exercise, “best understood modestly, as moving to the ‘next stage’ rather than to a definitive and permanent conclusion. The next stage may not necessarily be a better place, but could still be a better place than the company might be in with a less effective strategy, or no strategy at all.”  

Clear, concise communication

Viewing strategy as an iterative exercise makes a strong case for opening clear lines of communication throughout the organisation, to effectively calibrate responses to dynamic, often disruptive market forces. The eValue survey platform is an effective tool for gathering on the ground feedback that will accurately reflect the state of your business. 

A strategy map becomes useful, or even essential, in communicating your strategic direction to everyone in the organisation.  A single high-level, visual that’s easy to interpret gives people a clear understanding of strategic direction and their role in reaching the next strategic goal. It also provides a sense of purpose that engages and inspires people to give their best.  

Mapping your strategy

A map, as you know, is simply a visual representation of a landscape that aids you in getting from point A to point B. A strategy map is somewhat the same. It shows all the component parts of a strategy and how individual roles, jobs and tasks contribute to reaching those objectives on a single page. 

Composing a strategy map is a simple, 5-step process.

 

Step 1

Outline your strategic requirements. These might be:

  • Increase and retain revenue
  • Develop marketing initiatives
  • Select and train the right talent
  • Deploy effective technology
  • Deliver innovative client solutions

Then, write down your high-level strategic goals.These could be across the entire organisation or by department or even goals for specific initiatives or key projects and could be something like this:

  • Increase revenue
  • Improve productivity
  • Improve culture
  • Create excellent products
  • Improve customer relationships

 

Step 2

List the various perspectives from which you can view your business. These will vary from one organisation to another.

The example we use here is a typical eValue strategy map showing four perspectives in causal order, based on Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard. You can list as many perspectives as you want. 

Strategy map showing four perspectives in causal order.

 

Step 3

Take your list of requirements, group them into categories and place them in a list adjacent to the relevant perspectives.

List your requirements, group them into categories & place them in a list adjacent to the relevant perspectives on your strategy map.

 

Step 4

Unpack each category into the more detailed tactical tasks, systems, resources or internal business processes.

Unpack each category in your strategy map into the more detailed tactical tasks, systems, resources or internal business processes.

For example, the training category under learning and growth can have individual tactics such as, ‘appropriate training courses, materials, mentorship.”

The strategy map normally includes the inter-relationships between the different categories to show how they affect each other. This allows you to plan improvements accordingly. 

As you see here, talent and training have an impact on the level of innovation. Brand, customer relations and value delivery are dependent on your marketing efforts and innovation.

 

Step 5

The final step is to measure how well each of the categories and their supporting tasks are performing. In the eValue strategic survey, categories and supporting measures are colour-coded based on survey responses. Red is urgent, amber indicates that some action is necessary, and so on. 

Measure how well each of the categories and their supporting tasks are performing on your strategy map.

A strategy map comes to life

And there you have it. A useful, at-a-glance reference illustrating strategic direction and each individual’s role in moving the organisation one step closer to meeting objectives. No more functioning in isolation. With the aid of a strategy map everyone in the organisation can clearly see what needs to be done, by whom and how they contribute to the bigger strategic picture. 

Want to talk about developing a strategy map for your organisation? Get in touch with the eValue team. And if you’d like to see a video of the strategy mapping process, visit our YouTube channel.

Mapping your strategy with eValue. Part 1

Mapping your strategy with eValue. Part 2