The FIVE Top Reasons Why You Should Add Strategy Mapping to Your Strategic Planning Toolkit in 2009

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Strategy mapping has been around for a while now and has proven to be a valuable tool in the advancement of the art and science of strategic planning. A strategy map is simply a one page “picture” of how your business works in an integrated way to create value in the achievement of its mission and vision.

Those organizations that have adopted strategy mapping as their primary strategic planning methodology have experienced a variety of critical advantages that can be distilled down into a short list of key benefits.
Based on the experience of hundreds of organizations just like yours, here are the top five reasons why you should try strategy mapping in 2009.

Reason 5: A strategy map facilitates a common understanding of the critical components of your business and how they work togethe
Here’s a question for you – Is everyone in your organization on the same page regarding how your organization produces results? The likely answer to this question is “no”. In most organizations it is not unusual for employees, including members of the executive team, to have completely different perspectives on the key drivers of the business and the relationships between them. These different perspectives frequently drive specific decisions and behaviours that work at cross-purposes. The result is silo thinking, operational inefficiencies, and a less than ideal customer experience. The act of creating and using a strategy map causes people in your organization to discuss, debate, and agree on both the key, cross-functional drivers of business success, and the cause and effect relationships between them. The result is organizational alignment, improved efficiency, and the achievement of business results through focused effort and targeted interventions. As an added bonus, a weighted strategy map helps everyone in your organization understand current business priorities and make smarter, more consistent decisions about what to focus their work efforts and precious resources on.

Reason 4: A strategy map shows your entire strategy/strategic plan on a one page, easy to understand visual communication tool
When is the last time you read your organization’s strategic plan? If it is like most others, it is a long, wordy document that challenges you to understand the key components of the strategic plan. What if I told you that you could display your organization’s strategy on one page in a graphical/picture-based format? Well, a strategy map does just that! Using a combination of pictures and words (short statements), a good strategy map includes your mission, vision, values, strategic objectives, and the linkage arrows between key strategic objectives. Imagine if everyone in your organization had a copy of your strategy map displayed at their desk for easy, everyday reference! In organizations that do just this, every employee understands the business strategy as well as their daily personal contribution to business success. All this facilitated by a single picture called a strategy map!

Reason 3: A strategy map helps make your strategy actionable
The number one reason why business strategies are unsuccessful is lack of strategy implementation. The primary reason for this failure? Employees cannot see how to put strategy, which largely exists at the “30,000 foot level”, into action at the front line or shop floor. With its cascade of linked strategic objectives arranged under the four classic balanced scorecard perspectives (financial, customer/stakeholder, internal process, and organizational capabilities/learning and growth), a strategy map clearly defines the critical areas of operational focus required to achieve the organization’s mission and vision. By clearly spelling out these key activities, all employees have the same understanding of exactly what must be done to put the strategy into action and produce results. And they can get busy doing what’s required, no questions asked!

Reason 2: A strategy map allows you manage your strategy in “real time” and align your organization behind a change in strategy quickly and seamlessly
Initially, your strategy map is the “theory” of how the key elements of your organization work together to create value and achieve your mission and vision. Once your strategy map has been created, it’s time to “test” the theory as well as the success of your business strategy. To do this, you must use your strategy map to create a strategy-focused balanced scorecard indicator set. Once your balanced scorecard starts giving you performance data you can begin validating whether the cause and effect relationships you think exist actually do exist and produce the results you expect. Either way, the balanced scorecard data allows you to learn more about how your business works together to deliver the business results your strategy requires and manage strategy achievement in “real time”. The results is a fine-tuned strategy map that reflects the reality of how your business truly works.

What if your balanced scorecard results and/or your external operating environment tell you that a change in strategy is required? How do you make the required changes quickly and then communicate the strategy changes across your organization? The answer is with your strategy map! Simply change the strategic objectives and cause and effect arrows as required on your strategy map, revise your balanced scorecard indicators, and then communicate your new strategy map and performance targets to your employees and stakeholders. Leveraging their past experience aligning behind your original strategy map, you will be surprised to see how quickly your organization makes the required adjustments and re-aligns business activities and priorities – all using your revised strategy map.

And now, the top reason why you should add strategy mapping to your strategic planning toolkit in 2009.

Reason 1: A strategy map facilitates true strategic thinking – not mid to short term tactical planning masquerading as strategic planning
A strategy map allows you to identify the key elements of your business that drive value and will achieve your mission (and vision) as long as it remains the same. In this way, your strategy map outlines a true long range strategic plan for your business. The weighted strategy map defines which elements of the business you will focus more on over the short to medium term or vision period (usually the next three to five years).

In contrast, most traditional strategic plans only outline the objectives for strategic focus over the short to medium term or vision period. By neglecting to set this plan in the context of mission achievement, the strategic plan actually becomes more tactical than strategic in nature. Frighteningly, executing a plan of this kind could actually result in the completion of value destroying activities, having a negative effect on long term strategic results.

With this in mind, it is easy to see that strategic planning with the strategy map approach is the best way to develop a value creating strategic plan and an appropriate supporting short-term-operational plan.