How to Use a Strategy Map to Perform a Quick Strategy Check
During a recent consulting assignment to investigate a range of growth options for a small non-profit, I was handed a five-page document which the client called "their five-year strategic plan".
This afforded the opportunity to conduct a Quick Strategy Check to take stock of the way the client was executing their existing plans and objectives.
What's a Quick Strategy Check?
A Quick Strategy Check is a strategy analysis
process where we take a documented strategic plan and run an evaluation to determine:
- Does the documented strategy fit together properly?
- Is the strategy coherent and complete?
- Are the targeted objectives explicit and measurable?
- Does it address the organisation's needs?
- Is it executable?
In this particular case, the plan looked reasonably well-structured at first glance. The front page had four columns, labelled:
- Customer Focus
- Financial Sustainability
- Operational Excellence
- Social Responsibility
Under each column heading there were four or five numbered objectives, expressed in very broad terms.
Each subsequent page was headed with one of the above four column headings, and another three columns, headed:
For obvious reasons I can't go into the actual detailed content, but I can say that when I put the "Plans" items, which were generally expressed as an objective, into a strategy map, it immediately became obvious there were no Internal Process objectives and very few Learning and Growth Objectives. The mapping process makes not only the strategy very visible, but also missing chunks become conspicuous by their absence!
The gaps in the map tell the story...
The client had expressed some metrics in some of their actions items, but in general, there were far too many objectives which had no way to be measured.
Linking the objectives into a cause and effect diagram using arrows was exceptionally difficult, as there was no rational flow between one layer of execution and another.
So what did we learn?
- Wordy, jargon-filled, complex strategy documents can be simplified to their bare essence by turning the verbiage into a strategy map which presents a clear visual presentation of the plan.
- Sometimes the gaps in the map tell you more than the parts that are properly completed.
- The cause and effect hierarchy is incredibly important when you are trying to execute.
- If you can't draw a sensible connection between initiatives to create a logical flow between cause and effect, you're almost certainly missing some strategic initiatives that are needed to make the execution succeed. At the Internal Process level, ask the question, what MUST be done, what is ESSENTIAL to make the objectives above executable?
- If you don't have rational metrics in place, the initiative probably won't get done, and if it does, you'll have no way of knowing how well. You can only manage what you can measure.
⇨ What are your thoughts on using strategy mapping as a tool to do a strategy check?