This is where we are going – let me teach you

This is where we are going – let me teach you.

In an interview with a CEO and APAC country manager last week I learned that she had a manager who visited the country regularly and spent a lot of 1:1 time with her.  I asked the CEO if this was a threatening or micro managing style.  The response from the CEO was that, initially, she thought it would be like that but in reality she was learning a lot from her manager, he was a great leader and mentor.  She had a lot of respect for him and appreciated the time with him.

Many of us can recount the influential leaders we are experiencing or have experienced in our careers.  The reason is that it does not happen many times for each of us and stands out as an event or period.  Sadly, it sometimes does not happen for some.  You will know when you have been led by an influential leader because you will regularly refer to the teachings, the mannerisms and the methodologies.  You will adopt the best practices as your own but always remember how you came to learn them.

One of the key characteristics of a great leader is a strong sense of the Mission, Vision and Strategy for the organisation.  Being able to communicate this across and through the organisation remains one of the biggest challenges for many organisations.

A key weapon used to communicate the strategy is the “Strategy Map”.  It is a “pictorial” representation of the company strategy which allows the cascading of the strategy into actionable behaviours.

The Strategy Map has been a business tool since the mid-90s and was originally proposed by Kaplan and Norton in the execution of the Balanced Score Card.  Since then much has been written to develop the concept and incorporate the Strategy Map into the annual planning process.

Companies which struggle with Strategy Implementation find that the Strategy Map is an effective tool to align the various stakeholders, focus the efforts of individuals and teams and help deliver superior business results.

In my opinion the single biggest reason to spend time developing a Strategy Map for your organisation is to develop a tool which allows you to communicate the strategy in a consistent manner across the whole business.  As the CEO, it is not good enough that you and the board understand the strategy and the key objectives for the year.  For optimum results all members need to share the details of the strategy.

Once decided and agreed you then need to become the teacher.  The leadership team, the line managers and their teams all have to have the same perspective and understanding of company strategy and objectives.  The Strategy Map will be an indispensable part of your lessons.

In this context, how do you know you have been a great teacher?  All functions will have the same knowledge of the strategy and the company objectives.  You will hear the common language (initiated by you) used in meetings at all levels, people focused on priorities and not distractions, everyone pulling in the one direction and supporting each other.  

Most importantly, you will see the superior business results and the ownership by each of the teams.

The other reasons for developing a strategy map are also important:

·         Give the leadership team a chance to embed their own ideas and priorities so that the strategic plan is owned by the leaders

·         Provide a framework by which the business reviews and company updates can be relevant to the strategy – this is especially powerful for the all hands meetings.

·         Provide a starting point to evolve the company strategy for the following year.

Strategy Maps come in many shapes and sizes but a good rule is to keep it to one page. 

An example of a Strategy Map provided by CGMA is as follows:

Since it is a tool that has been designed as part of the Balanced Score Card process there are some standard BSC components:

·         Four horizontal perspectives: Learning and Growth, Internal, Customer and Financial

·         Two horizontal cause and effect aspects:

o   How we plan to accomplish it

o   What we want to accomplish

·         Objectives that flow up and are related through cause and effect relationships across the perspectives.

·         Strategic themes on how the strategy will bring about the desired change.

Of course you can stylise the Strategy Map with branding, bubbles, colours, themes and even mascots.  However, in the end the content covers the same areas and portrays the same message.

There are five necessary steps divided into two categories in developing a Strategy Map?

What do we want to accomplish?

1.       Decide on your overall objective

·         This is an overarching description of how you will measure the relative success of your strategy implementation.

2.       Decide the Financial Strategies

·         Include revenue and growth productivity objectives

3.       Decide the Customer Strategies

·         Who are the customers?

·         Who are not the customers?

·         What do the customers expect? – How will they define good product and service delivery?

·         What is our competitive advantage or differentiation – the Value Proposition?

How do we plan to accomplish?

4.       Decide the Internal Strategies and Management

·         Operations

·         Customer

·         Innovation

·         Regulatory and Social

5.       Decide the Learning and Growth Strategies.

·         Human Capital

·         Information Capital

·         Organisation Capital

Once you have the Strategy Map you need a communications plan which informs and updates all levels in the organisation.  The message delivered to different parts of the organisation needs to be tailored.  It needs to be delivered and updated regularly through the year and include business progress reports which link back to the Strategy and the Strategy Map so the relevance and context can be understood by all.

Good teaching!


Wikipedia:  Strategy Map

CGMA Strategy Mapping

ClearPoint Strategy