Think Leadership Ideas

Get On the Same Page with a Strat-Map

A Powerful Leadership Tool for Providing Direction
Throughout Your Organization

In the way that a master chef’s recipe describes the essentials for creating a distinctive dish, a Strategy Map describes the essentials for creating a distinctive organization.

When a master chef creates a signature dish, each ingredient and each preparation step contribute to the final result. What makes the dish distinctive is the unique combination of ingredients and preparation. In the right combination, commonplace ingredients and steps can yield a magnificent and distinctive food experience.

The main ingredients of a strategy map are an organization’s strategic objectives, coherently organized into a one-page diagram. Like like an extraordinary recipe, even commonplace organizational objectives in the right combination can yield an exceptional and distinctive organization.

Strategy Maps - or as I call them, strat-maps - evolved from the Balanced Scorecard model developed in the 1990s by Robert Kaplan and David Norton of the Harvard Business School. Strategy maps are widely used in business, non-profit, and public organizations, large and small. Strat-maps are a brilliant tool for organizations where “intangible” qualities - e.g. specialized knowledge, leadership, or company culture - are instrumental to an organization’s identity and success.

The creation of a strat-map requires an organization to identify essential strategic objectives in each of four perspectives - financial, operational, customer, and intangible know-how - then link how they relate to each other in a one-page map. The perspectives are universal, although how they are organized to link strategic objectives is different for businesses than it is for non-profits and public entities.

When engaged in strategic planning, organizations often focus too much on what actions they are doing, and too little on what results are being achieved - especially how results are experienced by customers. Regardless of whether the organization is a business, non-profit, or public entity, the key to getting a strat-map right is clarity about what customer experience the organization desires to create. (see related article, Ask This Question)

StratMap-Biz StratMap-NonProfitnPublic

Ultimately, all strategic objectives should contribute to creating a distinct result that is valuable to customers. For non-profits and public entities - even when there is a clear “mission” - it’s not uncommon to go through a process of clarifying who their customer (constituent, consumer, community, client) is before they can specifically identify customer oriented results.

Strategy guru Michael Porter notes that strategy is about choosing a particular “set of activities” to deliver a “unique mix of value.” Too often the outcome of strategic planning retreats is a list of actions that have no apparent connection to each other. Strategy is more than a list of to-do items. A strat-map can help everyone in your organization see how various actions “link’” to create a unique mix of value to customers - in short, a real strategy.

A one page strat-map that captures the essence of a company, in the hands of talented leaders, becomes an exceptional tool to foster clear and focused effort - and thereby create and sustain an exceptional organization.

by Tom Stevens (c)2012
Tom Stevens helps leaders create and sustain exceptional organizations. To contact Tom, visit or call 800 727-9788

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