Why the Traditional Strategy Map Needs to Change

There is no doubt that Kaplan, Norton and others were on the right track when the first Strategy Map was introduced into day-to-day consulting approaches. When combined with a skilled facilitator, the Strategy Map is a great tool for laying out the critical goals and objectives for an organization. Unfortunately I believe that the Strategy Map of the 1990’s is no longer appropriate for business and needs some simple tweaks to meet business needs in 2015 and beyond.


The Strategy Map was created in a time when cash was king; technology was big, slow and often not readily available; online transactions were rare, if at all; buyers had limited selection; vendors had a lot of power; and, because of the Y2K scare companies were willing to pay vendors incredible rates just to mitigate the risk.

Flash forward to 2015 and data is king; technology is everywhere with incredible internet speeds from the smallest devices imaginable; Canadian credit and debit transactions are more than 50% of the share of point-of-sale transactions; mobile app usage exceeds desktop for web access; and the market is flooded with vendors of all types, across all industries, coming in from all over the globe which means the buyer has the control. In today’s market the vendors that best meet the buyer’s specific needs will be able to compete for their purchase.

So what does this have to do with Strategy Mapping? A lot!

The traditional strategy map has four primary perspectives:

  • Financial Perspective with strategies like improving cost, increasing utilization, expanding revenue
  • Customer Perspective with strategies like price, quality and service
  • Internal Perspective (often called Business Process) with strategies focused on business process improvement
  • Learning and Growth Perspective with strategies around human capital, information capital and organizational capital

Below is an example of a basic strategy map from Wikipedia; if you search Google you can find hundreds of samples.

Strategy Map
Traditional Strategy Map

The things that the traditional strategy map does not include are:

  • Overarching Goals and Objectives and alignment of the strategy map to those goals and objectives
  • The focus of the strategy map is that everything is driving up to making shareholders money… but as I noted above, the world has changed. While financial goals are important, if you aren’t meeting your customer needs then you are likely to see a drastic shift in your bottom line in the future.
  • The old days of working staff 24×7 are also changing, companies need to invest in their staff to ensure they stay, are qualified to service customers’ needs and have the right skills to keep the sales pipeline growing

How We’ve Restructured the Strategy Map

The first Strategy Map shift I created was in conjunction with the Sierra Systems executive team. We started with the traditional map but we quickly realized that the traditional map doesn’t fit business today for a couple of key reasons:

  • Sierra Systems is a consulting company and as such must be solving customer problems every day or we risk losing market share to a long line of competitors who can and will
  • As a consulting company its people are its most valuable asset, without the right people and skillsets we will never meet our customers’ needs

The second shift of the map came from a strategy mapping session with the board of a social enterprise. They too understood the need to shift the map, as I did with Sierra Systems, but it was also critical for them to see the overarching goals, objectives for each of the strategies, all on the same page. By visualizing all of the content on a single page it allows them to continually keep in mind the visionary objectives as they drive value through the tactical strategies.

The resulting map that I use today with clients looks like the image below; the structure of it includes three sections:

  • Goals – a section that isn’t included on the traditional strategy map but I feel should be as it provides an area to identify your highest priority goals for each of the strategic priorities. It also helps to keep the overarching corporate goals top of mind while facilitating the creation of the rest of the map
  • Strategic Priorities – The realignment of our strategy map now drives top to bottom to visually demonstrate that customers and employees are our highest priorities
  • The Customer – understand them and solve their problems and the result should be repeat business and referrals
  • The Employee (and Consultants) – without them service oriented companies have nothing to sell; staff need engagement, support and training to succeed
  • Business Processes – like death by a thousand cuts, inefficient processes can slowly drain corporate funds
  • Financial – if you can continually improve the top three you should meet all your financial goals
  • Key Performance Questions (KPQs) – are again not something on the traditional strategy map; I include this section because each goal and strategy should drive to a simple metric that can be measured to ensure you are meeting your targets

Sierra Systems Strategy Map
Sierra Systems Strategy Map Template

Where from here?

The changes we have made to our strategy map may not fit your company but I think the traditional model puts the priority on financial success and with so many options for consumers the driver needs to be the customers and ensuring staff and contractors have what they need to efficiently serve those customers.

Look out for my future posts covering the challenges of how to facilitate Strategy Mapping; Strategic Alignment of the goals, objectives and strategies; how this drives into KPQ’s and KPI’s; and, most importantly developing the implementation road map.

Feel free to connect or leave a comment, I’m always looking to improve!

This post originally appeared on http://donsherrah.wordpress.com

2016-12-18T19:08:15+00:00 Tags: |

About the Author:

Don Sherrah
Don’s experience includes working with both public and private organizations including municipal, provincial and federal governments. He has a background that encompasses a wide range of technical, business, and management roles and has interacted with all levels of organizations.

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