Guide to understanding strategy maps

What is a strategy map?

A strategy map is a visualization tool that helps organizations see their main goals, understand how their various goals connect and relate, and explore the steps they need to take to realize those objectives. Strategy maps help stakeholders see cause-and-effect connections between different strategic objectives.

Strategy map key elements

Strategy maps are made up of four different categories or perspectives. These four areas each have their own separate goals, but the goals and actions within each perspective can impact one another. The four perspectives include:

  • Financial: Outlines the tangible financial outcomes of the strategy
  • Customer: Describes the impact and value added for your customer
  • Internal processes: Identifies which internal processes will affect the strategy
  • Learning & growth: Describes how your team and their unique skills fit into the strategic plan

When to use a strategy map

Strategy maps help an organization clearly visualize its goals and targets while considering the different perspectives that will shape or are shaped by the strategy. Strategy maps are great for quickly communicating big picture objectives to leaders, executives, and other key stakeholders.

Some example use cases for strategy mapping include:

Clarifying your overarching organizational goals

Whether your business is brand new or has been operating for decades, strategy mapping can help you clarify your main business goals. Strategy maps provide a simple, visual format for organizing your objectives, helping you cut through the noise and focus on what really matters.

For example, entrepreneurs can include strategy mapping as part of their initial business planning activities.

Planning for a new product or process

When your business is growing and you're developing new products, services, or processes, strategy maps can be a valuable tool for the brainstorming and planning stages. Because they take into account various objectives and elements of your business, strategy maps help you make a well-rounded plan.

For example, a direct-to-consumer brand could use strategy mapping to explore a new product launch's financial objectives and customer impact.

Exploring the interplay between your various goals

Important business decisions rarely impact only one area of your organization. Strategy maps are ideal for displaying the relationships between multiple objectives and areas of your business. Use a strategy map to investigate the possible ripple effects of any business decision.

For example, an HR team could use a strategy map to compare the financial cost of a new employee benefit offering with its impact on employee satisfaction, recruitment, and retention.

Benefits of strategy mapping

Strategy maps help businesses visualize their goals and see how decisions can impact all areas of the organization. Key benefits of strategy mapping include:

More intentional goal setting

Strategy maps help you connect your organization's big, overarching goals to specific, actionable steps. Increasing profitability, for example, is a common business goal, but it lacks information about the actionable steps required to reach it. With a strategy map, you can see how things like customer experience, internal processes, and internal knowledge can directly impact your bottom line.

Increased organizational involvement

Strategy maps can span across all departments and areas of your organization, providing detailed information about how different teams will contribute to the organizational objectives. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page about business goals and expectations. Additionally, employee engagement increases when everyone can clearly see how their role contributes to the company's overall success.

Heightened cross-functional awareness

Strategy maps help you visualize connections between various ideas, objectives, and areas of your business. The format is specifically designed to show cross-functional relationships and help you understand how the interactions between different business areas can lead to specific results.

Better risk management

In today's fast-paced workplace, it's tempting to move quickly from strategic planning to implementation. Strategy maps encourage you to slow down and consider your objectives from every angle, ensuring you're making the best decision for the organization as a whole.

Types of strategy maps

SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis looks at internal and external factors to evaluate your company’s competitive position for the purpose of developing a strategic plan using a visual framework. Internal factors are Strengths and Weaknesses while external factors are Opportunities and Threats. Use the valuable insights cultivated from your SWOT analysis session to develop a strategic plan that will help your company to reach its business objectives.

Five Forces analysis

Five Forces is a business analysis model that helps to analyze a company’s competitive environment. There are five components involved in this method: Power of Suppliers, Power of Customers, Competition, Threat of New Entry, and Threat of Substitute Products. The Five Forces analysis can be used by managers and analysts to understand the competitive landscape that a company faces and to understand how a company is positioned within it.

How to make a strategy map

Making a strategy map is easy. Once you create your strategy map, you can read it in any order, but when you create one, it's a good idea to work from top to bottom.

You should start with the financial goal for your organization. From there, you move through the other perspectives and explore how you will achieve the financial goal. These other perspectives include your customer base, the processes you'll utilize to accomplish the goal, and finally, your team's learning and growth.

Follow these steps to create a strategy map:

  1. Define the mission, vision, and core values of your organization. If you don't have clarity about these essential parts of your business, it will be tough to create a strategy map that aligns with your objectives.
  2. Define each of the four perspectives as they relate to your main goals. The four perspectives include financial, customer, internal processes, and learning & growth.
  3. Set priorities to help achieve business goals. A few different objectives will likely emerge as you create your strategy map. You'll need to understand the priority ranking of each objective to focus on actionable steps toward success.
  4. Finalize the map with formatting and fact-checking. You may need to consult stakeholders from outside your strategic planning team to finalize all steps and verify your plan's feasibility.
  5. Revisit the strategy map as you meet milestones. If your strategy map reflects broad, ambitious company objectives, it may take months or even years to complete the plan. As you proceed through your various steps and projects, continuously return to your strategy map to stay on track.
  6. Revise your strategy map as necessary. If business priorities shift, make changes to your strategy map to reflect your new priorities.

Why use MindManager to make strategy maps

Strategy maps are a valuable strategic planning tool for professionals across various industries and functions. With a strategy mapping tool like MindManager, you can take your collaborative strategic planning to the next level. Features of MindManager include:

  • User-friendly, intuitive interface
  • Extensive image library—over 700 topic images, icons, and symbols to add to your workflow diagrams
  • Convenient file storage, retrieval, and sharing
  • Powerful integrations with file storage apps like Box and OneDrive
  • Google Docs integration via Zapier
  • Numerous templates, tools, and features to facilitate brainstorming and strategic planning
  • Google Chrome extension—MindManager Snap—to easily collect and import text, links, and images from the web
  • Ability to add rich data—links, images, and documents—directly to your diagrams and charts

MindManager helps you capture, structure, organize, and share information like never before. With this powerful strategy map software, your team will be more productive, creative, and unified.

Strategy map templates

MindManager comes pre-installed with strategy map templates. To use these templates:

  • Open MindManager
  • Click NEW in the navigation menu
  • Select the template you want to use
  • A preview screen will appear - check to see if you'd like to use your selected template
  • Select 'Create Map'
  • Customize the template for your specific project

Strategy map FAQs

What can be learned from a strategy map?

Strategy maps help you identify organizational objectives and explore the cause-and-effect relationships between different goals and areas of your business. Strategy maps serve as a guide when you move from strategic planning to implementation.

What should a strategy map include?

A strategy map should include:

  • Strategic objectives
  • Financial perspective
  • Customer perspective
  • Internal processes perspective
  • Learning & growth perspective
  • Arrows to connect ideas and show relationships

What is the difference between a strategy map and a balanced scorecard (BSC)?

A balanced scorecard (BSC) is a strategic performance management system companies can use to assess and improve their business functions and outcomes. Strategy mapping is an activity associated with the BSC methodology and reporting, but you can make a strategy map without implementing other BSC techniques.

Strategy mapping is your roadmap to success

Strategy maps provide a clear view of your overarching organizational goals and objectives. With a well-rounded strategy map, you can see how your various goals connect and influence one another—and you'll be able to take actionable steps toward those goals.

Strategy mapping helps you make more intentional, strategic decisions, increases organizational involvement, heightens cross-functional awareness, and improves risk management.

Visualize more with MindManager

MindManager offers a digital strategy map solution, enabling you to quickly and easily create visualizations to enhance your strategic planning activities. To make your first strategy map, try MindManager free for 30 days.

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