Harness the power of visualization with strategy maps to navigate your business toward its objectives.
Businesses often face the challenge of ensuring their day-to-day activities align with their broader strategic goals. It’s not just about defining where the organization wants to go, but also about understanding and organizing the steps to get there. Strategy maps address this need by outlining objectives and the necessary actions to achieve them in a clear visual format.
We’ll explore the concept of a strategy map, its key components, and the steps and tools needed to create one. Let’s delve into the benefits of developing a strategy map and discuss various structures you can tailor to your organization’s unique needs.
What’s a strategy map?
A strategy map is an organizational guide that visually represents a company’s strategic goals and the cause-and-effect relationships that drive success. It outlines an organization’s strategic objectives, the pathways to achieving them, and the interconnections of cross-departmental subgoals through a straightforward visual display. A strategy map’s primary purpose is to provide a comprehensive and digestible overview of the company’s high-level strategic direction to help leaders and teams understand and work cohesively toward the same goals.
At the core of a strategy map are these key components:
Strategy maps typically include several perspectives that help categorize and organize the organization’s strategic objectives. Each perspective represents a specific focus area and sets the stage for defining its objectives. The most common perspectives include:
- Financial outcomes: Describes the strategy’s measurable financial results
- Customer value: Indicates the value proposition for the target audience, such as how your product fills a need that competitors don’t
- Internal processes: Highlights the internal operations that will support the overall strategy, such as day-to-day workflows and longer-term timelines
- Learning and growth: Describes the intangible factors that impact overall strategy, such as your team’s skills and competitive advantages
These are the specific goals and outcomes that your organization aims to achieve within each perspective. Every objective is directly associated with one of the above-mentioned perspectives and linked to other objectives to demonstrate cause-and-effect relationships.
Why should you develop a strategy map?
Developing a strategy map goes beyond traditional planning — it’s a crucial operation that brings multiple layers of your business operations into focus. Here are some key benefits of using this tool:
- Enhanced clarity and alignment. A strategy map’s visual presentation makes it simple to comprehend at a glance. This means all teams and members can access and understand a shared outline of their plans and responsibilities to support the company’s goals.
- Focused objectives. Strategy maps help leaders and teams prioritize the critical objectives based on the above-mentioned perspectives. This concentrated direction clarifies the impact that specific outcomes will have on the company and guides how to allocate resources and efforts toward the most essential goals.
- Transparent cause-and-effect relationships. By illustrating the relationships between desired outcomes, strategy maps help teams understand how achieving one objective contributes to the success of others. This lens can guide decision-making and help prioritize initiatives by revealing how a single decision would affect other areas of the organization down the line.
- Measurable progress and accountability. Defining and monitoring objectives with a strategy map often involves establishing key performance indicators (KPIs). These metrics facilitate close progress tracking and encourage team accountability as all members can measure the status and success of their contributions.
- Improved communication. As a central resource for all team leaders, employees, and external players like investors, a strategy map also supports communication by fostering a shared understanding of the company’s strategic direction. For example, suppose one team needs to explain a particular objective relationship to another department. In that case, all parties can refer directly to the map for an explicit visual demonstration of the dependencies.
- Organized resource optimization. Strategy maps help determine which objectives to invest the most resources in by clearly outlining relationships and potential impact. This optimization reduces resource waste and misuse and ensures you specifically support the most critical company efforts.
Types of strategy maps
The concept of strategy maps originated from the balanced scorecard (BSC) framework, which provides a structured approach to defining and implementing a business strategy. However, organizations have customized strategy maps to be adaptable and suit their specific needs. Here are some essential structures and how they each work.
Balanced scorecard strategy map
This is the standard and most widely recognized type of strategy map. It follows the BSC framework, which involves the four perspectives we’ve discussed: financial outcomes, customer value, internal processes, and learning and growth. Each perspective contains a set of objectives, and the map illustrates their relationships and dependencies. This traditional approach is highly effective for organizations that are seeking to represent a well-balanced and comprehensive strategy with a straightforward visual presentation.
SWOT analysis strategy map
A SWOT analysis focuses on the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The map breaks down these categories and defines objectives related to each to help companies understand internal and external factors of their success and how these elements interact to influence strategic decisions.
Customer journey strategy map
Particularly valuable for consumer-centric and B2C businesses, the customer journey strategy map places the customer at the center and works outward to develop approaches to meet their needs. It outlines the steps and touchpoints a customer experiences when interacting with the company, which allows organizations to improve and tailor their strategy accordingly.
Resource allocation strategy map
While most strategy maps consider resources, this type focuses on resource allocation and management. It highlights the distribution of financial, employee, and other resources across different areas of the organization. This framework is especially useful for organizations with limited resources that are looking to optimize the return on their investments.
How to create a strategy map: 7 steps
Developing a strategy map can be a complex, iterative process. Here are some helpful steps to help you begin creating your own.
1. Clarify your mission and vision
Revisiting your organization’s driving mission and vision is the starting point of creating a strategy map. Your current objectives should support and align with the company’s overall purpose, so understanding this relationship is essential for creating a holistic strategic plan rather than a one-dimensional or unbalanced one.
2. Identify your perspectives
The next step is determining the key perspectives most relevant to your organization. These could include the essential four perspectives that we’ve discussed above (financial outcomes, customer value, internal processes, learning and growth) or extend to others that are tailored to your specific needs and circumstances. By defining these perspectives, you can create a cohesive strategy map that addresses all aspects of your business.
3. Set objectives
Within each perspective, define your strategic objectives and link these to specific KPIs so you can clearly monitor and measure success. For example, if one goal within the financial perspective is to increase revenue through reimagined marketing strategies, its associated KPIs could be sales growth, customer acquisition, and retention.
4. Establish cause-and-effect relationships
Evaluate the connections and dependencies between your objectives, and identify which depend on the success of others. This step helps create a logical flow within your strategy map, revealing the steps you’ll need to take to fulfill your company mission.
5. Collect and analyze data and feedback
Gathering data and feedback from sources like customers and internal team members helps inform your decision-making to support your objectives and KPIs. This process could involve circulating customer surveys to assess satisfaction, conducting regular market research to evaluate competitors and external factors, or collecting internal performance data such as workflow inefficiencies or limitations. Analyzing this information lets you make data-driven strategic decisions rather than basing your priorities on assumptions or false understandings.
6. Create the visual map
Next, outline and create your map using a visual mapping tool, such as a strategy graphic. Maps can take various structures, such as diagrams or charts illustrating your defined perspectives, objectives, and relationships. Several software and template options are available to help organize and develop your map, including Canva, ClickUp, Hive, Miro, and more. Consult these resources for strategy map examples when getting started.
7. Review and refine
Regularly reviewing and refining your strategy map is integral to optimizing its impact. As you gain insights and your organization evolves, you’ll reassess and update your strategic planning to continue supporting your objectives. Consider your map a dynamic tool that adapts to changing circumstances, like market shifts or internal process overhauls, and helps your organization remain productive, relevant, and competitive.
Empower your team for strategic planning
As you work toward creating and implementing your strategy map, having the right tools and resources makes the process more efficient and effective. One such tool that can guide your business journey is Webflow Enterprise.
Webflow offers a collaborative web development platform to help organizations create websites and landing pages that perfectly align with their strategic objectives. This resource assists your team with designing, refining, and managing websites without extensive coding, making it accessible to technical and nontechnical team members. Explore Webflow and learn how to craft your online presence in line with your strategic plans.