Strategic Planning: Map Your Strategy - dummies

By Erica Olsen

Seeing your whole strategic plan — the relationships and dependencies — can be difficult, but doing so is necessary to make sure that your company sees the big picture. Unlike financial plans, with income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements, no common or uniform elements exist for describing a company’s strategic plan. That’s where a strategy map may come in handy. A strategy map has several purposes:

  • To evaluate and make visually explicit the organization’s perspectives, strategic objectives, and goals

  • To visualize the fundamental relationships between each goal

  • To connect employee learning and internal processes to customer value and financial goals

A benefit of strategy maps is that everyone from the top of the ranks to the bottom can see how he fits into the company. In fact, you can color code the different goals by the department that’s responsible to show how each department fits into the overall direction. See the figure for an example of a strategy map and how to read it and evaluate your strategy. You’re looking for linkages and interdependences. If you have an unsupported goal, it won’t be achieved. You should be able to draw at least one arrow, or cause and effect relationship, between one goal and the next.

Look at the figure as you read the following example. This company can establish the link between high profits and improved sales training as follows:

  • If we improve our technical and service skills by sending our staff to continued education classes at least once a year, our staff continues to be highly trained.

  • If the people in our staff are highly trained, they become problem solvers instead of order takers.

  • If they’re problem solvers, we’re increasing the perceived value for services provided by regularly adding value to our customers.

  • If we continue to add value to the services we provide, revenue increases through improved sales.


Every goal doesn’t need to link to every other goal. But you do need to make sure that every goal is connected to at least one other goal. For example, if your goal is to increase overall efficiencies, but you don’t list a goal for time management or productivity training or improving your internal process, you won’t increase efficiency. Naturally, just stating something doesn’t mean that it happens.

Create your strategy map on a piece of paper and sticky notes first and then transfer the notes into a Word document, using the draw toolbar or a graphic layout program. Use the following steps as a guide to create your map, but don’t feel like you have to follow them exactly.

  1. Write your vision statement at the top of the page.

  2. Draw four horizontal rectangles — one for each of the four perspectives of your organization: financial, customer, internal business processes, and employee learning — stacked on top of each other under your vision.

  3. Place your three-year strategic objective in the top area of each perspective the objective is associated with.

    Space the goals out so you have enough room for the next step.

  4. Put your one-year goals on individual sticky notes or in circles under each associated three-year goal.

    Make sure that the one-year goal supports the three-year goal that it’s under. If not, move it to where it does fit.

  5. After all the goals are on your map, draw arrows between the goals to indicate the cause and effect relationship between them.

    A great way to start this is to look at your financial goal and ask what causes the goal to happen. Go through this type of questioning for each goal except in the area of employee learning because everything stems from your employees.

  6. Take a hard look at your strategy map to make sure that all goals are supported and that they’re all integrated.

    Congratulations! You now have a strategy map for your organization.

If you’re working on a white board, flip charts, and so forth, be sure to take photos of your finished work. You may need them later!