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A Quick "Stress Test" Can Confirm If Your Strategy Map Will Work for You

Posted September 19, 2012 8:21 PM by Mark Cutler

I was working with a client last week, preparing for his unit’s strategy map workshop by pre-briefing him on the draft strategy map we had developed based on interviews with his leadership team and the overall organization’s strategy map.

After we reviewed the draft map and he felt we were pretty close, he asked, “OK, so at the end of the workshop, when we have consensus from the team that we are 80% there with the strategy map, how do we know?  Can we stress test it?  Can we think up a few potential scenarios that we may encounter and see how, if we are focused on the strategic objectives, the strategy map will help us deal with the scenarios.

While I had never done this before, it sounded like a great idea.  What better way to put your strategy to the test than to see if your group of 10-15 strategic objectives will enable your organization to deal with common (and uncommon) scenarios that you may encounter throughout the year?

So, the next day, we ran the workshop and the team agreed to a strategy map.  I quickly cleaned up the map and projected it on the screen for the whole team to see.  The client said to his team, “OK. So this is the strategy map we agreed to, but how do we know it will help us achieve our mission?  Can someone think of an issue or scenario that has arisen in the past or could soon and we’ll see if the map helps us address it?”

Someone threw out “ECD” and everyone agreed that it was a good example.  I asked for a brief summary of the issue, to which I was told that ECD, or Early Childhood Development, was an issue that they saw coming down the pike for a few years but had really coalesced and been in the forefront recently. 

I then proceeded to point out seven objectives on their strategy map that would help address just such an issue, as I understood it. In the Learning & Growth Perspective: “Hiring and training the right people” would be the natural place to start if you could see the issue on the horizon and had time to prepare.

In the Internal Perspective: “Identifying and investing in emerging development issues” and “Convening to share global best practices” would be the place to start analyzing the issue and then “Leveraging strategic partnerships,” “Encouraging innovative approaches,” and “Developing programmatic solutions” would come in to play. Finally, in the Client Perspective, if they did all of the other objectives well, they would be able to offer “Customized services to meet the client’s development challenges.”

This story resonated with the team. I pointed out that a devil’s advocate might argue that the strategic objectives are pretty broad and you can fit them to any story. However, I also pointed out that the draft strategy map I brought to the workshop did not have five of those seven objectives that helped address the issue of ECD and that it was through their hard work during the day’s workshop that we got to a map that, based on this stress test, would help them achieve their mission.  As a result, everyone was a lot more satisfied with the strategy map.