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Strategy Maps--A Common Language

Posted July 30, 2013 12:36 PM by Ted Jackson

At Ascendant, we have helped a lot of mission-driven organizations.  I've had the good fortune to help many in my hometown (home region?) of Coastal Alabama.  In a small or medium city, or even a big one with a tight knit community, good ideas catch on fast.  What was interesting to me was that all of the organizations we have worked with were dealing with similar issues.  The issues are around transparency and alignment.  The boards and leadership teams were not aligned around the mission because they all had different ideas of how to interpret the mission. The strategy map helped get them all on the same page.

It started when a friend recommended me to a nonprofit that focused on Workforce Development.  The business executives involved all had great ideas and a real concern about increasing their organization's effectiveness.  They tended to agree with each other in meetings, but they kept talking about different things across different parts of the meeting.  It was as if they were good at expressing their ideas, but they didn't see how the ideas connected across the priorities, so they were getting frustrated.  We introduced the Balanced Scorecard and the Strategy Map, and the executives had a framework for understanding and organizing the issues when they spoke of them.  This allowed the organization to stay focused and start achieving some of their priorities.  

In the Workforce Development group was an individual who was involved in an organization focused on Economic Development.  The economic development executive thought that the map was so helpful, he wanted a Strategy Map for that organization.  This organization had many members of local Chambers of Commerce.  It also had an environmental advocate on its team.  The map really helped them realize that they had common goals across the different communities and if they entire region grew, then it helped each one of them.

The leader of the Environmental organization that participated in the Economic development group was also struggling with organizaing its board around its mission in a clear way.  So they quickly embarked on a Strategy Map.  With the development of that map, nonprofits and government organizations related to this environmental group were able to prioritize and focus on its regional planning efforts.  Of course several of the agencies involved with this organization started considering strategy maps as well.

Then the original Workforce Development group started working with its partners to develop strategy maps.  We helped to develop a map for an industrial alliance, and the Executive Director who sat on a healthcare board developed a map for that board on her own.  Of course both groups said how much easier it made their executive team meetings and their prioritization, discussions, and decision making.

After the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a council was formed to help determine the regional priorities.  Of course these priorities ranged from environmental to economic to workforce development.  What did they choose to help them stay focused and prioritized?  You guessed it by now, a Strategy Map.    

I started working for David Norton, one of the creators of the Balanced Scorecard and strategy map, in the 1990s.  He said back then, (and I'm sure he is still saying it): "There is no common framework or way to talk about strategy."  While I agreed with him, I didn't see a need for a common framework when working with for-profit organizations.  There is no regulatory body for strategy, and so who cared if one company managed one way and a second company managed a different way.  

But in a community with active nonprofits and government organizations, there is a strong need for a common framework and a common language.  It is very fulfilling to watch workforce development, economic development, environmental, and healthcare organizations all being able to talk to each other and use a similar language to set priorities and communicate their relationships and their contribution to making Coastal Alabama a better place to live.  All of these organizations have a similar mission that relates to increasing the quality of life in the region.  Now, with a similar framework, they can see how each of the organizations contributes to the common mission, even as they are in different "businesses."  Think about your community...are all of your government and noprofit organizations working together?


New Talking Points: Birds, Worms, Strategy

Posted November 7, 2012 10:46 AM by Angie Mareino

The election is (finally!) over, and we have just the thing to fill the void. (What’s that you say? You’re perfectly content with the sound of silence for the next month, at least?)


Each year, we host a conference* for strategy and performance managers across the social and public sector. We host a slew of presenters and keynote speakers that you’ll be pleased to meet, listen to, and learn from. Not to mention, ASMG will moderate and host workshops that serve to build your skills in alignment, visioning, goal setting and milestones, and more. It’s the kind of focused event that you’ll walk away from with news you can actually USE.

We’re pretty proud of our Summit, because we make sure our speakers know their stuff, practice what they preach, and present ideas that relate toward your mission-driven organization. In other words, at the Mission-Driven Management Summit, it's here’s to you.

That’s why I URGE YOU to check out our website with the full agenda and details, and sign up before November 16th–THAT’S 10 DAYS—to take advantage of can’t-beat, early bird pricing. And, with that in mind, over the next ten days I will count down with you, listing our top ten reasons the strategy Summit is the kind of event you’ll want to talk about (to your coworkers, your boss, your network….).


Meet fellow strategists and performance managers across the Mission-Driven sector (school districts, municipalities, nonprofits, federal government, and NGOs) and expand your network while learning how others manage strategy and performance.


Eventbrite - Mission-Driven Management Summit STAY TUNED FOR REASON #9 TOMORROW… and learn more at www.missiondrivensummit.com

* (and no, not one of those giant, tradeshow-style conferences, but a small, focused, two-day event that’s centered on content, not vendors)


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.

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The Nonprofit Strategy Map

Posted November 10, 2011 10:30 AM by Ted Jackson

Given that we work in the mission-driven sector (governments, education, associations, and nonprofits), I receive a lot of questions about the Balanced Scorecard in this area. How can a for-profit concept apply in the nonprofit space? Does the Balanced Scorecard support nonprofits? Isn't this a management framework that puts financials at the top of the strategy map? Little do people know that even in the 1996 book on the Balanced Scorecard by Drs. Norton and Kaplan, there is a section on nonprofit organizations.

Of course, nonprofits need to modify the strategy map to meet their needs, just like government agencies do. Neither of these organizations is in business to make money, so the financial perspective cannot be at the top of the strategy map.

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Balanced Scorecard Strategy Map Templates and Examples

Posted June 1, 2011 1:51 PM by Dylan Miyake

In a Harvard Business Review article titled, "Having Trouble with Your Strategy? Then Map It," Drs. Kaplan and Norton say this about strategy maps, "The key to executing your strategy is to have people understand it – including the crucial but perplexing processes by which intangible assets will be converted into tangible outcomes. Strategy maps can help chart this difficult terrain." To help nonprofit and social sector leaders better understand the purpose and value of a Strategy Map, we have compiled and posted a number of real nonprofit, educational, medical, government, and professional examples in our library of white papers. The entire library of white papers are free to download here: Balanced Scorecard Strategy Maps - Free Templates and Examples Each white paper follows a similar framework of describing typical balanced scorecard layouts, the four perspectives (customer, financial, internal processes, and learning and growth), and then briefly overviews the purpose of Balanced Scorecard objectives. After quickly covering the basics, each white paper introduces 5-10 real balanced scorecard strategy maps. Each whitepaper can also be downloaded directly by clicking the links below: Example Strategy Maps for Charity and Nonprofit Organizations Example Strategy Maps for Government, Police and Support Agencies Example Strategy Maps for Medical and Healthcare Organizations Example Strategy Maps for Public, Private, and Charter Schools and Libraries Example Strategy Maps for Societies, Associations, and Unions

We have spent an incredible amount of time compiling and organizing this library and will greatly appreciate any and all feedback! And if you find them useful in guiding your organization's strategy, we'll recommend you check out ClearPoint's balanced scorecard software.