Strategy maps

Michio Kaku: Professor in theoretical physics
Doctrine: “Leading” Simon Wardley

A few potential use cases for this

  1. Delivery map (figuring out how to deliver a product roadmap including risks). Early application of this. Another early application.
  2. Historical map (working out what happened in the past, e.g. historical interpretations, crime solving).
  3. Personal improvement map (setting a few life goals as part of a personal OKR).
  4. Understanding arguments and the origin points in order to visualise the origin and possible solutions. Emotionally embedded arguments need more than facts.
  5. Complementing 5-whys root cause analysis but doing it from a future perspective rather than analysing the past.
  6. Knowledge mapping what do I know, what is known, what is knowable, what is unknowable and its relationship with Cynefin domains. See: Liz KeoghWho’s done this before” (i.e. where does the knowledge exist?).
  7. General tool to externalise thought processes and the problem in order to facilitate collaboration and common understanding. An external cognitive map. “This is my understanding of this situation, how does it compare to yours?”
  1. To maximise the probability of achieving an outcome by appropriately considering the advantage of intermediary tactical positions to shift outcome probabilities.
  2. To get a shared understanding of the journey to make that happen.
  3. To get a better understanding of where we should go and how to get there.
  4. To involve the relevant people in regular reflection rather than pursuing a possibly out of date strategy in a changing landscape and to minimise confirmation bias.

Introduction and context

Mapping as a practice

Strategy, from Simon Wardley

What is a map

  1. visual — you can see it and use this to share a common perspective
  2. context — the map is situational to what you are doing
  3. position — position on the map has meaning
  4. anchor — there is a specific direction or orientation of the map
  5. movement — movement on the map has meaning
  6. components — different elements of the map have specific meaning

Why maps?

Chess map

f3 e5 g4 Qh4 (Chess moves, not a map)

Event map introduction

“Delivery personas” for organisational state.

  • Consider the system
  • Consider the individuals
  • Consider the interactions
  • Consider the environment

Constituent parts of a strategy map

  1. Alignment to outcome. In The Three Laws of Performance (Steve Zaffron) he talks about a predestined default future. This is our destiny if we choose not to act. By acting in line with strategy we can shift outcomes in our favour. Alignment to outcome is about understanding how much our actions make the intended outcome the default and how much do we need to change direction to make it the default.
  2. Probability of success / risk levels
  3. Cynefin Domain (often compared to how many people know it)
  1. Cynefin domain. A map with time against outcomes could have the stages labelled with the cynefin domain expected because excessive experimentation and hypotheses in the complicated space might not be efficient.
  2. The effect of the actions and intermediate actions including on the people doing the work, the organisation they are working in, customers, competitors.
  3. Option pathways (avoid the cul-de-sac options or those with limited flexibility)
  4. Important timings (e.g. last responsible moment)
  5. Probabilities arising (and numbers of possibilities)
  6. Secondary effects (of course there is).
  7. Connected sequences of events.
  8. Identification of hypotheses, assumptions or empirical data.

The journey towards maps

Product Roadmaps

The GO Product Roadmap (Credit Roman Pichler)
Applying the Roadmap (Credit Roman Pichler)

Mapping Brexit to understand strategy

Brexit map as of May 2019 (strategy absent)
Brexit and Waterfall

Applying the Brexit example

A suggested approach for getting going with this

  1. The vision forming phase — what is the future outcome?
  2. Understand the present — where are we now?
  3. Plan to a realistic horizon — plan what is useful, too deep or far is waste.
  4. Connect the present to the future — primary path and alternatives
  5. Refine the model — evaluate probabilities, risks, impacts on people and the system, who are the actors?
Something novel nearly always works the first few times
(Organisational power structures — thanks to alberta soranzo!)


Freelance IT Professional, Lean Agile Coach. Wrote UK's first guide to getting online. Non Exec Director. From Dunblane, Perthshire.

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Craig Cockburn

Craig Cockburn

Freelance IT Professional, Lean Agile Coach. Wrote UK's first guide to getting online. Non Exec Director. From Dunblane, Perthshire.

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