What Is a Strategy Map? (With Uses and Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated March 29, 2022 | Published June 8, 2021

Updated March 29, 2022

Published June 8, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Planning for your organization's future is a common and useful way to grow and adapt to the needs of your customers and clients. There are many tools you can use for planning, one of which is a strategy map. If you're working in management at an organization that needs a clear visual way to show its primary goals, you may find a strategy map helpful. In this article, we explain what a strategy map is, how to use one, what to include in your strategy map and the benefits of strategy maps.

What is a strategy map?

A strategy map is a visual diagram that shows how an organization intends to meet its future goals and how those goals are interconnected. Strategy maps can tell leadership and employees how a company is performing at achieving its goals at a glance. A strategy map is usually simple and straightforward, as it gets harder to understand when it's more complex, going against the reason for creating the map. A strategy map can be a good visual companion for an organization with a strategic plan.

Related: How To Write a Strategic Plan: A Guide to Strategic Planning

Uses for strategy maps

Here are some of the uses your organization might have for a strategy map:

Understand goals

A strategy map makes a company's goals obvious, including how they relate to each other. It's a convenient way to tell how your company is performing with its most important strategic goals so that everyone can adjust accordingly. While a written strategic plan may offer more details, the strategy map is a clear and concise way for your team to know what the primary goals are in simple language.

Create a strategy

Creating a strategy map may be one step towards an organization creating an overall strategy. For instance, if the organization has a financial goal within the strategic map, it may help you visualize how this goal is actually linked to other internal processes and learning and growth goals. Then you and your colleagues can strategize how to achieve those goals together.

Related: How To Create Strategic Priorities

Evaluate progress

Your strategy map can be used to evaluate progress regularly as you and your colleagues work toward your goals. This may include refreshing the strategy map regularly to indicate what progress has been made toward the goals, if any. By having these regular check-ins and updating the strategy map, you may be better able to evaluate how your company's doing on the most important goals.

What to include in a strategy map

There are four primary types of goals included in a strategy map, which may be organized and named in a way that's most relevant to your company. Here are these different types of goals:

Financial

Financial goals are often the biggest motivating factor for a business, so this is often the top row of goals on a strategy map. This is an especially useful visual, as many of the other goals may relate to financial goals. This section may have one primary goal, such as increasing profits by a certain percentage, or it may have multiple financial goals. Some organizations, however, may not place financial goals as the most important, such as non-profits, so they may place the financial section of the strategy map lower to indicate its lower priority.

Customer

Customer goals are often toward the top of an organization's strategy map because most organizations want to keep their customers happy and satisfied. Understanding what your customers want out of your products or services can help you determine the most relevant goals for your organization and how those goals relate to other sections of your strategic map. In organizations that don't have customers but do have clients or patients, this section may have a different name but ultimately has the same purpose.

Related: Ultimate Guide to Strategic Planning

Internal processes

Your internal process goals on your strategic map are often the methods you will use internally to achieve your financial and customer goals. They may be organized beneath those other goals on your strategy map. You're unlikely to want to change internal processes just to change them, so these goals usually relate specifically to other goals. For instance, you may want to increase the speed of delivering projects to your clients so that you can make your customers happier and increase the number of projects you complete each year to grow profits.

Learning and growth

Learning and growth goals are usually those that involve the employees of your organization and increasing their skills and abilities. Like the internal process goals, these goals usually relate to other goals and so are often on the lower portion of your strategy map. Learning and growth goals can be related to any other type of goal on your strategy map. These goals are the basis for the others and despite their location on the strategy map, they are no less important than any others.

For instance, you may have a learning and growth goal for all of your employees to take a training class that will help them improve internal processes, which improves your customers' experiences and increases profits.

Benefits of strategy maps

Here are some of the benefits of using a strategy map for your organization:

Effective planning

Whether you use a strategy map alone or in conjunction with other strategic planning efforts, spending time to consider your organizational strategy can lead to more effective planning. Understanding your goals is important, and it's even more important to understand how your goals relate to one another and how investing in one may lead to achieving others. This can make it easier to plan which goal to focus on first or how to achieve your most important goals.

Related: What Are Strategic Objectives? (With Examples)

Clear status

One of the simplest parts of a strategy map is using color-coding to indicate the status of various goals. This makes it easy to see goal status. For instance, if you have a goal to increase efficiency and you've seen improvements in this area in the six months since you created the strategy map, you could use a color that shows improvements without fully reaching the goal. However, if you have a goal that you've reached already, that would be a different color, while a goal you've made no progress on yet would be another color.

Customizable

Strategy maps are highly customizable for your organization's needs. While most include the four goal types listed above, you can even rename them or reorganize them so that they better reflect what's important for your organization or company. The specific goals included on a strategy map are ones that you and your colleagues develop based on the needs of your employer. You can also format your strategy map in whatever way works best for you and your coworkers, including using your own colors to indicate goal status.

Employee roles are obvious

A strategy map often makes it obvious what every employee's role in the overall strategy is. Sometimes strategic planning can be so high level that the role of individual employees may be less obvious. Strategy maps include the goals relevant to employees at all levels, such as increasing production times. This makes strategy maps a great resource for sharing goals with your entire organization, as the most relevant goals to even the most junior employees should be obvious.

Related: Strategic Leadership

Connections are visible

One of the most useful aspects of a strategy map is that the connections between goals are visible via lines or arrows. In a written document, it's much harder to tell at a glance how different goals are connected. In a strategy map, the visual indications help make it clear how the goals relate to one another. This can be useful for showing colleagues how their work helps achieve the goals that affect other employees.

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