Be Strategic With The One Page Strategy Map

Every leader knows that strategy is important.  Just look at a leader’s job description and you will see the word “strategy” or “strategic” embedded.  The phrase “strategic planning” is likely to show up as well.  As a leader or manager, you make decisions constantly.  Your ability to be strategic can determine your success.  But what is strategy and why has it become a buzzword that is often misunderstood?

What Strategy Isn't

In the January-February 2014 edition of the Harvard Business Review, Roger Martin wrote an excellent article titled:  “The Big Lie of Strategic Planning”.  This article is a must read for anyone in a position where strategy is pivotal.  The article is filled with valuable information, but one statement struck me as critical:

Mistaking planning for strategy is a common trap.  Even board members, who are supposed to be keeping managers honest about strategy, fall into it.  They are, after all, primarily current or former managers, who find it safer to supervise planning than to encourage strategic choice.

Are most of us working in organizations where something as important as strategy is falling by the wayside?  I believe we are and Martin’s article convinced me that strategy gaps exists because of the way we think about strategy.

The Benefits of Strategy

Over the past 15 years I have worked in a number of organizations where the word strategy was used frequently but practiced poorly.  I can honestly say that despite working with over 50 organizations - as a consultant or employee - only one was truly strategic.  That organization grew exponentially, empowered people, deeply understood the market, built strong relationships with customers, took risks, and made game changing decisions frequently.  The organization was one of the fastest growing companies in Northern Virginia and consistently delivered exceptional value to profitable customers.

Working there felt great.  People were smart, dedicated, flexible, fun, and inspirational.  People shared values, stories, experiences, and a passion for the work.  Everyone rallied around the strategy that the CEO clearly and frequently communicated.  Everyone knew where the company was heading and felt empowered to take it there.  Working at McDonald Bradley Inc. (MBI) was exceptional.

How To Be Strategic

Reading Martin’s article and looking back on my experience at MBI inspired me to think differently about strategy and how to help leaders be strategic.  I decided to sketch a simple framework that change makers and leaders can use to visualize strategy and streamline strategy formulation.  I call the tool the One Page Strategy Map and I am attaching it here for your reference.  Please feel free to use this and share it with others.  All I ask in return is that you direct people to when you use the tool.

Here is how you might use the one-page-strategy map:

  1. Download the one-page strategy map by clicking on this link.
  2. Once you have it, put it on a wall in front of your strategy team and have a conversation.
  3. Use the map as a conversation starter and ask the following questions.
    1. What do we know and believe about our customers?
    2. What do we know and believe about our industry?
    3. What do we know and believe about our competition?
    4. What do we know and believe about our capabilities?
  4. Where do we want to play?
    1. Which specific customers do we want to target?
    2. Why are we targeting these customers?
  5. How are we going to win?
    1. What is our value proposition?
    2. Is our value proposition compelling to our customers?  How do we know?
    3. How can we state our value proposition succinctly?
  6. How confident are you about your strategy?
    1. What data do you have to support your strategy?
    2. What does your intuition tell you about your strategy?
    3. What are we basing our confidence on - Data or Gut?
      1. NOTE:  You should not be too confident in your strategy.  Martin noted in his HBR article that “if you are entirely comfortable with your strategy, there’s a strong chance it isn’t very good”.
  7. Once you have discussed all of this, combine the “where to play” and “How-to-win” sections into an affirmative statement. 
    1. The statement should not take more than 1-2 paragraphs to write.
    2. The statement should be clear and concise, and easy for others to state in casual conversations.  

So there you have it.  A one page strategy map that you can use to create your strategy.  If you use this in the right way you might even inspire alignment around your strategy.  Enjoy...


What do you think of the one-page-strategy map.  Are there any elements you would add or take away?