Mind maps are an excellent technique used to outline and discuss various ideas. What about using mind maps for ideas about strategy? Is there a place for mind mapping when a strategy map is created?
In this article, I’m going to share my experience, and I invite both strategy map and mind map practitioners to share their thoughts in the comments.
What’s the Difference Between Strategy and a Mind Map?
A mind map is a flexible tool mainly used to outline ideas. For the best effect on cognitive skills, it is widely recommended to use handwritten text, natural links, and graphics.
A strategy map is normally a one-page diagram where the business goals are mapped in 4 perspectives. The cause-and-effect logic on the map shows how an organization plans to execute its strategy.
Let’s do a short compare and contrast analysis of both techniques.
|Mind Maps||Strategy Maps|
|What do we map?||Ideas, associations||Business goals|
|How do we connect objects?||By following a natural flow of ideas, including cross links||By following a cause-and-effect logic; the direction is bottom-up – from capabilities to creating value for the shareholders|
|Mapping tools||A spider map diagram with keywords in the nodes; cross branch connections; active use of graphical means||A table diagram with goals maps in several perspectives; aligned metrics and initiatives|
|Scale of the map||Vary in size; the use of nodes helps to keep map readable||Normally a 1-page map + optional 1-2 pages of supporting documentation|
|Practical use||Wide range of applications mainly focused on outlining ideas for better understanding and natural-flow explanation||Description of the strategy ideally should answer the questions about where the organization wants to go and how to get there|
Should a strategist use a mind map?
Mind Mapping for a Strategy
It might look like all strategy-related activities happen exclusively on a strategy map… A company’s top managers are supposed to come up with an excellent “strategy” and present it on the map. In reality, it doesn’t work in this way.
Any idea passes a long way from an “insight” stage to the “strategic hypothesis” or a “business goal.” What method can stimulate generating more insights about strategy? Anything from a blank page of paper, Newton’s apple, meditation to mind/process/concept mapping, SWOT, PESTLE – anything that has the power to support creative thinking. On our website, we have an “Executive’s toolkit” category, where we discuss different tools that can help.
Do you need more insights that will be converted into an excellent strategy? Why not try mind mapping?
Mind Mapping with BSC Designer
This part of the article will be more interesting for current and future users of BSC Designer. I guess you know very well that this software helps to create professional strategy maps. On the same “Strategy map” tab one can create additional maps, including a mind map.
BSC Designer is not a software for mind-mapping, but it has a very interesting feature that helps one to combine mind and strategy maps:
On the map, you can use business goals and KPIs from your scorecard.
Let’s say that we have a typical customer-related goal on the map; for example, “Improve customer support.” Our plan is to “Implement better agent training” (you can see it on the map in the form of the initiative). We know what metrics we are going to use. The leading metric will be “Agent training, hours” and the lagging metric will be “First call resolution rate, %.”
Does our team have enough information to start working on this goal? How can we do better? Why not create an additional map and start catching some ideas?
- I switch to the “Strategy Map” tab and create an additional map using the “+” button.
- The first thing to do is to add a copy of my business goal to this map. To do so, I have the “Add item” button. From the two suggested options, I’m interested in using the second one – “Add existing item.”
- I have a live copy of the business goal on my new map. It is live because any change of the aligned KPIs or initiatives will be reflected on this map.
Let’s do some mind mapping now.
“Improving customer support” … Let’s map here on the left the recent complaints from our customers: “Long waiting time; the IT system was not working; support representative didn’t know the answer…” and here on the right are some thoughts about the ways to improve… “Define 20 most frequent cases and make sure every support representative knows how to answer them” “Analyze why it takes so long to answer one query. Can we improve, or should we hire more people?” “What is happening with IT? Who is able to diagnose and fix it?”
At this stage, the ideas are scattered, and for now, it´s hard to use them and build a solid strategy. First, we need to discuss and test some of them. A simple mind map is an appropriate tool in this case. At any time, this map can be shared with other users or exported as a picture file.
Some of the ideas might be converted into the initiatives and can be aligned with the business goals. For example, the “20 cases” idea and the idea about researching problems with IT look like actionable initiatives. I’m adding them as an initiative for this business goal, assigning a person to be responsible, a budget, and the time needed to do it.
The business goal on the strategy map has all the details and is ready for execution. Still, I prefer to keep my mind map in the scorecard for some possible references in the future.
- Practice mind maps to catch ideas about business challenges, success factors, competitors, external conditions, strengths, weaknesses, etc. In the early stage, the goal is to get more insights without caring much about the structure.
- Pick the most promising ideas. Use a strategy map as a framework to present the ideas in the form of strategic hypothesis and business goals. Align the ideas with your overall strategy.
- Use automation software like BSC Designer to manage both types of maps – the top view strategy map and mind map with the ideas. You never know when your strategy will need new inputs.
Do you use mind maps when generating ideas for your strategy or for your KPIs? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
- Access templates. Sign-up with a free plan at BSC Designer for immediate access to 31 scorecard templates, including Scorecard with a Mind Map discussed in this article.
- Master skills. Learn how to break down ambiguous goals like "improve quality" and "increase resilience" into specific strategies.
- Automate. Learn what Balanced Scorecard software is and how it can make your life easier by automating strategy execution, KPIs, and strategy maps.