Building a strategic roadmap can be essential to achieving your company’s long-term goals. After all, failing to plan for the future of your business can be like jumping into your car for a cross-country trip without a GPS.
Crafting the right strategy can be particularly important now, at a time when business leaders are grappling with an uncertain economy. In a survey of 657 U.S. business executives in October 2022, PwC found nearly half (47%) say they’re making changes to strategic planning based on current business conditions.
Yet developing a winning strategic roadmap can be challenging. Nine out of 10 organizations fail to execute their strategies, often because their plans are too static and remain hidden among leadership, garnering little support from the entire team, according to a 2022 survey by strategy execution company Cascade.
You can rally your troops to continuously head in the right direction by creating an effective strategic roadmap that will guide your business along a smooth path to improved performance.
What Is a Strategic Roadmap?
A strategic roadmap is a detailed, well-thought-out visualization of the strategies a company wants to pursue to achieve its goals, plus the sequence for carrying out those objectives. Strategic roadmaps typically plot out the specific tasks that need to be completed, the resources required, and the timelines for accomplishing those tasks over a certain period of time, such as three years or five years.
A company’s leadership team can determine the organization’s strategic direction and create the roadmap as a guide. Leaders then can share the plan with the rest of the organization and assign teams the tasks that need to be accomplished, along with deadlines to keep employees on track.
For example, if a company’s goal is to attract and retain 500 more customers by the end of a fiscal year, business leaders might outline specific strategies for accomplishing that goal, such as rewarding loyalty, seeking consumer feedback, and launching a referral campaign. Plus, leaders can list the actions that need to be taken and the milestones that need to be reached periodically to execute those strategies, like enticing loyal customers to make 50 referrals by the end of each quarter, for instance.
A good strategic roadmap not only can tell a business where it currently stands and outline the quickest way to get to its desired destination, but it can shorten the route.
Why Is a Strategic Roadmap Important?
Business leaders’ strategies can fail not because their ideas are misguided, but because organizations may not provide their teams with clear expectations and instructions for seeing those ideas to fruition.
A well-designed strategic roadmap can act like a blueprint for your business, outlining how your company will execute its strategies to successfully achieve its future goals. A good roadmap not only can tell a business where it currently stands and outline the quickest way to get to its desired destination, but it can shorten the route. Less time and money tend to be wasted when team members can follow a detailed plan, rather than attempting to figure out where they’re going on the fly.
A strategic roadmap can help make a company’s mission clear for the entire team, aligning everyone on the organization’s priorities while pinpointing the ways people can positively impact the future of the business.
How to Create an Effective Strategic Roadmap
Before creating your roadmap, you first can clarify your company's long-term vision. Taking a step back can help to determine exactly what needs to be accomplished to support your business goals.
Once you’ve developed your company’s goals and devised the strategies to achieve them, you can create a roadmap that staff can use to execute the plan. To build a clear, effective strategic roadmap for your team, consider following these four steps.
Step 1: Identify Your Challenges
Before you can set your organization on a better path, you can conduct an honest assessment of your company’s shortcomings to determine what’s standing in the way of progress.
Are sales lagging because you’re shorthanded and need to hire more experienced salespeople? Are consumers complaining because your customer service representatives can’t answer questions and need additional training?
You can invite your staff at every level to weigh in on the major obstacles they face, and make a list of challenges you need to confront and changes you need to make to help the business run more smoothly. Acknowledging your challenges can be key to shaping strategies that will address problem spots and help move your organization forward.
Step 2: Assess Your Capabilities and Assign Stakeholders
For each strategy, you can carefully list all the actions you can implement to improve the company’s performance. Then you can determine the capabilities you currently have, as well as those you may need to invest in, to meet your objectives.
For example, if your accounting team is wasting too much time on tedious, manual tasks, is it time for your business to invest in software that automates most of the financial process?
Once you’ve assessed the capabilities you have and those you need to put resources into, you can take the necessary steps to move forward. It can help to assign specific stakeholders who can take charge of carrying out the changes.
Step 3: Plan for the Long Haul
When organizations create new goals, they tend to look just a year out. Employees can end up so busy running the business that they keep those grand ideas on a shelf, forgetting to do anything about them until another year rolls around.
According to the Cascade survey, companies reported 63% of the C-suite examined the organization’s strategies at least weekly, 32% look at them monthly at best, and 30% looked at them only once or twice per year.
To remain competitive, companies can look further out, listing the critical objectives to help your company continue thrive not just during the next year, but over the next three to five years – or longer. These goals may include expanding into new markets or growing brand awareness with influencers, for example.
Then, while carefully developing strategies for improving the organization’s performance, you can set reasonable deadlines for tasks. You can make a point of regularly checking in with teams to monitor progress, whether monthly or quarterly. Companies may better motivate and engage employees when they understand where a company is heading long-term.
Step 4: Measure Outcomes and Celebrate Milestones
Setting metrics for measuring the success of your strategies can create a clear benchmark to determine whether your organization is heading in the right direction. Let's say your goal is to increase the open rate of your email marketing messages by 50% over the next three years, for example. Is your strategy of sending two additional customer coupons each month moving the needle by the end of the first year?
You might consider planting small flags on your roadmap to indicate spots where you’d like to measure outcomes. If you find goals aren’t being met and employees are hitting roadblocks, you can adjust your roadmap before your team spends more time on strategies that aren’t working.
When your team does meet its goals, you can celebrate those milestones. Recognizing team members for their hard work on projects, especially longer-term initiatives, can keep morale high by providing the oxygen employees need to continue persevering.
You can improve your organization’s chances of achieving its goals by making strategic mapping an integral part of the way you run your business. By taking stock of your challenges, assessing your capabilities, planning for the long haul, and measuring your results, you can build an effective strategic roadmap that will guide your business to success.
A version of this article was originally published on March 11, 2015.
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