Using a Strategic Road Map to Help Achieve Long-Term Goals

Like GPS, a strategic road map can tell you where your business is and help you get to where you want to go. Here are seven steps to help create the right road map for your business.
March 11, 2015

Failing to plan for the long term in your business is like jumping into your car for a long trip without a road map. It's a likely way to lengthen the route to your ultimate destination. To ensure your business heads in the right direction with a minimum of detours, you should consider using strategic road maps.

What Is a Strategic Road Map?

A strategic road map is a visualization of what actions are needed to help your company achieve its long-term goals for success. It connects the dots for people in your organization by showing everyone how their everyday actions fit with the company's vision of where it wants to be in the future.

A well-designed strategic road map is like a GPS for your business. It not only tells you where you are and the quickest way to get to your destination, it can even shorten the route as less time is wasted with team members trying to figure out things on the go. It's one of the best tools to lift the fog and make your vision clear for everyone on the team. If you want to pinpoint the choices to make today that will affect your future, a good strategic road map can be your ally.

Steps to Creating a Strategic Road Map

An effective road map is vision-driven. Before you start to create your road map, you need to be clear about your company's long-term vision. This can be for one, three, five or 10 years, depending on the nature of the business. Once you've established the vision, you're ready to design your road map, which will include all the steps along your route. These are the goals that support your vision. Each goal should have all the required action to make them happen.

A well designed road map is all on one page. Here are some of the key steps to include:

Step 1: Your Vision

Place a clear statement of your vision at the top of the page. This is the important guiding post that everyone should continually be reminded of.

Step 2: Your Values

State your values. How do the values align with the vision? If they're not aligned, what changes do you need to make to ensure that everyone is guided by the same principles?

Step 3: The Critical Goals

List the critical goals or objectives that must be pursued to help make the vision a reality. These can cover the company as a whole, or they can be separate road maps for different primary areas such as brand development, social media marketing or customer service improvement.

Step 4: The Strategies

List the various strategies for achieving the goals. The age-old framework for establishing strategies, pioneered by Robert Kaplan and David Norton, involves looking at the achievement of the overarching goals through four major perspectives: Financial, Customer, Internal (Processes), and Learning and Growth. The Financial and Customer strategies focus on the outcomes you want to achieve. The Internal process and Learning and Growth perspectives focus on how you plan to achieve these outcomes.

A well constructed strategy map links the objectives in the four perspectives. For example, what are the key financial strategies that should be in place to support the achievement of the overarching goals or objectives? What customer strategies should be established that will yield the desired financial results and achieve the overarching goals or objectives? What internal processes will support the customer strategies that yield the desired financial results and achieve the overarching goals? Finally, what learning and growth processes should be pursued to support the internal strategies that will result in superior customer service, desired financial results and achieve the overarching objectives or goals?

Step 5: The Tactics

Now list all the key actions or tactics under each of the strategies. This is a crucial part of the road map. It's what makes every component of the map a reality. So, spend some time here to carefully list all the actions that are required, implementable and trackable. Who is going to do what and by when? These answers move your strategic imperatives to operations. Strategies often fail because not enough attention was paid to this part. 

Step 6: Potential Roadblocks

Outline potential risks in each of the strategies you plan to pursue and the actions you might take.

Step 7: The Milestones

Plant a small flag on your map to indicate the spot where important milestones for the achievement of the goals will happen. For example, let's say your company goal was to create an app. Milestones might be set at completion of beta testing and release of the various versions of the product.

Milestones are important for team members working on projects, especially longer terms ones where it's easy to become discouraged and overwhelmed. They're opportunities for leaders not only to track progress, but to celebrate progress and recognize the team efforts. And they can oxygenate the team to persevere. 

The strategic road map is an ongoing journey. As the business climate changes and markets evolve, the paths you draw in your strategic map may need to be adjusted. Make strategic mapping an integral part of the way you run your business, on an ongoing basis, and not just a one time process. The map can guide you to continually find the shortest distance between where you are and where you want to go. Done right, it can also help you find the less risky route.

Ultimately, the strategic road map can be one of the best weapons in your communication arsenal. It's the one tool that can continue to remind everyone of your vision and keep all team members on the right road.

Here's an example of a road map.

Read more articles on business planning.

Bruna Martinuzzi is the founder of Clarion Enterprises Ltd., and the author of two books: Presenting with Credibility: Practical Tools and Techniques for Effective Presentations and The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow.

Photo: Getty Images