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Basic Business Cents: Organization strategy map provides alignment

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Dr. Sheila Sheinberg of the Center for Life Cycle Sciences told a story about her 5-year old son who received a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas.

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Jonathon sought help from Mom and Dad in putting the puzzle together but they could find no box and no picture of what the puzzle was supposed to look like.

Faced with the child's pleading, they took three days trying to figure out the puzzle without success. When Dr. Sheinberg put out the trash, she noticed the word "puzzle" written on something. Jonathon had taken the puzzle out of its box without fully unwrapping it, and consequently, had not been able to tell his parents where the picture was.

Without the picture, the puzzle remained just that, a puzzle. With the picture, they put the puzzle together in three hours.

It helps communication of the organization's strategy if a picture can be painted of the strategy on one page of heavy stock suitable for framing and distributed to each employee so they can understand it and help to achieve it.

The Japanese have a saying, "It takes more than one of the senses to communicate" so it should be explained orally as well as handed out.

The picture is a portrayal of a roadmap with the current state of the organization beginning in the lower left corner and leading to the desired state, vision, in the upper right corner.

The vision is a one-sentence statement of what the organization wants to achieve at the end of the time period selected for the strategy. It should be memorable, inspirational, and compelling. Since people cannot be pushed by a vision but can be pulled by it, a short list of what their life will be like when the vision is reached, sometimes called ideal conditions, can be placed in the lower right of the picture.

A mission statement or purpose of the organization is located in the upper left corner followed by a values statement or code of ethics to provide behavior guidelines.

Lastly, the three to 12 major strategies are placed as signposts on the road starting with the highest priority at the lower left and moving up the road to the vision in the upper right in descending priority.

It is very heartening to see how many employees post this map in their work area and use it to guide their decisions during the year.

Employees should be cautioned that the strategic issues provided by management probably do not include everything that needs to be done.

Employees inevitably see opportunities for improvement and should feel encouraged to take action on those issues.

Jungi Naguchi, past president of the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers, said he believed 80 percent of improvements come from individual efforts. If employees fully understand, and are aligned with, the direction of the organization they can take action in real time that will help achieve the vision.

The map of the organization's strategy will help provide that understanding and alignment.

Louis Schultz, managing director of Process Management LLC, has assisted organizations worldwide with performance improvement.He currently assists area business owners as a SCORE counselor. E-mail him with questions or comments at lou@processmanagement.com.

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