Using Mind Maps for Strategic Planning
Mind Mapping is a powerful tool for all forms of planning, and we have already seen how we can use it for project planning, but let’s extend that to talk specifically about strategic planning.
Strategic planning can seem like a hassle when you just want to get on and run the business, but there are a lot of reasons for creating strategic plans, as you can see here:
- they are very important for setting the long term direction of the company so you know what the company will look like in 5 or 10 years
- they form a framework for decision making when you are doing your business planning
- they are a framework for your operational planning and help you set your priorities, product lines, levels of service, and identify your target market
- they enable you to very clearly explain the business to employees, contractors, stakeholders in the business, strategic partners, and customers
- they allow you to get a clear picture of the difference between your current position and where you want to be long term, and therefore stimulate change in the right direction
- and they form a basis for accountability of both the staff (especially senior staff) and the plans you make at lower levels, like business and marketing plans
Why use Mind Maps?
The normal life-cycle of a strategic plan is this: it is written, read by one or two executives, and put in some filing cabinet until it is time to do the next strategic plan. The problem is that it’s just a collection of words on paper. To most people who look at it, it takes a lot of effort to understand it and even more to implement it. So it just gets forgotten.
Strategic plans that are drawn up in Mind Map format are clear and easy to understand. Anyone can see at a glance what the objectives are. They can see the actions that are planned in order to meet those objectives. They understand why those actions are necessary. The document becomes something that is adopted by the whole organization, because they can all easily understand how it benefits both the company and themselves.
What should strategic plans contain?
Here is a list of some of the main items:
- the vision of where the company is going in the medium to long term
- the mission of the company – what it is all about
- the values of the company, explaining why you exist
- your specific objectives as a company
- what strategies you will use to achieve your objectives
- and the goals along the way, so you can plan to meet those goals and be able to measure your progress
Creating your Strategic Plan
For your strategic plan, you could start with a Mind Map like this and add sub-topics for each element, but you would probably end up with a huge Mind Map, so what I would suggest is that you download the Mind Map from the link above, and for each of the top level topics, decide what is important for you and adjust the second level topics to suit your needs, and then for each top level topic, create a new Mind Map in the document, and cut and paste the subtopics so that each area is a separate Mind Map, and then brainstorm the details under what have now become the first level topics of the detail maps.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
One important part of the strategic planning process is doing a SWOT analysis, where you identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for your business. Using more traditional methods of doing SWOT analysis, you just consider all the strengths first, and then all the weaknesses and so on. One of the advantages of doing this using Mind Maps is that you can be open to use brainstorming techniques where you come up with ideas that relate to all four areas in any order, and you can attach them to the Mind Map as topics at the appropriate place as you think of them.
The basic SWOT analysis just includes those four areas, but for strategic planning, it’s a good idea to extend and focus a bit beyond just those four areas, so we have provided this Mind Map which may help direct your thinking in appropriate directions for strategic and business planning (it’s in the document you can download from the link above).
When you have gone through the strategic planning process and identified the detailed vision, mission, values, objectives, strategies and goals, it is often useful to feed the main points back to an overall strategic plan Mind Map which you can then make into a poster for your office, and can also include with a company prospectus or bids for contracts etc. This helps everyone within the company or associated with the company in any way understand what the company is all about, and where they fit in to the accomplishment of those objectives.
Along with strategic planning, it is important to make sure that the business you have and the business you are building is protected in case of disasters, so make sure you include these in your planning:
Business Continuity Planning
As part of your strategy, it’s probably pretty important that your business keeps going should some disaster strike. It is important to identify and protect key assets and vital services. You need to understand what the threats are to those aspects of your business. It could be anything from someone getting ill or leaving the company, right through to a major natural disaster.
Part of the process is assessing the likelihood of that event happening, and the impact that it would have if it happened. Then you can decide whether this is something you need to protect against, and what level of protection you need. Of course in many cases there are a number of possible options to either reduce the risk of the disaster happening, or reducing the impact if it does occur.
Using a Mind Map such as the one to the right, the radiant structure of Mind Maps comes in handy to take these ideas and build out a picture of the risks that your business faces, and then build a risk mitigation plan.
Because it is easy to understand the plan, it is easy to make sure that you have everything covered, and easy for your staff to understand what needs to be done in the event of one of these disasters happening.
Disaster Response and Recovery Plan
Out of the planning process comes the disaster response and recovery plan, like the second Mind Map to the right.
We can use the same techniques we used for project planning and management, to ensure that everyone understands the objectives, their roles and responsibilities, and how to effect a speedy recovery from any disaster. It is at times like that, that you need to have the clear and efficient communication that is provided by Mind Maps.
So as you can see, using Mind Maps for strategic planning helps make sure all aspects of the plan are dealt with properly, in a way that everyone can understand what the strategic direction of the company is, and how you are going to achieve it.