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The Importance of Using a Strategic Roadmap

Dec 1, 2020

Strategy is the foundation of a business, and getting this strategy on paper, so you can share it with others is the key to strategic success. In this helpful podcast, Lise Stewart & Matt Kerzner give you some ideas for putting this process into action.


Lisë Stewart: Hello, my name is Lisë Stewart and I'm the Principal-in-Charge for the Center for Individual and Organizational Performance. Thanks for taking a little bit of time to go through our newsletter and to tune into this podcast. Today, we're going to be talking about something which I think is so important for our entrepreneurial leaders to know and to understand, and that's a strategic roadmap. And I am delighted to be here today with my colleague, Matt Kerzner, and we're going to be talking about the strategic roadmap, for which Matt's a real expert. Matt, welcome.
Matt Kerzner: Hi, Lisë. Thank you for having me.

LS: Sure. Well, we're just going to start right off with the basics today, Matt. Can you please just explain to our audience what is a strategic roadmap?
MK: Sure. The strategic roadmap is a compass. It's really a way for organizations to really take a really good look at their mission core values and their vision, and really what they want to be. What's their one, two, three, up to five year plan that they want to put together. It's a great way to really put down on paper what the strategy is and the best way to do that is to take a look at your past, where are you current state and where do you want to go? And then getting everybody on the same page, rowing in the same direction.
LS:Great. Yeah. I think a lot of people talk about the strategic roadmap and the importance of it, but can you kind of take us back and explain the process of doing a strategic roadmap activity with the organization? What does the activity actually look like?
MK: Sure. There's really kind of three or four different phases that one can go through, depending on the size of the organization. I always like to do what's called a discovery process. I usually meet with the CEO or the owner of the business and a few leaders, and I like to ask them where they want to go with this strategic roadmap. Where are they today and where do they want to go? And then I ask them to identify all the key people that they want me to speak to and be part of the process, and we call that a discovery phase. And I usually set a set of questions that cover all the different areas of the strategic roadmap to get a good understanding of their mission, the core values, their vision, their goals. How do they measure success? How do they communicate? How do they want to grow the business? What do they have for, what I call, bench strength? And we'll get into that a little more.

And I start asking all these questions because, a lot of times, organizations have a good sense of where they want to go and what is kind of the barriers for them to get there. But always when you do a discovery process, I use this as the analogy. You go to the doctor and you might have pain in your ankle but then after the physical, after the doctor examines you and goes through this process, they find out that the pain is actually in the knee, radiating down to the ankle. The problem is actually in the knee. The discovery process is really critical in the first step. Then, after I collect all my data and ask the questions through the semi-structured interview process, then what I do is I look for themes and categories of what everybody is telling me.

And again, it's all based on past, current and future desires. And then based on that, I have a good understanding of if everybody is rowing in the same direction or are their thoughts competing with each other? And that helps me understand how the actual retreat is going to work. After I collect that, phase one is data collection. Phase two is analyze that information. And then phase three is actually having that strategic roadmap activity or retreat, I like to say, where I'm meeting with all the identified key players to actually go through my findings of the discovery process and then getting them to start thinking strategically on answering those fundamental questions that I asked individually as a group to get everybody talking and thinking the same way so we can start memorializing the current state to get to the future state.
LS:Right. That makes sense. When a client goes through this process, what's the outcome or the deliverable that they're going to get from doing it?
MK: That's a great question. After we go through the retreat and we capture all of what we call that high level discussion. What do we want to exist? What do we believe in? What are the goals that we want to accomplish? We are actually capturing in a very systematic way, really, what are the goals? What are all the deliverables and actions that they need to take to get to where they want to go?

The big deliverable is they're going to get a package of all the information that they talked about as well as all of the action items, the deliverables. It's like a project plan of who's responsible? What are they going to be working on, and the most critical part, by when? And then by getting this deliverable, they have an actionable plan that, if done properly, is in bite size steps for them to accomplish what they need to accomplish. The deliverable is getting a PowerPoint presentation that has all the information that is done within the retreat, as well as a robust action plan on what is the purpose? What is the results that they're trying to accomplish for every goal and who's responsible and by when?
LS:Right. Wow. It's pretty comprehensive. When you do something like this with a client, how long does it take from start to finish? You've got an engagement. You're working with a client. How long can they expect this to take?
MK: Great question, Lisë. It all depends on the size of the client. If we are working with a small organization that might have 15 to 20 employees, maybe up to 30 employees, it could be, we'll say, a day and a half activity. If I have to interview five to seven people, usually it could take about an hour per interview of me collecting information. We'll just make it simple math. If I have to interview 10 people, it takes about 10 hours to go through that discovery process. The retreat itself could take anywhere between one day, six to eight hours of a working session, and then there could be some follow up information that comes out of it. I'd like to say, if I had to put a timeframe to it, I would probably say 20 to 25 hours to go through this activity. Obviously, it will be a lot more if it's a larger organization and I have to interview more people to go through the discovery process.
LS:Right. That makes sense. And then I also imagine the bigger the companies too, that there may be some more data collection and analysis and so on, so that makes perfect sense. Matt, in your opinion, how often should a client review their strategic plan?
MK: Yeah. The strategic plan, when you're going through it, I like to say at least twice a year the strategic plan should be reviewed. A perfect example, Lisë, is those who did a strategic plan a year, year and a half ago, with the environment that we're in right now, if they pull out that strategic plan, they obviously had to pivot from what they were doing a year ago, because of the current COVID environment. I always say you want to pull it out at least twice a year to look at it. I mean, I would encourage actually four times a year, each quarter, at a strategic meeting, it should be reviewed just to make sure everybody's on the same page and that the goals are being worked.

But you should look at it twice a year to do a deeper dive. And then at least once a year, looking at your goals and seeing if you need to adjust your goals for the next year. Obviously, if this is a one year plan, you're going to do it within the six month period. If it's a three year plan, I would like to say at least once a year, you're diving super deep into that plan.
LS:Again, it makes perfect sense. Finally, from your perspective, what are the biggest advantages or benefits of taking the time to do a strategic roadmap?
MK:Yeah. One of the biggest benefits of doing this is really peeling away the onion and making sure everybody is on the same page. I find when I'm working with organizations that some of this strategic roadmap or strategic planning is done in a vacuum. It's done in a conference room with a few people, and then they put a nice plan together and then they put it away. The biggest takeaway here is once this activity happens, how are you rolling this out and cascading it out to the organization? What is the actual visual that they're going to see that they truly understand? What is the company's mission, vision, and values? What are the major goals that the company is working on in regards to growing the business, operation efficiency and people development?

And if they do that, then you can cascade it down to each department and then to each employee, and to make sure that their goals and objectives are linked to the overall goals of the organization that's going to make sure this mission values and vision actually come alive. That's the big takeaway here is rolling it out and communicating it and keeping it alive with all employees.
LS:Right. Well, I really hope that at least listening to this brief little podcast has piqued some people's curiosity and made them think about perhaps reaching out to get more information on the strategic roadmap and how to utilize it. Matt, thank you for taking the time today. I really appreciate it.
MK:Always a pleasure, Lisë.

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