Part of the ASPIRE Talent Management series

This series looks at the key elements and philosophies around the Talent Management lifecycle of ASPIRE: Acquisition, Succession Planning, Improvement, Retention and Engagement. We are now drilling down into some of the key aspects which support these elements to explore them in further detail. You’ll find links throughout to our previous articles if you want to explore certain elements in more detail.

We started to explore the topic of Organisational design and some key principles in our last article which we will refer back to during the course of this one as we go into further detail, focusing on the Business Roadmap and how it can help bring focus and clarity to your business.

A Business Roadmap…

 maps out and displays the destination, direction and strategies of your business, including key milestones and potential roadblocks on the journey.

It illustrates the markers which show that you are moving in the right direction and can highlight any potential roadblocks on the journey which could stop you reaching that destination.

In our last article we introduced two of Jim Collins’ principles from his book Good to Great: ‘First WHO, then WHAT, and ‘getting the Right People in the Right Seats on the Right Bus’.

‘First WHO, then WHAT’ came from the research project undertaken to determine what makes a company shift from ‘good’ to ‘great’. Collins’ team found that organisations that started by first ensuring they had the right people and the right talent in their organisation could more easily adapt to a changing world. The right people have the right attitudes to be able to adapt to any changes in direction of the business, are self-motivated and easier to manage and will look at how they can play a part in producing results and building success, thereby helping to the company move from ‘good’ to ‘great’.

‘Getting the Right People in the Right Seats on the Right Bus’ is part of that ‘First WHO’ model. Good to Great introduces the idea of your organisation as a bus; start with the people you need to get on board to help you get to your desired destination and then think of organisational design in terms of the ‘right seats’. If you’ve been following our ASPIRE series of articles, the first few have focused on the ‘WHO’ – the people and talent that you will want in those seats in your organisation. Last week with the introduction to Organisational Design, we’re now starting to explore the area of ‘WHAT’ and using the bus analogy, we’re now looking at creating the ‘identity’ of that bus and what you want it to look like.

What business are you in?

This is the fundamental question that Tony Robbins, renowned master Business and Life Coach, asks all delegates who attend his Business Mastery programme, and it is a key question to keep asking yourself on a regular basis as it truly starts to shape the destination, direction, and strategies for your business.

What business are you in? What are your objectives and goals? Your destination, your direction and your strategies will be different if you are leading a manufacturing business, to if you are running a professional services organisation. Checking in with yourself and your team on a regular basis to ask this question will help you to shape the identity of your bus. It’s important to know and understand what business you’re in, and to fine-tune and define that so that it is clear to you as a leader or manager within the organisation, and to the rest of the employees. Communicating your well-defined identity internally is critical so that your teams and your employees can understand where they fit in to the business and what part they play to enabling you to reach your destination. It is also an important factor in your external communications activity, so that your current and potential clients and customers can be certain of the services you will provide, and the value they can expect you to add to their business.

Asking this question will start to you give an image or view of what your business looks like, so that you can start to look at your business roadmap.

The map is not the territory

What do we mean by this? If you look at a map, it is a 2 dimensional document (well, they were before the era of Google Maps!); it will show you where to go and will give you a route to follow, which is great to give you an idea of where you are going. However, what that 2 dimensional map won’t show you is the terrain, the conditions and the territory along the way. You cannot predict the territory from a flat map.

Take a look at the map image here of a popular route in India. It looks fairly straight forward from here; it depicts a starting point and a destination, an estimation of how long the journey will be and there is some indication you’ll be going through some fairly hilly countryside.

As a note, it is important not to confuse your Business Roadmap with your business plan. A business plan enables you to forecast your business’ achievements for the next 3-5 years, including cash flow, turnover, headcount etc., and is useful in communications with external parties such as banks and investors; it helps to demonstrate that your business is robust financially. Your business plan is set, barring any major changes to your business and, in fact, can often be not much more than an educated guess, given that they are most frequently used during the pre-start-up phase of establishing your business. As such, this kind of document goes out of date and becomes obsolete as soon as it is written. We can map out our business in this way but this does not define the territory. A business plan is trying to predict the territory but we cannot know the real terrain until we get there – just like when we’re travelling anywhere. That plan or 2D map is not the territory.

Your Business Roadmap on the other hand is a live map. It should be used to drive your business internally, and to drive your internal communications with your teams in order to define and communicate your organisations destination, direction, strategies and milestones.

Again, if we refer to business and life guru Tony Robbins, the very first element of his 7 Forces of Business Mastery that he advises you implement is a business map.

The 7 forces are a set of skills and tactics which we see as continuous improvement forces within a business to drive growth and success. Of those 7 Forces, the very first one is to have a business roadmap. The next three cover innovation, marketing and sales, which is what business is fundamentally about. Next he focuses on how can you anticipate what can go wrong in your business financially and legally, followed having a means of optimising your business on an ongoing basis. The final element of the 7 Forces focuses on your culture and how you can build on your culture to create what are called ‘Raving Fan Customers’.

Use your Business Roadmap like Sat Nav

You’ll no doubt be familiar with sat nav – Satellite Navigation systems – such as TomTom, Garmin or even Google Maps. These systems give us live updates, and start to give us that live territory as we’re travelling. If you think about when you get in a car and you set your sat nav, the first thing you set is your destination. What’s the zip code? What’s the postcode? What’s the address that you need to put in there? It is the same with a business and therefore with your business roadmap. What is the destination? What are we looking to achieve? Where do we need to be in the next 12 to 18 months?

The next thing you get on your sat nav is the options of routes and timings. This is your direction and is also the strategies to some extent, the direction with some key elements that you need to be following to achieve the routes and the right timings. What you always get with sat nav, as opposed to a two-dimensional map, is feedback or ‘the territory’. (As long as it is up to date – I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of being told to turn left into a field or hedge at some point!)

Sat nav tells us about traffic conditions, about potential roadblocks, diversions or hazards, about any traffic congestion and then it feeds that information back in to the system to give you a revised route, or a revised timing. This is all planning to get us to a set destination; however, taking the varying territory into account, this may not necessarily be according to those initial timings, or following the same route that we started with. That feedback from the territory will give us the live updates first and make sure that we can achieve the destination whichever way we can.

So your business roadmap – which maps out the destination, direction and strategies of your business, and includes the key milestones and potential roadblocks on the journey – is like your business sat nav and is a live process. It should continually feed back into your business all the time to achieve your destination, sometimes modifying the directions, sometimes modifying the strategies, aiming for and navigating the milestones and overcoming any potential roadblocks along the way.

This picture shows the territory which forms part of the route in the same map above – not so straight-forward looking now is it?!

It’s part of a hazardous and perilous route which goes from Ambala to Himachal Pradesh and appears frequently in many ‘Most Dangerous Roads in India’ features!

Next stop, cascade!

If we go back to that principle of ‘First WHO, then WHAT’ from Jim Collins, over the last few articles we have been looking at the ‘WHO’, so we know who the right people for your organisation are. We have looked at how we can design the culture of a business or the atmosphere on the bus, we know, using organisational design principles that we can determine the right seats on the bus, and with the 3V’s we have a North Star or long term vision (between three to five years or can be longer as well), and our guiding principles to get us where we need to go. Now we’re very much in the ‘WHAT’ phase. What are we going to be doing in the near future – the next 12 to 18 months?

This starts to introduce the subject of strategic priorities. These are the top level organisation priorities for the next 12-18 months which are going to drive and dictate activity by cascading and interpreting these priorities through the rest of the organisation. Three is usually the minimum and there would be no more than six; you could take the average and look to define four strategic priorities which will define the destination, the direction, the milestones, and the roadblocks for your organisation for the 12 to 18 months ahead as part of a workshop with your leaders and your leadership team to define what are the most important objectives to achieve in the next 12 to 18 months.

In our next article (and these articles are always available in video and podcast format) we will start to delve into how to do that and how to cascade those priorities through your business so that they become live meaningful tactics and objectives for those in your organisation who can help achieve the business goals and objectives.

In the meantime, we will finish by wrapping up the 3 things you need to be thinking about to start to get your business roadmap in place:

1.    Keep asking that key question: what business are you in? And again, using that Jim Collins analogy: getting the right people in the right seats on the bus; start to define and identify what that bus looks like to feed into your internal communications, your external communications and build your business identity. Don’t forget, the map is not the territory and your business roadmap is not your business plan!

2.    Think about your business roadmap in terms of sat nav for business; a live representation of what is going on in your business with some key elements in there which is your destination, direction, strategies, the milestones and roadblocks, the feedback or the KPIs in the business.

3.    Always make sure that this is communicated widely in the organisation. Certainly for the internal communications it is vitally important so everybody knows where the business is going and what’s expected. This goes for external communications as well. Let people know the identity of your business. It can help you to build the ‘core story’ for your organisation and this core story is really important for your marketing. If you don’t know what business you’re in, you can’t start to build a core story. If you can’t build a core story, then you can’t start talking about marketing because what are you marketing at the end of the day? What are you looking to sell at the end of the day as well?

Thanks for reading!

This wheel provides a reminder of those 4 key elements of ASPIRE: Acquisition, Succession Planning, Improvement, Retention and Engagement, which covers the full talent management cycle.

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Peak Performance Partnership Ltd (3P) is a Business Performance Consultancy specialising in Talent Management. ASPIRE by 3P is our talent management solution which supports the talent life cycle of Acquisition, Succession Planning, Improvement and Retention & Engagement.

Co-authored by Lindsay McGhie and Michelle Manning