Carraghyn - Chartered Directors

Using ORM For Strategy Development

I recently did a strategy development workshop for a board with no Vision, Mission or Values. They are neither unsophisticated nor unsuccessful, they lead a perfectly viable and operationally streamlined business which keeps on doing what it does and customers keep on buying from them, but they had no defined vision of the future.

How can a business develop a strategy without a Vision? Simply, it can't. Vision is the single most important tool for a business to express where it is headed for so that it can plan the route for the journey. Of course, Vision might be implied - we're going to keep doing the same (but more of it) - and in many businesses it is, but without first realising that there is a Vision the idea of developing business strategy is an impossibility.

Anyway, the board engaged me to help them define their strategy because they had multiple options for the future and needed facilitation in identifying the best option for them. This left me, as an adviser, with a dilemma - how to develop a strategy without a clear goal.

I went back to basics. I used a public domain planning technique commonly used in the UK public sector for major programmes called "Outcome Relationship Mapping" (ORM). In this technique the programme sponsors (in our case the company's directors) specify all the significant outcomes they want to see, and then arrange them into a 'map' which shows both the 'ultimate' outcomes, and intermediate outcomes, and the linkages between the contributions of the latter to the former. 

It was an interesting half-day workshop. Using ORM the directors discovered that they had some common ground which they hadn't previously recognised, we were able to discard four of the five possible strategic options on the table as being incompatible with the needs of the business and its owners, and we were left with a strategy route map to the only remaining viable outcome. Writing up the report the following day I found that we had, unintentionally, also effectively defined Vision, Mission and Values in our Outcome Relationship Mapping exercise, in addition to determining the high-level strategy that will be necessary to achieve the Vision.

Anyone who has been through the process of defining Vision, Mission and Values will know how protracted, arbitrary and subjective it often seems. I was delighted to find that they 'accidentally' dropped out as a by-product of a half-day strategy development workshop with no effort; I will be using the ORM technique in the future when appropriate, if its benefits prove to be repeatable this simple programme planning technique may prove to be one of the most valuable corporate strategy tools in my toolbox.

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