Strategic Roadmaps are created through a set of specific steps. Below is the general flow of the process, but keep in mind that you will need to adapt it to where your group is at in the process and what they need to do next. For example, if you already have a theory of change, you may want to reorganize it into a Strategic Roadmap and bring it to your partners to flesh out, rather than starting from scratch.
Before undertaking a road-mapping process, make sure to identify the right participants for the process. Be thoughtful about who will be in the room and know what they care about so you can go in aware of what you’re going to work on together. Ideally, have a mix of people who understand the high level strategic choices and the ways the world will need to change along with the people who need buy-in to implement the plan that emerges from the process.
Knowing your group well enough, and having a rough sense of their end of the road, can help you avoid surprises. You should also have a sense of the type of work likely to be involved the strategy (e.g. programmatic work, influencing policy, community mobilizing). This will help you understand how this work will affect their ability to reach the end of the road, as well as to identify the difference between a strategy and a precondition.
Facilitating a roadmap process can be a challenging, but essential, part of creating a road map: this is the how your group will think critically about the meaningful change you are looking to create, and it is the development of their Strategic Roadmap working draft. As you go through the process, remember to relax and let go of the desire to control the conversation –these processes can, at times, feels chaotic and may not feel productive, but participants need the brainstorm space, as well as space to refine, test, assess, and then clean up.
- The first step is to work with the participants to identify the End-of-the-Road (EOR). Write the EOR on the wall, refine, and finalize it. When you have a final EOR, write it down on a large sticky note and put it on the wall.
- Next, work with participants to identify what the immediate preconditions are to the EOR using a second color of large sticky note, acknowledging the strategies that surface using a third color sticky note. Have participants put up sticky notes where they feel relevant and/or rearrange them or take on this role yourself. Remember to consider changes from where you are today vs. changes near the EOR.
- Finally, clean-up the visual with the participants (sometimes individual reflection or group participation directly with the sticky notes helps). Make sure everything in the precondition color is in the sphere of influence and everything in the strategy color is in the sphere of control for the group doing the work. Ask for individual reflection on the completed roadmap, including what assumptions are being made about how change can occur, which will help surface things to investigate between this and the next meeting
When planning for the facilitated dialogue, keep in mind that you will need a large, empty wall space for participants to put up sticky notes and lots of large sticky notes and markers. It is helpful to have a space where the participants can face the wall, as well as room for people to move around and put up the sticky notes.
If possible, you may want to consider having a note-taker who can type up notes, especially to capture areas of conflict or disagreement that you may want to surface later, as well as any preconditions the group has rejected and why. At the end of the process, have your note-taker take a picture of the wall so you can make sure to capture everything
After the facilitated dialogue, you will want to make the electronic version of the Strategic Roadmap visual as quickly as you can, because it’s easy to lose the story line. The electronic version will summarize, combine, collapse, and overall simplify the electronic visual compared to what was on the wall.
The next step is to research the relationships between the preconditions, between strategies and preconditions, and between preconditions and the End-of-the-Road. This will allow you to surface insights about the areas where there are assumptions and to revise accordingly.
You will then want to review the final Strategic Roadmap with your partners and finalize (for now!).
Of course, it’s not just about having a pretty document; you need to be able to operationalize your plan. See the section on Developing Strategies for more about this step in the process.
Strategic Roadmaps are living documents as your environment will shift, you’ll learn from your attempts to achieve near-term results, new opportunities might arise or constraints in resources or capacity may limit your ability to move strategies forward.
Strategic Roadmaps can and should be revised regularly!
Plan for revisions and accept them any time it comes up and the revisions are relevant and thoughtful. If the group doesn’t feel there is any need to revise, it might be a signal that they are not actively scanning their environment or assessing the effectiveness of their strategies. It can also be a signal that they are not thinking about their work through the lens of adaptation!