JOURNAL ARTICLE | Harvard Business Review | 80 | June 2002
Charting Your Company's Future
Few companies have a clear strategic vision. The problem, say the authors, stems from the strategic-planning process itself, which usually involves preparing a large document, culled from a mishmash of data provided by people with conflicting agendas. That kind of process almost guarantees an unfocused strategy. Instead, companies should design the strategic-planning process by drawing a picture: a strategy canvas.A strategy canvas shows the strategic profile of your industry by depicting the various factors that affect competition. And it shows the strategic profiles of your current and potential competitors as well as your own company's strategic profile - how it invests in the factors of competition and how it might in the future. The basic component of a strategy canvas - the value curve - is a tool the authors created in their consulting work and have written about in previous HBR articles.This article introduces a four-step process for actually drawing and discussing a strategy canvas. Readers will learn how one European financial services company used this process to create a distinct and easily communicable strategy.The process begins with a visual awakening. Managers compare their business's value curve with competitors' to discover where their strategy needs to change. In the next step - visual exploration - managers do field research on customers and alternative products.At the visual strategy fair, the third step, managers draw new strategic profiles based on field observations and get feedback from customers and peers about these new proposals. Once the best strategy is created from the feedback, it's time for the last step-visual communication. Executives distribute "before" and "after" strategic profiles to the whole company, and only projects that will help move the company closer to the "after" profile are supported.