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Strategic Mapping, Part I
By: Bill Easum

Strategic mapping is replacing strategic planning. Strategic mapping is not forecasting the future; rather, it is making certain today's decisions cause the future to happen the way you want it to.

Strategic mapping is like grabbing hold of an elephant. Where you grab hold is very important. All sorts of bad things can happen if you grab hold of an elephant in the wrong place or start strategic mapping without understanding the rules. Making this comparison results in the discovery of several rules used by successful strategic mappers.

Rule #1: Do not ask people who are afraid of elephants to ride your elephant.
New ideas given to standing committees are usually voted down. Standing committees seldom develop anything radically new or different from what is being done at the moment. Instead, they look for ways to improve what has been done or is presently being done. In many cases, the people found on a standing planning committee donít have clue about what they are suppose to do or how to go about it. You want a selected team, not a nominated and elected standing committee. So, always set up a new group to do your strategic mapping who have the specific skills needed.
  
Rule #2: Take a good look at the entire elephant before beginning to feed it.
Look at the picture of the elephant. What did you see? The whole elephant or one of the blocks? Most people first see one of the blocks and not the entire elephant. Successful strategic mappers have the ability to focus on the whole congregation rather than the parts; they see the forest and not the trees; they donít get bogged down in details.

Rule #3: Before jumping on the elephant make sure it is going where you want it to go.
Strategic mappers begin with a vision of where the church should wind up as a result of their efforts. They know that churches are supposed to reach out to the those not yet a part of the Christian faith. That is a given for all authentic strategic mapping.
 
Rule #4: Never try to grab hold of the entire elephant at once.
Strategic mapping is not brainstorming (i.e., developing a long list of disjointed ideas that may or may not be strategic to the life of the congregation). Several years ago, close to the end of what was then our annual planning retreat (we quit doing them), a member said to me, "Isn't this exciting? We have so many different programs that we're having trouble getting them all on the calendar. Why, you almost have to fight to get your program on the agenda." A prominent executive overheard her comment and replied, "Yes, there are a lot of good ideas, but who is making sure they all strategic to where we want to be in a few years?Ē
  
Rule #5: Those who dance with elephants get stepped on now and then.
Strategic mappers are not afraid to take risks or make mistakes. They know that their work does not eliminate risk. At times, such mapping may even increase the risk of failure. Therefore, strategic mappers look for ways to learn from their mistakes and apply that knowledge to future attempts at implementing new ideas.

Strategic mappers are challenged by change, stimulated by diversity, and thrive on a vast array of choices. They thrive on the unknown of the journey. They see new solutions to old problems because they can suspend their judgment about old models and set aside their personal opinions long enough to see the world as it is becoming rather than as it has been or is. They are not afraid to try new things that traditionalists might think silly, risky, or even impossible.

Stay tuned. Next month, Iíll give you the remaining five rules.

Bill Easum is president of 21st Century Strategies, Inc. a full-service church consulting group since 1987 whose mission is to equip Christian for global impact, www.churchconsultations.com.

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