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Visualization and Strategic Planning Part 3: How to Build a Strategic Plan with Visualization

Build a Strategic Plan with Visualization Right NowThere are a number of powerful and proven Mapping and Visualization tools that can help you build your strategic plan. These tools not only help you to organize and track ideas, resources, next steps, budgets and timelines, but also enable you to see and address potential problems and opportunities, come up with new ideas, and guide your thinking.

These tools include:

  1. SWOT: Helps identify internal strengths and weaknesses of an organization, as well external opportunities and risks.
  2. PEST: Looks at big-picture factors influencing strategic planning; often used with SWOT to enhance and expand insight.
  3. DESTEP: Examines big-picture factors beyond a company’s control and helps determine ways to adapt.
  4. Porter’s Five Forces: Helps to delve into five external forces that could impact a company’s or a project’s profitability.
  5. Cost-Benefit Analysis: Helps weigh the benefits against the costs of a project or a business decision, to help determine whether a company should proceed or consider alternative options.

Below, we’ll discuss how each of these five visualization models for strategic planning can help streamline and improve our processes.


The acronym SWOT helps you strategize four things about your company or product: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The beauty of SWOT is that it helps you examine your strengths and weaknesses in relation to your competition, so you can determine your key selling features. Once you have this insight, it also becomes easier to figure out markets or opportunities where you have a competitive edge, or how your business might be threatened by competitors or marketplace events.

In its traditional form, a SWOT analysis template is simply a square box divided into four sections, with each space used to write down thoughts and ideas for each component.

With Mapping/Visualization, a SWOT template becomes much more sophisticated – you can literally think outside the traditional SWOT box, building and expanding ideas and their inter-relationships, and identifying different options.

SWOT Analysis - ExamplePEST

PEST analyzes political, economic, social and technological factors to help guide your strategic planning and decision-making. For example, how will a change in government policy or free trade agreement affect your competitiveness? Will it create new opportunities or open markets for your company? PEST is highly valuable when used in conjunction with tools that analyze threats and opportunities, such as SWOT, as it helps you think of external factors you may not otherwise think of.

Like SWOT, a traditional PEST template is divided into sections of lists, which can soon be crowded and make it hard to see the forest for the trees. With Mapping/Visualization tools, these ideas can be easily moved around and managed, enabling team members to put the information into usable context.

PEST Analysis - ExampleDESTEP

DESTEP (demographic, economic, social, technological, ecological and political) is founded on the premise that a company must contend with factors it can’t change, and instead must adjust their strategic planning to succeed. For example, DESTEP can help a company to compare various locations to build a new store. Is there a skilled local workforce (demographic)? Can the local economy support adequate sales? Are there ecological regulations that would be challenging?

Again, a traditional DESTEP template is quite simple to create (often six boxes arranged in a circle with space to write lists of ideas) but lacks the ability to help team members see the factors in context or how they fit together within a strategic plan. Mapping/Visualization DESTEP tools allow team members to see the big picture at a glance: items can be can be organized in a more intuitive fashion, ideas can be expanded on, and tasks and other considerations captured.

DESTEP Analysis - ExamplePorter’s Five Forces

Porter’s Five Forces was developed by Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter as a way to help organizations to be aware of five forces in the competitive environment that could threaten their bottom line. These include competitive rivalry (how many competitors you have); supplier power (the number of potential suppliers, which will affect prices); buyer power (the influence your buyers have on your pricing); threat of substitution (the ability of customers to find an alternative product or solution); and threat of new entry (the ease with which a start-up can enter your industry.

Similar to the traditional DESTEP template, a Five Forces tool can quickly become a field of seemingly disjointed lists. With Mapping/Visualization tools, each section becomes interactive, with the ability to sort and categorize insight and information so that it is better understood and acted upon.

Porters Five Forces - ExampleCost-Benefit Analysis

As its name implies, a cost-benefit analysis weighs the benefits against the costs of a project or a business decision, to help determine whether a company should proceed or consider alternative options. It’s essential for figuring out budgets, required resources, and timelines in strategic planning, and helps provide objectives and metrics to determine success.

The three main steps in a cost-benefit analysis include identifying costs; identifying benefits; and comparing costs and benefits. That sounds simple, until you consider how many costs and benefits can be involved in even a smaller project. Traditional templates can fail to capture important values that either can’t be quantified or are hard to forecast, such as increased customer loyalty. Mapping/Visualization tools can help ensure all variables are captured and considered during the analysis, including more subjective values.

Cost-Benefit Analysis - ExampleWant to learn more about visualization and strategic planning?

eBook - How Visualization Builds Better Strategic Plans

If you’re intrigued by the the role visualization and strategic planning plays in project success, and you want to learn more, then you may be interested in our free eBook titled Envision Success: How Visualization Builds Better Strategic Plans. In it, you’ll learn 5 proven and powerful methods for strategic planning that lead to success.

Download the eBook for free!


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