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How to use Business Battle Maps with Strategic Navigation

Henrik Mårtensson

8 July, 2009


This paper proposes that having a battlefield map is as important to business strategists
and change agents as it is to military strategists and commanders.
A network battle map is easy to make, and can help determine system boundaries,
and serve as input for gap analysis. It is also a valuable presentation aid, and useful
when looking for solutions to complex problems.
This paper outlines how to use network battle maps with Strategic Navigation, a
fast paced business strategy method combining Maneuver Conflict and The Logical
Thinking Process from The Theory of constraints.

Contents cated in a disjointed manner, or simply

forgotten until it is too late.
1. Why Use Business Battle Maps? 2
2. Battle Mapping with Strategic • Determine where you need to allocate
Navigation .. .. .. .. .. .. 3 your resources for maximum effect dur-
ing execution.
3. Battle Maps and the OODA Deci-
sion Loop .. .. .. .. .. .. 5 • Visualize a desired future state. When
4. Showing Pervasive Influences .. 7 doing a gap analysis it can be useful to
5. Layered Battle Maps .. .. .. 7 visualize a desired future state in terms
6. Sub-maps .. .. .. .. .. .. 7 of power and lines of communication.A
network battle map, even a simple one,
7. Battle Map on the Wall .. .. .. 7 provides a more accurate view than an
8. Battle Maps and the 36 organizational chart.
Stratagems .. .. .. .. .. .. 8
9. When Not to Use Battle Maps .. 8
What should a battle map look like? For
starters, what are the important entities, and
References .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 9
what relationships should the battle map de-
scribe? And at what resolution?
1. Why Use Business Battle Maps? The entities you need to put on the map
are the stakeholders in the strategic game. I
Business strategy is a complex game with will not go into how to identify stakeholders
many players making concurrent moves. in this paper. Suffice to say that a change in
Many business strategy games are played part of an organization can have system wide
like blind chess, with the players keeping the repercussions.
game board in their heads. Imagine the ad-
For example, introducing Agile soft-
vantage you can get by making a simple map
ware development methods like Scrum or
of the battlefield: It’s like being the only play-
eXtreme Programming, may be seen as death
er with a chess board and pieces at a chess
threat by the Project Manager Department,
because these methods do not have or need
A battle map is a kind of network dia- project managers in the traditional sense. The
gram showing the field of battle. It depicts way software development services are sold
important entities on the business battlefield, may have to change, because Agile methods
and the relationships between them. can speed up development, and selling devel-
A battle map makes it easier to do the opers by the hour may no longer be a viable
following things: option. Five times faster development would
mean one fifth the revenue…
• Think through the relationships be-
The effects of making changes to part of
tween different stakeholders in the sys-
an organization are often quite predictable,
tem you want to change. This will help
and yet, the effort to understand the implica-
you come up with an overall strategic
tions of a change is rarely made. Making a
network battle map can make it easier to un-
• Communicate important information derstand how the organization as a whole is
about power and information structures affected by a local change.
that is otherwise likely to be communi- There are many kinds of interactions in

Interpersonal Positional/Situational
Legitimate: Power derived from formal au- Resource: Control over material flow, phys-
thority ical resources, or special access to informa-
tion sources.
Reward: Power to reward behavior. (Often Decision-making: Influence over decisions,
misused to reward results even if the results or selection of which decisions are made.
are not due to the behavior of the entity re-
Coercive: Ability to punish. (Often misused Information: Control over or special access
to punish results even if the results are not to knowledge or data by virtue of position.
due to the behavior of the entity punished.)
Expert: Knowledge and skills that are irre-
placeable, or difficult to replace.
Referent: Personality, charisma.

Table 1. Types of Power

an organization. Mapping them all is neither ty sketchy, until there is reason to focus on a
feasible, nor useful. What are the most rele- new area of the strategic battlefield..
vant relationships to map? There are several methods for locating
Usually, the most relevant relationships the leverage points in complex systems, but
are relationships of power, including materi- this paper will focus on The Logical Thinking
al flow. Table 1 on page 3 shows eight differ- Process (TLTP). TLTP can be used as a stand-
ent types of power that may be important[2]. alone toolset for solving complex problems,
Of course, a map showing all power rela- but it is also a part of the Strategic Navigation
tionships would become too messy to read, toolkit.
and to unwieldy to update. The map should
show only the most important relationships.
2. Battle Mapping with Strategic
It is necessary to have some way to filter data,
so that the map does not become overloaded
with information. Strategic Navigation is a business strate-
Business strategy deals with organiza- gy method created by William Dettmer[2].
tions, which are complex systems, and in- The method is a powerful synthesis of
teractions between the organization and cus- John Boyd’s Maneuver Conflict[1][8][7] and
tomers, competitors, allies, and society. There William Dettmer’s The Logical Thinking
are many, complex interactions, but relatively Process1[4] (TLTP). Strategic Navigation
few degrees of freedom. As a result, there are also uses an extremely powerful method of
usually only a few strategic leverage points. gathering data and brainstorming, Crawford
Given a method for locating lever- Slip[3].
age points, it would be possible to use this TLTP is a powerful tool for solving
method to locate those areas of the battlefield complex problems, formulating strategy, and
where a detailed battle map will be most use-
ful. The rest of the battle map can be left pret- 1
An extended version of Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt’s Thinking

Figure 1. Simple System Description with Areas of Control and Influence

seamlessly plan to execution level, i.e. mak- there are holes in the map. In the example, the
ing project plans. TLTP is based on Systems Project Manager Department is outside the
Thinking. An important question when us- sphere of influence drawn in the map. Such
ing any Systems Thinking based method is: holes are quite common, and it is important
Where are the system boundaries? to identify them. A system unit you cannot
TLTP uses a simple method to answer influence is a system unit you cannot align to
the question. Basically, list the parts you can the goal of the system.
identify, then categorize them as being in The map in Figure 2 on page 5 is orga-
your area of control, your area of influence, nized around a value stream. Material flow is
within the system, or external to the system. indicated with arrows twice as thick as other
Strategic Navigation does not require arrows.
you to draw a picture or mark the system Other unlabeled links in the diagram
boundary in a diagram. Depending on the represent legitimate power, that is, links rep-
situation, you could use lists, a table, draw resenting formal authority. These links are
closed curves on an organization chart, or use not necessarily the most powerful, but they
a network battle map as outlined in this pa- are common, and usually easy to find, for ex-
per. Figure 1 on page 4 is an example of what ample by looking at an organization chart.
a simple drawing of the system boundaries The link arrows are pointed along the
might look like. power flow. For example, “A has authority
Figure 2 on page 5 shows what an initial over B” is drawn as:
network battle map may look like. The map is
drawn from the perspective of a Software De-
velopment Department manager. Note how
I use color to highlight areas of control and
influence. This makes it very clear where The initial input you use to create a battle

Figure 2. Initial Network Map with System Boundary and Areas of Influence and Control.

map is likely to include an organization chart, strategic planning and execution cycle in
an interview with your sponsor, and, if you Strategic Navigation relates to the OODA
are very lucky, a reasonably accurate Value Loop.
Stream Map (VSM). The initial information Initially, the battle map is used to deter-
about interactions in the system is likely to mine the system boundaries. Determining the
concern material flow and legitimate author- system boundaries is a prerequisite for creat-
ity. This is not likely to be the only important ing an Intermediate Objective Map (Step 1).
information, but it is enough to get started.
The battle map then becomes one of
the inputs for creating a Current Reality Tree
3. Battle Maps and the OODA Decision (Step 2). The Current Reality Tree identifies
Loop leverage points that can be used to change the
system to the desired state.
Figure 3 on page 6 shows John Boyd’s fa-
Figure 4 on page 8 shows how the lever-
mous OODA decision loop1, and how the
age points identified in the Current Reality
Tree can be mapped back to the battle map.
The OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) decision This shows which areas of the strategic bat-
loop has emerged as a central concept in strategic and
tactical planning over the past few decades. The OODA
loop concept is applicable to split second decisions, such
as those made by a fighter pilot, as well as to tactics, op- Maneuver Conflict and Maneuver Warfare. The OODA
erations planning, and strategy. It is a central concept in Loop is also at the core of Strategic Navigation.

Figure 3. How Strategic Navigation Maps to the OODA Decision Loop

tlefield that should be investigated further. (Step 4), and for Mission (project) planning
Depending on the situation, and the (Step 5).
complexity of the existing battle map, either In the strategy evaluation phase (Step
more information can be added to the exist- 7), the battle map is useful for evaluating suc-
ing map, or more detailed sub-maps may be cess. Executing strategic plans often changes
added. See Section Sub-maps on page 7. the shape of the battle map, so it is important
The expanded battle map (or sub-map) to update the battle map before using it for
is then used as input when generating ideas evaluation. There may be new connections
for solutions (Step 3), for operations planning between the organization and customers.

New customer segments may have been iden- tigate causes of bottlenecks, and may provide
tified. If there has been a reorganization, au- insights into how to resolve the problems.
thority and communication links should have
changed within the organization. Competi-
tors may have been isolated from their allies, 6. Sub-maps
such as suppliers and distributors. There may An alternative to loading up a battle map with
be more or significantly stronger links with information is to use smaller sub-maps to
allies. map up smaller sections of the strategic land-
scape. A sub-map might, for example, map
4. Showing Pervasive Influences the most important individuals in a group and
their relationships, or it might map the rela-
Some entities have a pervasive influence on tionships in a part of a value stream.
a system. For example, the CEO, an IT de-
Figure 5 on page 9 shows how a sec-
partment or an accounting department may
tion of the large scale battle map has been
influence all other entities in an organization.
expanded using a sub-map. The map reveals
Government regulations or public opinion
why the Project Manager Department is out-
may have a strong influence on an entire mar-
side the influence of the Software Develop-
ket. For example, environmental concerns has
ment Department: The PM Department’s al-
a strong influence on car design and manufac-
legiance is to a powerful group of high level
turing processes.
managers with an agenda different from that
Rather than representing such influ- of the CEO.
ences by drawing lines to all entities in the
The sub-map also shows that the PM
map, it is better to show the entity as free-
Department manager can be influenced from
standing, with an annotation showing the
the bottom up, as he tends to give a high de-
type and range of influence. (Not shown in
gree of weight to the opinions of at least one
this paper.)
of his Project Managers.

5. Layered Battle Maps

7. Battle Map on the Wall
Most drawing programs support layers. This
Strategic Navigation advocates “strategy on
means you can put different types of infor-
the wall”, putting The Logical Thinking Pro-
mation on different layers, and then elect to
cess diagrams on a wall, so that everyone
hide or show different kinds of information
working with strategy development can see
at different times.
For example, in Figure 2 on page 5 it
A battle map also needs to be seen to be
would be possible to create a layer for aver-
useful. The larger the map, the better, though
age waiting and process times for nodes in the
making and printing the map in A3 format is
value stream. In effect, this would turn part
sufficient for most purposes.
of the battle map into a Value Stream Map[6].
This would be useful for locating process bot-
tlenecks. Ideally, the strategy wall should be where employees
can easily see it, so they can see the work in progress and
Because the battle map shows who con- comment. Some things may have to be hidden in order
trols and influences the process bottlenecks, to prevent leaks to competitors, or prematurely revealing
it also provides guidance for where to inves- information to customers. In general though, strategy
development should engage as many people as possible
in the company.

Figure 4. Current Reality Tree and Battle Map

I usually use A3 format for The Logi- tion, and suggestions for which stratagems
cal Thinking Process diagrams, and use the to use.
Toyota Production System A3 report format
as much as possible. Thus, A3 format battle
9. When Not to Use Battle Maps
maps fit nicely with other documentation I
produce. Creating a battle map takes a bit of effort.
Thus, the effort spent must be weighed
against the benefit of having the map. A bat-
8. Battle Maps and the 36 Stratagems
tle map can be very useful when you try to un-
The 36 Stratagems[5] is an an ancient Chi- derstand a system. On the other hand, if the
nese collection of strategic patterns. The 36 system under consideration is simple, or well
Stratagems were developed for warfare, but known to everyone involved in strategic plan-
they have also proven effective in business. ning, you may not need one.
The stratagems are useful as idea gener- One thing you should consider is
ators, and work well with Strategic Naviga- whether having a battle map means you can
tion and other business strategy methods. skip something else. Can you skip making
a slideshow presentation? Or would a bat-
Idea generators do not work from
tle map enhance the presentation if it was in-
scratch. They need input. A network battle
map can be very useful in this regard, because
a battle map provides an excellent overview Remember that a battle map can be
of the current situation. very simple and still useful. You may find
that drawing maps in your notebook, or on a
If you use a battle map as input to 36
whiteboard, is the best solution in many situ-
Stratagems idea generation, you may wish to
experiment with using an annotation layer in
your battle map drawing. Use the annotations
to provide important input for idea genera- References

Figure 5. Sub-map

[2] H. William Dettmer. Strategic Naviga-

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[5] Kaihan Krippendorff. Hide a Dagger

Behind a Smile: Use the 36 Ancient Chi-
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[6] Jeffrey K. Liker. The Toyota Way. title.

McGraw-Hill, Two Penn Plaza, New
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[7] Frans P.B. Osinga. Science, Strate-

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