The Metaphor Mapping process is designed to help groups develop and execute strategies.
The target sponsor would be seeking the following:
An operational vision, strategy and plan to achieve a known objective
Examples might be: Reduce cost by 15%, reduce cycle time by 30%, improve client satisfaction by 20%, develop an agreed strategy to adapt the supply chain to include a new plant, define the big picture process the new I.T. system will enable, define how to adapt company culture to prioritize client satisfaction over cost, improve the R&D process, define a process to reduce risk while continuing aggressive lending.
While the Metaphor Mapping languages may be employed in Future Search and Appreciative Inquiry workshops, it typically is applied a more operational level and, as noted above, assumes the ultimate objective is clear, even if may simply be “improved teamwork”
An inclusive approach that recognizes the limits of available time
- The sponsor enables the Metaphor Mapping process to “work its magic” by bringing critical stakeholders into the room
- The issue to be addressed should be important, complex and urgent
- The organization structure is a typical hierarchy, but, the sponsor is prepared to cede ownership of the strategy and its execution to the assembled group
- Time for a workshop is limited. An assessment, vision and strategy needs to be completed in one day
- Workshop size between 9 and 300 (typical size is 15-20)
A team that is more than the sum of its members
The Metaphor Mapping Workshop Process specifically addresses three important challenges to group effectiveness:
- Gaining the numerous advantages of group diversity without a high cost in time to harmonize them
- Building allegiance to the whole, rather than a sub-unit
- Inability to bridge gaps in perspective and achieve effective group thinking and and decisions
It creates a positive and stimulating environment where people with diverse interests and skills can better understand each other, build mutual trust and identify with a larger whole. Its methods include:
- Symbol languages, based on physical things known in all cultures, is the critical starting point to bridge the parochial languages and thinking styles of diverse disciplines. Sticker symbols, within metaphors, ensure that participants’ mental models become visible. They make it easy to frame issues effectively and avoid unproductive misunderstandings.
- Presenting the group with a common challenge, beyond their business issue– namely thinking visually and metaphorically. This causes each person to be more open and welcoming to the suggestions of others
- A map-building environment that requires building upon ideas of others, agreeing with the nuances of symbols that represent problems, goals and strategies.
- Requires walking around together and sharing many small, supportive behaviors such as writing descriptive signs, peeling off stickers, passing pens or scissors and agreeing scores of small symbolic decisions on symbol selection
- A requirement to show the big picture, with circumstances and interests of all stakeholders. The effect is to visually and emotionally understand the role of each as part of the whole. This requirement to step back encourages systems thinking, makes it easy to challenge “thought guards” and “group think”.
- Full understanding that most people reason by analogy. In a group context, this tendency is supported and amplified through the visual aid of metaphors and symbols. New ideas are less risky to put forward when the context is a bit playful as with the sticker symbols, further preparing the ground for original thinking by the group.
- Small sub-groups build agreed maps of the current state, vision and strategy. Their maps, however, are consolidated in a way that focuses only on the positive. The process asks the group to point out the views they all hold in common and unique ideas from the sub-groups they want to appear in the consolidated map. As a result, each person in the room sees their ideas are valued and included in the workshop results.
May eventually want to engage the entire organization in strategy development
Because Metaphor Mapping workshops are so time-efficient, it is practical to cascade them in a way that engages an entire organization in laying out the detail of how a complex change will be accomplished.
A typical cascade starts when s senior members of the organization meet and create maps that define their vision of how the organization will be working when their objectives are being met. They also show the broad outlines of a change plan and the obstacles they foresee. Workshops are then held at the next level down. Introduced by one or more senior leaders, their workshop shows how their specialized area will contribute to the implementation of the overall vision. The cascade repeats as far as necessary and the overall project team notes any conflicts or problems arising at the lower levels and ensures they are addressed by senior management prior to implementation.