An Inclusive Strategy Planning Tool
- Look ahead and foresee obstacles
- Plan strategy to overcome them
- Show how alternatives may play out
What River Mapping does
It helps a group collaboratively build a strategy. Time flows along the river. Symbols encourage consideration of the critical elements of planning, including elements often overlooked. The metaphor forces attention to obstacles and actions to overcome them. It stimulates thinking about the sequence of actions, dependencies, alternatives, risks, barriers, help needed and promotes discussion of how the outcome can change depending on decisions and actions taken.
Use River Mapping When you need to
- Develop a strategy to achieve your vision that all stakeholders agree to
- Gain perspective on which obstacles are serious and demand action and which are less critical
- Construct and evaluate alternative strategies– and become more agile when conditions change
- Map a process where time sequence is a dominant factor, such as a sales process
How to Build River Maps
The River map building process moves the map builder alternately from left-brained, analytical, sequential thinking to lateral, right-brained, visual thinking and back again. Its goals is to ensure all assumptions are challenged, variables are considered and the resulting plan is realistic.
- Discuss actions needed and record on billboards. Group them into strategies and place in time sequence. Connect them with rivers that flow to the goal
- Add action symbols to give life to the meaning of the billboards
- This encourages using the right-brain and sets the stage for insights about obstacles and risks
- Consider possible unintended results. What might lead the project over a waterfall to its end or lead to it become hopelessly bogged-down in a swamp?
- Show obstacles, risks and help needed
- Write a narrative, to capture all the key points in words
Example of a River Map
This map shows a North American married couple’s thought process when the husband is offered a position in Italy. Adam is an astronomer and Minda works in genetics industry.