A Tool for Implementing Strategy
- Look ahead and foresee obstacles
- Plan strategy to overcome them
- Show how alternatives may play out
What River Mapping does
- Helps build a strategy or action plan. Time flows along the river. Symbols encourage consideration of the critical elements of planning, including elements often overlooked
- Brings focus to obstacles and makes clear they are only circumstances or events that can be overcome through actions
- Makes clear that outcomes of the plan can vary based on actions taken
- Stimulates thinking about the sequence of actions, dependencies, alternatives, risks, barriers, help needed.
When to Use River Mapping
When you need to think out what you need to do next
When you’re having trouble sorting out what is an obstacle and what is a show-stopper
When you need to evaluate alternative strategies
When you need to map out a process where time sequence is a dominant factor, such as in a sales process
How to Build River Maps
The River map building process aims to move the map builder alternately from left-brained, analytical, sequential thinking to lateral, right-brained, visual thinking and back again to ensure that all assumptions are challenged, variables are considered and the resulting plan is realistic.
- Write action billboards, group them into strategies and place in sequence. Add rivers
- Add action symbols and identify objectives
– After the river and billboard symbols have defined the flow, select and apply action symbols that give life to the meaning of the billboards. Looking at the symbols and dictionaries may help you think of actions you didn’t consider earlier. This encourages using the right-brain and sets the stage for insights about obstacles and risks.
– Now is the time to consider possible unintended results. Are there some actions or decisions that might lead the project over a waterfall to its end or to become hopelessly bogged-down in a swamp?
- Show obstacles/risks/help needed
- Write 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.