Compass vs. Map: How to Guide Your Organization

By December 28, 2018Leadership

You are lost in the woods. Your backpacking excursion has taken a wrong turn into unfamiliar territory and your Nature Valley bars are running out. The sun is setting and you need to make it back to the trailhead before dark. What do you do?

The answer to this question depends largely on the resources you have at your disposal.

A compass could point you in the right direction; a map could serve you even better. If you have only your intuition, you may start searching nearby oak trees for moss. If you have cell reception, the whole point is moot!

The same is true in business. When setting a vision, merely knowing the direction of your final destination is not good enough. Creating a roadmap is the only way to get there.

A compass provides the general direction for a person, team, or organization. A map fills in the blanks, providing longitude, latitude, and a specific path to your destination.

Often an organization’s vision stops at the compass stage, leaving too much open to interpretation. If you forge ahead mindlessly, you may walk right off a cliff.

In order for an organization to fulfill its mission, there must be a greater level of detail pointing everyone not only in the right direction, but to the exact location.

Leaders must provide clear insight that everyone in their organization understands and can articulate. It is this clarity of vision that directs the daily work of all individuals.

In business terms, this means breaking down a vision into several measurable goals and communicating these goals throughout your organization. These concrete goals serve as the map that defines the direction to help you execute your vision.

With a good enough map, you may get out of the woods in time for dinner—all the better to save your Nature Valley* bars for another day!

THE TAKEAWAY: When setting a vision for your organization, a general direction is not enough. You must provide a roadmap of measurable steps toward your goals and distribute that map to all levels of your organization.


* Nature Valley is not a sponsor, but I would welcome that in a heartbeat. Their granola bars are great!

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