In an earlier post, I wrote that a leader’s role is to articulate a destination for others. I also cautioned leaders to be responsible and to bring a road map with them. Let’s talk about the design elements that constitute an effective road map—for yourself and for your organization.

Of course, the core design feature of every road map is the destination. The destination is designed to answer at least two questions: Where am I heading? What am I trying to do? A compelling destination is the anchor—the draw. It activates our desire to pursue something that’s different from our current reality. But an effective road map goes beyond simply marking the destination. Beyond the destination, there are six additional design elements to keep in mind.

The Route(s) or Pathway(s)

An effective road map highlights the strategies you’ll use to reach your destination—what I refer to as the route or pathways you plan to take. Let’s say when you reach your destination you will be earning more money and will be more financially secure. In this example, the kinds of pathways that might allow you to reach your destination may include things such as career advancement, career change, or even relocation. Be thoughtful. The pathways you select may ultimately influence the next design element, the vehicle(s).

The Vehicle(s)

The vehicle is essentially the tool (e.g., systems, procedures, process, etc.) you will rely on to transport you to your destination. To be useful, a vehicle has to be something that you can get your hands on and that you can actually use. Just as important, your vehicle has to be capable of making the journey along the route or pathway you’ve identified. Examples using the destination we selected earlier might include training, coaching, networking, or even education (going back to school).

The Driver(s)

Now that you’ve selected the vehicle (or vehicles) that’s suitable for your journey, you’ll need to identify your drivers and you’ll need to prepare for potential passengers. If you’re designing a personal or professional road map for yourself, of course you’ll be a primary driver. But there are also different legs or phases in your journey where you may find yourself not in control—not in the driver’s seat. Your boss and your employer may be co-drivers. Your profession, itself, may be a key driver. If your profession is in disarray and the demand for people with your skills is in decline, it’s going to affect your ability to reach the destination you have in mind.

The Passenger(s)

Not to complicate things too much, but effective road maps also tell you who you need to bring along with you on your journey—your passengers. It helps you understand who else needs to fit in your vehicle in order for you to actually get moving. Examples on a personal road map may include a spouse or significant other, children, parents, siblings, etc. For the workplace, passengers may include co-workers, customers, and partners. It’s always ideal to design a vehicle that offers a little bit of distance between the passengers and the driver’s seat. You don’t need the wrong people grabbing the steering wheel at the wrong time.

Let’s pause here for a moment. Don’t neglect these two design elements. After all, an effective road map is about getting a person or persons from point A to point B—and people come with complications. Just saying.

The Landmarks

A fifth design element you should consider are landmarks. Landmarks are the indicators or markers you’ll use to determine if you’re on the right path and moving in the right direction. Examples for someone designing a road map to help them earn more money may include positive performance reviews and promotions. Choose your landmarks wisely so you are paying attention to the right things in the right way.

The Fuel

Finally, an effective road map identifies the fuel you’ll need to power your vehicle(s) and the places where you intend to get it. As a design element, the fuel constitutes the ingredients and resources required to power your vehicle, so it is important for you to keep this in mind throughout the design process. Examples of fuel may include things such as social support/encouragement, knowledge of how to do your job, the skill to be able to succeed under the current conditions, etc.

Although I’ve presented you with six design elements beyond the destination, keep in mind they don’t necessarily have to come in the order in which I’ve laid them out. In fact, you’d be wise to revisit each element throughout the entire design process. A decision about one element may influence another element. It’s this tradeoff that exercises your mind and that puts you closer toward reaching your destination—by design.  This is intelligent design.

Checklist

Here’s a quick checklist you can use when evaluating the quality of your own road map. An intelligently designed road map achieves the following:

  • Demonstrates foresight. It helps you anticipate some of the challenges and opportunities you are likely to encounter on your journey.
  • Clarifies roles.  It lays out who is responsible for what and when.
  • Prioritizes routes and pathways. It states the preferred and alternative ways of reaching your destination.
  • Identifies indicators of progress. It identifies the things that confirm you’re heading in the right direction. It answers two key questions—where are you and are you there yet?
  • Establishes a timeframe for the journey. It sets the pace and breaks the journey into discrete stages or phases.
  • Visualizes the whole. It allows you to “see” what’s ahead of you.
  • Inspires commitment to action. With enough detail and with accessible language, it helps you and others remain committed to sustainable action.

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