A strategy map is a diagram that is used to document the primary strategic goals being pursued by an organization or management team. It is an element of the documentation associated with the Balanced Scorecard, and in particular is characteristic of the second generation of Balanced Scorecard designs that first appeared during the mid-1990s. The first diagrams of this type appeared in the early 1990s, and the idea of using this type of diagram to help document Balanced Scorecard was discussed in a paper by Kaplan & Norton in 1996.
The strategy map idea featured in several books and articles during the late 1990 by Kaplan & Norton and others, including most notably Olve and Wetter in their 1998/9 book Performance Drivers.
Across this broad range of articles, there are only a few common attributes. Strategy maps show:
Each objective as text appearing within a shape (usually an oval or rectangle)
Relatively few objectives (usually less than 20)
Objectives are arrayed across two or more horizontal bands on the strategy map, with each band representing a 'perspective'
Broad causal relationships between objectives shown with arrows that either join objectives together, or placed in a way not linked with specific objectives but to provide general euphemistic indications of where causality lies.
The purpose of the strategy map in Balanced Scorecard design, and its emergence as a design aid, is discussed in some detail in a research paper on the evolution of Balanced Scorecard designs during the 1990s by Lawrie & Cobbold.