MAP extended example

Suppose that I have just joined a company that makes robot arms. My strategic, long-term preparation for the job starts with my capabilities which, I learn, are to produce light, robust, intelligent robot components to specification. My organisation has experience with industrial assembly, food sorting and military applications, though the range of possible uses for the robot arms is vast. At the personal level, I have a mix of electrical and mechanical engineering expertise, some of which was acquired through formal training, and some through an obsession with micro mouse competitions – racing custom-built electromechanical mice through a maze.

Our customer base – the audience – consists of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), who assemble end-products from components provided by their suppliers. They are technically expert and prefer to keep us at a distance from the end-customer (their clients) by reducing their requirements down to purely technical specifications. With the exception of the military projects, project lifetimes are around three to four years, and design cycles for new products are 12 to 18 months.

My company has developed a number of ways of interfacing to the OEMs. It first proposes a demonstration of our technology, using a purpose-built demonstration robot. If things go well, and since the technology is complicated, we then offer a two-day workshop, from which a specification should emerge for use in commercial negotiations. Once the OEM has become a customer, we then propose a support process that uses online tools.

The above three paragraphs give an idea of the type of information that figures in my strategic preparation of my work to support the robot arm business. Now suppose that an unexpected event appears on the horizon: a meeting request from the European Space Agency (ESA), who are interested in fitting a robot arm to a moon lander (not our moon, a moon). I will need to present technical information about the robot arms, and maybe tell them about our technology roadmap also.

If I were to base my preparation on existing slide sets, then I would be starting from a presentation that explained our capabilities to an OEM audience and which led up to the proposal of a demonstration, followed by a two-day workshop. The technology roadmap would also be biased towards the characteristics of the OEM market – three to four year product lifetimes and 12-18 month design cycles. Instead, I do some tactical preparation, writing the following MAP:

My objectives: (1) Understand the ESA project model, particularly the differences with the OEM one, (2) Show technical credibility.

Audience: (1) I believe that ESA project timescales are five years plus, (2) I expect them to be conservative and risk-averse, given that reliability in their systems must be a strong requirement.

Plan: (1) Agree agenda and goals in advance, by mail, (2) Find out if we have any links, however tenuous, with aerospace projects, (3) Have ready a short presentation focused on technical capabilities, rather than applications examples (all our material for the latter is irrelevant).

Though the details of the above case are sketchy, the contrast between the general nature of long-term, strategic preparation and the hard focus of the MAP is clear (in a real case I would expect the MAP to be sprinkled with buzzwords, abbreviations and action notes (ToDos) and, of course, the strategic preparation would be more extensive than that described above).

The tactical preparation of MAP helps me to focus on the key points that are needed here and now. Instead of my long-term strategy, I define my immediate objectives for the encounter. Aware of gaps in my knowledge about the client, I aim for a multidirectional exchange of information. Rather than a general idea of the market or an account, which was the focus of my strategic preparation, I now focus on a specific client. Instead of thinking of all the things that I might propose to my client, I plan a particular action – a presentation of a certain product or the negotiation of dates and resources, for example.

In summary, when the Hurry Monster arrives and I need to prepare a specific encounter, MAP helps me to crystallise the most important information and actions from the mass of data available. It provides a concise structure for my thoughts, making them clearer to me and easier to share with colleagues.


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