Providing context to the MESA 3.0 diagram

Previously on…

In my article Roadmap your product or service portfolio with a MESA, I presented the roadmap diagram that serves as the core and primary visualization of a MESA (Michigan Enterprise Strategic Assessment).

This diagram provides a great one-page visualization of the roadmap for a collection of products or services in a portfolio. The design is simple and intuitive. The use of position, color, and shape for the items makes the diagram information-rich without being cluttered.

Putting the diagram in context

The MESA was created by the Enterprise Architecture group in the Office of the CIO at the University of Michigan (thus the Michigan in the…

Introducing MESA 3.0

A brief history of the MESA

While I was working as an Enterprise Architect at the University of Michigan, we were making the shift in moving Enterprise Architecture from being a purely IT function to being a strategic function. As part of this shift, we started a program to develop strategies for each of the various services provided by the central IT organization. I was put in charge of this program.

This meant that, for each of the 50+ services, I had to work with the Service Owners and get them to develop a strategy for their service. These were IT services, and most, if not…

I completely agree with your diagnosis, but I disagree (slightly) on your prescription. Because SWOT exercises are so well known, it's going to be difficult to dislodge them from the state of practice in strategy development. My suggestion is to push them further back in the strategy process. Use them to test the hypothesis, as you put it. Given the context of a hypothesis, they can be used to guide the analysis and hypothesis testing.

They may also be used to provide some situational awareness. It might be better to replace them with Wardley maps for that, though.

I've written about this topic myself here:

I'm glad to see others are pointing out the shortcomings of SWOT and how it is used.

Since, as M Burnouf pointed out, people like their tools, what tool(s) would you suggest to help in the analysis if we ditch the SWOT?


I wanted to draw your attention to Chaz Mee’s article Why “Now” “Next” “Later” is one of the best frameworks for roadmapping. I don’t actually know Chaz, but I ran across his article in one of the publications I follow. It has some really good points, and I wanted to share it.

The point of the article is to talk about the timelines we use for roadmaps. Too often, we get caught up trying to create detailed timelines for each of the tasks. We map out how long each task will take, what depends on what, etc. The problem…

I really like this. I like the 3 main things. Those are critical. I like the fact that, in the abstract, this model doesn't tie the roadmap to specific dates. This lets the roadmap change as the situation changes. It lets the Next things become the Now things once the current Now things are done. I also find that I build roadmaps as proposals of how a strategy could be implemented. If I tie Now to, let's say, Q1 of the current fiscal year, it might be Q3 before the roadmap gets approved, at which time it's out of date. Now, Next, and Later solves that.

Who eats Whom?

You’re likely aware of the famous maxim (probably falsely) attributed to Peter Drucker:

Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast

This was taught to me as a fact of nature in a leadership course I took. The implication is that if your strategy is in conflict with your current culture, then the strategy will fail.

This leaves you with only two real choices:

  • Only try strategies that are in line with your current culture, or
  • Find a way to change your culture to achieve your strategy.

I think that most people stop at the first choice. For a leader looking at their…

Who wouldn’t want a Swiss Army Knife?

I have three brothers and three sisters. When we were growing up, instead of each of us buying each of our brothers and sisters a Christmas gift, we had a tradition that we would put all our names in a hat, each draw a name, and we would only buy for the person whose name we picked. Since we were kids, we had a small budget for gifts.

We carried on that tradition even into adulthood, and we even kept the small budget. We would buy token gifts, just for the fun of sharing with each-other. One year, I drew…

“Strategy for the Rest of Us” was born from my observation that many (most?) front-line and mid-level managers haven’t received any training in strategy. Even leadership training courses, such as ones I’ve attended, only spend a small portion of their course time on strategy. Many leaders think they know about strategy simply because of their position as leaders. However, thinking strategically, formulating a coherent strategy, and communicating it to people who matter is a skill that needs to be learned.

When I worked as an Enterprise Architect, an Enterprise Architect was someone who helped the organization align their technology to…

A model to help you get through the fog

What do I mean by “landscape”?

I was first introduced to the landscape metaphor in Sam Harris’ book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. Dr. Harris asks us to imagine a landscape that stretches as far as we can see in all directions. The landscape is made up of hills and valleys. In Harris’ landscape, the height of the land represents the level of well-being. Hills represent situations with greater overall well-being, and valleys have lower overall well-being. Hills are better than valleys, and higher hills are thus better than lower hills.

We can draw a 2-dimensional version of this landscape as shown…

Having a strategy can help you get to “No”

Sometimes you don’t want certain types of work

I’ve mentioned in a previous article about how I used to help my wife run her pastry business. She made a wide assortment of authentic French pastries, but eventually her specialty became macarons. As far as we know, she was the first person to sell macarons in Michigan. She saw the fad for macarons arriving, and she got ahead of it.

As macarons became more popular, she eventually got her first order for them for a wedding reception. She had never provided pastries for a wedding before. …

Dan Kiskis, PhD

Strategic Thinking Coach, Enterprise Architect, Stoic, Humanist. I like to help people find the path to what they think is important.

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