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The 7 Pillars of Visionary Leadership: Pillar II (Mapping)

By Michael E. Rock, Ed.D. |


PILLAR II: Mapping
"Globalizing the Mind: Charting a Future"
(Part 2 of 7)

We are marching towards a more liberated society in which free creativity will coexist with interpretation of already written texts. Okay, I like this. But we mustn't say we have substituted an old thing with another one. We can have both, thank God. TV-zapping is a kind of activity that has nothing to do with watching a movie. A hypertextual device that allows us to create new texts has nothing to do with our ability to interpret pre-existing texts.
- Umberto Eco1

"The British created a civil service job in 1803 calling for a man to stand on the Cliffs of Dover with a spyglass. He was supposed to ring a bell if he saw Napoleon coming. The job was abolished in 1945."
- Robert Townsend2

Canada Post's deep thinkers might want to hire King Canute as their advertising agency. The English king achieved fame when he demonstrated the limitations of his power by showing that, even if he commanded it, he couldn't keep the tide from rolling in. A technological tide is rolling in over Canada Post. It is called E-mail. The number of electronic missives is today in the gazillion range.
- Editor, The Globe and Mail3

Life is a journey. Any journey begins with a vision conscious or otherwise of what the potential path will look like. There is a age-old sequence of step that I have called archetypal images that is built within us by Life that getsus to first envision who we are (Pillar I) and then guides us from within to activate and structure that vision (Pillar II).

Mapping is that instinct in each of us that wants to ground our images, our visions of who we are and what we will become. Mapping, so to speak, puts flesh and bones on our hopes, wishes, dreams our vision. Mapping scopes out and sculpts the path we need to take; it prepares the way for the Journey (Pillar III).

We become aimless without a map. There is an adage in management that "those who fail to plan, plan to fail."

For too long now, the map used by business has been a strategic one, one of quantification and measurement. I am not suggesting that we abandon that kind of map or plan altogether. What we realize in the new economy is that we also need a discovery map, a plan that doesn't lock us in so tightly. "The best laid plans of mice and men" often go awry in today's world.

Thus, we have to rethink what the map is. The map is never the territory. Too often we have equated both realities a locked-in position that allowed us no room to breathe or move or change with circumstances.

A map cast in concrete has forced many companies to go out of business, to become obsolete. Obsolescence may be the biggest business threat today. A product or service obsolescence is but the physical manifestation of a previous inner thinking obsolescence4. As we saw from the opening quotes, featherbedding, or holding on to a job long after its usefulness, was alive and well for the British civil service. The map that was needed in 1803 still held its attraction until 1945! Likewise today, Canada's Post Office is trying to reinvent itself, that is, design a new map. The problem is that they think "snail mail," elegantly repackaged with a new $7- to $10-million advertising budget, will win back letter-writing E-mailers who have discovered that e-mail costs nothing, never goes on strike, doesn't need stamps, and is instant.

King Canute can be a potent reality check for those still locked into the old thinking who believe that the old map will always work. William Pitt (1759-1806), on hearing the news of the Battle of Austerlitz, December 1805, remarked, "Roll up that map, it will not be wanted these ten years."5

Many people today are walking around with "cartographic fallacies" in their minds. They are using the wrong map to navigate a future that is very different than anything they have been used to. Let me quote from my own book The 7 Pillars of Visionary Leadership6:

Your "mental map" is shaped by your vision. In turn it helps you reach for your aspirations. But today our industrial-era road map is in decline. Its hulking, rusting smokestacks no longer correspond with today's knowledge economy. And its highly defended borders are irrelevant, as we move into a borderless world. A view of the earth from space shows no borders. Neither should our mental maps.

The ancient organization mental map was easy to understand. It consisted of those who "slayed," and those who slaved. In our industrial-era organizations we created a somewhat more complex map of functional silos, what author Peter Block calls the ideal structure for command7. Inside these functional silos or chimneys, employees have been trained for years to compete against one another rather than look outward to their external competition.

Like their rusting smokestacks, they remain a barrier to change.

And change we must because we need to develop open thinking to respond to a borderless economic map. The new mental map will be an open systems model that will enable us to reach out and receive ideas and insights from anywhere. The new mental map is less about borders and individualism and more about connectedness and the process of work and relationships in the international marketplace.

Many think that McDonald's perhaps is in the hamburger business, that that focus is their map. I humbly submit that they are in the convenience business and, by the way, use hamburgers to sell their message. The "convenience map" is very different from the "hamburger map." While unlikely, people's taste could shift from eating hamburgers; but,in today's society, convenience will always win hands down. We are a culture of convenience. Canadian National Railways thought their map was "the railroad business." They almost went out of business with that map. Why? Because of the jet airplane. When you structure and design and plan your business as one of railroads, you build a dead-end because the jet plane can take you and your goods more quickly to your destination. What CN realized was that they were in "the communications business." So the vision, so the map; sow the vision, sow the map.

Let's do an organizational check. Think of the organization you work in. Estimate fairlyand honestly your answer to the following seven (7) questions. Use the scale below tomake your choice:

  1. = To a very little extent
  2. = To a little extent
  3. = To some extent
  4. = To a great extent
  5. = To a very great extent

The organization I work for ...

Item No. Item My Score
1 Always finds new and creative ways to do things.  
2 Has the depth of its convictions to genuinely manage change.  
3 Develops shared organizational goals.  
4 Knows what to do to make effective changes.  
5 Clearly has "leading edge" thinking.  
6 Invents exciting new ways to invent the future.  
7 Thinks "out of the box."  


If you scored 32-35: You're working well with the new map, the new thinking.
If you scored 28-31: You're doing all right, but need to improve.
If you scored 25-27: You definitely need to take stock right now.
If you scored 0-24: You are, or will be, in trouble.

There is an old saying that if you want a garden, then be a gardener. It makes no sense sitting back and hoping that your vision will come true. You and I need to structure that vision somehow, put it into reality. Mapping in today's world means globalizing our minds and this means charting a future for ourselves. Since maps have the power to shape our imaginations, ask yourself: "What map acts as a powerful catalyst inside me to shape the events in my life? The events in my organization? The events in my city? Province or state? Country?"

Selected Case Examples

1. Geeks and Execs: Bridging the Maps8

The story of the Tower of Babel from the bible is very well known: "The people who lived there (Babylon) began to talk about building a great city, with a temple-tower reaching to the skies -- a proud, eternal monument to themselves.9" The biblical story says that God destroyed the Tower because people were building it for their honour, not for God's. They wanted to make a name for themselves. It was their motivation that was wrong. What follows is quite interesting to ponder for our purpose of understanding the idea of a shared map: "The Lord said, 'If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and give them different languages [italics mine] so that they won't understand each other's words." 10

The biblical author says two things: (a) The people's motivation was all wrong; (b) The people were just beginning to learn how to exploit their linguistic and political unity. God's solution? Confuse them! When they became confused, they couldn't complete the work; they had to stop building the city, and were scattered across the globe.11

If we take the computer industry, as an example, I think it's fair to say that it has created its own dysfunctional 'Tower' with its many products that are often incompatible with other systems, etc. Because of this fractured map -- some would say because of the mentality of greed that pushes a manufacturer to build incompatible parts -- the consumer ends up paying for this, as well as being confused and frustrated. And so we have ended up with 'specialists' who 'speak IT' and the rest of us who fumble around as best we can. Because the IT map is so essential now to our own computing needs, we have to spend money if our machine or system breaks down because we don't know that esoteric language.

Thus, we have the technologists and the technologically unwashed. In many companies today, we have what I would call "map gaps," not only around IT issues, but also around reorganizational ones as well. Prof. Les Wanninger, a faculty member at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, says the solution to the 'geek gap' is diligence about communication and, I would add, an ethic of respect for the different maps that people carry around in their heads.

Once again the importance of emotional intelligence and EQ (emotional quotient) is critical. Multi-Health Systems Inc. (MHS), a leading test publishing company and owners of the world rights to the BarOn EQ-i, the world's first scientific measure of emotional intelligence, recently tested (1998) the emotional intelligence of 104 information technology specialists using the BarOn EQ-i.

The groups surveyed included systems analysts, technical support specialists, MIS, network administrators, systems analysts, and programmers. Interesting trends were detected. With an average EQ score of 97.512, IT people were found to have a lower overall EQ than most groups that have been examined (e.g., human resources professionals tested had an average EQ of 110). Among the IT groups, the highest EQ went to the technical support specialists [113], and the lowest was scored by programmers [92]. The MIS group was the second highest scorers [110].13

The message is clear: not only do we need a new shared map, but we also need well-developed EQ, or emotional smarts, to build that map. Otherwise, like the ancient Tower of Babel, we will find, at best, that nothing gets done or, at worst, we end up with interpersonal and financial warfare. That's the recipe for potential bankruptcy, lower profits,and huge, costly stress-related illnesses.

2. 'Fat' and 'Lean' Maps and Flying Planes14

If you're the best in the world at making airplanes and everyone is using your corporate map to navigate, so to speak, when it comes to buying these planes, what do you do when sales don't materialize the way they once did?

That's exactly what happened to the U.S. aerospace industry at the end of the Cold War. Where before the 'fat map' fostered a mentality that "bigger and more complicated was better," now the new mantra is "simplify, simplify, simplify." A radical shift to a new map -- a new way of doing things --has taken place.

The concept of 'lean' production swept North America in the 1980s and early '90s.

The concept of 'lean' is hardly lean itself these days: It's been saddled with mounds of mumbo-jumbo. But at its heart, it's simple. It involves mapping out all the steps it takes to produce a product and trying to eliminate those that add no value. That includes such things as storing an item in inventory, or keeping it waiting on an assembly line for a machine to become available.

To address this need for a new 'lean map,' MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) put together a consortium called the Lean Aerospace Initiative. The group studied how lean practices could be applied to aid the aerospace business amid such tumultuous changes as we have today.

The results of the new mapping? Chris Cool, vice-president of lean integration for Dallas - based Northrop Grumman, holds 'lean events' throughout the year at his company. One of their products is the wing for the Gulfstream V business jet. Ron Vuz, its program manager, points out that work flows much more steadily from one end of the building to the other. A year ago it took 250 Northrop Gumman employees eight days to make a wing; now it takes91 workers just nine days to do the same thing. Worker acceptance through reassignments became part of the new map as well. The unions were promised that no workers would be laid off in the process. To get executives on board with the new map, the company based 35% of their compensation on meeting the goals of new lower costs and higher production targets.

Was switching to a new map difficult? For some it was. For those workers used to procedures, forms, and the bureaucracy of doing things the old 'fat way', the 'leanness map' redefined their jobs. Chris Cool said that the old map was "their identity."

The lesson for us: oftentimes we don't have a choice. We can live with an old map and never get to where were supposed to, or we can learn to become familiar with a new map. Like the Israelites before us 4,000 years ago, we must make the decision to rethink, relearn, and eventually, rejoice in the freedom of the new promised land.

3. 'Brain Drains' and Maps15

James Gosling is a Canadian turned Californian and a very bright person. He has a Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He did his undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary in 1977.

Why is all this important? Because he is Canada's loss, even though he's the computer world's gain. He left Canada in the late 1970s because Canada didn't have a thinking map that would take risks, foster innovation, and reward excellence. David Crane, economist - writer for The Toronto Star, has long complained of this lack of vision and map on Canada's part16. Gosling casually says, "The kind of stuff I was interested in doing and had been trained to do really wasn't being done here [in Canada]."

What is Gosling now famous for? The industry-shaking JAVA computer language!

He says that when he was 22, Canada's high-tech industry wasn't worth sticking around for. In The 7 Pillars context, that's like saying that Canada psychologically and spiritually and intellectually didn't have a map innovative enough to appreciate who he was. Technology reporter Tyler Hamilton writes, "This country treated him as the Canadian-born guy who had to go south to do something neat."

The lesson for us and the new map? Gosling says, "The real payoffs you never understand. You should just give good people money and tell them to do good things."


Let me conclude these thoughts on mapping by highlighting a study that my colleague and co-author, Dr. Michael Cox, did. He researched 250 companies in the province of Ontario to try to identify if there was a direct connection between attitudinal mindset or map its readiness to perform in a borderless economy and organizational performance.

Only 12 percent of those 250 firms had evolved their organizational vision to the geocentric perspective. The remainder of the firms ... still had ethnocentric or regiocentric maps. Organizations with a geocentric or global vision achieved a minimum of 66 percent of their sales from international markets because the vision and attitudes at the top had led to theimplementation of strategic decisions to support a global capability. Firms without a global vision saw the world through limited windows of opportunity and achieved little or no success in international markets. This kind of bordered thinking doesn't prepare an organization to respond to external threats in a brutal global economy.17

We have the maps we believe will get us to where we think we should go, personally, professionally, organizationally. In that sense, we have the maps we deserve. We also have the consequences of those mental maps. If the map is outdated what I called above "a cartographic fallacy" we have outdated consequences; they are no consequence. We, therefore, don't get the results we hope for. On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to change, be open to change which, from an adult educator's point of view means to be open to learn then we can begin to develop a new map, one that will have consequences and results worth cherishing.

The choice is ours. Like strategic moments for people in the past, the right choice can mean survival. Welcome to map making!

For a summary of The 7 Pillars, go to Harcourt Brace & Company Canada's Website: or call 1-800 387-7278.

The 7 Pillars of Visionary Leadership: Introduction

PILLAR I: Visioning

PILLAR II: Mapping

PILLAR III: Journeying

PILLAR IV: Learning

PILLAR V: Mentoring

PILLAR VI: Leading



  1. Umberto Eco, "In a Wired World, We Need Literature's Limits," The Globe and Mail, Monday, November 2, 1998, D1.

  2. Robert Townsend. Up the Organization. New York: Knopf, 1970, 93.

  3. Editorial, "King Canute at the Post Office," The Globe and Mail, Saturday, January 30, 1999, D6.

  4. Ronald Inglehart, Ph.D. analyzed more than 100,000 individual interviews on personal values and found that religious beliefs, political allegiances, attitudes toward the relationship of individuals to large organizations, the family and to other individuals are all in transformation. And the rate of change is accelerating, in Stephen Hume, "The New 'Me'-ing of Life," The Toronto Star, Sunday, January 5, 1997, D8. Also, “There is another fortune more realistic than money and more powerful in addressing the rapid obsolescence factor. It's portable wisdom, which may not keep employees forever, but it will keep them longer, enhancing their commitment until they move to greener pastures,” in Chip R. Bell, "A New Key to Employee Loyalty: Portable Wisdom," Management Review, Vol. 85, December 1, 1996, 20-25

  5. Quoted in Michael Cox and Michael E. Rock. The 7 Pillars of Visionary Leadership: Aligning Your Organization for Enduring Success (w/CD). Toronto: Dryden (Harcourt Brace & Company, Canada), 1997, 23. ISBN 0-03-923117-8

  6. Cox and Rock, op. cit., 23-24.

  7. Peter Block. Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1993, 101.

  8. Gregory A. Patterson, "Geek Gap Creates Vexing Clash With Business Types," The Globe and Mail, Thursday, January 7, 1998, C4.

  9. Gen. 11:3.

  10. Gen. 11:6.

  11. I have taken liberty with two translations to illustrate this idea of an ancient map. See Verne Becker (Ed.). Recovery Devotional Bible. New International Version. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993, 14; Life Application Bible. The Living Bible. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1988, 22.

  12. 100 is average both on the IQ and EQ scales.

  13. Dr. Reuven BarOn []

  14. Andy Dworkin, "Airplane Builders Trim the Fat," National Post, Friday, January 15, 1999, C11.

  15. Tyler Hamilton, "Java Inventor Brews Cool Stuff," The Globe and Mail, Thursday, November 19, 1998, D1, 9.

  16. David Crane, "Ontario Grasping Innovative Hi-tech Opportunities," The Toronto Star, Sunday, December 20, 1998, A19; "How to Succeed: Do As Americans Do," The Toronto Star, Sunday, November 7, 1998; "Blame the Boss for Slow Productivity Gains," The Toronto Star, Tuesday, October 20, 1998; "Redefining Corporate Canada's Role," The Toronto Star, Sunday, April 14, 1996, D2

  17. Michael Cox and Michael E. Rock, op. cit., 25-26.

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