In my experience, a major reason why organisations struggle with their transformation is not necessarily an inability to prioritise, it is actually about making choices. Choices about what work is undertaken and more importantly what isn’t. When it comes to making choices as part of organisational planning, organisations struggle to navigate the sea of options they have open to them.

That is because, in a lot of cases, planning is carried out bottom up, engaging staff in identifying initiatives, which are then linked to strategic goals.

This planning approach is taken as it enables broad stakeholder engagement and collects a wide range of planning options, from business units. However, organisations can become overwhelmed by the number of initiatives, with little detail of the benefits to be delivered and struggle to prioritise and make choices from the limited data. Staff are left overwhelmed by the amount of work, and frustrated by an organisation’s inability to prioritise and control the flow of work.

For many organisations, the focus of planning is setting budgets, becoming a feudal process with teams focussed on their individual needs, reinforcing a bottom-up and stove-piped planning process. To support prioritisation business groups then attempt to link initiatives to strategic goals, leading to ever larger initiatives being defined that can be linked to multiple strategic objectives. In principle this sounds sensible, initiatives that can be linked to strategic goals, but are these the right initiatives and do they deliver the best value for money in delivering those strategic objectives?

As organisations put in place new technology, the situation gets even worse, as staff often seek to start experimenting with their new capabilities – piloting ideas and opportunities with customers. However, these experiments can quickly grow into an overwhelming basket of unconnected, random digital initiatives, many of which are scattered throughout an organisation. It’s easy for leaders to lose focus when surrounded by so many opportunities, that can be used across a myriad of potential applications. If an organisation is late to adopt updated technology and the accompanying capabilities, it’s even easier to see how they can quickly become overwhelmed with solutions for customers, without stopping to address the need for an overarching digital strategy. Essentially, they’re reaching at low-hanging fruit instead of considering the larger digital opportunity that can have a far-reaching impact.

As someone who has been through these planning sessions in various organisations, I can honestly say, most leaders do not enjoy this activity and are usually frustrated by the outcome.

A better approach

There is a better approach, to help navigate this issue, the foundation of which is already available within the public service, that of the Investment Logic Mapping (ILM) process. The ILM is used predominantly in the preparation of material for treasury as part of the Better Business Case process. As part of that process, it is usually recommended to use accredited facilitators, who tend to be consultants. I think because of that it can sometimes have an unfair reputation of being large, complex, and costly, requiring external consultants to help drive. But it doesn’t have to be executed without accredited facilitators, providing a flexible and low-cost way of improving the visibility and impact of investments.

An Investment Logic Map (ILM) is a single-page depiction of the logic that underpins an investment or activity.  It represents an ‘agreed investment story’ that is logical, able to be supported by evidence and easily understood by a layperson.  It is designed around the idea that all potential investments or activities, regardless of size or complexity, should follow the same ‘line of inquiry’ to develop their respective investment story.

As a workshop-based approach, it scales very well to help organisations plan their approach to any problem or opportunity, providing robust information in a standard format to inform decision-making processes, where real choices can be made. At each stage, if further analysis or exploration is required it is easy to visualise how that phase could be extended to accommodate a different approach, keeping to the same planning framework. For example, in this paper, I will explain how ideation can replace the response workshop.

It provides an approach to the strategic planning and annual work planning activities, translating strategic goals to initiatives and activities that can then be used to make decisions about how an organisation progresses its strategic plan. With this framework to guide you, work can be broken down into smaller incremental deliveries, with the knowledge that as problems or opportunities arise throughout the year, they can be accommodated into a robust and repeatable process. Plans can then be developed iteratively with the foundation of specific objectives, outcome measures, and detailed action plans (who, by when) linked to the budget.

Investment Logic Mapping

ILM was developed by the State Government of Victoria, Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF) in Australia in 2003, to screen budget bids. It was formally introduced to New Zealand by the State Services Commission (SSC) in July 2008, following successful pilots by the Ministry of Health. It is being increasingly used by New Zealand Government agencies and is included in the New Zealand Treasury’s guidelines for Public Sector Business Cases. The methodology can provide an easy way to define an initiative’s objectives and success criteria at a high level before approval, ensuring organisations can focus on their most important initiatives.

What is an ILM?

Investment logic mapping (ILM) is a series of structured workshops that bring together key stakeholders to ensure that there is early agreement on problems, outcomes and benefits before any investment decisions are made or a specific solution is identified. ‘ILM’ can refer to the workshop or the output of the workshop.

What is it for?

ILM workshops emphasised gaining a clear understanding of the problem (or opportunity), the consequence of the problem and the desired benefits – before looking at possible solutions. The workshops also identify how the problem and benefits will be measured and any subsequent data requirements. The output of an ILM is usually a one-page investment story that sets out the problems and benefits in straightforward language that all stakeholders can understand.

Essentially, the ILM is created to answer some fundamental questions:

  • What is the problem or opportunity that is driving us to consider a new investment?
  • What benefits can the organisation expect in successfully responding to the problem?
  • What Initiatives or activities are necessary to deliver the anticipated benefits?

When is it used?

The technique is scalable and provides a low-cost and repeatable method of defining and documenting all organisational change initiatives. When used in this way the workshops would be carried out as part of the definition phase of an initiative, feeding into the organisational planning and prioritisation processes.

What are the outputs?

For larger investments, the main outputs from the investment logic mapping process are the investment logic map and benefits map. Both are simple single-page flowcharts that tell the story of investment and expose its underpinning logic. They are both in plain English and designed to answer many of the key questions required to make an investment decision.

For smaller investments, the outputs can be consolidated into a single chart or table to feed a simplified portfolio approach.

Example ILM

What Should the Results be?

The image below is one of the ILM examples provided by the Victoria Government and represents what a completed ILM might look like:


Extending with ideation

I think one of the drawbacks to the ILM framework is the relatively limited time given to the exploration of options and ideas to deliver an outcome. ILM workshops are usually 2 hours in duration, so the time available to explore various options as part of strategic planning, is insufficient. Similarly attempting to understand the root cause of a complex issue in a limited workshop may not be feasible. Supplementing stages of the process, and extending the range of techniques available, will enable organisation to stay true to the framework but gain better data to support decision making.

For example, supplementing the ILM process by replacing the workshop looking at the response and initiatives, with an ideation phase, and extending the exploration can make it far more effective, and engaging for staff.

Ideation is the process where you generate ideas and solutions through sessions such as Sketching, Prototyping, Brainstorming, Brainwriting, Worst Possible Idea, and a wealth of other ideation techniques. Ideation is also the third stage in the Design Thinking process. Ideation is often the most exciting stage in a Design Thinking project because, during Ideation, the aim is to generate many ideas that the team can then filter and cut down into the best, most practical or most innovative ones to inspire new and better design solutions and products.

The goal of the ideation activity however is to still agree on the preferred responses to the problem or opportunities. This means it must be accompanied by a robust way to prioritise and weighting responses. Without this, the planning process remains overwhelmed with possible options.


As organisations begin their transformation journey it is important that they do not simply overlay their traditional investment management approach. To become adaptive, how organisations plan their investment is just as important as how they execute it.

The ILM process enables an organisation to explore a range of options before quickly focusing on a smaller number of initiatives and activities, that would have a measurable impact on the delivery of their strategic goals. It provides a repeatable framework that can be used at any point in the annual planning cycle, to provide a continually evolving pipeline of work, feeding into the organisation’s investment delivery activities. Rather than a big bang, once-a-year planning activity, it supports an adaptive planning model that can be delivered in shorter increments.

As an internal process, organisations can use it as an upskilling opportunity for staff to learn how to facilitate, design thinking, ideation approaches and the ILM process. This lowers the cost of implementation and provides significant personal growth opportunities for staff.

This is one of a series of process areas that organisations need to adapt to their desired new way of working.

Next Steps

That is a very brief overview of the process to create a work pipeline as part of organisational planning. There is obviously more detail that is required as you implement but creating visibility in this way, will help you manage your workloads and ensure you are getting the best value from your efforts.

If you would like to talk more about how to take a portfolio approach to initiatives, how to get started with data-driven diction making, or how you can leverage low code capabilities to automate processes, contact me via the link below.