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Strategy Uncertainty Mapping Best Practices

A Strategy Uncertainty Map is a model that is used to navigate uncertain situations inevitably encountered during the strategy or innovation process. The uncertainty map explains why uncertainty occurs, how it will change throughout the strategy or innovation process, and how project leaders can harness uncertainty to make the most informed decisions. An uncertainty map lays out what managerial skills will be needed to handle different degrees of uncertainty encountered throughout the process by categorizing uncertainty along two dimensions: uncertainty about means and uncertainty about ends.

More about Strategy Uncertainty Mapping

Description of Uncertainty Map

An Uncertainty Map categorizes project activities during periods of innovation along two dimensions:


Uncertainty about ends refers to the output or the projects for which the goals have not been clearly established. Uncertainty about means denotes unknown methods for achieving project goals and uncertainty about the processes.


During the uncertainty mapping process, a 2 x 2 framework is created that consists of four types of uncertainty that a project can fall into: exploratory, developmental engineering, applications engineering, or certainty. Uncertainty maps are beneficial tools because they provide a clear way of managing projects as well as acting as a easily digestible presentation tool for senior leaders or project team members.


The four quadrants in detail include:


Quadrant 1: Exploratory-projects where there is uncertainty regarding both the goals and the means for accomplishing them. For example, project leaders might not know how to navigate a new market, handle a new client base or operate unfamiliar technologies needed for project completion.


Quadrant 2: Developmental Engineering-projects in this category have clearly defined goals but no straightforward path for bringing them about. For example, if an organization is developing a new procedure to address an inefficient process, they may generate a number of possible solutions. Even though the goal is explicit, there are several different ways that it can be accomplished. In situations such as these, the project leader will have to decide which of the potential solutions is the best one to pursue.


Quadrant 3: Applications Engineering-projects where several resources exist for accomplish goals that have not been established yet. Specifically, the project team might know what technologies they will use to create a product or improve a procedure but do not know what market would be the best to enter in order to sell their improved product or service, or how to use the technology to accrue the most profit.


Quadrant 4: Certainty projects have clearly defined goals and a well-thought out plan for allocating resources to accomplish them. Generally, managers are looking for ways to improve the appearance or streamline the technology of projects that fall into this category or create new projects entirely. In this case, it is especially important for managers to be able to make quick decisions so that their company is able to beat their competition to putting a more efficient product on the market.

Praxie's Online Strategy Uncertainty Map Tools & Templates

Strategists sometimes must be cautious because they don’t know what will happen in a certain situation. The new online Strategy Uncertainty Map template from Praxie helps to explain why uncertainty occurs, how it will change throughout the strategy or innovation process, and how project leaders can harness uncertainty to make the most informed decisions. A Strategy Uncertainty Map can be created using a variety of tools, from documents to spreadsheets. If the map is being created for a presentation, most teams use presentation software since the maps tend to be visual representations of the overall project portfolio. Get started with our Strategy Uncertainty Map template.  

How to use it: 

  1. Review the template to assess and prioritize your portfolio.  
  2. Adjust the Criteria labels and weights to reflect your company’s needs. 
  3. List your ideas of projects/products/business strategies. 
  4. Provide scores under each category of external environment and internal capabilities. 

Unlike most traditional Uncertainty Mapping techniques, Praxie’s online Strategy Uncertainty Map collaboration tools allow any team or organization to instantly begin working with our web templates and input forms. Our digital platform goes far beyond other software tools by including progress dashboards, data integration from existing documents or other SaaS software, elegant intuitive designs, and full access on any desktop or mobile device.