Are you in budget meetings right now, determining what funds you will have to implement next year’s strategic initiatives?

Is your budget process running late? Are you still reviewing budgets for next year?

If so, you have time to turn tedious budgeting exercises into productive strategic planning activities focused on business growth.

Budgeting Can Be the Worst, but There Is Hope!


During budgeting in the Fortune 500 world, we spent too much time on the numbers and not nearly enough on making sure we were prioritizing the best strategic initiatives to grow the business.

I worked with some great people in the accounting and financial areas that understood forecasts and budgets do not just happen by themselves. My peers at the vice president level and above were, however, too often engaged in micro-managing budget details they could manage while not tackling tougher strategic issues within budgeting.

To counter this preference for numbers over strategy, we routinely tried to bring new thinking to the table to turn budget meetings into productive strategic planning activities.

3 Ways to Turn Budgets into Strategic Planning Activities

In our new Brainzooming eBook, “3 Ways to Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities,” we reveal how to:

  • Introduce productive questions you can address to improve strategy AND financials
  • Ensure you invest meeting time on high-impact areas (instead of minutiae)
  • Adopt an effective, highly-strategic approach to business metrics that addresses the link between strategic activities and results

If you are leading budget meetings, you can use these ideas to improve their strategic impact.

Even if your role is to develop and present your business unit’s budget, you can use the concepts in this eBook to highlight strategic activities and create a stronger linkage between forecasts, budgets, and the important strategic initiatives that drive growth.

The bonus part is that “3 Ways to Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities,” is FREE!

What finance or accounting person is going to nitpick that?

Download Your FREE eBook! 3 Ways to Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities

Download your copy today! – Mike Brown

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If you’ve read the Brainzooming blog for any length of time, you’ve seen Chuck Dymer’s name multiple times. Chuck has been an incredible influence on my career, especially as it comes to creative thinking skills. As someone said to me at one point, “You’ve changed your job into Chuck’s job.”

That was definitely true.

Chuck was the first person I heard deliver an in-depth presentation on creative thinking skills. He captivated me with his message. We worked with Chuck multiple times, and started to adopt many of his ideas and approaches into our strategic planning methodology.

Suffice it to say, there wouldn’t be a Brainzooming if I hadn’t met Chuck Dymer.

Creative Thinking Skills and Place with Chuck Dymer


Chuck is closing his ideation space, The IdeaLoft.

I visited him for lunch yesterday, and we recorded the Facebook live video here. I asked Chuck to talk about the IdeaLoft and how place and creativity relate to one another. The relationship between them was integral to the design and layout of the Idealoft.

Enjoy the video and Chuck’s insights and expertise on how place influences creative thinking skills!

Mike Brown


fun-ideas-strategic-planningLooking for Ideas to Make Strategy Planning More Fun?

Yes, developing strategy can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning


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I was discussing a request for proposal the other day with a potential client. He’s developing a short list of potential candidates for a new market research initiative at his company. It was clear that the organization’s team had already decided that a request for proposal was the best way to determine which outside vendor will be the best market research partner.

One other thing that was clear in the conversation:  their expectations go well beyond carrying out an already in-place quantitative market research initiative.


The discussion surfaced the need for creating and implementing multiple types of research – both quantitative and qualitative – across a number of market segments. While he billed it as “customer” research, it likely needs to include both prospects and former customers to provide accurate insights.

As we talked, I told him they shouldn’t be issuing a request for proposal.

When a Request for Proposal Doesn’t Fit

A request for proposal is fine (I suppose) when the expectations, needs, and product or service are evident. I told him, however, that when none of these are clear (even to the client) and there are multiple avenues to address a nebulous deliverable, a request for proposal isn’t the best step.

In less specific situations, a request for proposal is a waste of time for potential vendors. They are taking time to design something they will likely never implement. The real market research design will only take shape after the client selects a vendor and meaningful exploration takes place. By that point, the specifications have changed so much, the proposal is likely irrelevant.

The client will wind up re-working much of the original RFP process in short order after they pick a research partner. That’s wasted time, too.

A Request for Presentation Could Be Better

I suggested they invite potential market research partners to come in and present their credentials, experience, and initial thinking on helping the client explore what types of market research they will really need. After developing a comfort level with a potential market research partner from the Request for Presentation, they can select one. THAT is the time to sit down, specify the methodology, and develop a scope of work with pricing.

We’ll see if they take the advice.

I hope they do.

A Request for Presentation will likely be a more fruitful RFP process than one focused on a Request for Proposal. – Mike Brown


Need Fresh Insights to Drive Your Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis


“Strategic Thinking Exercises: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” features eleven ideas for adapting, stretching, and reinvigorating how you see your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
  • Stimulate fresh thinking
  • Make sure your strategy is addressing typically overlooked opportunities and threats

Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Ways to Reimagine Your SWOT Analysis

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Are you still working on your strategic planning for 2017?

Or, are you still waiting to launch your strategic planning for 2017?

Or is strategic planning for the next year something your organization just neglects to do?

If you answered “Yes” to the first or second questions, or even to the third one, but you know you SHOULD do planning for next year, time is running out.

5 Ways to Still Complete Your Strategic Planning for 2017


To help you get a handle on what you have left to complete for strategic planning, here are five things you can do to cope AND get completely on top of things for 2017:

  • Keep as much of last year’s strategy in place as is practical and focus only on updating tactics.
  • Expand the number of people collaborating on the plan, creating concurrent tracks of activity.
  • Simplify the various parts of the plan so that it is easier and faster to complete.
  • Invite people that cannot come together for in-person planning to participate via online collaboration.
  • Push out the expectation for finishing strategic planning until early next year to give you more time.

Each of these five ideas will remove a significant time drain during your planning activities. The key to all of these is that you have the wherewithal to make such a dramatic change and still deliver a strategic plan that moves your business ahead next year.

We can help make each of these adjustments, all in the interests of streamlining your strategic planning process. Let us know if you need help. We can make it happen in time for you to be ready to make next year your best year yet!

Let’s talk for thirty minutes, and see how we can still work together to complete your plan and start implementing! – Mike Brown

Streamline and Complete 2017 Strategic Planning!

Download our FREE eBook: 5 Keys to Streamline Your Strategic Planning Process

5-keys-streamline-cover2In this new eBook, we share some of what we’ve learned from shaping, streamlining, and implementing hundreds of strategic workshops. Through our experience, we’ve identified and now share in this eBook:

  • Suggestions for assembling a strategy team with the right types of diversity
  • Dependable ways to help non-strategists think strategically
  • Tips for streamlining strategic planning activities to best fit your organization and save time

These user-friendly techniques regularly cut weeks (sometimes months) from typical strategic planning activities so your organization can focus on successful implementation for 2017!

Download Your FREE eBook! 5 Keys to Streamline Strategic Planning Activities!

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I don’t know that we have ever run a reader letter here, but the story in this email and the writer’s comments deserve a wider audience.


The letter is from Barbara Lane at Telesystem in Northwood, OH. She wrote in response to Emma Alvarez Gibson’s post-election reflection. What Barbara relates is another helpful part of the reflection and need to move forward that is the air right now:

Mike and team,

First, I want to say thanks for your blog and plethora of articles on strategic planning.  I have used many of your techniques both at work and as I facilitate visioning and strategic planning at my church.

With regards to the email today, I am currently in the middle of leading a Bible study based on the book, “Fear of the Other” by Will Willimon.   In it, he puts forth many of the same ideas contained in Emma Gibson’s reminder. But one that particularly spoke to me was an exchange between Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.  Douglass was bemoaning the plight of black slaves and the country’s reluctance for – no, outright anger and indignation against – the proposition of freedom for them.  Truth, who was fully aware of Douglass’ Christian beliefs asked him, “Frederick, is God dead?”

I think this is very pertinent to what many people are feeling today, and we have to realize that there is a greater power out there who works all things according to his purpose.

BTW – if you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it.

I greatly appreciate you and your efforts,


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I woke up this morning, and the first thing I saw on Facebook was this reflection by Emma Alvarez Gibson (from our West Coast Brainzooming outpost) as the election returns in the United States were coming in last night.

It says everything beautifully.


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As the election season in the United States draws to a close, it’s time for a moment of reflection. Here’s what I have to offer.

Time for A Moment of Reflection

I lector at 6:30 a.m. mass nearly every Tuesday. Every two years on this Tuesday (during the 32nd week of the liturgical year), my favorite business-oriented bible verse is part of the first reading at mass. It is from the letter to Titus (Chapter 2: 7-8):

“Show(ing) yourself as a model of good deeds in every respect, with integrity in your teaching, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be criticized, so that the opponent will be put to shame without anything bad to say about us.”

After an election season where candidates at al levels have done exactly the opposite of this verse, it is time to reflect how we got here and how we change it going forward.

I believe prayer is part of the answer. All the other parts of the answer? Wow, that’s going to take all of us.

Get away from the media today, and have your moment of reflection on what part of the change YOU can make happen! – Mike Brown

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