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We think one of the most important decisions during a strategic planning process is how to structure the activities the plan contains. Getting the right structure helps align the proper leadership to engage the organization in successfully implementing the plan.

3 Ways to Organize Your Strategic Planning Process

Three ways you can organize your strategic planning process are based on:

  • Organizational Structure: Present the activities by business lines and departments
  • Strategic Opportunities or Themes: Cross-functionally deploy the organization on major activities
  • Markets or Competitive Forces: Activate the organization around external realities, such as specific customer segments or competitors

You can also pick some combination of these organizing approaches.

Depending on your internal and external situation, each option presents advantages and disadvantages for your strategic planning process.

Using the organizational structure makes ownership for implementing the plan very clear, but it can work against collaborative implementation. Building it around strategic opportunities or themes typically ties to organizational priorities, but it likely means the plan structure will change every year or two. Using market segments or competitors creates a market focus for the plan while potentially clouding who will have responsibility for owning implementation and results.

No answer is right in every situation, but take the time early in strategic planning – ideally before you launch planning – to decide how you want to organize it. Making the decision early allows you to shape all the subsequent activities around your decision and the plan’s final structure.

Want to think through what can work best for you? If you’re driving strategic planning in a complex organization, contact us, and let’s discuss what your best option might be. – Mike Brown

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It’s been quite some time since Alan Black, Ph.D., CSP, DLA, guest posted on Brainzooming. Based in Athens, GA, but a true global traveler, Alan’s mission is to travel the world to help spark the increased development of Creative Thinking everywhere he can in every way he can. Here is Alan’s take on pushing beyond a single answer to embrace excessive creative thinking!

EXCESSIVE CREATIVE THINKING by Alan Black

For thirteen years, from K to 12th grade, children are taught to memorize the SINGLE CORRECT ANSWER in all their classes.  Seldom are they encouraged or taught how to generate multiple answers.

So, what might EXCESSIVE CREATIVE THINKING be?

Instead of asking WHAT IS IT? or WHAT WAS IT? or who, when, where or how a specific thing happened or happens, what if teachers began to ask:

What, Who, When, Where, Why, How MIGHT it happen?

Or

What, Who, When, Where, Why, How ELSE it may happen?

Instead of asking for the ANSWERS in the back of the accepted teacher’s manual for a course, why not encourage students to generate multiple possible to probable to perhaps provable potential ideas that may lead to workable solutions.

Such EXCESSIVE Creative Thinking is purely that: CREATIVE THINKING.

Around the world, professions, occupations, businesses, schools, and governments drastically need CREATIVE IDEAS more so today than ever in history.

Yet children and adults are taught to know the RIGHT ANSWER, the CORRECT SINGLE ANSWER.

Try this with your students, employees, or family members this week.

Instead of asking for a specific, in the back of the teacher’s answer book answer, ask for 6 possible, probable, or potential ideas.  Once they respond with 6 ideas, automatically begin asking for 12. Then 24. Then 144.

Push, pull, encourage your students, employees, and family members to THINK CREATIVELY first.  Then select the most acceptable, fun, new idea and turn it into a solution. – Alan Black

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We mentioned how frequently we’re being asked to incorporate uncertainty into Brainzooming creativity and strategic thinking presentations. We have considerable content on moving forward amid uncertainty (including the 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times eBook), and we’re developing additional strategic thinking pieces on uncertainty and flexibility.

Considering that, I added new strategic thinking content on flexibility into my presentation at The Leadership Institute. It suggested ways to reduce your organizational dependency on aspects of your operation that may seem important, but are ripe for less (or even no) strategic attention. Walking away from what seems essential is frightening – and has been for a long time. That’s why I reached for a long-ago quote to inspire the content: “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” from the twelfth chapter of St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.

The quote flies in the face of so many (nearly all?) media messages that say strength ONLY comes from having everything.

Yet, even in temporal situations, detachment from seemingly critical things can create the flexibility to look at compelling new options. Detachment provides freedom to chart your own preferred course of action, unencumbered by obligations to people or forces that don’t care about your best interests.

5 Ideas for Reducing Dependency on What Seems Critical

Here are five strategic thinking possibilities for reducing dependency on what seems to be critical right now:

  1. Find alternative approaches to what you are doing now
  2. Care less about a critical thing by setting your organizational desire to the side and changing your perspective
  3. Replace what seems important now with something else that is more abundant or more under your control
  4. Redirect your legacy needs so they aren’t as important anymore
  5. Give up what has been important cold turkey with a sudden and immediate stop

None of this is to suggest reducing dependency on critical things will be easy or without pain.

One example I shared was from a Catholic priest. He talked about how his parish school was starting to raise tuition $500 annually until tuition alone covers its operating costs. The objective is eliminating the federal money the school now receives. Taking money from the government can lock the school into teaching or doing things against its faith. He acknowledged the strategy change will cause hardship; the school is trying to work with parents impacted most by the new strategy. Ultimately, eliminating the dependency on outside funds will put the school in greater control of setting a strategy consistent with its faith.

What is your organization depending on currently where reducing your dependency will make you stronger? Start tackling an alternative strategy before outside forces require you to do it.  – Mike Brown

What’s Your Implementation Strategy for Uncertain Times?

The Brainzooming eBook 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes when uncertainty is high. We share suggestions on:

  • Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
  • Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
  • Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
  • Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times is a FREE, quick read that will pay dividends for you today and in the uncertain times ahead.
Download Your FREE eBook! 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times



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Meeting with a client to design a visioning session for its upcoming strategic planning activities, I prepared several pages of options. The possibilities included many different directions we could incorporate within their strategic planning process. The objective of our conversation, at least from my end, was to help them start making decisions about how they wanted an early step in their strategic planning activities to look.

You do not always have as much flexibility we did in this situation. Ideally, though, you want some latitude to design your strategic planning process to create an experience that will be both productive and engaging for participants. Additionally, you want it to produce results for your organization.

5 Keys to a More Flexible Strategic Planning Process

via Shutterstock

Here are five practices to help ensure you have options and flexibility when you begin designing how you will develop your business strategies:

#1. Start planning your strategy as early as makes sense

Starting early doesn’t necessarily mean spending more time on developing your strategy. Launch strategy planning far enough ahead of your deadline so that you have an opportunity to involve all the people you would like, plus go deeper in activities needing more attention.

#2. Take advantage of the early start to ask people for ideas sooner than later

One major advantage of starting your strategic planning process early is you have more time to engage a broad group of internal and external audiences for specific input on what the plan should address. This always makes for a better plan.

#3. View issues from as many strategic perspectives as possible

If you solicit strategy input from a large, diverse group of stakeholders, you will incorporate many different perspectives. Introducing perspectives from across your audiences should make the plan more on-target, actionable, and focused on producing meaningful benefits.

#4. Only presuppose the strategic plan’s direction in proportion to how widely you solicit input

Another benefit of starting early and soliciting ideas from stakeholders is your learnings can shape the structure and content of your strategic plan. This moves it away from a closed process with only a small group deciding what it should contain. If you gather input widely, you can gain confidence in using the themes and focus areas you learn to structure and move the plan forward more quickly in later stages.

#5. Make decisions as late as you can during strategic planning

Starting a strategic plan early may mean you have fewer actual results from the current plan to shape decisions. That’s why you should design the strategic planning process underway now to delay decisions for as long as possible. This provides flexibility without slowing down or unnecessarily compromising your strategy.

Looking for more strategic planning flexibility?

Would you like help thinking about what more flexible strategy planning process looks like for your organization? If you have responsibility for strategic planning in your organization, contact us, and let’s discuss how a flexible, collaborative strategic planning process could work for you! – Mike Brown

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Create the Vision to Align and Engage Your Team!

Big strategy statements shaping your organization needn’t be complicated. They should use simple, understandable, and straightforward language to invite and excite your team to be part of the vision.

Our free “Big Strategy Statements” eBook lays out an approach to collaboratively develop smart, strategic directions that improve results!


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We previously shared ice breaker questions created for various client events. Here is another installment.

22 Ice Breaker Questions on Disruptive Innovation and Uncertainty

We helped plan a full day event focused on disruptive innovation. That triggered creating an entirely new set of ice breaker questions linked to disruption or uncertainty in some way. And since disruptive innovation and uncertainty are hot topics for the Brainzooming crew currently, we wanted to share a subset of the questions for your use:

  1. How long did it take you to figure out what you wanted to do in your career?
  2. What daily task in your personal life would you want a robot to take over first?
  3. What daily task in your work life would you want a robot to take over first?
  4. What’s the most exciting thing in your view as you look ahead to all the technological changes promised for the years ahead?
  5. What’s the scariest thing in your view as you look ahead to all the technological changes promised for the years ahead?
  6. What do you think will be commonplace first – a car with NO ONE behind the wheel on the highway or no more cell phone calls where you must tell someone to repeat something because they dropped out?
  7. Which will disappear first – boring PowerPoint presentations or the K-Mart brand?
  8. Speaking of disruptive brands, what is your best Uber experience?
  9. Speaking of disruptive brands, what is your worst Uber experience?
  10. Does the prospect of getting food delivered within a few minutes by a total stranger make you forget all about personal privacy for your information?
  11. What disruptive brand do you use most often (or the one you use second most often if the most used one is kind of embarrassing)?
  12. What one prediction about the future are you confident will NEVER happen?
  13. If you could share one thing with your twenty-year old self to make things less unpredictable for you back then, what would it be?
  14. What unpredictable career twist led you to be here today?
  15. Is your career what you expected it to be when you were 25, and if “no,” how is it different?
  16. Do you get to spend more or less time thinking about the future of your business than you think you need to spend?
  17. What disruptive brand do you think will be the next one to completely implode and disappear without hardly a trace?
  18. What is one task in your life that you would NEVER trust a robot to do?
  19. What will be commonplace first – Amazon uses drones for delivery on a widespread basis or a private company puts a person on the Moon or Mars?
  20. What do you think is the bigger threat to humanity – a weird computer virus or an easily-spread human virus?
  21. What technology can you not live without that you didn’t have two years ago?
  22. Who is closer to being an all-knowing being: Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos?

The good news here is that looking back through the list, most of these ice breaker questions will work even IF your event isn’t solely tied to disruptive innovation and uncertainty.

And that’s a certainty! – Mike Brown

What’s Your Implementation Strategy for Uncertain Times?

Things aren’t getting saner and more calm. Are you ready to pursue an implementation strategy that works in uncharted waters?

The Brainzooming eBook 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes when few things ahead are clear. We share suggestions on:

  • Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
  • Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
  • Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
  • Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times is a FREE, quick read that will pay dividends for you today and in the uncertain times ahead.
Download Your FREE eBook! 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times



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We were driving home from the store this weekend, and saw this huge tree that fell over from its base. It made me think of the phrase “too big to fail.” In this case, this huge tree must have been completely ready for failure, whether that was apparent to anyone or not.

Disrupt Your Brand Before Something Else Does

A similar phenomenon applies to brand strategy. You may think your brand is strong and ready to withstand anything that might come its way. But all the while, competitors or market forces you may not even suspect are disrupting your place in the market.

While success can breed success, it can also lead to blindness about the importance of trying to disrupt your brand strategy before something else comes along to topple your brand.

104 Possibilities to Disrupt Your Brand Strategy

To help you stay ahead of disruption, here are 104 possibilities to do the work to disrupt your brand strategy yourself instead of letting another party do it for you. Beyond these articles, it’s a wonderful time with strategic planning coming up for many firms, to download the free Brainzooming eBook, Disrupting Thinking – 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Own Brand Before Someone Else Disrupts You! 

Don’t allow your executive team to become complacent! Get to work on disrupting your business strategy yourself: it’s much less painful! – Mike Brown

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Is there such a thing as a quick check to determine whether a strategic plan is on the right track or not?

While reviewing mini-strategic plans attendees developed at a recent logistics company customer event we facilitated, I relied on one that works well.

We designed a group exercise for participants to identify strategic plan topics. We also provided an overview with instructions about how to write a mini-strategic plan. Each mini-plan section featured one or two questions to help guide small groups in their work. Each of the six groups had fifteen minutes to complete the front and back of a mini-plan. As they worked, we roamed among the six groups to answer questions and provide guidance.

1 Question to Test Effective Strategic Plan Development

I was familiar with the starting topics and trigger events, but did not have close knowledge of the conversations each group had to develop its mini-strategic plan. Beyond looking for good structure and form in each mini-plan, I repeatedly asked a strategic thinking question that is valuable for anyone writing or reviewing any type of plan:

If I had to implement this, would I know what to do?

This simple strategic thinking question helps you quickly identify:

  • Whether the plan provides enough detail
  • If the words (and especially the acronyms used) are understandable
  • Whether the steps (or tactics) follow one another in an order that makes sense
  • How complete the path is to lead to the stated goal or objective
  • How faithfully the steps carry out the stated strategy

In the Brainzooming world, we think highly of a single strategic thinking question that works that hard, shedding light on five key areas in creating an effective strategic plan.

Tucking this question away for the next time you are writing or reviewing a strategic plan will lead to a more complete plan with simpler, straightforward language offering a better opportunity for successful implementation. – Mike Brown

fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Make a Strategic Planning Process More Fun!

Yes, a strategic planning process 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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