A new national experiment begins. Strategically, it’s smart to avoid experiments at the top of any organization, but this is what we’re facing. 

How will this experiment unfold?

Will it be like a Bugs Bunny cartoon from long ago where Elmer Fudd took on the persona of whatever hat he wore? Does being in a particular position cause one to suddenly behave in an appropriate manner for the office one assumes?

Will it be like having a turnaround CEO at the top? One good turnaround CEO whose tenure I lived through didn’t particularly trust anyone. He wanted others under him that didn’t trust the functions they were supervising. Because of this, they weren’t always well-versed in the areas they were running. Ultimately, he was looking to them to make hard decisions with no attachment to the past.

Will it be like having a sociopath running the show? Having lived through several leaders who acted dangerously, inappropriately, and without regard for others, that would be a rough go for everyone, no matter your political preference.

Will it demonstrate the power of prayer? If enough people started praying for better leadership, would divine intervention save us from what is already an ugly pattern that seems to have no hope of ending well, absent a miracle?

Will it prove, as many believe, that a business person with an up-and-down track record is really U.S. Grant, Adolf Hitler, Hugh Hefner, and Lester Maddox, with healthy doses of nepotism, all rolled into one? It might seem extreme, but you can easily connect the dots and find yourself pointed in that direction.

Will it cause all of us, the people of this nation, to rethink our political and social structures, and aggressively work for something better in 2020? Lord, I hope that’s the case.

As much as it would be nice to be a disinterested observer of this experiment, no one in the United States (or the world, for that matter), can afford that attitude. 

Pick your position, do your strategic thinking, and start creating positive change — today! – Mike Brown

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Have you participated in an escape room yet?

You can visit Wikipedia for a more comprehensive description of an escape room. It’s essentially a “locked” room filled with clues that a group needs to discover and decode in order to unlock the door and leave. It’s a timed activity; the team is competing against the clock and previous players to see if they can escape within an hour.

Spoiler alert: My team didn’t escape anywhere near the record of 32 minutes. My team didn’t even escape within the hour; neither did the other team, although they turned their sign around in the photo below to make it look like they did!

7 Forgotten Project Management Skills from an Escape Room Fail

This was my first escape room experience. Our fail suggested seven solid project management skills we neglected to use.

If you’re visiting an escape room or are suddenly hit with a new, time-constrained challenge, here are the project management skills you shouldn’t forget!

1. We didn’t formally account for diversity.

They asked us how we’d like to split the group to participate in two rooms simultaneously. No one came up with an idea, so they simply drew a line through the group to separate us. Fortunately for my team, we had two women; we wound up with both gender and race diversity.

2. We spent no group time assessing the situation.

We followed the promptings of our handler and immediately started going through things looking for clues without any group evaluation or planning.

3. We didn’t select a project leader.

I don’t think we even asked if anyone had participated in an escape room before and had lessons to share. Without a designed project leader, the person that just found a clue or more boldly advanced an idea assumed leadership.

4. We didn’t assign any other specific roles, either.

When we did start finding clues we squandered our time because we hadn’t selected one person to organize, analyze, and keep track of them.

5. We wasted time going over the same ground multiple times.

Because we weren’t tracking what others did, we wasted time going back looking at things in the room others had already explored and decided didn’t contain clues.

6. We didn’t manage our scarcest resource: time.

We casually paid attention to the countdown clock, but didn’t take stock as time clearly slipped away from us. We should have re-set and devised a game plan to deploy and manage our final minutes.

7. We settled for whatever we were able to get done (and spun it as success).

Time ran out as we (according to our handler) reached about 80% of the clues. We patted ourselves on the back for getting a low B, and then immediately started telling the other team we did much better than we did!

Our Project Management Skills Fail Cratered Us

Yeah, from a project management standpoint, the escape room felt much like many hurry up and get it done projects that pop up in business. We dove in and scrambled to start without investing just a little time in planning and coordination. It could have made a difference.

Repeat our failings at your own project peril! – Mike Brown


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Moving from planning to implementation strategy, it’s easy to focus on the end goal and never look back – or forward beyond launch. That type of focus and momentum helps drive your implementation strategy.

As you move ahead with determination, however, here’s an important tip: look ahead to all the people, processes, and resources you will need for support when what you are preparing to implement is ready to implement. If you ignore the important step of giving heads up notifications to key people, you risk delivering a great “whatever it is you’re developing” without the support necessary for success.

15 Questions to Identify Heads Up People in Your Implementation Strategy

If the plan behind your implementation strategy identifies all the “heads ups” you need, that’s fantastic.

Planners often aren’t thinking about all the implementation tasks, though. They may have neglected to identify everyone that needs to know what you’re implementing.

To figure out who needs heads up notifications, here are 15 questions we use to stimulate strategic thinking about the people that need to go what’s going on before it happens:

  1. Who will need to provide resources to complete it?
  2. Who will forget that they once supported doing this?
  3. Who will evaluate whether it was a good decision to do or not?
  4. Who can put a roadblock in the way of doing this?
  5. Who will finance development and implementation?
  6. Who needs to support it to ensure it happens?
  7. Who will make it?
  8. Who will regulate it?
  9. Who owns the products and promotions this will need to integrate with more closely?
  10. Who will communicate about it?
  11. Who will help create demand for this?
  12. Who will need to explain what it is and the benefits?
  13. Who will sell it?
  14. Who will provide training about it, no matter the audience?
  15. Who will service / fix it?

That’s a lot of questions. It may be too many for you (if you know the names of most of the people from the start) or not nearly enough (if your initiative is particularly complex).

Either way, use the most helpful questions from this list to ensure you generate a thorough list of names. Include all of them in your project management steps and people will be better ready to support you when you need it!  – 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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Is accelerating your innovation strategy high on your organization’s priority list for this year?

If growth is an important component of what you are trying to accomplish, innovation is likely getting a hard look as an important part of realizing that objective.

The Brainzooming Group has you covered, with eBooks to:

  • Evaluate innovation opportunities and challenges
  • Conquer change fears and resource limitations
  • Identify and develop innovation strategies with a customer perspective
  • Keep your personal innovation perspective sharp

If any of that sounds like what you have in front of you for this year, we invite you to peruse our list of free innovation strategy eBooks and download all of them that will help you be more efficient and effective in the year ahead.

5 Innovation Strategy eBooks from Brainzooming

The Ten Big NOs to InNOvating

The Brainzooming eBook The Ten Big NOs to InNOvating reveals ten common innovation strategy barriers your organization may be facing along with actionable ideas for overcoming them.

7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization’s Innovation Fears

Assess whether your organization is displaying any of the seven typical innovation fears. For each fear, we highlight strategy options to mitigate the fears and push forward with innovative strategies.

16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Use the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to help identify new possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jumpstart your innovation strategy.

Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools

This eBook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises for innovation The Brainzooming Group uses with clients to ideate, prioritize, and develop their best growth ideas.

Taking the NO Out of InNovation

This Brainzooming eBook helps take the “NO” out of InNOvation, addressing eight personal innovation perspectives along with sharing ideas for how to make sure you are as creative and innovative as possible.

Need More for Your Innovation Strategy?

If you want to go even deeper on innovation, contact us, and let’s talk about your specific needs and how we can help you address them to achieve your growth objectives for the year ahead. – Mike Brown

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This week’s “Inside the Executive Suite” article from Armada Corporate Intelligence looked at how you focus a distracted organization on an implementation strategy to align and focus activities. Not an easy task. Here is a recommendation to make it happen through taking on three different strategic roles. 

3 Roles to Focus a Distracted Organization on Implementation Strategy

A C-level executive with a non-profit is at wits’ end. Amid a recent major leadership transition, the incoming CEO drove a broad, collaborative, strategic input initiative. A large leadership group shaped a strategic plan with several strategies and accompanying tactics. Full plan implementation could take twenty-four to thirty-six months. After the initiative to shape and guide future activities delivered a plan, the organization has seemingly returned to doing what it had already been doing. When this executive reaches out for progress updates or tries to focus leadership meetings around the plan, she regularly hears, “We’re too busy to focus on the strategic plan.”

Yet, she reports, the organization IS working on and progressing on plan tactics. This led her to ask: How does a senior executive lacking direct line responsibility champion an implementation strategy in a distracted organization?

That’s a fantastic, real world question.

An Implementation Strategy that Creates Focus

The executive has a challenge ahead. She’s willing to pursue making an implementation strategy because of her personal stake in helping lead the organization through the strategic planning initiative. She also knows the impact a comprehensive strategy can have in shaping an organization and improving results. You may not be in exactly this situation. It’s likely, though, given your responsibilities, that you have had to push for a major strategic initiative in a distracted organization focused on daily pressures. Answering her request for help with developing an approach to get the organization focused on implementing strategy, we shared a three-fold role.

1. Become the Strategic Implementation Reporter

Role one involves being a reporter. This means gathering information on what the organization is actually doing (whether in the plan or not) and the impact of these activities. For tracking progress, the executive said organization leaders would be more open to conversations versus completing progress update templates. As a reporter, she is going to reach out to leaders to discuss their current priorities. She’ll ask about their top four or five focus areas, early results they’re seeing, and what’s next in each area.

She can then recap the conversations within the context of the strategic plan. She’ll match their top activities to strategies and tactics already spelled out in the plan. Where they report activities not in the plan, she’ll look for natural places they might fit. If they don’t ultimately have a home in the plan, she will list them separately. The result? She will recast all the activities people see as outside the plan into the plan’s structure to show how focused the organization is or is not.

2. Effectively Monitor Strategic Metrics

Beyond simply listing tactics within a plan format (which she did for a previous quarterly meeting), she’ll next document progress and returns associated with the activities.
From our discussion, it is clear that the organization is awash in metrics. The challenge is that the metrics are not aligned and reported in light of the strategic plan. To tackle this second role (as the Monitor for the plan), we suggested going beyond top-line and bottom-line numbers. She can also include early performance indicators and qualitative information on progress. We recommend focusing on three areas for each strategy:

  • Activities
  • Impacts
  • Returns

“Activities” (which she’ll document in the reporting role) highlight what the organization is doing. That’s where plan implementation starts. Next, “Impacts” provide early indicators of where the plan is progressing and struggling. These generally develop before the third item on the dashboard, “Returns.” Returns are the revenue growth, cost reduction, profitability improvement, and other core measures that signal an organization’s performance.

Beyond number-based metrics, look for anecdotes, stories, and images that provide greater depth to the numbers. Combining numbers with a descriptive approach to metrics offers a more robust picture of strategic implementation.

This approach addresses another challenge with plan implementation tracking: focusing only on dashboards with return-oriented metrics. Such a stripped-down approach is visually pleasing, and attractive to busy executives who don’t have time for details. The problem is that this approach disconnects business returns from the critical activities necessary to generate and improve them.

3. Connect the Organization to the Strategy

The third role is that of Connector. This means analyzing the progress recap and introducing the work to the organization, both individually and in groups. While the executive we talked with wants to share the progress update at the organization’s leadership meeting, we recommend going back to individuals BEFORE introducing it to the team. Here’s what this approach might look like in its entirety:

  • Go first to those leaders that appear as if they aren’t doing much in the plan. Discuss and clarify with them to see if you’ve missed anything. Ask if there are other activities to include. The point is to provide an opportunity to improve their focus and save face before a group meeting.
  • Then, go to the leaders that are doing a lot to further the implementation strategy. Discuss with them suggestions or learnings behind the strong performance. See if they are fine with you celebrating their successes in a group setting.
  • After the individual conversations, introduce the recap at a leadership team meeting with no surprises. Those who haven’t been implementing the plan have an opportunity to get with the program. Leaders who ARE carrying out the plan know ahead of time that you intend to feature them.

This connected view of organizational activities typically opens leaders’ eyes to realize there is greater alignment and focus than apparent amid daily activities.

Adopting this Three-Role Approach to Implementation Strategy

You may look at these three roles and scoff because it appears that we’re recommending this busy executive take work for others. While that’s one view, we would say that if making strategic implementation successful is important enough to you, it’s worth the extra work and the alignment efforts we’re recommending.

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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“Not all ideas are new. When you generate innovative ideas, make room for old ideas that have been around, but have never gotten a decent chance to advance.”

Occasionally, someone participating in a strategy workshop filled with innovative ideas will complain that a lot, or maybe all (REALLY? ALL?) the ideas already existed in the organization.

That used to bug the hell out of me whenever it would happen because we were there to generate new ideas. Lots of new ideas. GREAT NEW IDEAS.

Over time, I realized that we were really working with a client to develop winning business strategies.

Sometimes that includes coming up with new, innovative ideas. Other times it means giving old ideas a new day and putting solid tactics and strategic project management planning behind them to move them from ideas to implementation.

Now, when designing a strategy workshop, we often start with time for participants to share ideas they are already bringing with them at the start. This lets them get the ideas out there for others to consider so they can focus on other creative thinking. It also provides a check when someone says there were no innovative ideas. If that happens, we can compare the final ideas and strategies to see if they REALLY DID show up in the starting list of ideas. Typically, they aren’t present among the starting ideas!

Whether an innovative idea is old or new is less relevant than moving innovative ideas into winning business strategies.

If that’s what’s ahead for you this year, let’s talk about working together to make it happen! Mike Brown

Facing Innovation Barriers? We Can Help!


Are you facing organizational innovation barriers related to:

We have free Brainzooming eBooks for you to help navigate barriers and boost innovation!


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I listened to a radio show featuring Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak called More2Life. The topic was trust, and how people that grew up in negative home environments with crappy parents can learn to trust and not trust the right people.

They shared a four-question test for determining someone’s trustworthiness. I jotted down the questions since I saw them as a strong strategic thinking exercise.

A Strategic Thinking Exercise for Determining Trustworthiness

The questions about trustworthiness revolve around asking yourself if a specific individual demonstrates:

1. Benevolence?

The person is oriented toward your good, even at the expense of personal good and is open to correction when in the wrong

2. Ability?

The individual has the wherewithal to fulfill on the promises he/she makes

3. Integrity?

The individual actually fulfills on promises made

4. Consistency?

The person displays these characteristics over a consistent, prolonged period of time

Applying this Strategic Thinking Exercise Broadly

This is a great example of a simple strategic thinking exercise to speed and sharpen decision making.

What’s even better about these four strategic thinking questions?

They apply to many business settings. In fact, I put together a slide for a recent motor sports marketing presentation with the questions directed specifically toward judging who you can trust in motor sports (where trust is a huge deal).

We try to regularly offer these types of strategic thinking exercises both from others and from the Brainzooming R&D lab. It is smart to collect strategic thinking exercises throughout your career. Even if they come from situations quite dissimilar to your own, you can often use them to quickly work through decisions that might otherwise take too long or wind up taking you in strategically harmful directions. – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation

Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

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