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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.
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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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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

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I’ll admit my surprise that fun strategic planning activities are generating so much interest among Brainzooming readers right now. You would think everyone would be finished with strategic planning – or they decided not to pursue it for this year.

4 Fun Strategic Planning Activities to Always Have Ready

Suppose you have responsibility for strategic planning – no matter what time of year it is. What, beyond carting in a bunch of toys and pre-planned activities, can you always have ready to introduce to create fun strategic planning activities?

Here are four ideas we use:

1. Have jokes suitable and germane for work environments ready-to-go

I’m not a big joke teller. It’s advisable, though, to have a few clean jokes you can go to when things are tense, boring, or mind numbing – or all of the above. Pick jokes that fit your personality, whether you are better as a storyteller, punster, or one-liner person. I love puns you can relate to typical words that surface during strategic planning activities.

2. Create ad libs for typical situations during strategic planning activities

There’s a line in a Rod Stewart song about ad lib lines being well-rehearsed. Even if you aren’t a strong ad libber, you can develop impromptu lines fitting typical situations and issues in planning workshops. Some ideas? A projector not working, nobody wanting to answer questions, somebody keeps going back for more food, etc. All of these (and more) are ripe for laughs.

3. Introduce physical humor to add surprise

Physical humor generates laughs. For me, when an audience won’t participate, I’ve been known to crumple to the floor and stay there for a few moments until people get into it. When things are going well, I may get up on a chair and do some shtick from there. Anything physical to generate a little attention and interest is fair game!

4. Learn to doodle

Being able to suddenly doodle something funny is a quick go-to for humor. Think you can’t draw? If you can write the alphabet, you can draw things. Or better yet, go check out Diane Bleck, the Doodle Girl, for tips on doodling more effectively.

Need More Ideas for Fun Strategic Planning Activities?

If you have time for pre-planning and want more ideas at the ready, download our eBook on 11 Fun Strategic Planning Activities. Follow those ideas and you’ll never bore anyone during strategic planning again. – Mike Brown

fun-ideas-strategic-planningNeed Ideas to Make Strategy Planning Fun?

Yes, strategy planning 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.”


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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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One of the most popular Brainzooming blog posts the past few years is rich in strategic thinking tools. It features more than 200 strategic thinking questions we’ve gathered, envisioned, and created going back to The Brainzooming Group origins as a corporate strategic planning department.

The Brainzooming Group has created and published many more questions since then as part of our portfolio of strategic planning tools. We decided recently to update the post. While doing so, we realized we’d added nearly four hundred more questions since the article’s original publication date.

Strategic Planning Tools – 600 Most Powerful Strategic Thinking Questions

Rather than hit you with an updated mega-post of 600 questions, we decided to compile the links, organize them, and share the update with you in an easier-to-use eBook: The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions (The Brainzooming Group Uses. So far.)

This eBook’s questions cover the areas we address here and in our client work, including:

  • Organizational strategy
  • Innovation
  • Branding, naming, and marketing
  • Customer experience
  • Creativity
  • Implementation

While you may associate strategic planning tools with year-end activities, you will use and find these question links valuable throughout the year. They will help you:

  • Stretch and re-orient conventional thinking
  • Stimulate creativity (even among people not seeing themselves as creative)
  • Improve meeting efficiency and effectiveness
  • Align diverse activities to common strategic themes

And since we use what we publish, we’ve already found having the eBook on a phone helpful. You can quickly link to questions when you are in a meeting that isn’t delivering the results you expect. Pop open the eBook and grab a question or two to orient everyone toward more productive discussions.

Yes, we’re serious: these are the links to our 600 most powerful strategic thinking questions, all in one of the best strategic thinking tools you’ll download for FREE all year long! – 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



Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Following yesterday’s update about my dad’s unexpected death (and don’t worry not EVERY post hereafter will be about my father), I wanted to share this list of thirty things #MyDadTaughtMe.

The list originated on Twitter in 2011 in response to a hashtag floating around at the time. You will find business wisdom, life lessons, and spaß from Bernie Brown on this list.

You get to decide which is which!

Life Lessons My Dad Taught Me . . .

  1. The song, “Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me. I think I’ll go eat worms.”
  2. Don’t invest time and effort in something that won’t yield results for somebody.
  3. Even if somebody’s screwed up a bunch of times, they might not next time.
  4. Always grab a quick nap if you can. (Although I didn’t ever do it until I met my wife, who loves naps.)
  5. The “Power of Positive Thinking” works. He lived it out throughout his life.
  6. What can it hurt you to try something new, as long as it’s low risk?
  7. When you go to a restaurant where celebs go, ask the maître d, “Who else famous other than me is here tonight?” (Though I never have!)
  8. You can’t pick up a cigarette he dropped, snap it in two and hand it back to him without getting popped in the face. (Only time he ever did though.)
  9. Humor is tremendously important in life. Take time to have fun and laugh.
  10. Sales is a numbers game. If you’re not making enough calls, you’re not going to get enough sales.
  11. If you want to make a profit, you have to learn to manage costs really well.
  12. You shouldn’t make other peoples’ decisions for them. Who are you to decide someone will say “no” to your request?
  13. Don’t wind up in a career where getting paid depends solely on you having to be there each day.
  14. Don’t ever tell someone how much you make.
  15. Try your hand at being an amateur artist, even if you don’t seem to be very good.
  16. Don’t throw that “whatever it is” away. You may be able to use it later.
  17. DIY is a good thing in lots of parts of life & business. (He’s lots better at DIY than me though.)
  18. Share what you’ve learned with other people if it can help them.
  19. It’s better to be pissed off than to be pissed on.
  20. Don’t take more than your fair share. And make sure others get their fair shares first.
  21. Don’t ever brag about yourself (unless it’s about your son).
  22. Nobody’s irreplaceable. They were looking for someone else when they found you.
  23. Taking money from someone gives them the right to tell you what they think you should do.
  24. Roughing it is having to walk from your hotel room to the hotel restaurant.
  25. How to be really sneaky at paying a restaurant check before anybody else at the table knew what had happened.
  26. You’re going to have to work long and hard to get ahead.
  27. If you expect to get, you have to give first. And that’s not just about money. It’s everything.
  28. If practicing isn’t making your Little League team better, try not practicing and see if that works.
  29. Some things you simply have to put up with. Put up with them stoically.
  30. Live within your means. But never skimp on toilet paper or run out of it.

Bernie Brown via Mike Brown

 

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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In recent years, I took a blog vacation the last few weeks of each year. That was important to get a break and refresh creatively for the New Year.

If you noticed, the blog vacation started a month early in 2016, starting suddenly in mid-November.

The reason is my dad, Bernie Brown, passed away unexpectedly on November 19, 2016.

Typing that last sentence stops me in my tracks.

While intellectually, I know my dad died, I have been so steeped in processing the impact of his passing on my life, it has been tough to focus beyond only the most essential things in front of me.

Weeks later, I am still coming to grips with my dad’s death. That is likely why I have not written anything about it here yet.

If you follow me on Facebook, you might have seen updates the week he died featuring the hashtag #SurroundedByLove. I used the hashtag to represent the tremendous outpouring of concern, affection, and love people shared in the week between my dad’s death and the funeral.

For those of you who are blog readers, but are not as deep in what’s going on in my personal life, here are a few previous Brainzooming posts about my dad:

If you would like a deeper sense of this incredible man, and how his world view shapes what you see on this blog, here’s a video of the eulogy I delivered at his funeral. The audio is not great in the church. If you are interested, a pretty close transcript of my remarks is at this link.

As comfortable, as I am in where our relationship was, I miss him tremendously and am trying to fill the big hole he left in my family. So if the blogs don’t come rushing back like they did previously, you know the reason.  – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Here is a quickie strategic thinking question for you:

If you saw your life as a teeter-totter, what rules of life would guide your behaviors and how you treat others?

Teeter-Totter Rules of Life

If teeter-totter rules of life guided your strategic thinking and actions, would you . . .

  • Realize that while it is great to be higher than somebody else, it is not going to last?
  • Think about how you being on top means another person is not and treat them with respect, particularly knowing the positions are easily reversed?
  • Consider that slamming someone else to the ground is going to mean your rise to the top is not going to be as smooth as it could be?
  • Equally enjoy the experiences of the rises and falls?
  • Take advantage of the full range of movement or try to limit the ups and downs very narrowly?
  • Act more deliberately to achieve the best balance and closeness to someone else so you both enjoy the ride?
  • Not fret so much about slipping from the pinnacle because all the conditions exist for you to return there?

A teeter-totter is a certainly a very simple life model, yet it seems like there are some valuable lessons that can apply to adult life. Mike Brown

 

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Facing Innovation Barriers? Here Is Help!

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Are you facing organizational innovation barriers related to:

We have many free Brainzooming strategic thinking eBooks to help navigate barriers and boost innovation!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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