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I had the opportunity to see Dayton Moore, General Manager of the Kansas City Royals, discuss his perspective on organizational harmony as he opened the Jump Start 2017 conference in Atlanta. SMC3 sponsors the annual conference.

Moore said he carries the seven organizational harmony principles with him on a card as a reminder.

Here are the organizational harmony principles as I captured them (the intent is on target, but I may have missed some exact phrasing):

  1. Settle disputes quickly.
  2. Care more than anyone else does.
  3. Give people more than they expect.
  4. Make sure you stand up for your own people.
  5. Share the glory.
  6. Remain calm in the eye of the storm.
  7. Emphasize one-on-one communication.

We would all do well to keep those in mind!  Mike Brown

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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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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.
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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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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




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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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

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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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2016 was a year of surprises in political circles, with Brexit and Donald Trump winning the US presidency as just two of the events that caught many experts by surprise.

And when big surprises emerge nationally and globally, what happens next often leads to more uncertain times.

In these situations, what implementation strategy makes sense for your business?

Do you:

  • Speculate on riskier new opportunities?
  • Wait to see what develops, then act?
  • Hunker down and try to wait things out?

We’re not here to predict what will happen next with Brexit, Donald Trump, or any other global threat or opportunity. We concentrate on suggesting ideas to develop a solid implementation strategy that works for your organization during uncertain times.

That’s what The Brainzooming Group eBook, 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times, seeks to do: provide a starting point to review and develop strategies that serve your business well, no matter the external environment.


Download Your FREE eBook! 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times


Implementation Strategy for Uncertain Times

We spend considerable time challenging conventional wisdom that stands in the way of innovation. This is often necessary to get an organization moving in new, innovative directions.

It is also important to take best advantage of what will like stay the same irrespective of the what is happening outside your organization.

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes. The outcome is ensuring your organization is nimble and ready for changes – both expected and unexpected.

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 weeks and months ahead.



Download Your FREE eBook! 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times



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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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