Implementation | The Brainzooming Group - Part 3 – page 3
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Based on executives visiting the Brainzooming website, there is considerable interest right now in “strategic planning icebreaker activities.”  I guess that isn’t surprising. This is the time of year when most organizations that are going to do strategic planning are thinking about it or have already started.

2 New Strategic Planning Icebreaker Activities

Here are two brand new ideas for strategic planning icebreaker activities. They both materialized last week. One is from a misunderstood comment at a strategic planning workshop. The other is a spin on a strategic planning technique someone told me about.

#1. Why can’t we have nice things?

Walking up to a small group at a Brainzooming strategic planning workshop, I mistakenly thought one participant said, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” That was enough of an inspiration to jot the idea down on this sticky note.

It occurred to me that this could be one of those fun strategic planning icebreaker activities to start a conversation about challenges and roadblocks an organization is facing. As it’s shown here, people can introduce themselves, then state a reason the organization can’t have nice innovations. Nothing about the question suggests whether the responses must be serious or silly. You may want to arrange for an early participant to share a silly answer to keep the tone light.

#2. Fill in the Blank

The second icebreaker activity idea came from someone telling me about a strategic planning workshop exercise where they used fill-in-the-blank questions. That made me remember the Match Game television program. On the game show, contestants completed a sentence by filling in a blank. The players scored points based on whether celebrities matched their answers to the typically suggestive questions.

Why not use a similar approach for strategic planning icebreaker activities?

Based on the same theme of getting a conversation started about innovation challenges, possible questions are:

I’m thinking we’d print the questions on sheets of orange paper, allowing people to answer them in writing and then hold them up as they introduce themselves.

Remember: These Are from the Brainzooming R&D Lab

We haven’t tried either of these in a real workshop yet, but we will soon. If you beat us to it, contact us about how they go! – Mike Brown

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Chuck Dymer and I led the first step in a client’s multi-day strategic planning process this week. The client wants to envision its organizational role decades into the future. This initial visioning exercise was hugely successful and fun.  And fun was an important expectation since they found us by Googling “strategic planning fun” and downloading our eBook on the topic of fun strategic planning.

We have been preparing the strategic planning process design for this workshop over the last month. Along the way, our two client sponsors have been incredible with their level of engagement and participation.

All of their involvement paid off via the five-part strategic planning process workshop addressing multiple strategic priorities. The support they provided and roles they played were integral to making the visioning workshop a success. They are a great example of how a client can powerfully support strategic planning success.

13 Ways to Support Strategic Planning Process Success

If you want strategic planning to be more productive in your organization, here are 13 ways our clients made it happen that you can do also:

  1. Be present and active throughout the process
  2. Actively take part in identifying who to involve in the strategic planning process
  3. Devote the appropriate amount of time to understanding a workshop’s design and strategic thinking exercises
  4. Greet workshop participants as they arrive
  5. Describe the process to participants in real words (not jargon) that people understand
  6. Introduce the facilitators with enthusiasm
  7. Play along with the icebreaker activity
  8. Stimulate ideas among other participants without dominating a conversation
  9. Smile throughout the workshop
  10. Ask constructive, probing questions to generate ideas
  11. Engage people that aren’t participating much (if at all)
  12. Refer back to information sharing and activities earlier in the workshop
  13. Summarize the results with passion and hopefulness

If you do these things as an internal strategic planning sponsor, you are setting the stage for making your strategic planning process a success! – Mike Brown

 

fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Make Planning Strategy More Fun!

Yes, strategic 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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Talking with another organization’s leaders, I started probing about their work processes. My suspicion (which proved correct) was they didn’t have formal processes to dependably produce their best work every time. Their processes turned out to be lax and inconsistent, which resulted in their customer experience strategy being the same.

They asked what they could do to better document strong processes.

3 Steps to Developing Consistent Customer Experience Strategy Processes

Off the top of my head, I suggested the following strategy to strengthen the consistency of their customer experience strategy.

Step 1: Select 10 to 15 very successful engagements. Also, select 10 to 15 unsuccessful (or less successful) engagements.

Step 2: Have two individuals or two groups work completely separately on diagnosing the critical success (or lack of success) factors. Use a structure so each group fully explores all aspects of the client experience, along with relevant internal processes, interactions, and tools to deliver the client experience. Among the factors to evaluate are:

  • Who people participated on the client side? On your side?
  • What talents, perspectives, energy, engagement, and activities did each person and group contribute to the process?
  • To what degree was the process complete (vs. abbreviated), standardized (vs. customized), at an expected pace (vs. accelerated or slowed), supported with an appropriate level of client activity (vs. too much oversight or not enough engagement)?
  • Relative to the result, what was the actual outcome (vs. what was expected) and objective measures of its success (vs. comparable engagements)?

Step 3: After each team prepares its evaluation, switch the work. Each group can add additional comments to the other group’s assessment based on their learning from the initial work.

Shaping Your Processes

Across this type of evaluation and questions, you should have a strong sense of what processes and factors lead to successful outcomes within your customer experience strategy.

From there, you can start spelling out more standardized approaches to boost the consistency and success of what you do and deliver. – Mike Brown

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How can you develop strategic thinking exercises to envision the future when it’s so easy to let previous experience cloud your imagination?

In an a mid-August 2017 article in The Wall Street Journal, Pasquale Romano, CEO of ChargePoint, Inc., discusses the future of electric cars and why the charging station model will break from the gas station model. Romano shared an important insight into the challenge of developing strategic thinking exercises to envision future strategy: “Until you drive an EV, you are colored by 135 years of going to the gas station. Under that scenario, you say ‘Where is the new company that’s doing EV charging on street corners or in my highway entrance?’ but that isn’t really how this works.”

Romano sees the future model revolving revolve around charging stations located where people are already stopping for extended periods. The quick-in, quick-out charging station won’t garner a significant place. Understanding this change, however, is challenging when your perspective hasn’t broken from the past.

4 Strategic Thinking Exercises to Envision Future Strategy

Inspired by his observations, here are four strategic thinking exercises to better envision future strategy for your organization when success depends on breaking (as best possible) from a historical perspective.

Strategic Thinking Exercise: Simulation and Role Playing

Challenge #1 – Extrapolating from Today: Romano stresses the futility of imagining a car charging model by extrapolating from the current auto fueling one. The key is to experience (or imagine the experience of) driving an electric vehicle with its differing needs.

Strategic Thinking Exercise: Create an interactive, day-in-the-life scenario to imagine the future. Do the homework upfront via research, forward-looking case studies, immersing users in prototypes or virtual reality experiences, and simulating the future ahead. Providing a robust future view helps people more thoroughly envision it for your audiences and organization.

Participants will take on roles as future audience members. Within the role playing, they will brainstorm specific questions, challenges, opportunities, and behaviors they will encounter. This lets participants envision a typical future day unfolding sequentially.

It’s not unusual for brainstorming exercises to stipulate that every starting idea is good. To help future-imagining Brainzooming participants detach from today as much as possible, we anticipate one person steeped in the forward-looking research taking on a unique role: Owner of the Future. This person will listen for present-day thinking that no longer applies, in the future. If they hear speculation inconsistent with the future, they’ll exclaim loudly, “The future doesn’t work like that!” Yes, the role is different. Played by the right person, we think it will lighten things up and focus ideas.

Strategic Thinking Exercise: Flipping Minimal and Abundant

Challenge #2 – Emerging Events Seem Microscopic: Before the next major event becomes major, it has minimal impact. Maybe 1% of the next big thing will be apparent while the status quo accounts for 99% of what we experience. At some point in the future, whatever the next big thing is will account for the overwhelming majority of instances, but not immediately.

Strategic Thinking Exercise: Quantify statistics about the current status quo and emerging situations, using them in an exercise where you flip the numbers. Associate the minimal numbers of the emerging development with the abundant numbers of the status quo, and vice versa. Once you blatantly reset the future view through a number flip, have participants imagine the future by asking:

  • What will be important for success in this scenario?
  • How will audience member expectations change?
  • Who else would want to become a supplier or supporter in this scenario?
  • What new opportunities could develop with so many things flipped versus today?
  • What new problems might emerge with many things the opposite of now?

Strategic Thinking Exercise: Constrain Thinking to a Completely Technological Future

Challenge #3 – Thinking Technology Impacts Will Come Up Short: As we conduct future-looking research, several things are clear: digital availability, automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things are all super-charging forward.

Strategic Thinking Exercise: While maybe not EVERYTHING will be digitized and automated, for the sake of imagining the future, you can comfortably say everything will be. Stipulating an all-digital future enables questions that make it more difficult to hold a today-centric perspective. Ask:

  • If a function is completely digital, with no human intervention, what will it mean for audiences? How will we provide our product or service in relevant ways?
  • If every object/thing can report what it thinks / knows / senses, how will that change how other things act? What will it mean for robots? For humans? What will the object / thing do with the information to learn and improve?
  • If robots handle that function (and every function before and after it), how will the experience change?
  • If AI continually improves the audience experience, where will it focus improvement efforts? What will humans do differently to cope or stay ahead?

Strategic Thinking Exercise: Accessing the Excess

Future Strategy Challenge #4 – Dismantling What’s No Longer Necessary: Romano notes that when electric vehicles predominate, there will be need for only a tiny percentage of the 168,000 gas stations in the United States currently. The impact of dismantling this excess is significant.

Strategic Thinking Exercise: While it is cooler to restrict future thinking to new, innovative ideas, the impact of currently valuable assets losing utility provides another path to imagining the future. Use today’s abundant things you flipped earlier and ask questions about what happens with them:

  • How could we retrofit them to provide value in a radically different future?
  • What other replacements will develop to provide the value and utility they currently offer?
  • If we blew them up and started over, what would we do with the space / materials / resources / time they now occupy?

What does your future strategy hold?

If you are trying to prepare your organization for an uncertain future, contact us. We can design in-person and online collaboration exercises to get as ready as possible for big changes in and around your organization! – 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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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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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



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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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

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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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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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