Performance | The Brainzooming Group - Part 2 – page 2
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Mid-year is that time where you look ahead to the year’s end while simultaneously reviewing this year’s plan and wondering how everything will get done by December 31. That leads to asking, “What would happen if we don’t get everything done? Didn’t we put too many things into the plan, anyway?”

Sound familiar?

5 Areas to Get Stalled Strategic Planning Initiatives Moving

I used to go through this routine repeatedly until I realized that I lacked a standard checklist of project assessment questions to use when a strategic planning initiative is behind schedule. I guess I was recreating the question set every time I needed it.

To spare yourself and everyone around you the hassles involved with not working from a standard set of questions, you can use the following routine this week, and in the years ahead, to standardize your diagnoses and approaches to floundering projects.

Rank the Suspected Causes

The first step is to assess the potential reasons why a strategic planning initiative hasn’t started within the time frame you originally planned. We recommend making a quick assessment. Our approach is to rank potential factors based on which you think are the most-to-least significant in delaying launch. Some typical factors you may consider:

  • The initiative’s importance or fit within the plan is off or no longer relevant
  • The leader and/or team on the initiative isn’t the right one
  • There’s an issue with the structure of the approach the team is taking to the initiative
  • There’s an issue with the size or scope of the initiative
  • Resource availability or levels are a roadblock
  • Some other reason is creating the roadblock

Ranking these factors, 1 through 6, helps prioritize your starting place to address the initiative’s delay. One ground rule: there can be no ties in your ranking. Not EVERY item can be the #1 reason. Force quick priorities so you can begin addressing the important issue as quickly as possible.

After completing the assessment, work through question-based checklists on the most significant factors. These are our starting questions in each category:

#1. The Importance or Strategic Fit Is Off

If changes in the internal or external environment are now calling into question a delayed initiative’s importance, ask:

  • Are there ways to simplify or change the initiative’s direction to increase its relevance?
  • What has changed in the underlying business strategy that impacts the need or interest in moving forward? Will the strategy change back (or again) soon?
  • Are specific reasons for moving forward more important than others? If we focused only on those reasons, how would we adjust the initiative?
  • If we don’t move forward with the initiative this year, what material impact will it have on attaining important goals and objectives?
  • Would we be better to divert focus from this initiative to other initiatives? Would we benefit more from diverting focus from other initiatives to jump start this delayed one?

#2. Leadership or Team Issues

Maybe the leaders or team expected to develop an initiative aren’t the right fit. This scenario prompts a variety of questions:

  • Is the initiative under-staffed? If we put more people on it, what will that change?
  • Does the team have challenges working together? Who, among the team members, needs to change in order to fix those issues?
  • Are there parties critical to developing or launching the initiative who haven’t been included to this point? Will involving them now help address these delays?
  • Are there people whose participation would have an immediate impact on moving forward?
  • If a major change in the team is needed, who from the current team should remain, in order to provide the right degree of continuity?

#3. An Issue with the Approach

In some cases, a struggling initiative makes sense, but delays in getting started are impacting the effectiveness of the original approach. Consider:

  • Is there a smaller effort or pilot related to this initiative that we can use to get progress (and results) going as soon as possible?
  • If there are uncertainties with the approach or the current environment, can we start with a part of the initiative that we could easily change or adapt later?
  • Are there steps we can easily remove (with disproportionately less impact) to streamline the development time?
  • Did we miss the order of steps we identified to launch the initiative? If so, is that fixable?
  • What initiatives have we previously completed that we can repurpose to accelerate progress?
  • Have we exhausted all the leeway in the original schedule? Do we (or can we, even) negotiate for more time?

#4. The Size or Scope Is an Issue

The delay can mean that the original planned initiative is now too big or small for current needs. Ask:

  • What are the areas in which to naturally modify the initiative, so it makes smart, strategic sense?
  • Are there nice-to-haves within the initiative that we can easily eliminate?
  • If the initiative isn’t going to have a big enough impact at this point, what changes do we need to make in order to minimize the gap?

#5. Resource Availability

Another factor that can slow progress is resource mismatches. Scenarios to think about:

  • If we put more money or other resources at this initiative, what type of impact would it generate?
  • Can we couple this initiative with a different, active one, so that they can leverage common resources?
  • What resources can we grab or repurpose from other initiatives and work them into this one?

First Ask, then Answer about Strategic Planning Initiatives

We hope that you’ll find this list of questions helpful in conducting any mid-year initiative reviews you need to do to make sure you deliver the most important aspects of this year’s plan. – Edited from Inside the Executive Suite

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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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We’ve talked here about how Idea Magnets make life more exciting, fulfilling and successful, thanks in large part to their unflagging creativity.

Yeah, about that: it only appears to be unflagging.

It flags, my friends. It absolutely flags.

But Idea Magnets know this, and expect it, and they have ways of addressing it. In her seminal book on the subject of creativity, The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron (affiliate link) refers to this concept as “filling the well.” To put it simply: repeated output results in depletion. In order to create, we require creative fuel.

I found this book during my first year of college. It completely changed the way I approached my own creativity, and much of that comes down to a commitment to filling the well. Ideally, I replenish my creativity in small, continuous ways. But that’s not always practical. So when I feel that flagging feeling coming on, I choose one (or more) of the items on the list below and apply liberally to the affected area, as it were. When you magnetize your life like this, things get better pretty quickly.

Curate the things that spark your creativity.

Pinterest is an ideal tool for this. If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, it’s a site where you can collect (“pin”) images onto different “pinboards”. You can create as many boards as you’d like, and you can decide what, if any, themes each board follows.

Some of my boards

A look inside one of the boards seen in the previous image.

Of course, you could also opt for a regular, physical scrapbooks using images culled from magazines or anywhere else. Playlists are another great way to curate the music that makes you more creative. Whether you use Spotify, YouTube, or place that needle carefully on a much-loved record, music is excellent for filling the well. Finally, one of my favorite ways to gather the things that stoke my creativity is simply to put pen to paper and list them all. (I’ve done this most of my life; there’s something powerful and exciting about seeing so much potent creativity and joy named on a page in your own handwriting.) A young Nick Cave created the following list of his influencers and sent it to a reporter who’d just interviewed him:

Shift your point of view.

This is something that can be done figuratively — for example, by viewing your situation or project through the eyes of an artist you admire, or literally — by taking a walk and allowing yourself to get “lost” in a place you don’t normally walk through. You can get even more literal by climbing a tree and noting the the things you miss at your usual height, or by lying on the couch, letting your head hang down over one end, and examining your daily view of your home from that angle. It sounds silly. It is silly. But it’s also effective.

Get out of your head.

Do something that requires you to use all of your focus. Painting, woodworking, gardening, knitting, and surfing are all great ways to get out of your head and let your skills and instinct lead you. You might also consider stretching, exercising, meditating, cloudgazing, stargazing, or gazing into a nice roaring fire. Sometimes a vacation from our relentless thinking can work miracles.

Get out…period.

Visit a museum and fill your eyes with art. Get to the beach, the forest, the mountains, the desert, the open field. Breathe. Wander through an estate sale or a thrift shop. Visit a craft store and imagine trying completely new types of projects. Head to your local farmers’ market and take in the sights, sounds, and scents. See what classes are offered in your community and try something you’ve never done before: ikebana, weight lifting, ceramics, Zumba?

Magnetizing Your Life

Ideas can and do come from everywhere. And Idea Magnets need ideas in order to function properly. Our creativity demands it. It needs to roam and gather up fragments of this and that to use as fuel. That’s why practices like these are critical. At first they may feel strange or silly. But you’ll find that as you continue to make it a point to fill the well, you’ll begin attracting more and more ideas, and better ones, too. Idea Magnet to Idea Magnet, I promise you. – Emma Alvarez Gibson

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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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This matrix on 4 ways your organization can deal with major issues is DEFINITELY courtesy of the Brainzooming R&D lab.

Going back through notes and strategic planning posters from previous client engagements, I came across a big easel sheet. It was used during a particularly long and particularly challenging strategic planning workshop. The notes all pertained to tackling elephant in the room issues. These are issues inside an organization that everyone knows about (and will discuss in private) but that are NEVER discussed in meetings or any type of formal group setting. For this organization, which was undergoing a significant transition, many years of micro-managing resulted in at least one huge page’s worth of elephant in the room issues.

4 Ways to Address or Avoid Major Strategic Issues

That combination of knowing and discussing major issues led me to wonder: What are all the potential combinations of an organization knowing and discussing major strategic issues? That thought experiment is played out in this matrix.

You can see the elephants in the room in the lower right. Blind spots are in the lower left; these are the issues in the organization that are narrowly known and discussed. Failing to uncover issues the organization (and especially its leadership) doesn’t know, but that are very real, typically poses a significant threat.

Speculation occurs when there is a lot of chatter about issues that some might suspect, but for which most of the organization lacks any solid facts.

The upper right – the best quadrant – is transparency, where there is a reasonable balance between knowledge and discussion about major issues within an organization.

Did I mention that his was from the Brainzooming R&D lab? We haven’t used this matrix about major strategic issues in any formal ways yet. The first use will likely take place with an organization dealing with poor communication and a negative environment. We might use it before or during a strategic planning workshop to better understand where major issues are landing. If you do anything with this matrix ahead of that, we’d love to know what you think.

One Final Note: While this matrix is discussed in the context of an organization, it relates to other situations, particularly couples and families, at least based on being able to readily identify interpersonal behaviors within the matrix. So, maybe try it out at home first? But, probably not as a big poster you put up on the wall! – 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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"Forty percent of business in this room, unfortunately, will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 years." John Chambers, 2015

“Forty percent of businesses in this room, unfortunately, will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 years.”

Outgoing Cisco CEO, John Chambers, told the company’s customers that in 2015.

Three years hence, is your leadership team challenging itself to think, plan, and innovate strategically to land on the right side of future success?

If not, it is time right now to download your free copy of Disrupting Thinking – 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Brand Before Someone Else Disrupts You!

These exercises will push a status quo-loving management team to zoom its markets, value delivery, and business model past obsolescence.Download Disrupting Thinking
Download your FREE copy of Disrupting Thinking. Start challenging your team’s thinking and strategies to rework your success‐‐before an unexpected competitor makes it too late!

 

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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We have some popular articles on the Brainzooming website about how to imagine a whole array of cool product names. All those articles relate to the early stages of the product naming process. We’ve done a few things, but not as many, on the decision process for picking the creative and strategic options from all the cool product names you end up imagining.

But yesterday, Emma forwarded a link to one of those maddening slideshow posts on 31 Product Naming Fails.

Clicking through all the slides made me realize: for all the imagination you want to have among the people coming up with cool product names, what you MUST have is an eclectic and perhaps slightly shady set of characters reviewing the potential cool product names to prevent a massive product name fail.

18 Sensibilities to Avoid Massive Cool Product Name Fails

Having personally reviewed each of these incredibly terrible product names, I now share with you the 18 sensibilities you must have on your team to avoid a cool product name fail.
You need individuals who:

  1. Possess a good understanding of interpersonal and solo sexual acts, plus a fascination with all the related jargon of both.
  2. Have insight into fringe communities and what they love, embrace, and abhor.
  3. Love horror – both in movies and IRL.
  4. Understand (and/or will track down) all the ways that words in one language won’t work in other languages.
  5. Have a basic clue about life and no appetite for group think or apparently unstoppable momentum for stupid ideas.
  6. Can go six (or even nine) deep on synonyms describing varied sexual activities.
  7. Fully understand all the mechanisms and terminology of what is popularly known as Number 2.
  8. Are diligent at saying all product names aloud before voting yea or nay.
  9. Understand that there are multiple ways to voice a g, a c, or a k.
  10. Have big enough investments in the brand’s success that they won’t let incredibly funny names that no one seems to get make it out of the room alive.
  11. Put the scat in scatological.
  12. Are willing to tell the boss that the family name should never be placed on a building, box, or label. Or uttered aloud. EVER.
  13. Are automatically suspicious of any abbreviation, acronym, or contraction.
  14. Possesses clairvoyant powers and can predict when a currently okay word or sound will fall flat within a decade.
  15. Have a working knowledge of all global genocides, along with the associated moral issues, slang, and sensitivities related to each one.
  16. Know every nickname and euphemism for genitals, what they produce, and all the activities one (or more) can do with them.
  17. Are savvy enough to flip everything upside down and say words backwards to look for sinister alternative meanings and shapes.
  18. Abhor being too true or too literal in describing a product, what it does, and how it looks.

Of course, it’s possible that you don’t need eighteen people on your cool product name review team, if you have the right people in your organization. Heck, if you hire right, one person may be all you need! And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.  😉  – 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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An efficient AND effective innovation strategy adapts to a company’s business objectives, strategic priorities, and team. It doesn’t start with getting everyone together in a room for a creative thinking workshop and expecting innovative ideas to happen spontaneously. Analysis, outreach, and design thinking combine to make in-person innovation productive and ROI-driven – after completing the pre-work.

Before holding innovation strategy workshops, we take advantage of best practices, stakeholder input, & upfront analysis to surface high-impact innovation opportunities.

5 Ways to Boost Your Innovation Strategy’s Efficiency

Here’s an example from a Brainzooming engagement to help a client’s finance team lead an innovation strategy initiative. The objective was to reduce the company’s working capital levels on an ongoing basis. We employed five techniques in advance of an in-person innovation workshop to focus the work and boost success.

#1. Identifying innovation across industries

Brainzooming identified relevant best practices and innovative strategies across industries. This work provided an external checklist of innovation opportunities to shape further analysis and to design the online surveys.

#2. Aggressive data mining and analysis to create focus

Brainzooming conducted internal analysis to highlight 80-20 opportunities. This helps focus innovation efforts. As is typical, this step uncovered powerful improvement-related insights hidden within summarized data.

#3. Online input and collaboration for greater access

We employed an online survey to reach stakeholders who are highly relevant to the innovation initiative’s success but might otherwise have been overlooked. Viewing the financially-driven working capital initiative as business innovation pointed to the need for sales, customer service, and other areas to participate actively.

#4. Engaging atypical stakeholders and experts for input

Rather than assuming that the department responsible for the innovation strategy has all the answers, we actively included other groups. We sought to reach out to sales, customer service, and other departments focused on customer and business relationships with significant accounts payable levels.

#5. Workshop design capitalizes on findings

The in-person innovation workshop design and implementation benefits from all the activities up to that point. The early input shapes the strategic priorities, innovation exercises, and additional deliverables to foster successful implementation.

Want to maximize innovation AND efficiency?

Is your management team looking for collaboration and innovation, but concerned about how it will impact the focus on efficient daily operations? Contact us, and let’s talk about how to deploy an efficient innovation strategy initiative in your organization to maximize your results and impact. – 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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It’s important that a brand strategy lead to displaying your brand personality in a way that fosters affiliation among customers and creates interest with prospects.

That sounds like a mouthful. It also sounds expensive and complicated to do. It definitely can be, but it most certainly doesn’t require an expensive or complicated brand strategy.

Here is a prime example from the grocery store over the weekend.

Among the four pancake mixes, which one stands out?

The three with the flavor variations and the predictable photos of pancake stacks? Or the one with the predictable flavor and the pancake stack that uses bananas, blueberries, and chocolate to make a smiley face on the pancakes?

For me, Bisquick won. It stood out because its stack of pancakes displayed personality.

Think about it. All of the boxes feature a stack of pancakes. All of them required a food photo shoot. Yet only Bisquick made a brand personality statement with its photo. It’s not symmetrical. It’s not the best of the photos. But it’s the only one that brought fun and brand personality to the grocery store aisle.

Which raises the real question for you: How is your brand strategy exploiting every opportunity to add fun and brand personality to boost the attention your brand garners? Well? – 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


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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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