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

How will this experiment unfold?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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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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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I don’t know that we have ever run a reader letter here, but the story in this email and the writer’s comments deserve a wider audience.

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The letter is from Barbara Lane at Telesystem in Northwood, OH. She wrote in response to Emma Alvarez Gibson’s post-election reflection. What Barbara relates is another helpful part of the reflection and need to move forward that is the air right now:

Mike and team,

First, I want to say thanks for your blog and plethora of articles on strategic planning.  I have used many of your techniques both at work and as I facilitate visioning and strategic planning at my church.

With regards to the email today, I am currently in the middle of leading a Bible study based on the book, “Fear of the Other” by Will Willimon.   In it, he puts forth many of the same ideas contained in Emma Gibson’s reminder. But one that particularly spoke to me was an exchange between Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.  Douglass was bemoaning the plight of black slaves and the country’s reluctance for – no, outright anger and indignation against – the proposition of freedom for them.  Truth, who was fully aware of Douglass’ Christian beliefs asked him, “Frederick, is God dead?”

I think this is very pertinent to what many people are feeling today, and we have to realize that there is a greater power out there who works all things according to his purpose.

BTW – if you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it.

I greatly appreciate you and your efforts,

Barb

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 woke up this morning, and the first thing I saw on Facebook was this reflection by Emma Alvarez Gibson (from our West Coast Brainzooming outpost) as the election returns in the United States were coming in last night.

It says everything beautifully.

eag-election

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 came up with this list a few years ago when some friends were searching for high school reunion ideas that would help pass the time.

high-school-reunion-drink

It’s reunion time again. Here’s the list of fun questions in text and image form. Try them out, and see who fits each category at your high school reunion!

High School Reunion Ideas – 18 Fun Questions to Ask

  1. Most unrealized intellectual potential?
  2. Who has most over achieved?
  3. Most changed physically—male?
  4. Most changed physically—female?
  5. Least changed?
  6. Person I would most like to change places with?
  7. Would have taken better care of him/herself if he/she had thought he/she would make it to this reunion?
  8. Great news! __________ showed up.
  9. Great news! __________ didn’t show up.
  10. Too bad. ________ didn’t show up.
  11. Highest (unwarranted) opinion of themselves?
  12. Most changed?
  13. And I would know you from?
  14. When did you get so big?
  15. Boy…I’m glad I’m not __________.
  16. Over/under—plastic surgeries? 2
  17. Most interesting conversation?
  18. Most thought provoking conversation?

High School Reunion Ideas – 18 Fun Questions to Ask (image)

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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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Want to hang out with some of the Brainzooming crew in San Francisco next week and learn all kinds of valuable information on content marketing, social media, marketing strategy, and branding?

Yes, it’s possible to do a deep dive into all those areas, plus network with other smart marketers from across industries, all in one location.

You’re invited to join us at the Social Media Strategies Summit and The Marketing Conference, taking place concurrently at The Marines’ Memorial Club & Hotel in San Francisco, September 27-29. Registrants for either conference can move back and forth between the two, targeting the workshops and presentations that will be most valuable to their business success.

Did I mention there’s a special conference discount registration for Brainzooming readers? Keep reading for the code!

marketing-conference

I’ll be doing workshops on content marketing and collaborative branding strategy. I’ll be co-presenting the content marketing workshop and a presentation on marrying data and creativity with Emma Alvarez Gibson.

Other presenters are from Charles Schwab, Gap, Intel, and Campbell Soup.

Want to learn more about the combined opportunity of two conferences in one?

Here is conference producer Breanna Jacobs sharing more on the presenters and benefits of having two conferences agendas to customize your experience.

Earlier I mentioned a special discount code for Brainzooming readers (I.e., you!). When you register for The Marketing Conference, use the code MKTG25 to score a 25% discount on your registration!

We’re looking forward to seeing all our Bay Area (and traveling) friends next week in San Francisco for this incredible marketing meet up! – Mike Brown

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Are you looking for new, more effective ways to engage your employees in shaping and successfully carrying out your brand strategy? You need to download this FREE Brainzooming eBook, published with the Global Strategic Management Institute. You’ll learn three effective strategies to engage employees as an internal brand team.

Download Your FREE eBook! 3 Actionable Strategies for Engaging Your Internal Brand Team

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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