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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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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 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.
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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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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

via Shutterstock

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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Create the Vision to Align and Engage Your Team!

Big strategy statements shaping your organization needn’t be complicated. They should use simple, understandable, and straightforward language to invite and excite your team to be part of the vision.

Our free “Big Strategy Statements” eBook lays out an approach to collaboratively develop smart, strategic directions that improve results!


Download Your FREE eBook! Big Strategy Statements - 3 Steps to Collaborative Strategy



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 were driving home from the store this weekend, and saw this huge tree that fell over from its base. It made me think of the phrase “too big to fail.” In this case, this huge tree must have been completely ready for failure, whether that was apparent to anyone or not.

Disrupt Your Brand Before Something Else Does

A similar phenomenon applies to brand strategy. You may think your brand is strong and ready to withstand anything that might come its way. But all the while, competitors or market forces you may not even suspect are disrupting your place in the market.

While success can breed success, it can also lead to blindness about the importance of trying to disrupt your brand strategy before something else comes along to topple your brand.

104 Possibilities to Disrupt Your Brand Strategy

To help you stay ahead of disruption, here are 104 possibilities to do the work to disrupt your brand strategy yourself instead of letting another party do it for you. Beyond these articles, it’s a wonderful time with strategic planning coming up for many firms, to download the free Brainzooming eBook, Disrupting Thinking – 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Own Brand Before Someone Else Disrupts You! 

Don’t allow your executive team to become complacent! Get to work on disrupting your business strategy yourself: it’s much less painful! – 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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Is there such a thing as a quick check to determine whether a strategic plan is on the right track or not?

While reviewing mini-strategic plans attendees developed at a recent logistics company customer event we facilitated, I relied on one that works well.

We designed a group exercise for participants to identify strategic plan topics. We also provided an overview with instructions about how to write a mini-strategic plan. Each mini-plan section featured one or two questions to help guide small groups in their work. Each of the six groups had fifteen minutes to complete the front and back of a mini-plan. As they worked, we roamed among the six groups to answer questions and provide guidance.

1 Question to Test Effective Strategic Plan Development

I was familiar with the starting topics and trigger events, but did not have close knowledge of the conversations each group had to develop its mini-strategic plan. Beyond looking for good structure and form in each mini-plan, I repeatedly asked a strategic thinking question that is valuable for anyone writing or reviewing any type of plan:

If I had to implement this, would I know what to do?

This simple strategic thinking question helps you quickly identify:

  • Whether the plan provides enough detail
  • If the words (and especially the acronyms used) are understandable
  • Whether the steps (or tactics) follow one another in an order that makes sense
  • How complete the path is to lead to the stated goal or objective
  • How faithfully the steps carry out the stated strategy

In the Brainzooming world, we think highly of a single strategic thinking question that works that hard, shedding light on five key areas in creating an effective strategic plan.

Tucking this question away for the next time you are writing or reviewing a strategic plan will lead to a more complete plan with simpler, straightforward language offering a better opportunity for successful implementation. – Mike Brown

fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Make a Strategic Planning Process More Fun!

Yes, a strategic planning process 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.”

Download Your 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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From experience, the worst time to decide on how to decide things is when you are ready to decide things.

When you are ready to a make decision, an entirely new set of issues emerges. People have already developed their vested interests in certain outcomes. They are either overly or underly-inclined to point out data gaps to try to push the group to choose a certain outcome.

If, however, you can figure out what will shape the decision before it happens, you have a fighting chance of making a solid business decision for an organization.

5 Strategic Thinking Questions to Answer Before Making a Decision

Here are five strategic thinking questions you should identify well before you are on the verge of making a decision:

  • Who owns making the decision?
  • Who will the decision impact?
  • Who should contribute to making the decision?
  • What criteria will we use to make the decision?
  • What levels or conditions across the criteria will signal making one decision or the other?

If you answer those strategic thinking questions early, your decision making will likely be more simple, clear, and streamlined. And all of that means you can fast forward more quickly from debating and deciding into implementation and results!

Fast Forward: Successfully Implementing Your Plan! 

In the FREE eBook, Fast Forward, we highlight ideas, tips, and checklists you can quickly use for implementation success:

  • 10 ways to simplify and strengthen the language you use to communicate strategic priorities
  • 9 ideas for introducing your strategic plan with style and impact to engage your organization
  • 4 keys for selecting the right collaborative leaders during implementation
  • 12 questions to better launch your successful strategy implementation process
  • 4 strategies to navigate typical execution challenges
  • Using mini-plans to increase implementation flexibility

If you’re on the hook to move your organization from strategy to implementation ASAP, Fast Forward is for you! Download it TODAY!
Download Fast Forward Today!

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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What can you expect from a strategic planning process?

That question was the topic of several recent conversations.

As I explained it, our objective when leading a strategic planning process is to make sure the result is an innovative, implementable strategy.

9 Things to Deliver in a Strategic Planning Process

That specific phrase (an innovative, implementable strategy) is very important to a strategic planning process. It creates a definition and set of expectations around what the process we’re facilitating needs to deliver.

With innovative, we look to deliver ideas that:

  • Are better than current strategies
  • Are differentiated relative to competitors
  • Create exceptional benefits and value for important audiences

In terms of implementable, the strategy needs to:

And if it’s a solid strategy, it:

These specifics help determine what we need to prioritize within any strategic planning process:

As you look ahead toward strategic planning, think about where you legitimately need to concentrate your efforts. Where do you need to focus to create an innovative, implementable strategy for your organization’s success? – 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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