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It’s that time. Organizations are reviewing budgets for the year ahead. While everyone hopes these meetings are smart, strategic, and have a meaningful impact on the business, that rarely seems to be the case.

 12 Reasons Budget Meetings Aren’t Strategic

Too often, budget meetings aren’t strategic. From personal experience, these twelve reasons all contribute to the disconnect:

  1. The meetings are adversarial, as if the people inside the company are trying to rip off the company by requesting money to run it.
  2. The focus is only on numbers, without any stories of success and aspirations for what the dollars are expected to do.
  3. They are handled out of context strategically, looking at the business by department instead of by initiative.
  4. General managers and non-financial executives are placed in unfamiliar and poorly-performed accounting roles.
  5. Budget meetings are not integrated with strategic planning and business strategy.
  6. Accounting and finance act as if they control the business and are integral to generating revenue and profit.
  7. Budget meetings solve for numbers and do not solve for business results.
  8. They prioritize overly precise discussions about inconsequential aspects of the business.
  9. Budget meeting length isn’t matched to the strategic complexity or importance of the area.
  10. They are awkward and challenging to prepare for to ensure they are as productive as possible.
  11. Since they only happen once a year, the formats and discussions are unfamiliar.
  12. Preparing for them creates an organizational drag on getting things done to drive the business forward.

Because of these factors, business and department leaders often focus on escaping budget meetings with some semblance of a budget that makes sense. This behavior obscures looking at their areas and the entire organization strategically, comprehensively, and with a smart investment perspective.

3 Ways to Fix Budget Meetings

Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities
If you’re interested in changing the strategic disconnect of budget meetings – whether you are in finance and accounting or not – we have a guide!

Download our FREE eBook, 3 Ways to Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities.  In it, we share actionable ideas for turning tactical accounting reviews into strategic conversations balancing business results with the financial underpinning necessary to achieve them.

Get your copy of 3 Ways to Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities and grow your strategic leadership to drive better business results!

Download Your FREE eBook! 3 Ways to Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities

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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Are you still trying to finish your strategic planning process for next year?

Is it to that point where your biggest worry is being about to call the plan strategic without making other executives fall on the floor laughing hysterically?

If this sounds like your situation (and we know, based on searches many of you are using to peruse Brainzooming strategic planning content, that at least SOME of you are facing this challenge), then the new eBook from The Brainzooming Group is the answer: Right Now! 29 Ideas to Speed Up Strategic Planning.

Download Your FREE eBook! Right Now! 29 Ideas to Speed Up Strategic Planning

FREE eBook: 29 Ideas to Speed Up Your Strategic Planning Process Right Now!

This brief, but information-packed FREE strategy planning resource lays out 29 ideas for streamlining, speeding up, and shortening the time between starting and completing your strategy plan. These ideas will help you keep your strategic planning comprehensive while recognizing you don’t have any extra time for long strategy meetings.

The twenty-nine ideas in Right Now will speed up what is typically a long process and move you through strategic planning more swiftly:

  • 10 Ideas to Speed Up Strategic Planning
  • 5 Things to Do If You Haven’t Started Planning
  • 1 Question to Focus and Speed Up Strategy Meetings
  • 13 Possibilities for a More Efficient and Effective Strategic Planning Process

We are confident that this quick-to-read, easy-to-use resource will get your strategy planning done more quickly whether you need to complete it in one day or you still have a few weeks left to finish it.

Are your anxiety levels running high based on how impossible it seems to complete a solid strategic plan in the time you have remaining?

If so, don’t hesitate a second longer!

Download Right Now immediately and get the oomph and ideas you need to start AND FINISH your strategic planning process for next year in record time!

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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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Emma Alvarez Gibson and I were talking about identifying strategic themes within tens or hundreds of ideas from a strategic planning workshop or from thousands of comments within a survey.

Other than a big dose of help from outside forces, what are dependable ways to identify meaningful strategic themes?

This is important because latching onto the right groupings for ideas will make all the difference when highlighting and simplifying smart strategy recommendations.

As we chatted, I perused the Brainzooming website looking for articles on how we surface strategic themes. Posts on making strategic connections address some aspect of our approach, yet they cover only part of the story.

10 Cues to Identify Strategic Themes among Ideas

Reflecting on our Brainzooming process, we use all these cues to identify potential strategic themes among THINGS THAT:

  1. Are clearly related to strategy
  2. We know correlate
  3. Seem to correlate
  4. Represent natural groups you see or experience elsewhere
  5. Happen at the same time
  6. Appear close to one another
  7. Possess similar characteristics or attributes
  8. Incorporate similar inputs or outputs
  9. Undergo similar processes
  10. Demonstrate unusual but frequent connections between each other

There are likely more of these.

Yet, you don’t want too many cues. You must be able to quickly run through the strategic theme cues whenever you are faced with large a volume of open-ended comments.

Based on our experience, finding just the right number and range of strategic themes is one of the best methodologies you can employ to ensure broad strategic thinking AND clear steps to implement. – 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


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



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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Looking for ways to spice up your organization’s strategic planning process before you lock into the same old strategy ideas shaped by your senior team’s conventional wisdom?

Try asking surprising strategic planning questions to push your leadership team toward new thinking.

Here is where we are coming from: when someone with romantic interest in you gives you a gift, it’s usually attractively, even lavishly, wrapped. Discovering the wonderful new treasure awaiting you requires tearing off the wrapping paper. Now apply that idea to the traditional industry knowledge – the conventional wisdom of your business.

Conventional wisdom is especially prized by executives with tenure and experience in one industry, company, and/or discipline. While conventional wisdom can speed decision making and prevent you from repeatedly making the same mistakes, it also is a powerful weapon to stand in the way of new thinking, innovation, and applying creativity to business strategy.

Just as you must tear away wrapping paper to get to the great gift inside, you must tear away conventional wisdom that stands in the way of innovative strategies. This is vital to move an organization in new, innovative, and disruptive directions.

Strategic Planning Questions that Create Surprise

One key to greater creativity and innovation is the ability to temporarily forget what you know. That’s where unusual strategic thinking questions provide an element of surprise when developing strategy. Executives quickly become overly familiar with standard strategic planning questions:

  • What are our strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are our threats?
  • What opportunities do we have?

Try twisting traditional strategic planning questions in new, unusual ways. You will quickly see how surprising questions lead to new, unexpected, and insightful ideas that spark winning strategies.

If you’re interested in a treasure trove of strategic planning questions addressing multiple important business areas, download our eBook, The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions (The Brainzooming Group Uses. So far.)

Also, for more ideas on spicing up strategic planning, you need to grab your copy of our FREE Brainzooming eBook: 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning!

Don’t settle for boring strategic planning. Use these free resources to bring new life to your planning today! – Mike Brown

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11 Hot Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

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’ve been remiss in sharing updates about the strategic planning process I’ve been participating in for a non-profit organization. The initial article on the strategic planning process promised updates on my first time participating in someone else’s strategic planning process in many years.

5 Things to Hate about a Strategic Planning Process (and 5 Antidotes)

Since that post, we’ve been through two formal meetings. The first was to share our fact base, strategic issues, and planning implications. The most recent one was to review our tactical plans, including timing and responsibilities.

Both meetings were limited to twenty minutes so the steering committee could get through all the other plans. Both meetings were disconnected from the discussions going on about all the other plans. Both meetings reminded me of all the things that frustrate me about strategic planning processes. For example:

Frustration 1: Starting a Strategic Planning Process with Handing out Templates to Complete

Antidote: Shout, “Wow! It’s clear where you want all the answers to go. But can you work with me to help figure out what the best answers are other than me pulling imagined answers out of my @&&!!!!”

Frustration 2: Spending too much time discussing the strategic planning process and too little on using it to develop winning strategies.

Antidote: Suggest to the person heading up planning that you put the process on an amazing diet, with twice as much strategy and 75% less process!

Frustration 3: Scheduling Strategic Planning Meetings where All but One Person Sits and Listens

Antidote: Raise your hand and ask, “Can’t we break up into small groups and get lots of work done as we all participate? And if not, can’t you share your speech and your slides so I can just read it when it’s convenient???”

Frustration 4: Nitpicking Words Early in the Process

Antidote: Ask, “Do you know what this means? Yes? Okay, it’s fine for now. We’ll fix the wording L A T E R!”

Frustration 5: Trying to Assign People and Dates Too Early

Antidote: Say, “I know you want to make sure someone owns every part of the strategic plan and completes it by the expected date, but let’s make sure we have the right things in the plan before we start badgering people about getting them done!”

There Is a Different Way to Make Strategic Planning Work Productively!

All those frustrations and antidotes are why the Brainzooming process exists. There is a different, and much better way to carry out a strategic planning process. It is faster, more collaborative, and effectively engages the voices and perspectives to create a stronger, more successfully implemented plan.

If you want to find out what THAT type of strategic planning is like, contact us and let’s talk about making it work at your organization! – 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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What are all the change management strategy roles a change agent plays?

My answers to that question grew recently because of an experience with a client developing its future vision.

We were working with an organization on its future vision while facilitating its strategic planning process. The organization’s leaders, and many of the team, have been in place for a long time, limiting the collective view of how other organization’s do things in bold, innovative, and different ways.

As we worked on strategic thinking exercises to explore the company’s future vision and user experience, the change management strategy vocabulary the group used was conventional, unemotional, and lacking innovative thinking. Despite the static language, strategic conversations with the team suggested they possessed a legitimate interest in pursuing innovative strategies.

Innovation Vocabulary and Change Management Strategy

change-management-strategy

Later in the strategic planning workshop, we used a collaging exercise as another way to help the team express its vision for the organization. In the exercise, the group cut words and images from magazines to express their depictions of various strategic concepts. We had selected specific magazines to use in the exercise that would stretch how the organization thought about itself and its clients. With a bolder innovation vocabulary than they possessed on their own, they did an incredibly strong job of articulating an innovative future vision.

Reflecting on the difference between the group members working from their own language and working from the innovation language in the magazines, the difference was apparent: they didn’t have their own vocabulary for major change, so they struggled to express their aspirations. When we provided a bigger innovation vocabulary, they could paint a bigger, bolder vision for their future and the change management strategy involved.

That’s when it became clear that another thing a change agent needs to do is make sure his or her organization has the innovation vocabulary to describe the degree of change management needed to realize a bold future. An organization trying to transform likely needs an external change agent with an outside perspective to provide a new vocabulary for innovation.

Lesson learned.  We’re developing new ways to immerse our client’s organization in all the innovation vocabulary they need for the change management strategy task ahead.

Want to learn more about that process? Contact us, and let’s talk about creating major change within your organization! – 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 have been discussing strategic planning process approaches for next year with multiple people. While they are all considering different ideas, there is one common element to the conversations. They all want to spend less time planning, making it more productive and beneficial than in the past.

3 Strategic Planning Process Tweaks to Make Right Away!

There is no one answer for every organization to improve its strategic planning process. We can share some important fundamentals, however, to improve planning productively in significant ways.

1. Adapting the Strategic Planning Process for Your Organization

Make sure your strategic planning approach fits how your organization addresses:

  • Developing information and insights
  • Exploring opportunities
  • Making decisions
  • Implementing successfully

While you may want to change planning, recognize you are doing so relative to what creates the highest likelihood of success. Against what will work best for your team, consider these ideas to shape specific planning activities.
11 Hot Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

2. Capture Current Ideas and Imagine New Ones

The most important strategic planning activities are those that help participants think about capitalizing innovatively on opportunities and addressing challenges. Don’t forget, however, to begin by asking everyone to identify their starting lists of opportunities and threats along with sharing their best current ideas to address them. Documenting these starting points acknowledges current thinking and typically frees participants to consider new ideas.

To accelerate thinking about new opportunities and approaches, ask unconventional strategic planning questions. You can try these five hypothetical situations we find valuable to spur innovative thinking:

  • Suppose we have the same goal we have now, but severely constrained resources. What can we do differently?
  • If our goal were two times greater than what is now with the same resources, what would we do differently to hit it?
  • Select some of the starting ideas we shared to accomplish our goals. What are completely opposite ways we might be able to try that have a chance of working?
  • If another company outside our industry were addressing these opportunities and challenges, what would they do to achieve success?
  • If a non-traditional, emerging competitor were trying to disrupt our market position, what would it do? How can we adopt those same moves to protect and improve what we do now?

These types of scenarios set the stage for dramatically different strategic thinking and innovative possibilities.

3. Deciding on Strategies and Writing the Plan

Relative to making decisions about which strategies to incorporate into the plan, we recommend soliciting input from the planning participants while recognizing who owns the ultimate decisions. Specify upfront which individual or group will prioritize the ideas to form the final plan.

When it comes to documenting the actual plan, spare participants the chore of writing it during the workshop. Identify who in your organization is strong at shaping project management plans; those people are likely the best equipped to efficiently translate all the input into a plan people will use.

Customize to Make It Work for Your Organization

Incorporating even a few of these suggest will make your planning more productive this year. If you want help to identify which ideas will work best in your organization, contact us, and let’s talk about what our experience suggests for your situation! – Mike Brown

Want to Avoid Typical Boring Strategic Planning Process Meetings?

Here is your answer. These 11 not stuffy for work techniques will spice up strategic planning with new thinking on:

  • How to move out of long-established comfort zones that limit strategic thinking
  • Livening up strategic discussions with exercises designed to generate disruptive ideas
  • Capturing the benefits of an offsite meeting right in your office

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

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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