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There are a couple of different ways to apply structure to strategic planning exercises:

  1. You can enforce using templates and forms participants have to complete so their answers are uniformed and structured.
  2. You can provide people with strategic thinking exercises, creative thinking tools, strategy questions, and ways to collaborate with one another, using structure to help imagine better strategies.

Many consultants focus only on the first type of structure.

Templates make it easy to compile the work participants are left to their own devices to figure out and complete. The problem is many (most? nearly all?) people who aren’t full-time strategic planning fanatics don’t have efficient and effective ways to imagine the answers that fit in strategic planning templates. What’s worse is participants often resort to completing templates individually. This means there is no opportunity for productive collaboration to devise the plan.

Productive Structure for Strategic Planning Exercises

Structure

The second type of structure, however, is all about helping people use what they know and understand about an organization and its audiences to strategically, creatively, and efficiently develop smart business strategies. And not only does it help them develop the current strategy, using productive strategic planning exercises helps them learn to be more effective in future strategic planning.

After this strategic collaboration, a full-time strategic planner (i.e., such as The Brainzooming Group) can take the output from great strategic thinking exercises and shape it into templates.

If you’ve been through too many strategic planning exercises that feel like the first example of structure, we need to talk. The Brainzooming Group uses the second type of productive structure to create a lively, positive, and collaborative strategic planning process. It will pay dividends for your organization now and for years afterward. – Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

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Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategy and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

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People frequently complain about how a strategic planning process, whether accidentally or on purpose, is disconnected from employees’ regular duties and priorities. Too often, employees see strategic planning exercises as separate from and unrelated to what they need to do to run a business. With this view, the natural reaction is to avoid the strategic planning process or hope it goes away soon, so someone can return to daily activities full-time and get work done.

What a waste for the employees and the companies using strategic planning exercises in ways that cultivate this experience!

Seeing this phenomenon multiple times in a corporate setting was one motivator for developing the Brainzooming planning approach.

Strategy-session

 4 Ways to Make a Strategic Planning Process Productive

What can you do to make strategic planning more productive before, during, and after? Here are four different approaches The Brainzooming Group employs with clients:

  1. Instead of using complex strategic exercises that aren’t beneficial outside planning, we use strategic thinking questions that fit how people think and work on a daily basis.
  2. Instead of including too few or too many people in strategic planning and not thinking about how to help them participate successfully, we specifically match participant perspectives, expertise, and interests so they can most efficiently and effectively share innovative ideas.
  3. Instead of requiring people complete complex strategic planning templates unrelated to daily business, we use productive interactions to change the strategic planning process from completing complex forms into conversations, events, and experiences people engage in and learn from as they participate.
  4. Instead of delivering a high-level, generalized strategy document, we deliver an implementation toolkit leaders can continue using to develop innovative ideas, tactics, and alternatives to implement the plan.

Long story short, there is no reason a strategic planning process has to be an energy-sucking, disconnected experience.

With The Brainzooming Group approach to strategic planning exercises, your company will have broader engagement, active involvement, and a path to apply the strategic plan and the work that went into creating it as part of your organization’s daily activities!

Contact us to discuss how your next strategic planning process can be energizing, productive, AND improve your business results. – Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategy and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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 are working with a client to develop a content marketing strategy for multiple business units in the organization. The first step was for our client to talk with the presidents of the various business units to understand their strategic objectives. With that information, we will be in a strong position to identify a content marketing strategy specific to each business unit’s needs.

In Search of Strategic Objectives

One business unit president described his objectives as including employee retention, improving a critical aspect of the brand experience, and addressing a significant cost area. During the discussion, he apologized for not having any strategic objectives. He reported being too focused on near-term issues to have developed any strategic objectives to tackle.

His comment prompted a question from our client about whether something was wrong with the conversation since it did not lead to identifying any strategic objectives for the business unit.

My response was the conversation was incredibly successful and yielded exactly what we were seeking. For each area the president listed, there were natural content marketing opportunities.

Strategic-Objectives

What are Strategic Objectives?

Why didn’t the business unit president realize he had strategic objectives on his list? Why didn’t he see initiatives tied directly to the brand, its people, and significant factors for its financial success as strategic?

My suspicion is the business unit president didn’t think he had strategic objectives because nothing addressed growth, innovation, or things that would only come to fruition years in the future. It seems evident that he operates under a mistaken belief about what is strategic and what is not. He is not alone; many executives labor under that misunderstanding.

3 Helpful Questions

We have covered ways to identify what is strategic using various questions and criteria. This new situation suggested a three-question exercise to identify likely strategic initiatives and objectives. Simply ask these three questions about an opportunity:

  • If we do not pursue it, will its absence be widely noticeable?
  • If we do pursue it, will its impact be widely noticed?
  • If the underlying situation or opportunity is ignored, will it create significant issues?

If you get three “Yes” answers, it is a safe bet you have a strategic issue on your hands. Two “Yes” answers suggest a borderline strategic issue. If you cannot justify even one “Yes” to the three questions, it is likely not a strategic issue.  – 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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Our buddies at Armada Corporate Intelligence addressed what sections you should include in your go to market strategy plan in their “Inside the Executive Suite” feature. They highlighted ten different sections to include your strategy plan. (Note: If you want to learn more about the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief system and get in on this great publication for an incredibly low monthly rate, please visit the Armada website.)

Go-To-Market-Space

10 Sections Your Go to Market Strategy Plan Should Include via Armada Corporate Intelligence

AEIB-GraphicThe term “go to market” strategy cropped up perhaps fifteen years ago. In b-school and for years in the business world, we created “marketing” plans. Maybe consultants coined the new term. We see the difference between a marketing plan and a go to market strategy focusing on how the latter incorporates an understanding of customers, what attracts them, and what a brand does to introduce and win share with a successful product or service. (For brevity, we’ll use “product” to represent both products and services from here on.)

We haven’t found a perfect list of what a go to market strategy incorporates. The list here, however, is what we’ve identified and used. It’s a starting point to adapt from as you work on bringing new product initiatives to market:

Target Market

You need to communicate the primary targets you are trying to reach based on a product’s design, intended experience, and marketing. “Everyone” is not an answer to describe the target market. You should pursue a definable, distinct portion of the available audience. Although targeted, it needs to be large enough to deliver on revenue and profit objectives. When targeting multiple groups, communicate which one is the primary target versus others you might include in your marketing.

Brand Strategy

This isn’t just about logos, advertising, and colors. That’s only a part of brand strategy. The go to market strategy should address alignment between your employees, product quality and experience, audience communications, and everything else reinforcing your brand and how you’ll introduce and market a new product. The brand strategy sets guidelines for the go to market approach and provides a platform for new, smart ideas to integrate the product within the overall brand.

Positioning & Messaging

Positioning addresses where you want to place your product in the marketplace relative to competitive offerings. The position (and messages conveying the position to the market) should be distinct versus competitors’ market positions. Developing a product’s ideal position incorporates what the target market expects and will accept from the brand. It also includes what customers will reward through positive buying behaviors. Articulating the position is a start; the remainder of your go to market strategy addresses delivering on the position daily.

Value Proposition

A value proposition can take various forms. Two common elements are needed irrespective of the format. Initially,  the value proposition must clearly communicate how customers, through using your product, will receive more in return than the sum of what they paid and the other “costs” associated with using it. The other essential is the value proposition isn’t just a statement. It must translate to real world product purchase, use, and support experiences.

Sales and Distribution Channels

This covers the varied means of selling and getting the product to customers. It could include strategies for direct sales, inside sales, inbound marketing, wholesalers, distribution partners, alliances, affiliates, etc. It also incorporates all the elements necessary to support channels and relationships, including recruiting, hiring, training, tools, deployment, and the supply chain.

Customer Touch Points

You won’t just reach customers through the sales and distribution channel touchpoints. This strategy component addresses how the product will rely on direct and indirect online contact (web, social media, content), front line service providers, the customer service team, and any other places where you expect customers will interact with your brand and form perceptions about the experience.

Pricing Strategy

The pricing strategy must fit with all other sections to strategically and effectively support the market position and value proposition. It’s impossible to cover creating a pricing strategy in one paragraph. There’s one common trap, however, we see trip up many companies: the pricing strategy may have nothing to do with the production costs. Pricing isn’t necessarily your cost plus a certain percent added as a mark-up. You develop a pricing strategy to support the right value proposition in the marketplace; getting costs in line to support that position is a separate issue.

Marketing Communications Strategy

As with brand strategy, many executives incorrectly think this is the only part of a go to market strategy. Within this section, make sure you have the right mix of online presence and content, advertising, collateral, event marketing, public relations, and internal communication to support the product’s position and intended messages.

Supporting Technology and Systems

More than ever, technology is an integral part of developing and launching products. Smart marketers invite the IT team to the table early when planning a new product. They can help identify innovative ways to use technology to maximize the customer experience and improve efficiencies that create a more attractive cost position.

Metrics

Whether at the start or end a go to market strategy, develop and refine relevant metrics throughout creating the approach. Rather than simply including only sales units, revenue, and profitability targets, metrics should be in place to help identify progress and challenges during the entire implementation process. – Armada Corporate Intelligence

 

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The folks at Armada Corporate Intelligence shared, via their “Inside the Executive Suite” feature, a number of ideas to improve the effectiveness of rolling out your strategic planning document for the upcoming year. They were gracious enough to let us feature the six approaches since there’s still time to improve the effectiveness of how you introduce your strategic plan. We list each of their suggestions followed by our own thoughts in italics.

6 Ways to Make an Impact with this Year’s Strategic Planning Document

New ideas and strategic planning initiatives are ready to roll out, but strategies often aren’t developed with a full understanding of the audiences most affected by them. This can create a mismatch between executives sharing new strategic planning documents and those on the receiving end that are expected to implement them.

New-Year-Strategic-Planning

While some approaches for smooth strategy roll-outs could be too late to implement, there are multiple possibilities to improve the experience and impact.

  1. Create messaging focused on audience benefits and motivations

While the inclination is often to communicate a plan based on the external factors that justify the direction, it’s far better to communicate a plan in language that motivates the relevant audiences to understand how successful plan implementation helps them be successful in helping the organization be successful.

  1. Make sure the plan language SOUNDS like the audience

If you’re strategic plan sounds like freshly-minted MBA consultants put it together, STOP! Even if you don’t have time to revise all the language throughout the plan, at least make sure the shortened version you share with your organization SOUNDS like they talk. Make the language so simple that anyone in the organization knows what the plan means for them individually and what they need to do to make it successful.

  1. Give potential influencers an early look

Who are the operations leaders, sales veterans, and others that all the rest of the organization will look to for cues on what to think about the strategic plan? Spend the time to identify the list of people matching these descriptions and then invest the time to reach out and give them an early look on what you plan to share with the rest of the organization. You want to make sure they’re bought in and saying ALL the right things about the strategic plan.

  1. Shorten what you’re communicating to a single page or infographic

Do whatever it takes to come up with a one-page version of the plan for each audience you need to embrace, own, and actively implement the plan. Make it easy for people to understand what they need to do!

  1. Identify opportunities for user customization in the strategy

Don’t be ridiculous . . . you haven’t covered EVERYTHING people need to do in your strategic plan. Be upfront and identify where employees have latitude to make good business decisions and customize how they approach and implement the organization’s strategic plan.

  1. Communicate the strategy in a compelling way this year

Don’t send out a plan and expect ANYONE will read your email with the plan attachment. Just as you try to cut through the clutter with your customer communication, think about all the boring, crappy internal communications that create clutter internally. Then do something completely different and exciting to share this year’s plan!

There Is Still Time

As the folks at Armada suggested, you can pick just one of these ideas and realize greater impact from this year’s plan. 

The big strategic thinking question is, “Which one will you pick?”

 

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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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Checking our Brainzooming web analytics, “free strategic planning exercises” is a frequent search bringing people to the Brainzooming website. That is no surprise. We share all kinds of free strategic planning exercises, such as these, these, and these.

Those strategic planning exercises simply scratch the surface. In fact, there are only a few exercises we use that we DON’T share with you here – all for free.

If you are an executive looking for “free strategic planning exercises,” any place you find them SHOULD provide a corresponding warning label. Sometimes we mention some of the typical warnings, but we have never shared a full list of what the warning label should include.

5 Warnings for Free Strategic Planning Exercises

Warning-Sign

  • Prior to using free strategic thinking exercises, consider the participants, organizational culture, and layout of the room. All of these, and other factors, can impact your success.
  • Keep free strategic planning exercises out of the reach of untrained, unpracticed facilitators.
  • If you experience prolonged periods of silence after using a free strategic thinking question, stop immediately, and contact a trained facilitator.
  • Participants that have already been stymied by previous deadly strategic planning sessions will require a different approach than the recommended usage.
  • Common adverse reactions to the misuse of free strategic planning exercises include fidgeting, headache, yawning, slow burns, rolling eyes, doodling, head explosions, and shortened careers.

I’ve witnessed these a few times this year where someone used our questions, and nothing happened with a group. Sure the questions are important, but ultimately it’s how you ask them.

If you want help in using any of our questions and strategic thinking exercises, let us know. We’d be glad to help you!

Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 and let’s get started!  – Mike Brown

 

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Mike Brown

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The previous Brainzooming article was on listening for strategic insights in order to not waste strategic conversations. If you understand the types of information you need to develop a strategic plan, you can often get a jump start on completing it simply by listening closely to strategic conversations for valuable input.

This is the flip of that post. If you have the right people present, and they are in a chatty mood, how can you morph the gathering into a strategic conversation?

One way is by introducing strategic thinking questions that steer meandering conversations into strategic conversations.

9 Strategic Thinking Questions to Start Strategic Conversations

Strategic-QuestionMark

Here are nine strategic thinking questions to try and spontaneously generate strategic conversations:

  1. What do we want the result to be?
  2. What will we need to get started? (You can direct this strategic thinking question to consider resources, people, ideas, support, etc.)
  3. What would be the first steps to take?
  4. What has to happen after the steps we’ve identified to ________? (Fill in the blank with “maintain momentum,” “get ongoing support from the people who will need to support this,” and “be ready to implement it when we’re done”)
  5. How will we know we’re successful at each step along the way?
  6. How will the most important audiences for what we’re doing judge if we’re successful along the way?
  7. What things can stop us dead in our tracks at each step?
  8. How do we manage around those things that REALLY seem insurmountable?
  9. What absolutely has to be in place for us to be successful overall?

Along with introducing these questions to steer strategic conversations, apply the listening routine from the previous article to identify the right snippets you’ll need to turn strategic conversations into strategic plans. – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategy and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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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