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(Adapted from Inside the Executive Suite by Armada Corporate Intelligence)

Two junior team members in chief of staff / program manager roles asked how to best align with senior leaders to successfully share a strategy across an organization. Each was concerned about having enough regular access to senior leaders to feel comfortable in delivering consistent communications relative to what they would be saying in other forums. The challenge is doing more than just sending out a plan and expecting people to naturally understand the organization’s direction.

The Way to Successfully Share a Strategy

What can a senior leader do to share personal perspectives and expectations to facilitate stronger strategy implementation in an organization?

We recommend that an executive team develop its own strategy brief to support better, more aligned communication, and ultimately, strategy implementation. Borrowed from the idea of a communications brief, a strategy brief will:

  • Prompt greater strategic clarity and expectation setting
  • Help team members who are working on communicating and implementing the plan to perform effectively and creatively
  • Facilitate objectivity when judging the effectiveness and success of early strategy implementation

The strategy implementation brief contains three types of information:

  • Objectives – Detailing where the strategy should lead the organization, who it will impact, and what beliefs and action will be most important to success.
  • Preferences – Shares what messages, messaging styles, timing, and reinforcements pave the way for greater alignment.
  • Guidelines – Laying out what the strategy communication and implementation team needs to incorporate and avoid.

Within that framework, here are the questions to answer so your team can most effectively represent senior leadership to the entire organization.

Objectives

  • What is on the short list of initiatives that will move the organization forward?

Answering this question is step one in getting your strategic plan down to a bite-sized aspiration. Of all the initiatives you have planned, which handful are you, as a senior executive, going to monitor most closely? Your answer will determine whether you are going to move the needle or not.

  • What are your beliefs about the organization’s current situation? What do you think the broader organization’s beliefs are about the current situation? How do they need to change?

These questions begin addressing the arc of change you expect the organization to embrace. Is change critical to taking advantage of opportunities? Is a dramatically different direction needed to ward off challenges, but only after you overcome organizational complacency? Importantly, does the broad employee base see the organization’s situation comparably to the senior team? If not, orient the change communication toward what will make sense to THEM.

  • How do you expect the organization to think, behave, and perform differently with successful implementation?

Don’t spell out dozens of things you need employees to address so you can affect the desired strategic changes. Push your executive team to spell out five or fewer thinking and performance changes you are looking for from the organization. Pick only ones that will make a noticeable difference in results.

Preferences

  • What are the most important messages to convey and reinforce?

Identify the short list of messages most important for each target audience. Then do whatever homework you can do to see how those messages will resonate with your audiences. Far better to talk to audiences in ways that resonate with them versus ways that make sense to the senior executives.

  • What are the rallying points you will personally use to build momentum? How consistent do you expect to be in your own communication and messaging?

Share the talking points you expect will work best for you when you are interacting personally with audience members. Spell out how comfortable and confident you are in staying consistent with your messages. If you expect to shift them or are prone to get swept up in the moment and venture into new territory, let your team know to check back frequently for updates.

  • What emotions are relevant and okay to leverage to increase communication receptiveness?

Even if you’re data-driven and uncomfortable with emotional appeals, they do play an important role in business communication. Lay the groundwork for integrating appropriate emotions to move hearts in addition to minds.

Guidelines

  • Where are you looking for the team and others closer to the broader employee base to exercise their own creativity?

Once you’ve provided the foundation for your implementation team, let them know where they have room to bring their own ideas and variations to your thinking. Don’t expect them to be order takers, simply carrying out everything you dictate. Give yourself the advantage of tapping into the team’s expertise.

  • What touch points and feedback do you want from the implementation team?

This goes along with the previous direction. Share how involved and active you expect to be with the team. Make sure everyone understands how much latitude they have to act vs. circling back to the executive team for frequent check-ins.

  • What adjustments are you prepared to make if things seem off track?

Knowing your commitment level to the current direction helps the team plan for appropriate levels of change. Have you chosen an unwavering path, or are you experimenting your way into a new strategy, expecting to learn and adapt for the foreseeable future?

To Successfully Share a Strategy, Don’t Keep Your Implementation Team in the Dark

While it’s hardly statistically projectable, the two individuals asking how to align with senior leader messaging are likely voicing the sentiment of junior team members on the hook to implement your senior-level strategies. That’s why a strategic implementation brief is valuable for paving the way for an organization’s successful strategy implementation. – Mike Brown

 

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

Yes, strategic planning 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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With nearly 2,400 articles (at time of publication) on strategybranding, and innovation, it’s safe to say there’s a ton of content on the Brainzooming website. You can go deep, wide, and in multiple directions on these core topics.

To ensure that we continue to develop relevant, valuable content for you, we’re always keen to know what resonates the most. We use analytics, keyword research, and various forms of reader feedback to shape our content calendar. We target the greatest relevance for strategists and innovators inside organizations that are excited about the opportunities that collaborative strategy offers in the way of culture transformation and results.

Many executives visiting the Brainzooming website for the first time review dozens of pages of articles and downloads. That was the case recently, as we reviewed the article selections of one such executive. This new reader was seeking information on managing strategy and innovation inside an organization described as fearing change.

How Much Do You Love Free, Fun Strategic Planning Advice?

Since we know many of you face a comparable challenge, here are the more than 30 articles this reader reviewed in search of insights and answers on strategy and innovation. We’re guessing there are more than a few articles of value to you, too!

5 Fun Strategic Planning Activities

Fun Strategic Planning Exercises – 6 Last-Minute Creative Ideas

Free Strategic Planning Exercises – 5 Warnings

Strategic Thinking Exercises – Strategic Planning for a Troubled Company

Strategic Thinking Exercise – Black Swan Events in Your Plan

Strategic Thinking Exercises – More than 200 Strategic Planning Questions

Great Strategic Questions – A 3-Step Strategic Question Formula

Brainzooming – First Questions

80 Fun Strategic Planning Activities and Ideas!

11 Boring Details for Making Strategic Planning Fun*

Strategic Thinking Perspectives – Three Strategic Voices to Include on Your Team

Creating Strategic Impact – The Brainzooming Group Strategic Planning Toolkit

Why Change Is Hard – 3 Strategic Thinking Ideas for Making Change Easy

Strategic Alignment – 4 Lessons for Line and Staff Organizations Working Well

A Week of Struggling for Simplicity – A Simple Strategy Check

The Brainzooming Strategic Thinking Manifesto

Innovation Blocks-Taking the NO Out of Business InNOvation

Facilitating Innovative Strategy with a Diverse Group

Strategic Thinking Success – 3 Critical Thinking Perspectives

Strategic Thinking Exercises – 6 Characteristics the Best Ones Have

8 Fun Strategic Planning Icebreaker Activities

15 Innovative Strategic Planning Questions to Get Ready for Next Year

3 Short, Funny Strategic Planning Questions

If Not Time, Then What Else Matters?

Strategic Thinking Questions to Identify What Matters for a Brand

What Are We Trying to Say?

Ask and You Shall Receive with Great Strategic Questions

Strategy – Visioning Exercises for Strategic Planning

Reinvent Yourself Week – Look and Ask Around

Nobody Cares About You!!!

Creative Thinking Exercises – Would you like S, M, L, or XL Creative Ideas?

Where will you head next on strategy, branding, and innovation? – Mike Brown

 

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

Yes, strategic planning 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

Enjoy 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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January 28th is, according to a Facebook post from my cousin’s husband, National Fun at Work Day. A quick check corroborated his claim, although there are questions about where the holiday originated. Since my cousin’s husband has worked at the same company for forty-two years or something, I’m willing to believe his post: if you’ve worked in one place for four decades, you have to know a little about fun at work, even when the holiday falls on a Sunday this year.

One great way to celebrate National Fun at Work Day? Download our FREE eBook on eleven ideas for fun strategic planning that are not stuffy for work.

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

We released this eBook for the traditional strategic planning season. We’re, however, finding that demand for fun strategic planning ideas now runs throughout the year. This fun strategic planning eBook tells how to incorporate surprise, new situations, and toys to bring life to ANY strategy meeting you conduct throughout the year.

Speaking of toys, we always say they don’t make strategy great, but they do make strategy fun. Fun strategy leads to greater interest in strategic planning and more opportunities for innovative strategy!

11 Tips for Fun Strategic Planning with Toys

If you are trying to figure out what toys are best at meetings, here are our 11 tips for including all the types of toys to include at strategy meetings.

You want toys that:

  1. Allow participants to build things
  2. Twist into different forms
  3. Have bright colors
  4. People can squeeze
  5. Make sounds
  6. Bounce
  7. Stick to things
  8. Are so inexpensive that you can have lots of them
  9. Will make the people at the table that doesn’t have them jealous
  10. People can safely throw at each other during tense moments
  11. Participants will want to take along at the end of the meeting

Toys rekindle kid-like creativity among haggard executives. They give fidgeters something to fidget. Toys (particularly balls) give more aggressive types something to harmlessly throw. Most importantly, though, toys are one aspect of demonstrating that strategic planning needn’t be a completely serious, mind-numbing experience for executive participants.

Download 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning today. You’ll be ready to make EVERY DAY National Fun at Work Day! – Mike Brown

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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Need to challenge your team to being imagining the future, realizing it may look hardly anything like today?

Originating in a long-term future visioning exercise we designed and facilitated for a client, we developed these questions to prompt a group’s thinking about dramatic future change. The point was to push them to consider the future as something other than a trend line based on yesterday and today.

Strategic Thinking Questions to Imagine a Radically Different Future

Photo via Shutterstock

Once you provide hypotheses on what you suspect the future will be like in your market, these strategic thinking questions are productive to reinforce dramatic changes ahead.

Ask the team (whether individually or in small groups), what if our future were:

  1. Seemingly magical?
  2. Totally surprising and unexpected at every turn?
  3. Unbelievably scary and threatening?
  4. All about only addressing exceptions from what was expected?
  5. Totally automated and run by robots?
  6. Rapid fire?
  7. Filled with data at every turn?
  8. Devoid of personal, face-to-face communication?
  9. Run by 125-year old people that haven’t reached retirement age yet?
  10. Run by 16-year-olds with 10x more intellectual horsepower, knowledge, experience, and energy than people five times their age?
  11. Playing out fine with no need for human involvement?
  12. Completely unpredictable?
  13. Unlike ANYTHING we have known so far?

Coupled with other exercises to envision a radically different future, these strategic thinking questions, all rooted in projected trends, will help push the group to consider new perspectives you need to prepare to address. – 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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Since The Brainzooming Group launched, we have developed many strategic thinking exercises and models applying our methodology to diverse clients and business situations.

The result? We are further along and can even more easily customize these strategic thinking exercises to your needs if you face comparable situations. That is a major benefit if you want an outside, strategic perspective and need to start right now!

16 Strategic Thinking Exercises Ready to Go Right Now!

Review this list and identify the business opportunities or challenges that are incorporated in your strategic plans – or not. If any of these are on your agenda for this year, contact us. We can customize the strategic thinking exercises specifically for your organization and start moving even faster than normal!

We are trying to develop new strategies and strengthen our organization’s strategic perspective.

We know we need to use content marketing, but we’re struggling to connect the content to our brand and audience while generating real business returns.

Our focus is on innovation, and we need to bring it to life and create results before we lose interest and move on to the next big strategy.

Any of these opportunities and challenges familiar to you?

Are you under pressure to make one or more of these happen right now?

You owe it to yourself: contact us so we can talk through what you need to accomplish and see if it makes sense to work together.

We can get moving with the strategic thinking exercises and workshop implementation that will deliver results for you faster than you have ever imagined! – 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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A potential client reached out to us. He was a client team member on a customer experience strategy engagement several years ago. He has moved to a new role leading marketing for an organization shifting from the B2C to B2B market. They need a compelling brand position, messaging, and a content marketing strategy that grows their volume of interested prospects and leads to strong growth to satisfy the global company that just acquired the brand.

We created a proposal for rapidly updating and developing its B2B brand strategy while leaving everything in place the founder and CEO loves about the brand and doesn’t want to tinker with right now. The focus was on getting the best, actionable brand strategy foundation elements in place ASAP so they can implement.

We exchanged emails right before the holiday that they are leaning toward going with a different outside partner that does both brand strategy and execution. We responded with a message on why a client-side Marketing VP should be very cautious of an outside partner or agency that rushes to promise both branding strategy AND execution.

1 Big Reason Why You Don’t Want Brand Strategy and Execution from the Same Partner

Are you familiar with the pitfalls of picking one partner to both develop brand strategy and execute the strategy? Here, from experience we’ve had on the client side, are the pitfalls we spelled out for this client side marketer:

Dear Potential Client,

Thanks for your email. I appreciate your candor, and want to be just as candid in my response. 

First and foremost, it was clear from our discussions that you need something that is on target strategically and not just interesting creatively.

The pitfall of picking someone who’s going to do strategy and tactics and slam it together right away is that they recommend a strategy that best fits what they do, and not what’s right for the client. I saw that time and time again as a corporate marketing VP. That’s why The Brainzooming Group comes at it in a very aggressive way to tailor the strategy for your organization and needs, independent of looking for opportunities to sell-in additional services.

As it seems everyone in your senior management team recognizes, your brand and messaging is tailored currently to a narrower audience. The messaging and audience strategy must change and be immediately on target to make rapid headway in the broad B2B market you are beginning to target. 

If there’s an organization that can come to the table and do strategy and tactics with previous experience in your industry, and do it all for the same price, that’s great. They’d be the smart choice over us.

It’s worth making sure, however, that they understand–both strategically and from a content standpoint–what you need to be successful, and not simply what fits their business model. If they’re pitching you on their ability to help you on the B2B side, look at their website and see that they’re using those same ideas themselves to target B2B decision makers. If not, as a client, I’d be suspect of how they make it work for others in a B2B market, but not for themselves.

Short story, on the client side, I found that getting the right strategy consistently led to getting the creative right. Our approach and experience will deliver solid strategy. Plus, we integrate well and collaborate openly with organizations that do focus on implementation.

If you’re open to it, we’re eager to make sure you get the on-target strategy you need, collaborate with your other partner, and make the process fast and economical for you. We’ll make sure they’re getting everything these need to quickly implement the strategy that’s going to yield business results for you.

Again, I appreciate your candor and your time. We’d love to work with you. Feel free to reach out for any clarification or to get us moving on next steps.

Thanks,

Mike

Are you facing the same question about brand strategy and execution?

We’ll see what the potential client does. My suspicion is they’ll go with the other partner, and get a seamless plan that the outside partner positions as solid brand strategy. The problem is the brand strategy will look like a page from the partner’s capabilities page. So, the seamless strategy will work well for the outside provider – at least until it is implemented – but fall short for the end client.

Are you facing the same type of decision about developing your brand strategy?

Contact us, and let’s develop the best strategy for YOU. Then get the right partners to implement it. Because the promise to do everything will get you almost nothing that works. – Mike Brown

Boost Your Brand’s Social Media Strategy with Social-First Content!

Download the Brainzooming eBook on social-first content strategy. In Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content, we share actionable, audience-oriented frameworks and exercises to:

  • Understand more comprehensively what interests your audience
  • Find engaging topics your brand can credibly address via social-first content
  • Zero in on the right spots along the social sales continuum to weave your brand messages and offers into your content

Start using Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content to boost your content marketing strategy success today!

Download Your FREE eBook! Boosting Your Brand with Social-First Content

 

 

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 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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