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When do you start thinking about your organization’s strategic planning process? Have you started thinking about it yet for next year?

Strategic-Planning-process

In the corporate world, I used to start planning for planning in April.

Seriously, we started in April, laying out how we’d approach everything so that by the time we engaged the rest of the organization in mid-summer we had everything ready to go.

Spending that much time planning was a luxury when the strategic planning process suddenly became important to our company. That’s one way of saying, don’t freak out if you have responsibility for directing strategic planning and haven’t started thinking about it yet.

Jump start Your Strategic Planning Process

If you are playing a role in shaping your organization’s strategic planning process for next year, it IS probably a good time to start asking these 12 questions, just to make sure you’ve played through all the variables you can manage to deliver great results for the coming year:

Process Questions

  • Do we have strategic insights in place from last year’s strategic planning process?
  • How aggressively do we need to update them for this year?
  • What worked and didn’t work about the last round of planning?
  • What do we need to change about the upcoming strategic planning process to make it more effective and efficient?
  • What’s the minimal amount of plan documentation we need to do to align everyone toward the company priorities?

People Questions

  • Who should be on our core planning team?
  • Do we have representation from all the vital parts of the organization?

Timing Questions

  • How long does it typically take us to get a plan put together?
  • What are our options for shortening the amount of time this year?
  • Are there short cuts we can take that won’t compromise the strategic impact?
  • How much time are people able to invest in strategic planning this year?
  • Will that amount of time increase or decrease as we get further into the fall and end of year?

Take a run at those questions and see where you stand for your next round of strategic planning.

If you need help to speed up the process, actively involve more employees, or make planning more productive than it has been in the past, contact us.

That’s something we’re making happen across industries! – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Involving Employees In Your Strategy

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 that turns 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

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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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If you’ve been a Brainzooming reader for any length of time, you know we’re huge proponents of collaborative strategic planning. Collaborative planning implies a process that goes beyond the board room to include individuals throughout the organization in meaningful ways to provide insights and input to shape organizational strategy.

Admittedly, collaborative planning processes aren’t all that common.

In fact, it may be relatively rare.

Because of that rarity, we run into potential clients with serious apprehensions about opening the door wide to have employees throughout the organization share strategic ideas. That leads to a variety of misperceptions.

5 Things Collaborative Strategic Planning Isn’t

Let’s try to clear up at least five of those misperceptions about collaborative planning.

Collaborative-Planning

Collaborative strategic planning isn’t:

1. Unplanned

Instead of just inviting people and seeing what happens, we carefully identify and vet potential participants in collaborative strategy planning. This step ensures diverse perspectives and a process that allows them to participate successfully.

2. A democracy

A large group really makes collaborative strategy planning work. We ask them to provide ideas, input, and even express preferences and recommendations. While that input is vital, it isn’t the final say. The business leader still owns the decision making for what makes it into the final plan.

3. A free for all

We design collaborative strategy planning for each client with a clear understanding of the overall goal. While the individual steps may seem to go in varied and unexpected directions, they’re all pointing toward the end result of a highly-actionable strategic plan.

4. The same for all participants

Individual participants take on different roles within collaborative strategy planning. They may work on different strategic thinking exercises and questions based on their perspectives and areas of expertise. The cumulative input provides a richer and more robust basis to align and coordinate the organization’s activities even though everyone didn’t participate in exactly the same ways.

5. More time consuming than less collaborative planning

Including additional participants allows for more efficient and concurrent input. Additionally, our design process takes into account what will make collaborative strategy planning participants most efficient and effective. The net of these two approaches is that our client engagements are months shorter than typical strategic planning processes.

Want to learn more about collaborative strategic planning benefits?

Download our Results!!! eBook and contact us (816-509-5320 or info@brainzooming.com) to discuss how a collaborative planning process can boost your organization’s strategy and results for 2017! Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Employees to Improve Strategic 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 strategic planning 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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This time of year, preparing for upcoming strategic planning exercises may seem like something far in the future.

Whether strategic planning is months away or close at hand, however, it’s always smart to get a head start tackling big strategic thinking questions that warrant in-depth consideration.

As we look ahead to clients’ strategic planning processes, we’re developing new strategic thinking questions to freshen our Brainzooming strategic planning exercises. Along the way, we try to share some of these strategic thinking questions with you to incorporate into your organization’s strategic planning exercises.

9 Big Strategic Thinking Questions to Start Addressing Now

 

9 strategic questions orange

Here are nine new strategic thinking questions were excited about in three planning areas:

Strategic Goals and Focus

  • How could we focus on only one aspect of what we do to create a major impact in a completely new area?
  • Where can we create at least two 0-percent or 100-percent goals for our organization?
  • If we don’t already have any projects with ten-year horizons underway, what are two of them we should launch now?

Branding and Customer Experience

  • What would make our tired old brand “hot” again?
  • How could we create a place where future prospects and customers want to spend time “hanging out” with our brand?
  • What will it take to turn every “ask permission” situation for customers into a “this is part of your solution” situation instead?

Innovation Strategy

  • How can we surgically remove a promising idea from our organization and plant it in a bigger host so it flourishes more quickly?
  • What are new ways to put our customers together with each other so they can identify and solve bigger challenges?
  • How many times a day are we saying “yes AND” to a new idea or situation, and how do we increase that number by a factor of 10?

Which ones of those might fit into your upcoming strategic planning exercises? Contact us to let us know what works, or if you’d like to put us to work for you to get you through strategic planning in a streamlined fashion this year!  Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Employees to Improve Strategic 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 strategic planning 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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Following our post on the tenth anniversary of the Brainzooming strategic planning methodology, the guys at Armada Corporate Intelligence, who were an important part of developing and testing the process, wrote a companion article. They highlighted 5 keys to streamlining strategic planning based on how we implemented the Brainzooming process as a contrast to traditional (and slow) strategic planning techniques.

In an edited excerpt, here is what they shared in their Inside the Executive Suite column about streamlining strategic planning.

5 Keys to Streamlining Strategic Planning

Planning-Meeting

Most executives can’t write a strategy plan, so don’t make them

We hit this challenge repeatedly. Executives that SHOULD know how to develop and write a strategic plan struggled. Since strategy planning is an infrequent activity, it is difficult for executives to master it. We learned that if we asked executives a series of questions leading to the information needed to complete a strategy plan,  they became productive strategy planners.

Strategy Implication: Remove the tedious aspects of strategy planning, replacing them with efficient alternative approaches. This implies focusing participants on contributing in ways that they can be most productive.

The number and types of participants are critical to developing a strong plan

A marketing manager is generally the expert on a particular product line. That doesn’t mean, however, it works best for him or her to close the door and spend weeks trying to write a marketing plan individually. To compress the time spent planning, we assembled multiple people with important, yet perhaps more narrow perspectives on a product line, to participate. The collaborative approach created more thorough and vetted plans. Involving more people turned weeks of solo work into a one-day collaboration to prepare a strategy plan.

Strategy Implication: Adding more people is only part of the equation. The right mix of participants must include three perspectives: front-line people, functional experts (i.e., finance, operations, market research), and innovators (people that look at business situations differently). This combination, typically accomplished with five-to-ten people, leads to a stronger strategy.

A strategy plan should be integral to daily business activities

One problem with strategic planning is it often seems completely separate from other activities. The plan includes big ideas, statements, and expectations beyond anything an organization will ever do. It summarizes the strategy in jargon foreign to daily business conversations. We instead developed a process built around facilitating conversations among people with a big stake in company performance. This leads to a realistic focus on implementing what matters for business success within the plan.

Strategy Implication: By building strategy planning around collaborative conversations, the plan input sounds just like how people in the organization talk. The ideas incorporated into the plan also come from within the organization and aren’t dropped into it by (an ultimately) disinterested outsider. It speeds understanding, acceptance, and rapid implementation of a strategic viewpoint and plan.

Creative thinking exercises generate ideas, not facts

We adapted the strategy planning process to develop major account sales plans. This switch supported a program aligning sales activities for the company’s largest accounts. Despite similarities, a sales planning workshop’s success depended tremendously on how knowledgeable the sales participants were. While creative thinking exercises help generate new ideas, it became clear that creativity couldn’t help a salesperson without key facts (e.g., knowing the decision maker) generate answers.

Strategy Implication: Document as many needed facts as possible BEFORE assembling a group to collaborate on plan building. Use online surveys, focused fact-finding exploration, and pre-session homework to establish basic information. This is vital since nothing shuts down a planning session as quickly as the absence of key facts no one can credibly address.

There are multiple ways to complete a strategy plan

With an internal department driving the rapid planning approach we used, there was no built-in bias to require a complex set of planning steps. Everyone benefitted by simplifying the process as much as possible. In fact, our approach was to use everything the internal client had already completed that would move planning ahead more quickly. Instead of using a static process requiring internal clients to adapt, our process adapted to what worked best for the internal clients and the business.

Strategy Implication: There are many ways to develop and complete a strategy plan. The overall steps are basically the same for a corporate strategy, a marketing plan, or a functional area’s priority setting. Recognizing that, there is significant flexibility to vary planning steps to accommodate an organization’s ability to develop and execute a strategy. For the sake of efficiency, we did insist in every case that we would time-constrain planning activities and manage conversations to keep things out of the weeds. This ensured everything we did was adding new insights and material to complete the final plan. – Armada Corporate Intelligence

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Find New Resources to Innovate!

NEW FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

Download Your FREE Brainzooming eBook! Accelerate - 16 Keys to Finding Innovation Resources

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 introduced the first Brainzooming strategic planning workshop resembling what we do today as The Brainzooming Group ten years ago, June 19-20, 2006.

Here’s the story of how a request from a big supporter, then and still, instigated a major change in the Brainzooming methodology.

Linking Creativity and Strategic Planning

I met Chuck Dymer, the Brilliance Activator, in the mid-1990s. Chuck facilitated multiple engaging, high-energy strategic innovation sessions for us at Yellow Corporation. Chuck’s creativity techniques and helped us generate tons of ideas. We started dabbling within our market planning team to help our internal clients generate new ideas, too. We’d do these sessions as part of strategic planning. Since we were learning as we went, some sessions worked better than others. The common denominator was we’d help internal teams generate ideas, document and categorize them, and deliver a long organized list. We’d then turn to preparing a strategic plan.

After several cycles, it became apparent our marketing managers couldn’t translate the ideas into effective plans. The ideas were filed away, and they returned to struggling to create plans using traditional ideas.

In May 2006, Dave Kramer, a Senior Sales and Marketing VP at one of our transportation subsidiaries asked us to help one of their company president’s come up with a strategic plan – quickly. They had to deliver the plan to improve performance and profitability to their CEO by the end of June.

Brainstorming-Session-Contribute-to-Success

We had the processes and exercises needed already developed buy had never put them all together to move from ideas to plans within a day or two. Keith Prather of Armada Corporate Intelligence, our strategic partner, and I sat down to figure it out. Finding an article in Inc. magazine about a consultant selling two-day business planning, we saw a possibility. The consultant streamlined traditional strategic planning steps, introduced fun videos, and created a tolerable experience for executives creating a strategic plan over a weekend.

If this guy could do it in two days, we DEFINITELY could! I’d already been accumulating strategic thinking exercises for ten years by that time. All we had to do was integrate the right ones and speed up what we could accomplish in a strategic planning workshop.

Simplifying a Strategic Planning Workshop

After creating the strategic planning workshop, we surveyed the company’s senior team for ideas in advance and headed to Harrisburg, PA for the in-person work. We shared the survey results, led them through prioritizing opportunities and threats, and started to tackle what they needed to do to accomplish their big objectives the first afternoon. Using a few basic posters, we described the strategic thinking exercises, using easel pads and sticky notes to capture ideas. As early evening approached, we had everything needed to draft a pretty solid plan. By facilitating the strategic conversations in a targeted, productive way, even potentially off-topic chatter contributed to completing the strategic planning template we designed.

While the rest of the group went to dinner, Keith and I went to an office supply store to buy a travel printer. Back in the hotel’s meeting room, we typed everything from the day to complete a strategic plan document. Chalking up a late night creating a strategic plan marked an early Brainzooming process standard.

The next morning, the group returned, surprised to find printed copies of the draft strategic plan. All they needed to do was review what we’d created and assign dates and names to strategies and tactics. Afterward, they had the strategic plan!

160620-Brainzooming-Birth1

 

After that, whenever we designed a strategic planning workshop, we made deliberate design decisions on the right balance of creative thinking and focused plan building. The mix varies from pure creativity to pure planning, with usually some mix in between.

Dave introduced our process into the other subsidiary companies in his area of corporation. We also worked with Jim Ferguson at Roadway Express (another subsidiary) to test our process with his teams’ plans. That’s why I tell people the Brainzooming process was really honed in Akron, OH, where both Dave and Jim worked. At one point, Dave said, “I thought you guys had a process, but I saw what you did change every day.” Our answer was we were learning new things daily and adapting what our technique to reflect new successes and failures. By the time I left YRC to spin off The Brainzooming Group as a full-time outsourced strategy, innovation, and planning company, we had completed two hundred workshops of varying types.

That’s the story behind the first Brainzooming workshop ten years ago.

We’re proud to say Dave Kramer remains a client, using us to help develop strategy (for sales growth, communications, branding, and company direction) at two subsequent companies where he’s served as a C-level executive.

Do you want to develop an actionable strategic plan really fast?

If your company could benefit from quickly developing innovative ideas, understanding opportunities in new ways, and creating an actionable, collaborative plan, contact us. Let’s talk about how what we do can help your organization thrive! – Mike Brown

 

Find New Resources to Innovate!

NEW FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

Download Your FREE Brainzooming eBook! Accelerate - 16 Keys to Finding Innovation Resources

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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At a Brainzooming internal branding strategy workshop I was presenting, one attendee remarked about wanting more vision statement examples. From what she described, her company’s leadership had rushed to develop big strategy statements (such as a core purpose, vision statement, or mission statement), but was now rethinking its direction. She saw documenting as many vision statement examples as possible as a huge help to getting it right this next time.

Mountains-Vision

I suggested that instead of starting with a pre-defined list of big strategy statements her company needed, they should invest time in more thoroughly what mattered for the organization’s success and its intended direction. Only after that exploration, they could identify what types of statements (and the content of each) that would make sense.

6 Steps to Figuring out Your Company’s Big Strategy Statements

While I didn’t have time to spell out the steps other than writing down all the vision statement examples she would hear during the conference, here is a way to explore first and figure out the right big strategy statements you need afterward:

  1. Start with finding the right ideas that describe and represent your brand.
  2. Once you’ve found the ideas, begin identifying words and phrases that best capture the ideas in multiple ways.
  3. Now think about any other places where the words you are considering are used. What are the others words, phrases, and structures in these other locations? How might they fit in your situation?
  4. With this big set of words, add a dose of aspiration. If you super-sized what you want your brand to become and its description, what other words and phrases would you imagine as possibilities?
  5. Now add one more mega-dose of aspiration. If you used language that was so glorious and strong that your competitors would shudder, what would it be?
  6. Now that you have an even bigger set of language, start playing with combinations of words and phrases to describe your brand’s current situation and the difference you are trying to make (mission statement)future aspirations (vision statement), and reasons for existence (core purpose).

These steps will more readily lead to big strategy statements that work hard for your organization. THEN if you need to see some vision statement examples to put the finishing touches on what you’re doing, go ahead and do it. – Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your organization’s success!

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 put this infographic together for a client today to distill The Brainzooming Group approach into a few images depicting what we do to pave the way for a great strategic thinking workshop.

6 Guidelines for a Great Strategic Thinking Workshop

Strategic-Thinking-Workshop

If you would like to go deeper on any of these topics, here are links to articles for each of the six areas:

Here’s to a productive and great strategic thinking workshop – not only today, but every time you bring a smart group of people together! – Mike Brown

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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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