Strategic Planning | The Brainzooming Group - Part 30 – page 30
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Forecasts and size estimates shown with multiple decimal points are scary because they invariably imply a phony level of precision. When you’re estimating something, understand up front how precise the answer has to be, and present the result accordingly.

Doing a near-term estimate for a production forecast is one thing. But if the question relates to a market’s size to gauge relative market share or reasonable long-term growth expectations, it’s probably appropriate for your answer to be a range, and maybe a pretty wide one (2x or 3x differences between the low and high end may even be reasonable).

Also, rather than investing all your efforts in one estimate, approach it with multiple methodologies or sets of inputs to create credible boundaries for your estimated range. That’s “precision” that’s more valuable than any level of phony decimal places.

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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Here are three links that can benefit you in varying (and sometimes fun) ways when preparing marketing plans.

Guerrilla Marketing Plans

I haven’t “blogged” other conference presentations yet, although I typically write pages of notes and idea starters. One of the most valuable note packets was from a 2003 Transportation Marketing Communications Association presentation by Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of guerrilla marketing. He covered essential elements of a marketing plan and the number of times you need to get a message in front of potential customers to move them to be repeat buyers. Interestingly enough, surfing the web recently, I found this Spark Insight page with notes taken from the same speech Levinson was giving then. Not sure if he’s still covering this material, but it’s a great quick reference on guerrilla marketing.

Marketing Plan Simplicity

This link to Entrepreneur magazine content popped up on AOL recently. It’s a great reminder on the importance of simple prose, reasonable length, and a direct style when preparing a business plan. While its target audience is people writing business plans for their own start-ups, it’s certainly applicable for any marketing or business plan you’re putting together even within a big company.

Deceptive Simplicity – “Indexed

I love a Venn diagram just as much as the next person. Okay, I love a Venn diagram more than most people. This book and website by Jessica Hagy capture her commentary on a wide range of topics through Venn diagrams, x-y charts, and other graphs. She produces an amazing amount of content on her blog and generates a lot of comments debating what the charts mean. Her ability to translate complex issues into a few lines and words on an index card is inspirational (and maddening – if you struggle mightily to express ideas simply!).

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 week’s Brainzooming posts are dedicated to one of my favorite all-time players, Wee Willie Keeler. You’ll learn more about him Wednesday, but the reason he’s a favorite is because of his famous strategic quote: when asked about his hitting approach, he replied, “I hit ’em where they ain’t.”

That strategy works in so many ways, we’ll use it as the inspiration for the posts all week. Today’s turns the quote around, concentrating on not getting hit where you ain’t looking.
I spoke a couple of years ago on the same program as the then-COO from Sprint. During his presentation, he highlighted the incredible number of photographs being taken and sent via cell phones on a monthly basis.

It would have been interesting to sit inside Kodak in the years leading up to the emergence & explosion of this capability to see if cell phones were ever considered as competitive threats. I suspect they weren’t, especially since a Kodak exec I saw presenting at a Frost & Sullivan conference in early 2007 couldn’t get beyond his focus on printing things. There wasn’t much recognition of alternative means of communicating and transmitting images and the impact on Kodak.

The scary implication for any business is that not all future (or even current) competitors will “look” like your company. Cell phones don’t look like cameras, and the images that they produce aren’t too conducive to printing. Yet, for capturing & sharing images, they’re a lot more functional than a traditional camera (or even an electronic one).

How can you begin to assess and project the nature of future competitive threats. Beyond cursory exploratory market research techniques, here are several questions to consider:

  • What benefits does your company deliver? If you didn’t deliver them, who else currently would / could deliver them?
  • What if your company never existedhow would customers satisfy their needs?
  • What if your industry never existedwhat alternatives might develop to satisfy needs?
  • Who are the niche players in your markets today that could grow in prominence? How might they be defining your business for you right now?

We used the first benefits-oriented set of strategic questions at a Kansas City Business Marketing Association in looking at how Apple had disrupted other markets, yet could be disrupted itself. The strategy exercise interestingly yielded Microsoft, Garmin, YouTube, and Louis Vuitton as all potential competitors to deliver the same benefits Apple does. That’s quite a wide-ranging list!

This type of strategy work is challenging and highly speculative. But it pays to consider, anticipate, and prepare for as many competitive possibilities as you can imagine.  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you develop a stronger competitor profile and create business building strategies to target big competitors more successfully.

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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Another question at last week’s conference was on getting reluctant people to participate in strategic thinking efforts if they don’t want to spend the time or are skeptical about its value. Barring a management directive, you can’t force participation. Instead, consider two other approaches.

First is the Wednesday “Change Your Character” exercise. Professional event planners face similar challenges. They’re under the gun to produce great events and make sure that people want to show up for them. They accomplish this with their event by:

  • Having multiple events of different sizes at different times to attract different groups
  • Planning the event’s timing so it doesn’t conflict with other priorities
  • Tying the event to an already scheduled activity
  • Holding the event someplace new – in a more convenient or a unique location
  • Broadening the invitation list with new participants and guests who usually wouldn’t be invited
  • Confirming well-known guests personally and communicating their participation to others
  • Creating a compelling invitation – ensuring invitees know all event details and the benefits of attending
  • Inviting people in sufficient time for them to commit
  • Making it easy to RSVP in the affirmative
  • Calling invitees to confirm attendance and reminding them about the event a week before
  • Creating attractive networking and relationship building opportunities for attendees
  • Giving certain invitees specific roles to perform at the event

As usual, come up with 3 new ideas for each event planner technique to get people to come to a strategic thinking session.

Here’s the bonus on this challenge – Five approaches that we’ve used to secure participation from people reluctant to invest time on strategy:

  • Collect strategic input with online exercises – Allow people to participate without a meeting. Use this for SWOT exercises, gauging opinions, and soliciting perceptions on future industry dynamics.
  • Secure a little bit of time with a clear objective – If you can get 45 minutes of a group’s time, select an exercise and a prioritization approach that will fit the time. Make sure you’re clearly moving toward your objective within the session.
  • Do strategic thinking for non-participants – Find out what non-participating stakeholders want to accomplish and do the strategic thinking for them. Package the outcome in a recommendation or executive summary, pitching the results to demonstrate strategic thinking’s benefits.
  • Work with who you can get – If you have a small but diverse group interested in strategic thinking, hold a session with them. Ensure that you clearly deliver results and create a buzz about it afterward.
  • Reference sell – If someone senior has seen beneficial results from strategy efforts, ask them to contact your reluctant thinkers, recommending they find time because it’s worth it.

Use these five approaches and the event planner techniques to get your foot in the door for more strategic thinking within your business. And to gain a better perspective on the advantage of thinking about even small business presentations as events, check out tomorrow’s post.

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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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There’s a great article by Dan and Chip Heath in this month’s Fast Company about the value of simple, straight forward checklists to improve performance. It’s a reminder of the value of checklists as strategic tools to help ensure that you’re thinking through both routine and new situations in structured ways. Problems on a recent trip underscored that point along with the realization that effective checklists don’t always have to be written.

During a “major winter weather event” (KC television weather jargon for “snow”), I was monitoring the weather by looking out the window and watching The Weather Channel. I was unaware that our airport had been closed for hours until my traveling companion called to ask when I was going to the airport and what my alternatives were.

It was suddenly essential to develop a checklist to evaluate viable options so that our trip didn’t fall apart. The resulting checklist works in many instances where a plan looks as if it’s in jeopardy of not succeeding:

  • Identify critical plan priorities that can’t be compromised. (We had to arrive Sunday night; all else could be adjusted on the road.)
  • Increase flexibility / options right away to be able to still achieve the priorities. (That meant downsizing my checked bag to a carry-on in 5 minutes and getting to the airport ASAP to have the opportunity to make more flight options.)
  • Secure access to the necessary information flow. (We determined that on the ground info was our best source – first at the counter, then at the gate.)
  • Develop likely scenarios and their implications. (Since it was an airport-wide delay, we had to get as early a flight as possible, while being prepared to catch the latest connecting flight possible.)
  • Secure the resources to operate in the most likely scenarios. (Our important resources were charged phones, water and food to take along, and each other – splitting up & teaming as necessary to get to the front of the customer service line ASAP.)

The end result? We made it on an earlier scheduled flight that left an hour after our original plane was supposed to depart. Our 2-hour Chicago layover was consumed by the delay; we walked off the plane in Chicago and went right to our original connecting flight. We had food because we’d planned ahead, so it wasn’t a big deal to miss eating at Midway. We arrived only 15 minutes late vs. the prospect of arriving 5 hours late. And the checklist made all the difference!

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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Two recent articles do a great job of addressing the real world benefits of having a strategic foundation in business.

In a recent Business Week column, Suzy and Jack Welch provide a brief rationale for the value of mission statements and then cover several steps toward developing a meaningful one that actually drives business decisions.

A longer piece in Fast Company issue 121 by Charles Fishman called “To the Moon in a Minivan” reports on NASA’s approach to develop, along with Lockheed Martin, the replacement spacecraft for the space shuttle. What makes it particularly interesting is the treatment of the strategic elements within NASA’s plan, providing a behind the scenes look at how a major enterprise applies strategic concepts to move an effort ahead.

We learn NASA’s “vision” statement (“To the moon, Mars, and beyond”) and how its effort is bounded by direct critical success factors such as keeping the spacecraft’s weight under 50,250 pounds, focusing on simplicity & utility, and exploiting pre-existing technology (even going as far back as the Apollo program) before inventing new solutions. Importantly, the program has a simple and very visual statement to align its development efforts. According to Ship Hatfield, the NASA project manager for the capsule, the Orion spacecraft is “more like a mini-van. It’s more of a vehicle to go to the grocery store in.” With a picture like this for a project team, making strategic decisions becomes much easier.

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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Two recent articles do a great job of addressing the real world benefits of having a strategic foundation in business.

In a recent Business Week column, Suzy and Jack Welch provide a brief rationale for the value of mission statements and then cover several steps toward developing a meaningful one that actually drives business decisions.

A longer piece in Fast Company issue 121 by Charles Fishman called “To the Moon in a Minivan” reports on NASA’s approach to develop, along with Lockheed Martin, the replacement spacecraft for the space shuttle. What makes it particularly interesting is the treatment of the strategic elements within NASA’s plan, providing a behind the scenes look at how a major enterprise applies strategic concepts to move an effort ahead.

We learn NASA’s “vision” statement (“To the moon, Mars, and beyond”) and how its effort is bounded by direct critical success factors such as keeping the spacecraft’s weight under 50,250 pounds, focusing on simplicity & utility, and exploiting pre-existing technology (even going as far back as the Apollo program) before inventing new solutions. Importantly, the program has a simple and very visual statement to align its development efforts. According to Ship Hatfield, the NASA project manager for the capsule, the Orion spacecraft is “more like a mini-van. It’s more of a vehicle to go to the grocery store in.” With a picture like this for a project team, making strategic decisions becomes much easier.

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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