Strategic Planning | The Brainzooming Group - Part 33 – page 33
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Before and after the recent National Association of Women Business Owners session on DIY Strategic Thinking, I had the great opportunity to appear on radio programs on Kansas City’s KCTE Hot Talk 1510 AM. Strategic Thinking and Hot Talk – what a combination! Since both programs are available for listening online, you can be the judge.

In late May, I appeared with good friend Jay Liebenguth on his Thursday afternoon show, Live with Jay. Jay has been a great supporter, and beyond putting the radio show online, he wrote an incredibly kind post on his blog.

We covered a variety of strategic thinking topics, many of which have been highlighted here. Take a listen to the show, and for your quick reference, here are links to topics we covered.

After the NAWBO program, I met Kelly Scanlon, publisher of “Kansas City Small Business Monthly,” appearing on her June 20 Friday morning program. This Thursday there will be a link to that show and the innovation topics we covered.

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’s a quick check for generating a simple, solid strategy. Is your strategy?

  • Understandable – Will employees be able to read it and comprehend your direction, even if someone isn’t there to explain it?
  • Implementable – Will something be able to be done with the strategy to create positive business results?
  • Aligning – Will following the strategy create a natural inclination for employees to work in a cooperative fashion toward a common goal?

Solid (and simple) strategies should generate three “Yes” answers to these questions. So how does your strategy stack up? Ideally it displays the appropriate level of simplicity.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I’m so excited to have Barrett Sydnor, president of Sydnor & Associates, as today’s guest author. We go back nearly 15 years, and I’ve always enjoyed his business writing tremendously. Today he addresses objectivity within strategic planning; he’ll also be back next month with a post on “invented second.”

David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, quotes the father of modern consulting, Marvin Bower, as defining marketing as “objectivity.” If so, then objectivity is one of the most important qualities that any good strategic marketing planning process must have. But it is tough to do for two reasons.

One is that most people simply aren’t built that way. A few years ago I led a planning session for a company where I wanted people to think from the outside in (no big insight I know, but bear with me). To encourage that, they were not allowed to use first person references when speaking about the company – no “we” or “our.” It had to be third person, as an outsider would refer to it. To enforce it, we charged a quarter each time they referred to the company in first person. By the end of the session we had collected a very considerable sum for charity. One participant gave up about one-third of the way through, tossed a ten dollar bill in the pot, and said “I hope this gets me through the end of the day.”

These were smart people, good strategic thinkers, but they could not totally divorce themselves from thinking of the situation at hand in a first-person way.

The second reason that objectivity is tough is because often the objective person is seen as being negative or cynical. They are accused of not being a team player. And it is true that sometimes the approach and language of objectivity sounds negative and cynical when it is intended as skeptical or cautionary.

So how do you build objectivity into the planning process? One way is to encourage something I would call “passionate objectivity.” This is a quality or skill set that the best news reporters are heavily endowed with.

Those reporters approach stories with enthusiasm and an open mind, but they look for facts -verifiable facts – to back up or refute the opinions and subjectivity they encounter along the way.
An exercise that you can do to ensure that a planning recommendation is based in objectivity is to treat it the way a reporter would (should) treat a news story.

  • Write down the questions they would ask. Include the basic neutral, fact-collecting ones and the pointed ones that try to dig deeper.
  • Determine who they would go to as sources on the story, both inside the organization and outside sources—competitors, independent industry experts, academicians. Figure out what customers they would talk to.
  • What would they ask each of these sources and what would the answers be?

If you can answer those questions with good reliability and it still points favorably to your recommendation, you’ve had a good test of your processes objectivity. If you don’t know what the answers would be or the answers don’t square with the recommendation, maybe it’s time to go back and put some more passionate objectivity into the process. Barrett Sydnor

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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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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