0

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

I don’t have statistically validated data for this claim. I’d be comfortable speculating, however, that a high percentage of productive strategic conversations are wasted.

What do I mean by “wasted” strategic conversations? Those are conversations where no one is actively listening and capturing important ideas and information in ways those participating in the strategic conversations (and others) can use them later.

MAYBE one or more people in a strategic conversation happen to remember what was discussed. Perhaps someone took a few notes. The notes were probably captured, however, in chronological order (i.e., this was said and then this was said), and shared that way. Chronological notes, however, rarely add as much value as they might because productive strategic conversations don’t typically take place in an order that directly supports decisions and actions.

Strategic-Conversations-Thought-Pad

Here’s an alternative approach we use all the time during strategic conversations:  listen for specific types of comments and organize them as you go (or after the fact) into strategic deliverables.

For example, before a strategic planning workshop started the other day, an internal client leader held court with the project team. They discussed a large process graphic we were about to address. The strategic conversation was incredibly rich. It had great potential for shaping the foundation for our strategic planning. That was only true, however, because we knew what to listen for amid a lot of extraneous information and idea sharing.

12 Things to Listen for in Strategic Conversations

What types of information should you listen for amid strategic conversations? Here are 12 types of input we captured during the pre-planning conversation:

  1. Things that “matter” for the organization or initiative
  2. Aspirations the organization has for changing its current path
  3. Expectations for what a strategic initiative will include or deliver
  4. Numbers defining the size of the effort or quantifying its potential benefits
  5. Speculation about strengths and weaknesses the organization faces
  6. Facts about the current situation
  7. Factors influencing the initiative’s success
  8. Challenges standing in the way of progress
  9. Descriptions of potential objectives and metrics
  10. Organizational beliefs and biases
  11. Specific innovative ideas the organization wants to pursue
  12. Criteria that will shape decision making

Simply by having a plan for what we would need later during strategic planning, we were able to turn what could have been a wasted strategic conversation into a huge head start in completing our work.

Next time you are involved a strategic conversation, quickly assess what you need from it and start listening for valuable strategic nuggets.  Mike Brown

Need help guiding your team’s creative thinking for innovative product ideas?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookDo you need to take better advantage of your brand’s customer inputs and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? With the right combination of perspectives from outside your organization and productive strategic thinking exercises, you can ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

Download Your Free Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

Do you ever get stuck with a big list of items and struggle to make sense of it all?

We have been working with a client that had done a lot of strategic planning exercises about a new initiative. They identified a wide array of ideas related to what they were currently doing to carry out the initiative. This was even before formally launching the initiative.

The challenge with using the big list of ideas they had created was they simply documented the list in the order in which each idea was identified. Because of this, the list was worthless for doing what I suspect everyone hoped it would do: provide a starting point for the strategic thinking needed to back into a definition of and explanation for what the new initiative would turn out to be.

Taking a look at the list, we started trying different approaches to arrange the big list of ideas from their strategic planning exercises into sensible groups to help stimulate progress.

6 Ways to Organize Ideas from Strategic Planning Exercises

Strategic-Thinking-List-Order

Some natural possibilities for arranging a big list could include organizing items:

  • From Earliest to Latest
  • From Latest to Earliest
  • Mostly Alike to Mostly Not Alike
  • In Groups of Items Doing Similar Things
  • With Items Coming from Similar Sources
  • With Things Creating Similar Results

Those are six starting places we often use when trying to organize big lists of ideas coming from strategic planning exercises. What other approaches do you use?

Another possibility is always combining two of these groupings to create a matrix or a table!

If you have enough possibilities and really want to group everything tightly, you could create a table with multiple groupings. That’s what we did for this client’s big list of ideas. We organized the list into two groups based on one cut of what each item did. We then broke each of these groups into three separate groups based upon them doing similar things. And further divided the list into current and future activities. With those changes, we turned the previous work into a platform to both describe the new initiative and help brainstorm ideas for what new, future programs they could introduce to support it.

Several people from the client commented that they finally had something they could work with to move forward. The thing is, they had done the hard strategic thinking and already had all the raw material they needed. Their list just wasn’t put in order and organized.

If you’re dealing with a list of ideas from strategic planning exercises, but it isn’t helping you move forward, we suggest regrouping – no pun intended. Take the time to organize and order the list in compelling, action-inducing ways! – Mike Brown

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

1

Strategic planning is typically serious stuff. That doesn’t mean, however, that doing strategic planning is best served by conducting things in a boring way. Frustrations with boring strategy sessions are probably why so many people visit our website looking for creative ideas on fun strategic planning exercises.

We’ve previously published some fun strategic planning exercises. Suppose however, you are in a strategy session where things are dragging. You probably can’t stop, research different strategic thinking exercises, and incorporate them into your strategy session.

What can you do right away to turn deadly strategic thinking exercises into fun strategic planning exercises?

Strategic Planning Exercises Can Be Fun

Fun-Strategy

Here are six creative ideas for last minute changes to turn around a boring strategy meeting by fashioning quick, fun strategic planning exercises and activities:

Create a competition

Split your whole group into smaller groups and turn your strategy work into a competition. Challenge each group to do more of whatever it is you need – more ideas, more variations, more scenarios, more whatever. Cheer for the team that wins, then give everybody another chance with the next small group exercise.

Rearrange working groups

After splitting your big group into smaller groups, keep changing the composition of the small groups. Try to make sure every person has a chance to work closely with every other person in the group. Variety can break up the monotony of a boring meeting.

Change your meeting place

Take a break and see if there’s a different room or place you can move to for the rest of your meeting. If you always have strategy meetings in the same place, changing the venue can add some fun. Go outside. Go the cafeteria. Go to a meeting room that’s much bigger than the number of people you have in the meeting would ever need. Just go somewhere different!

Tell people you expect the outrageous

Often participants won’t push strategy ideas very far unless you say it’s okay to be outrageous. Even better, ENCOURAGE being outrageous. Change a typical strategy exercise (say Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) to have people imagine the most outrageous possibilities for each area. Once you have outrageous ideas, you can always dial the creative ideas back to be more realistic.

Increase the meeting’s speed and variety

Spending long periods thinking about the same thing using the same perspective is deadly. Create fun strategic planning exercises by taking only five or six minutes on a boring exercise before varying the creative perspective. For the next round, address the same issue question from a customer, competitor, or industry supplier perspective. Next time, have small groups adopt a different perspective than previously or have them build on (or tear apart and improve on) ideas the small group before them used.

Take more and shorter breaks with fun food or drinks

Give people more short breaks where they stand up, move around, and even do jumping jacks, stretches, or relaxation techniques. Send somebody out to get fun food for an upcoming break. Get some milk shakes from a fast food place. Hit up the deli or bakery section at a nearby grocery store for fun salty or sweet snacks. Looking forward to something fun at the next break can alleviate tedium and make boring questions seem like fun strategic planning exercises.

Plan If You Can

It’s always best to plan ahead to add some fun into a strategic planning session. If you don’t have the opportunity, or are forced to try something different on the spur of the moment, these six creative ideas are all proven to add to the fun! – Mike Brown

 

fun-ideas-strategic-planningLooking for Ideas to Make Strategic Planning 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

 

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

Sometimes it is very clear what an organization’s threats and opportunities are when performing a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). It may also be that an organization falls into a rut of simply restating the same threats and opportunities every year.

We use strategic thinking exercises and questions as “detours” around organizational thinking that is in a rut. Asking questions in a different way than is typically done forces people to look at new possibilities and actually think before blurting out the standard answers.

An Old AND New SWOT Analysis Example

We have previously shared strategic detours for getting to new thinking about an organization’s threats and opportunities.

Here is a new SWOT analysis example that is really an old one.

Revisiting our online repository of strategic thinking exercises, I came across this one from our early days of collecting and developing new ways to help people think about their threats and opportunities.

Strategic-thinking-safe

Rather than asking single questions about threats and opportunities, this strategic thinking exercise pieces answers together from considering specific perspectives your customers, competitors, markets, and own brand has. Simply use each of the situations in each “equation” to generate ideas and see how the combinations of ideas build out a perspective on an organization’s of opportunities and threats.

Opportunities come about when . . .

  • Customers Want It + We Do It Well
  • Customers Want It + We Do It Well + Competitors Don’t Do It Well
  • Customers Want It + Nobody Does It Well
  • Customers Want It + We Do It Okay + We Can Improve How We Do It

Threats come about when . . .

  • Customers Want It + We Don’t Do It Well
  • Customers Want It + Competitors Do It Well
  • Customers Aren’t Wanting It as Much + Our Business Is Built Around Offering It
  • Customers Want It + We Do It Well + Competitors Are Moving to Do It More or Better
  • Our Business Is Built Around Offering It + Market Forces Are Working Against It

The caveat with this strategic thinking exercise is we pulled it from the “safe.” We have not put it through its paces in a number of years to check how productive it is and update it with new variations. As we do that though, we wanted to share it with all of you to test it out as well. Given the number of people that come to the blog looking for new and different strategic thinking exercises, we wanted our readers to be able to test it out as we do.

So here’s to learning what new possibilities this golden oldie SWOT analysis example will yield today! – Mike Brown

 

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

Need Fresh Insights to Drive Your Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis

swot-alternatives-cover

“Strategic Thinking Exercises: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” features eleven ideas for adapting, stretching, and reinvigorating how you see your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
  • Stimulate fresh thinking
  • Make sure your strategy is addressing typically overlooked opportunities and threats

Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Ways to Reimagine Your SWOT Analysis

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

You know you need to start a strategic planning process for next year.

Starting, however, has been delayed amid everything else you have had going on recently. If this sounds like your situation, what can you do right away to jump start strategic planning?

8-ball

5 Things to do if You Haven’t Started Strategic Planning Yet

Here are five steps you can take right away to catch up some time and make it seem as if you are completely on top of next year’s strategic planning process.

1. Inventory Historical Info

Inventory what you know about your customers, markets, and competitors based on whether you know / think it’s still relevant or not. Then see how much of the out-of-date information you can start updating.

2. Broaden Your Sources of Planning Input

Figure out a way to quickly reach out as broadly as you can inside and outside your organization to understand new perspectives on customers, markets, and trends. If you’re unsure about doing this, email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320; we can help make it happen efficiently and effectively.

3. Get a Team Together

Assemble a team of smart, diverse people to help get your strategic planning process going. Even if it’s only one or two people, their strong participation will be a HUGE help.

4. Update the Strategic Foundation

Gather all the documents and strategic pronouncements your organization has already created addressing your organization’s direction the last 1-2 years. Organize these based on whether they align or don’t align to what has actually been happening the last 1-2 years.

5. Schedule Time Now

Book time with you organization’s leadership NOW for when you’ll need individual input, when you’ll want them to meet as a group for strategic planning, and when you’ll want them to review the preliminary planning work.

It’s Just Five Things

See, tackling just these five tasks this week will give your strategic planning process an incredible boost toward next year.

Want more tips to simplify strategic planning? Subscribe to the Brainzooming blog as we share more tips during the weeks ahead! – Mike Brown

10 Ways to Effectively Engage Employees in Your Strategy for RESULTS!!!

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

Suppose you’re on the hook to create a vision statement for a new organizational initiative. This seems like an assignment that is simple, complex, and fraught with potential missteps – all at the same time.

That’s especially true if the organization has already launched an initiative before recognizing the need for an over-arching vision statement.

When that happens, what visioning exercises make sense? How do you develop a vision statement when it is trying to catch up to an initiative that is already underway.

4 Visioning Exercises to Rework a Faulty Vision Statement

Clouds-Vision

Your strategy for selecting visioning exercises depends, in part, on what type of direction has been already communicated about the initiative. Here’s our quick advice on potential first steps for visioning exercises based on various starting points:

1. An initiative already has a slogan or catchphrase, but little else behind it

This describes a situation where a senior leader has coined a phrase or been mentioning a favorite new concept. This can lead to confusion and consternation in the organization as everyone tries to interpret what the senior leader means.

Visioning Exercise Approach: In these instances, extract significant words from the slogan and work on defining what each of them could mean in describing the initiative’s vision. Try to imagine several possibilities for each of these words. Using this approach, you’ll create a menu of strategic possibilities which you can mix, match, combine, and simplify to state a more defined vision statement.

2. There is already something resembling a vision statement, but it’s too generic

We’ve all seen a jargon-filled statement that seems as if it were spewed fresh from an all-purpose business jargon generator. It may seem impressive initially, but no one has any idea what it really means for the organization that’s touting it as a vision statement.

Visioning Exercise Approach: Your first step is to pull an existing statement as close to the organization’s real world as possible. If you took out all the jargon, is there anything left in the statement? Suppose average employees were saying this (and trying to remember it); how would they be describing it in real, understandable words? Are there words used in the statement that could be easily translated or modified to link to strategic foundations the organization already has in place?

3. A current big statement focuses completely on aspiration with no ideas for implementation

This type of statement sounds like it came from the organization saying it, yet it seems so audacious and far off, it’s difficult to know what the organization should be doing to turn it into reality.

Visioning Exercise Approach: When you need to translate organizational aspirations into concrete actions, start asking outcomes-oriented questions. How will we know when we reach this vision? What will have had to happen to help us get there? What would be the potential first steps to reaching the desired outcome?

4. There isn’t anything close enough to resembling a vision statement

Visioning Exercise Approach: In this case, start asking questions about aspirations, emotional words that describe a hopeful future, and possibilities customers would like the brand to deliver. – Mike Brown

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

 

Create the Vision to Align and Engage Your Team!

Big strategy statements shaping your organization needn’t be complicated. They should use simple, understandable, and straightforward language to invite and excite your team to be part of the vision.

Our free “Big Strategy Statements” eBook lays out an approach to collaboratively develop smart, strategic directions that improve results!


Download Your FREE eBook! Big Strategy Statements - 3 Steps to Collaborative Strategy




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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading