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How many types of strategic planning are there?

And how many strategic plans do you need?

While you Google the answer, here are the types of strategic planning we see. We identified them several years ago while trying to explain what was happening in our corporation with so many different planning processes going at once.

3 Types of Strategic Planning

As best we could determine, there are three types of strategic planning.

Strategic-Planning-3

1. Strategic Direction Planning

This is the major long-range planning effort. It’s bigger, broader, and looks at an organization’s strategic foundation, performance, brand and competitive positions, and opportunities and threats to the current business model. It addresses big initiatives and major priorities to change an organization’s prospects for the better.

2. Annual Planning

As the name suggests, this is yearly planning. Many companies squeeze it into the last few months of the year to prepare for January 1 of the next year. We talk to many executives whose companies deal with annual planning as a financial exercise since they HAVE to get a financial plan in place. Too often though, the financial plan becomes disconnected from what has to happen to bring it to fruition. That leads to the third type of strategic planning.

3. Initiative Planning

This planning becomes a catch-all for whatever doesn’t get figured out in the other two planning processes. This is where it’s imperative to decide who is going to do what to move the organization ahead in a coordinated fashion. These plans typically have shorter time horizons. They are generally prepared with greater frequency, perhaps even multiple times within a year, as initiatives are readied for launch.

How many strategic plans do you need?

If you’ve got a solid strategic direction plan, you may only update it every three-to-five years.

And even though we’ve called it “annual planning,” you may be able to run annual planning on an eighteen-to-twenty four month cycle if you spell out enough detail. Initiative planning, however, pretty much happens every year IF you expect to have some type of coordinated plan to implement.

Wondering why we’ve grouped these all under “strategic planning”?

It’s because to us, strategic isn’t a description of time (i.e., near-term vs. long-term), but of the importance of what a plan is addressing. If a plan is addressing something that “matters,” then it’s strategic.

The good news in all this is if you play your processes right, you shouldn’t HAVE to do all three types of strategic planning at once! – 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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Not every lesson is a positive one.

Talking about careers with my niece, I mentioned the scariest boss I ever had, and how even that experience with a boss who said and did some pretty scary things led to valuable lessons. Fortunately or unfortunately, the lessons were all about how to never act when I got to be the boss!

The conversation got me thinking about other situations where scary comments turned into valuable business lessons

Scary-Stuff5 Scary Quotes about Strategic Planning

Since I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about gearing up for strategic planning, I jotted down these five scary quotes about strategic planning. Intriguingly, all five came from consultants at one consulting firm we worked with for several years during my corporate life.

Admittedly, I learned many positive lessons during that time about strategic planning. Yet these five scary quotes about strategic planning from our consultants profoundly shaped my thinking about how NOT to do strategic planning:

1. “We’ll put together the strategic planning process as we go.”

Whenever you put together a strategic planning process while you’re doing it, you know something is wrong. Earlier in my career it felt edgy, but as a more experienced business person, it just seems pathetic. If you’re a consultant and selling your expertise at strategic planning you need to walk in the door ready to go with something that’s pretty close to working.

2. “There are 14 tasks to complete between these two steps in the process.”

Fourteen tasks to get from one step to another in the strategic planning process??? Talk about overkill!!! And even if it isn’t overkill and you actually NEED 14 tasks to move from one step to the next, NEVER admit to anyone you’re involving them in that much minutiae.

3. “This is better done than right.”

Really? REALLY? Yes, a consultant told me it was more important to get a presentation completed than address whether it was right. I’ve since stolen and revamped the quote not once, but twice. Even really bad ideas can be the seeds of strategic brilliance.

4. “My family’s important to me, so I make sure I’m home every night.”

On the surface this quote is not only NOT scary, it seems to be a wonderful sentiment considering the outrageously long hours consultants often work. The problem was the consultant saying it in Kansas City (where our company was headquartered) LIVED in Chicago. Yes, he flew back and forth every day between Chicago (first morning flight out) and Kansas City (last evening flight out). It was supposedly cheaper than a hotel room. Right.

5. “I did an interview with a reporter today about business prospects in (your) industry.”

Bad idea. VERY bad idea. When one consultant did this (and was quoted in print  questioning our earnings projections for the year), his firm was fired the next day within 90 minutes of our CFO seeing the article in a national industry newspaper. As a result, they lost a 7-figure annual consulting engagement. Yup, VERY BAD idea.

Do you have any scary consultant quotes about strategic planning or anything else?

If enough of you have scary quotes from consultants to share, maybe we’ll have enough for a regular feature, or the next Dilbert comic strip!  – 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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Suppose you are facing one of YOUR biggest problems.

How can you take advantage of strategic thinking to address your them?

7 Tips for How to Solve the Biggest Problems with Strategic Thinking

Here are seven tips for how to solve the biggest problems with strategic thinking in a way that leads to creating strategic impact.

Boulder-Rock

1. Involve as diverse and knowledgeable a group of participants as is relevant and manageable.

One key is thinking about multiple types of involvement (in-person and active vs. participating only through sharing ideas), diversity, relevance, and knowledge. Don’t limit your participants to the usual gang of strategic thinkers; bring new people into the strategic thinking process.

2. Inform the group with as many rich, current insights as is practical.

You want people to share their own strategic perspectives. But since a diverse group won’t all have the same underlying knowledge (or have knowledge as current as you might prefer), give them to-the-point, actionable insights to prepare them to be successful strategic thinkers.

3. Imagine the result you will need at the end is BEFORE you start.

Think ahead to what will let you stop the strategic thinking clock. Figuring out the result before you begin lets you know when you’re getting closer or further away from the result during the strategic thinking process. It will also signal if you have reached a conclusion before you expected one to develop.

4. Anticipate what it will take to do something with the result BEFORE you start.

Yes, you need to do a LOT of thinking about the end before you begin! Creating strategic impact from strategic thinking involves figuring out how you will sell-in and actually implement ideas and plans you develop.

5. Create a structured process to efficiently move through only the necessary steps to reach a conclusion.

Don’t leave it to chance that your strategic thinkers will self-organize a process to be productive. Similarly, don’t just lift a strategic thinking or strategic planning process from a textbook and expect it to work. Your strategic thinkers may not need all the steps or processes detailed in the textbook. Devise a strategic thinking process that will help THIS group be successful in reaching the end result.

6. Set time limits and ground rules.

Groups can take on lives of their own and spend way too much or way too little time on important (or unimportant) issues. Use time limits and project management techniques to manage the strategic thinking process for efficiency and effectiveness.

7. Don’t vote on the final recommendations.

You may use multi-voting to narrow strategic choices and to gain a sense of what the group thinks while it is working. But don’t put a final recommendation up to a vote. A final recommendation should make sense from a strategic and implementation perspective. That’s not the type of decision where you use a majority vote to pick the right course of action.

What tips do you have to solve the biggest problems?

What are your keys to problem solving on major questions?

We certainly recommend this strategic thinking approach. If you do these seven things, you’re in great shape to transition from strategic thinking into creating strategic impact and successfully solving the biggest problems you face.  – 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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In the past few weeks, we’ve had several discussions with potential clients about facilitating their strategic planning processes for 2015. (Yes, we’re already working on 2015. I KNOW, but that’s what planning people start doing months before others do!)

In each of the calls, we’ve discussed the concept of “producing strategic conversations.”

Producing Strategic Conversations?

Strategic-ConversationsThe phrase, “producing strategic conversations,” actually predates the creation of The Brainzooming Group.

We started using it to describe what we were doing internally in a Fortune 500 setting. It was an apt description of how we were helping marketing managers and senior leaders quickly (as in one day) explore, articulate, and document their strategic plans. We delivered this efficiency by avoiding a typical strategic planning approach: handing participants a slew of confusing or vague planning templates and expecting them to complete the templates on their own.

Instead, we were creating strategic impact by leading them through creative structures and strategic thinking exercises. These exercises helped them efficiently and actively explore and discuss opportunities and challenges in new ways within groups of their internal collaborators. We captured the details and themes emerging from the “strategic conversations,” using the output to document plans within a very brief time frame.

It was during hundreds of these sessions (many conducted in the hotel meeting room shown here) that we honed the Brainzooming methodology.

Facilitating a Strategic Conversation

In terms of facilitating strategic conversations, it’s not the typical facilitation used in a market research or focus group setting, although that might be what it resembles.

Instead, we facilitate in a style that both encourages and challenges participants. To put it in a sports setting, we act as both cheerleaders and tough coaches. All the while, we earn and honor the trust that allows us to move back and forth between these two contrasting roles.

Specific fundamentals we employ in producing a stimulating strategic conversation include:

  • Demonstrating sincere excitement for participants’ contribution
  • Not letting a participant flounder when trying to contribute (esp. when just starting to share ideas)
  • Making only productive interruptions, i.e., those that help guide them and draw out additional comments
  • Physically leaning in to the discussion to signal interest and anticipation for what participants have to say
  • Smiling as a way to demonstrate our connection with a participant

Again, the differences are subtle relative to typical facilitation. But coupled with the wide depth and variety of tested strategic thinking exercises we bring to the table, it works very differently, and it works wonders.

Are you thinking about next year’s planning yet?

If you’re already thinking about next year (and we know SOME of you are) and would like to get a huge head start that will even benefit your current year results, give us a call or email. Let’s see how we can work together.

Now is definitely the time to get started! – 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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5

Creating-a-Strategic-ImpactWith any new initiative in an organization, it’s not enough to simply do the strategic planning on how to shape and implement it if you really care about creating strategic impact.

Even before launching strategic planning with a new initiative, you should start figuring out how the new initiative will be successfully sold and implemented.

Doing this involves many of the same steps as the actual strategic planning, and it’s incredibly beneficial to do it upfront. The approach you develop should influence how the initiative is developed (and who participates in the subsequent strategic planning) to maximize opportunities for success.

12 Strategic Planning Questions Before You Start

Before you launch strategic planning, here are twelve questions to ask and answer in three key areas:

  1. Issues to help or challenge the initiative
  2. Decision making
  3. The implementation process

1. Issues to Help or Challenge the Initiative

Identify broader issues in the company that might impact a new initiative’s success:

  • What are the issues that could help or hinder implementation?
  • How likely is each issue to be a factor?
  • How do we address these issues to enhance the enabling ones and mitigate the challenging issues?

2. Decision Making

Identify who will decide on recommendations about the new initiative as it is implemented:

  • Who are the decision makers and who influences them?
  • What is important to them?
  • What motivates them?
  • Do they support the effort conceptually?
  • How do they process information and make decisions?

3. The Implementation Process

Identify who will likely have to participate in implementation

  • What motivates those who will be involved in implementation?
  • What reluctance will those involved in implementation have relative to implementation?
  • What challenges will they have (skill sets, capabilities, resources, etc.) with implementation?
  • Do these individuals like to shape things, do things, or both?

Creating Strategic Impact Before Strategic Planning Starts

If you can get a handle on the answers to these twelve questions, not only will you be better prepared for strategic planning, but your path to new initiative implementation has a much better chance of creating strategic impact. – 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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4

I was facilitating a strategic planning session and letting the conversation among participants extend much longer than typical.

To my surprise, several participants in the strategy session repeatedly apologized throughout the day for “talking too much.” 

As I told them multiple times, I was allowing the conversation to take up more time than expected because the group needed to address certain issues and better understand each other’s perspectives. This was vital since we needed to reconcile their differing perspectives before creating the organization’s strategic plan.

I reassured them that the minute they drifted off into unproductive conversation (i.e., discussions that didn’t move us toward creating a stronger strategic plan), I would most certainly shut it down and take the group to the next strategic thinking exercise.

5 Reasons to Cut Off Conversations in Strategic Planning Sessions

StoplightAnd what would constitute unproductive conversation not moving the group forward toward a stronger strategic plan?

The answer is akin to the Justice Potter Stewart reply to the question about what is or isn’t obscene: I know it when I see it.

In the interests of being more definitive, however, here are five behaviors that stand in the way of productive conversations within strategic planning sessions:

  1. Needlessly restating obvious information or view points
  2. Over-sharing knowledge in a way that stops out others from contributing
  3. Heading into off-topic issues that don’t contribute to delivering expected planning outcomes
  4. Filibustering (on even a relevant topic) without adding anything new to anyone’s understanding
  5. A group or key individual who refuses much needed help to improve

So if we’re facilitating a strategic planning session for your organization and call “time” on a meandering conversation, you can come back to this list to figure out what just happened! – Mike Brown

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

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.

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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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4

New-Product-SessionThere was a time back in the corporate world when our company brought in a big-time business book author to explore strategic initiatives and new product development brainstorming with employee teams selected from throughout the organization. 

The book author’s partner in crime designed the methodology for teams to document and advance initiatives. The partner was a rocket scientist, with all the baggage that career background implied.

Everything about the process was as complicated as rocket science, and as with so many consultant-envisioned strategic planning and product development processes hoping to speed things up, everything other than the consultant’s billable hours were compromised in the interests of speed.

The consultant’s ill-defined process, however, had to be completed at every step.

How The Brainzooming Group Approaches New Product Development Differently

The Brainzooming Group approaches things fundamentally differently. I was explaining this to a prospective client while discussing early stage work for brainstorming ideas for new product development. The potential client is a leader in a business-to-business product market. It also uses its products to provide related services for other companies.

When The Brainzooming Group designs new product development brainstorming sessions we:

  • Start by identifying the desired new product development outcomes and designing the session around delivering those outcomes
  • Eliminate process steps that don’t add any real value or new product ideas
  • Create interactive strategic thinking exercises that directly use the client’s business objectives to generate new product ideas

Instead of using standard tools and exercises to identify off-the-mark new product development ideas, we design a new product development innovation session’s foundation around fundamental business strategy and objectives.

Brainstorming Ideas Grounded in Business Strategy

The difference in using The Brainzooming Group approach is we deliver more targeted new product development ideas to address a client’s business strategy and objectives. Clients enjoy the advantages of getting to “Fire” quickly, but without having to postpone the all-important “Aim” step until later.

Sound good?

Give me a call, and let’s work together brainstorming ideas where you will see the successful difference for your organization and your new product development effort. – 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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