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It’s no surprise that search phrases including “strategic planning” have been sprinkled throughout the top searches drawing people to the Brainzooming blog recently: it’s strategic planning season!

Creating-a-Strategic-Impact-ArrowsStrategic planning season for a planning person starts in April or May. Most senior executives, however, do not begin thinking about it until the third quarter. While we finalize a new Ebook on strategic planning and creating strategic impact inside an organization, here is an updated Strategic Planning Toolkit from The Brainzooming Group.

There are a variety of links here to background information and tools on various dimensions of strategy, including preparing for strategic planning, strategic thinking exercises, and keys to creating strategic impact from your planning efforts.

The Brainzooming Group is also here as a resource for your strategic planning – especially if you’re feeling under the gun to both develop and deliver the implementation steps necessary for creating strategic impact in your organization. Give us a call, and we are ready to get started to support your efforts!

Preparing for Strategic Planning

Brainzooming – A Strategic Thinking Manifesto

Marketing Strategy When You Are Too Smart for Strategic Planning

8 Questions to Ask Before Launching a Strategic Planning Process

Strategic Planning Benefits – 18 Ways Strategic Planning Helps Your Organization

Creating Change and Change Management – 4 Strategy Options

Before Wild Creativity, Get Grounded in Strategy First

Strategic Planning – 5 Dangers of Cheaping out on Hiring a Facilitator

The Process of Strategy Planning: 5 Ways to Keep the Boss from Dominating

Strategic Thinking – Damn Right, Left Brained People Have a Creative Thinking Role

Creative Thinking Skills – 5 People Vital to Critical Thinking, Literally

Strategic Thinking Skills – 29 Clues You’re Not Dealing with a Strategic Thinker

Strategic Planning Exercises and Tools

Strategic Planning Doesn’t Have to Kill Creativity

Strategic Thinking Exercises – 6 Characteristics the Best Ones Have

Strategic Thinking Exercises – More than 200 Strategic Planning Questions

Strategic Thinking – Exercises and Tools for Creative Thinking and Strategy

Strategic Thinking Exercise – 7 Ideas to Turn a SWOT Analysis into a SWOOT

A Strategy for Predicting the Future More Accurately

Strategic Opportunities – How to Effectively Prioritize Them

Creating Strategic Impact

A Simple Strategy Check

Disruptive Innovation, Change Management & Taking the NO Out of InNOvation

Strategic Thinking Exercise – 16 Signals Strategizing Has Become Procrastination

Making a Decision – 7 Situations Begging for Quick Decisions

Strategic Planning – 7 Questions for Avoiding Strategic Management Failures

No Implementation Success? 13 Reasons Things Getting Done Is a Problem

Why Change Is Hard – 3 Strategic Thinking Ideas for Making Change Easy

8 Change Management Lessons

Major Change Management – Managing Ongoing Performance Gaps

Strategic Alignment – 4 Lessons for Line and Staff Organizations Working Well

Project Management Techniques – 21 Articles to Better Manage Projects

Checklists – Helping Visualize the Uncertain When Plans Fall Through

Does 2014 feel like it’s breathing down your neck?

2014 is just around the corner. Email or call me and let’s talk about creating strategic impact for your organization! – 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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I’ll admit to being hopeful about the strategic planning benefits an organization can realize. But not from the typical strategic planning – the kind with too many boring meetings, too few real insights, lots of forms to fill out, takes forever with little real world impact.

Instead, my hopefulness is tied to the type of strategic planning we facilitate with:

When it comes to that kind of strategic planning, there are plenty of benefits for an organization.

18 Ways Strategic Planning Benefits Your Organization

When an organization engages in real strategic thinking-based planning with broad participation, an organization and its people should be:

  1. Brainzooming Strategic Thinking ExercisesSmarter
  2. More results-driven
  3. More confident of attaining performance goals
  4. Able to more successfully take on stretch objectives
  5. Very focused on high impact strategic initiatives
  6. More actively thinking and implementing strategically
  7. Better able to accommodate rapid change
  8. Prepared to better handle uncertainty
  9. Aligned more tightly to key objectives
  10. Able to readily identify and close knowledge gaps
  11. Experiencing stronger affiliation for the brand
  12. Displaying greater alignment within the senior management team
  13. Achieving stronger alignment within teams throughout the organization
  14. Gaining greater visibility for the senior leadership
  15. Engaged in more honest, strategic conversations
  16. More successfully tackling challenging strategic issues
  17. Experiencing a richer, actionable understanding of the strategic direction
  18. Interested in participating in future strategic planning

Not all these benefits may come right away, but over time, vibrant strategic planning will deliver on these benefits.

Wonder how all those strategic planning benefits are possible?

2014 is just around the corner. Email or call me and let’s talk about how these strategic planning benefits can become reality for your organization. – 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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WeedsPreparing a creative and strategic thinking workshop for a client this week, one of the attendees mentioned in the pre-session survey a desire to identify ways to stay out of the weeds on project teams.

Great question and a strategic thinking topic we haven’t necessarily covered from that angle. While we talk frequently about the importance of focusing on what matters for an organization and staying productive, we haven’t necessarily addressed specific ways project teams can stay out of the weeds.

12 Ways Project Teams Can Stay out of the Weeds

Here are twelve ways to monitor whether a group is addressing strategic topics and ways a project team can stay out of the weeds if that is where it is stuck:

  • Involve a senior executive on the project team who has a short attention span for detail.
  • Prepare a meeting agenda that addresses big topics, but plans for a brief time near the meeting’s conclusion to revisit overly-detailed topics emerging during the project team meeting.
  • Maintain a running list of decisions and assumptions your project team has made and unless there is a clear and compelling strategic reason, make it difficult for the group to revisit and rework them.
  • Set a time limit for how much time you’ll spend researching, discussing, or deciding on a topic.
  • Invite fewer people to meetings where you’re discussing detailed topics.
  • Use an impartial facilitator to run the project team meeting and keep it moving toward the meeting objective.
  • Have someone with no experience participate in your discussion and whenever you get into topics that person doesn’t understand, pull the conversation back up to a meaningful level.
  • Ask whether the topic you’re discussing will have a material impact on the organization.
  • Continually ask how overly-detailed conversations are going to lead to discernible impact for customers or other important audience members.
  • Call time out on any topic you’re discussing that promises incremental impact but will be complex to implement.
  • Assign the people who want to get bogged down on a topic to do individual work to investigate or explore the issues and report back to the team.
  • Be willing to wrap up (or leave) early if there’s no forward progress toward the team’s objective and rethink your approach.

How do you keep a project team focused on strategic thinking and out of the weeds?

Do you have a tendency to get into the weeds when you really should be staying strategic? If not you, but others around you have a tendency to get into the weeds, how do you keep it from happening? – Mike Brown

 

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 For More Information |  Phone: 816-509-5320  |  Email: info@brainzooming.com

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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3

An organization contacted us about facilitating a large, multi-organization strategic planning session. They ultimately decided, since the timing was tight and a lot of the details hadn’t been decided, to facilitate it themselves internally.

Bored-GuyShortly after the meeting, I heard about it via a couple of participants. Fifteen minutes was scheduled for introductions. TWO HOURS LATER, introductions wrapped up. Turns out, getting nearly two hours behind at the meeting’s start was the highlight of the two-day experience. It was supposedly all downhill from there, with a lot of questions about what, if anything, came from flying a large number of people to a relatively remote location in the middle of the country to meet.

Have you been in one of “those” meetings previously? I know I have.

While it seems like anyone can facilitate a meeting (I mean who CAN’T stand in front of a group and write things on a big pad of paper), it’s just not true that anyone can.

Strategic Planning and 5 Dangers of NOT Hiring a Professional Facilitator

When an organization tries cheaping out and not using a strong professional facilitator who can design and carry out an interactive strategic planning session, it COSTS an organization in at least five big ways:

1. You burn up participant goodwill

You may have only one shot to get a board or other stakeholder group to agree to participate in a strategic planning session based on their interest in the organization or initiative. If you frustrate them with an unproductive meeting, you COST yourself important goodwill you may have built up with them.

2. You don’t make a big enough and sustainable enough move forward

If a strategic planning session is really intent on driving big change, frittering away the opportunity to harness the expertise you’ve assembled to pave the way for big change will COST time and positive returns as you wait to cycle back until your next opportunity to push for big change.

3. You blow through opportunity or hard dollar costs

Even if you think you are not writing many checks to pay for your strategic planning session, there are still opportunity costs for the participants’ time investments. When a poorly designed meeting wastes the time for the participants, it COSTS you because you send a clear signal that you don’t respect their time investment in what you’ve asked them to help accomplish.

4. You stretch patience, not imagination and creativity

When a poorly designed strategic thinking session fails to push an organization’s imagination and creativity in a productive way, it winds up pushing the wrong buttons instead, i.e. impatience and boredom. The COST comes from failing to excite the organization to grow and develop to be more competitive and successful.

5. Stakeholders won’t take it seriously in the future

When you summon people for a strategic planning meeting and it goes nowhere, the next time you try to do the same thing – even if you have stepped up to using a professional facilitator, you will have COST your organization the active participation of stakeholders you burned previously. Why should they believe the next time will be any different? And you’ve not only tarnished their enthusiasm for your organization’s strategic planning efforts, you’ve done it for any other organization for which they may be involved.

So how beneficial is it to hire a strategic planning facilitator?

If you’re serious about wanting a productive, efficient, and interactive strategic planning, strategic thinking, or creative development experience for your organization, call us. Please call us. Don’t COST your organization in stupid ways. We’ll show you how hiring a strategic planning facilitator will deliver a positive return right away, and down the road! – 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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Productive strategic thinking exercises are at the heart of The Brainzooming Group methodology. Great brainstorming and strategic planning questions encourage and allow people to talk about what they know including factual information, personal perspectives, and their views of the future.

The Value of Strategic Thinking Exercises

I tell people who ask about how we developed The Brainzooming Group methodology that a big motivator was business people I worked with who didn’t know how to fill out strategic planning templates and worksheets.

They did, however, know a lot about the businesses, customers, and markets they served. We found we could ask them strategic planning questions and brainstorming questions to capture information to create strategic plans.

Since I could write the plan, knowing strategic planning questions to ask (within a fun, stimulating environment to answer them) was key to developing creative, quickly-prepared plans infused with strategic thinking.

And when you combine “creative,” “strategic thinking,” and “quickly-prepared,” you get Brainzooming!

Here is a sampling of more than 200 brainstorming questions and strategic planning questions that are part of the strategic thinking exercises we use with The Brainzooming Group. Yes, more than two hundred questions! Who could ask for more?

 

More than 200 Strategic Planning Questions for Strong Strategic Thinking

Creating Productive Questions

Strategic Thinking Questions for Developing Overall Strategy

Developing a Strategic Vision

Digital and Social Media Exploration

Creative Naming Questions

Innovation-Oriented Questions

Brainzooming-Before-After

Identifying Strategies and Assumptions

Extreme Creativity Questions

Strategic Marketing Questions

Sales and Business Development Questions

Questions to Perform More Effective Recaps

There you go with more than 200 strategic planning questions. Do you have any questions? Let us know! – Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social 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.

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If you are considering launching a strategic planning process, either for your organization overall or for a specific part of the business, you have obviously done some thinking about it to get to this decision point.

8 Questions to Ask Before a Strategic Planning Process

Siimulated-Brainzooming

Simulated Image of a Brainzooming

Before taking your first steps to either implement the strategic planning process yourself or engage an outside party to lead you through the process, here are eight questions to ask.

Maybe you have already addressed some of these questions about your strategic planning process, but my guess is you likely have not tackled all of them:

  • What benefits should we get organizationally from the PROCESS of strategic planning?
  • Have previous strategic plans sat on the shelf or have we implemented them?
  • Is there a type of strategic planning output that is not as likely to sit on the shelf?
  • How many and what types of people should be involved?
  • Should the strategic planning experience be serious, stimulating, exciting, rewarding, or fun . . . or is there another descriptor that is more appropriate?
  • How fresh and reliable is our strategic foundation as we get ready to launch the strategic planning process?
  • How big a change are we looking for in the new strategic plan – is it minor or are we taking a big swing at our future direction?
  • How smart are we about what we do and our customers, markets, competitors, and all the other factors in our business environment?

Granted, these questions are shaped heavily by the very different approach The Brainzooming group takes to making sure a strategic plan broadly involves an organization and provides a dynamic, motivating, and creative experience for everyone involved.

Looking for Answers to these Strategy Questions?

However, based on talking with a variety of clients and potential clients, we approach strategic planning to create a very different experience than other outside strategists. So if you’d like help working through these questions and what they could mean for growing your organization and your people, give us a call (816-509-5320). – Mike Brown

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

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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Yesterday’s post explored sixteen signals to identify when strategizing becomes procrastination, stopping you from moving forward with implementation. At the heart of many of the sixteen signals is apprehension with decision making for various reasons.

In light of the challenges we all (okay, maybe most of us) face at times with making decisions on a timely basis, here is a recap list of Brainzooming articles on making successful decisions.

Decision Making Techniques

1. Don’t Overthink It? 5 Key Questions for Quick Decisions

Here are five ways to constrain thinking when it’s too easy to take more time to make decisions. Chopping off some available time, resources, and possibilities can get you to a decision much faster.

2. Making Decision Making Easier – She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

One factor that can slow decision making speed is too many available choices. Here is a low-tech, very direct way to narrow your decision options and move directly toward decision making.

3. Strategic Thinking Exercise – Simply Making Big Decisions

Your approach for making big decisions doesn’t have to be overly complicated. It can be as simple as listing your criteria and asking yes or no questions about the options you’re considering.

4. Black and White Decision Making? Today, Change to Grey (and Vice Versa)

There are benefits to consciously changing your typical decision making style, even if temporarily.

5. Project Management – 15 Techniques When Time Is Running Down

I enjoy events because they have a built-in deadline: at some point, the event will start, and all decisions are either made or you’ve lost the chance to tinker any longer. When looking at all deadlines as “events,” these techniques help focus and move forward when time is running down.

Decision Making with Teams

6. Level 5 Decisions – Decision Making without Your Influence

Maybe part of your decision making challenge is you are trying to make too many decisions yourself. This helpful strategic thinking approach helps move decisions away from you toward your team so everyone can be more effective.

7. Striving for Simple Revolutionary Ideas

This prioritization and decision making approach not only helps identify winning ideas, it takes best advantage of using both individuals and groups working through a group decision making process efficiently.

Prioritization

8. Built for Discomfort – An Alternative Prioritization Strategy for Innovation

If the easy decision is always the decision that gets made, this prioritization strategy will help force a group to more strongly consider uncomfortable ideas that can be more challenging but also more beneficial.

9. Prioritizing Things Others Are Depending Upon

When you’re in a team situation, delaying a decision or action can really screw things up for the next person in the process. This alternative prioritization approach places a premium on taking actions that set the next person up for success.

Dealing with Varied Decision Making Situations

10. Making a Decision – 7 Situations Begging for Quick Decisions

It can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and turn small decisions into protracted ones. This guide adds some perspective to seven common decision making situations that could be quick decisions once you strip away everything that’s surrounding them.

11. Market Research – 5 Ways to Not Screw Up Focus Group Decision Making

As a market researcher, I’m quick to support the idea of getting market input to help make better decisions. If you misuse market research as a way to tap market input, however, you can make the situation worse. Here’s how to not screw up focus groups if you’re using them.

12. Is Your Brand Headed for Trouble? 5 Strategic Warning Signs

While decision making isn’t the central focus of this article, poor decision making is at the  heart of these strategic warning signs that suggest a brand is heading for trouble, if it’s not already present and accounted for in Troubleville. – Mike Brown

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

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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