Strategic Planning | The Brainzooming Group - Part 8 – page 8

Every organization faces challenging, completely unexpected situations. It could be a surprise competitive move, an unanticipated external event, or a new type of internal crisis demanding attention. Some organizations stumble in these situations. Others deal with curves thrown their way seamlessly, functioning as if nothing out of the ordinary happened.

Irrespective of why it wasn’t seen coming, when surprise decision making situations develop, you need a way to move forward in a strategic, orderly, and effective manner. Preparing mini-plans as part of your strategic planning activities is a way to do this. They help improve your readiness to act when the unexpected happens.

With the immediacy and flexibility imperative for success in challenging situations, brief plans tied to specific trigger events or event-based outcomes provide the ability to make decisions almost as a football team builds and executes a game plan. While a football team has an expectation of running certain plays to start a game or in specific situations, the team has command of a larger number of plays (or mini-plans). These can be arranged and executed in multiple combinations based on how the current set of events is unfolding.

Preparing Mini-Plans as Part of Your Strategic Planning Activities

What does a mini-plan include?

A mini-plan should feature clear, understandable terms with a focus on involving the right people upfront. It should spell out the first steps of getting started and provide signals to move to another mini-plan when it has run its course. It’s smart to leave room for the responsible team to fill in sensible actions based on what’s happening during implementation.

We recommend a mini-plan fit on one piece of paper and include the following areas (which are outgrowths of your regular strategic planning activities):

  • Plan Title
  • Goal of the Plan
  • Critical Success Factors
  • Audience(s) that are Impacted or Needed for the Plan
  • Starting Tactics to Launch
  • Expected Resources Needed during Implementation
  • Communications Channels and Messages

This abbreviated structure makes completing a mini-plan relatively quick. Ideally, you shouldn’t need more than 30 minutes to get the mini-plan basics in place. Remember, the heart of the plan is spelling out two or three steps to get started; it’s not a fully-formed strategic plan.

Areas where you create mini-plans are specific to your organization, but consider the following situations:

  • An interruption in a vital capability or function
  • Market-changing competitive moves
  • Reputation-based issues or other external crises that could befall the organization

After identifying potential scenarios where a mini-plan may be valuable (or you have the need thrust upon you from an event taking place), you can quickly prepare relevant mini-plans.

With mini-plans in place, you are in a much better place to make solid, strategic decisions during challenging situations. Even if the current situation necessitates improvisation, the mini-plan will help you start in a pre-planned way, modifying from an approach you’ve had time to consider before the heat of the moment.

Are you using something similar to mini-plans in your strategic planning activities? How are you applying them? And if not, what steps are you taking to handle decision making when you can’t plan ahead? – Mike Brown

What’s Your Implementation Strategy for Uncertain Times?

Things aren’t getting saner and more calm. Are you ready to pursue an implementation strategy that works in uncharted waters?

The Brainzooming eBook 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes when few things ahead are clear. We share suggestions on:

  • Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
  • Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
  • Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
  • Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times is a FREE, quick read that will pay dividends for you today and in the uncertain times ahead.
Download Your FREE eBook! 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times

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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Chuck Dymer co-facilitated a client’s internal management meeting with us recently. Chuck is the owner of Brilliance Activator, which helps leaders uncork the creative genius of their teams to improve products and processes, delight customers, and grow profits.

During the creative thinking workshop we facilitated inside an internal management meeting, participants worked through multiple exercises to identify ideas for internal and customer initiatives. Chuck shared the following example to push the participants toward greater specificity in the ideas they shared. It’s a tremendous example, and I asked him to share it with all of you!

Why Specificity Makes or Breaks a Creative Thinking Workshop by Chuck Dymer

It’s lunchtime and a colleague asks you what you’d like to eat. You answer, “Chinese,” and off you go to a nearby Chinese restaurant. Then you open your menu and discover that there’s not a single item on the menu called Chinese.

Hunan style lemon chicken, mu shu pork, wonton soup–these and many other choices appear on the menu. You can sit and stare at the golden carp in the fish tank or you can order an item off the menu. But eating Chinese? Good luck.

“Chinese” is the name of a cuisine, a style of preparing food associated with a place of origin. You can eat lemon chicken; you can’t eat Chinese. Lemon chicken is specific; Chinese is a generality.

When it comes to idea generation (be it a brainstorm or one of the methods Brainzooming offers), participants often put forward ideas that are too general to be implemented. You can use them to organize or to develop specific ideas. But you can’t implement them.

If you were to run a creative thinking workshop to generate ideas for improving your organization’s morale, odds are that one of the ideas from the group would be “better communication.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? But just as you can’t order something as general as “Chinese,” you can’t implement something as general as “better communication.”

Here’s what you CAN do. You can ask: “What are some specific ways to improve communication?” And you might receive ideas such as “shorter emails” or “fewer emails.” Here’s where it gets interesting, because now you can ask, “How can we shorten our emails?” or “How can we have fewer emails?” Participants might suggest that no email should be longer than 4 tweets, i.e., 480 characters in length. Or they might say that no one can send an email to more than three people at a time. Specific ideas like this can be implemented. You may not want or choose to implement them, but they are actionable and ready for implementation.

After giving participants 10 minutes or so to generate ideas, you can pause and separate the generalities from the specifics. The generalities can be used as topics for organizing specific ideas. For instance, “better communication” might be one topic, with “fewer emails” listed as one option for improving communication.

Now this is where the magic happens. As you continue to organize generalities into topics and ask for specific, actionable steps, you’ll end up with far more ideas than the original 10 minutes produced, and those additional ideas will be much closer to implementation. Of course, ideas must be vetted prior to implementation.

This extra step—separating generalities from specifics in a creative thinking workshop—may at first seem strange. But the benefits are immediate and far-reaching. Remember, ordering the Chinese dish you want by name, rather than saying you want Chinese food, is a much more effective way of ensuring you’ll get exactly what you want. So too with ideas! –  Chuck Dymer, Brilliance Activator

fun-ideas-strategic-planningLooking for Ideas to Make Strategy Planning More Fun?

Yes, developing strategy 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


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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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Your organization has a vision statement. Congratulations!

Is your organization’s vision sitting around and not helping run the business?

If that’s the case, your task is to start turning the vision statement into strategy to drive and align activities consistent with it.

5 Ideas for Turning a Vision Statement into Strategy

Here are five ideas The Brainzooming Group uses to help clients when turning a vision statement into strategy.

1. Decompose the vision into strategic dimensions

Strategic dimensions are areas where an organization has the opportunity to make major decisions or where industry players are creating competitive advantage. Examples include:

  • Business models
  • Market areas served
  • Product line breadth
  • Organizational structure
  • Competitor focus

After identifying a handful of strategic dimensions, create a list of possible options the organization could choose on each one. Management team members rate where the organization is now, and where it should be at a future date. From these answers, we create a description of the future that is more specific and goes deeper than the vision statement to provide strategic direction.

2. Define the vision statement’s words and phrases

To create greater specificity, highlight important words and phrases in your vision statement. Afterward, create specific descriptions for what each one means. The key is describing them in understandable words so employees can better grasp and act on them. If the descriptions are full of confusing jargon, this approach does not work effectively.

3. Prioritize strategies moving toward the vision

Incorporate the output of the first two approaches into prioritizing potential strategies. If proposed initiatives receive support based on how well they move toward the vision, you wind up with more vision-oriented strategies. In the future, the organization will move toward developing potential initiatives that work harder to move toward the vision.

4. Use the vision for generating innovative ideas

Return to the better-defined version of the vision statement (number 2) as a point of departure for coming with up with innovative ideas. The specific elements in the vision statement are ideal for providing the structure you need to generate strategically-smart, innovative ideas that lead the organization forward with greater alignment to the vision statement.

5. Depict the vision statement

Words are one thing. Pictures and video are quite another for communicating what a vision means for an organization. Create scenarios for what your organization will look like when you attain the vision. Visualize those scenarios and depict them so everyone in the organization has a common source from which to imagine the future strategically.

Want to explore these ideas in more detail?

We cannot share client-specific examples here on the blog. We can, however, provide ideas more customized to your situation in a brief call. Contact us here (or at or 816-509-5320). Let’s set a time to see what the possibilities are for turning vision into strategy at your organization. – Mike Brown

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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.

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We’re getting a lot of questions currently about identifying the right strategic planning exercises.

That continues to surprise me, since I’d expect everyone is focused on implementing strategies at this point. We see it with our clients, though. Planning seems to be happening throughout the year with increasing frequency (more on that later).

10 Questions You Must Consider about Strategic Planning Exercises

If you’re among the executives planning for strategic planning, no matter what time of year, you need to ask these ten questions as you consider the right strategic planning exercises and approaches to pursue:

  1. Do we know what the expected outcome needs to be?
  2. What are the strategic decisions the plan must support?
  3. What types of structure will provide the necessary alignment within the planning process?
  4. What is the least amount of formal planning we can do to generate the expected results?
  5. What type of plan will work best for the organization when it comes to strategy implementation?
  6. Is there a particular level of planning to fuel successful strategy implementation? If so, what is it?
  7. How specific do the tactics need to be so that people can step up and implement them with a high degree of success?
  8. Do we have the right people, both in number and the mix of perspectives to collaborate successfully?
  9. How closely will management expect teams to follow the plan?
  10. Is there support for varying the plan when that makes the most sense?

These questions will help you evaluate the right types of strategic planning exercises. It will also suggest how to modify the approach you take to ensure the greatest success.

If you want help thinking through what these questions will mean for your organization, contact us. Let’s talk about how to streamline your strategic planning to maximize collaboration and strategic impact. – Mike Brown

Need Fresh Insights to Drive Your Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis


“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 planning 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.

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How solid is the strategy implementation process at your organization?

Some companies move seamlessly from ideas to strategies to execution. Other organizations continually struggle with translating great new product or process improvement strategies into results.

Which type of organization is yours? Do you have a well-defined strategy implementation process, or is implementation a haphazard activity?

You’re going to see more from us on strategy implementation in the coming weeks. For organizations implementing new initiatives this year, it’s a critical time to launch them successfully and make early course corrections on those that do not launch well.

So far, we have released new strategy implementation eBooks on moving forward during uncertain times and five ways to implement better and faster.

10 Questions for Successfully Launching New Programs

Today, we’re introducing another new Brainzooming implementation strategy process eBook: 10 Questions for Successfully Launching New Programs (we are calling it 10? for short).

10? Improve Process Implementation Strategy with these 10 Questions

We know from experience that exploring the strong project planning questions even before an initiative launches sets the stage for your implementation teams to consistently start down the best, most successful paths.

strategy implementation process toolsUsing the ten project planning questions in the FREE 10? eBook, you can determine how to best evaluate, finalize, and move forward on initiative goals, participants, implementation strategies, tactics, and timing.

Whether you are a senior executive, an initiative leader, a team member, or a project manager, you can ask these questions to facilitate action-oriented, strategic conversations. You will lay the groundwork to launch new initiatives with a greater shared understanding among your team. You will also develop a sharper sense of what is important strategically, plus the leeway you have to adjust implementation parameters moving forward.

Download your copy of 10 Questions for Successfully Launching New Programs today for you and your entire team.

Make 10? a routine element of your strategy implementation process!   – Mike Brown



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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We were on the phone with a client. We were discussing our approach for developing a specific business strategy. After completing their strategic plan a few months earlier, we’re now fleshing out a successful implementation strategy for an initiative they spelled out in the plan.

They asked if our approach would resemble what it looked like when developing their strategic plan. That included:

  • A company-wide online survey (to get a sense of what employees thought about priorities and challenges)
  • A couple of online collaboration Zoomference workshops (to engage the leadership team without them having to travel)
  • A day-long, in-person leadership team visioneering workshop (to develop the main inputs into the strategic plan)
  • Follow-up review and acceleration meetings (to finalize the strategic plan and implementation tools)

Given their comments about this new initiative and how it’s been point of contention for some time, we suggested talking further before suggesting our approach.

Designing Strategic Planning with Your Implementation Strategy in Mind

implementation strategy start with the end in mind

We asked the two executives if they knew the best strategic answer already, or whether collaborative strategy input should shape the answer. They indicated they definitely wanted to build on the capability in their organization, but were open to input on how best to develop and deploy it.

Then, since they’d already identified who they wanted in the workshop, we asked them to step back to consider the individuals within the company that:

  • Have information and insights needed to shape the initiative strategy
  • Have perspectives needed to develop it
  • Will be important for their support
  • Need to be included because they’ll challenge it

We will take that information, coupled with timing expectations, their in-person versus virtual availability, and insights we gained from the earlier online survey, to develop the right steps with the best possibility of leading to a successful implementation strategy.

This is still an early work-in-process. The point is to prompt you to think about changing how you develop strategy. Create your strategic planning approach based on what it will take for a successful implementation strategy. From our experience, THAT is a huge factor in developing a strategic plan that an organization implements instead of letting it gather dust on a shelf.

If that’s not how you develop strategy in your company, contact us, and let’s talk about how we can help you develop a strategy that fits your organization’s culture, opportunities, and capabilities!  – Mike Brown

5 Ways to Start Implementing Faster and Better!

In the new Brainzooming strategy eBook 321 GO!, we share common situations standing in the way of successfully implementing your most important strategies. You will learn effective, proven ways to move your implementation plan forward with greater speed and success. You’ll learn ways to help your team:

  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

Download Your FREE eBook! 321 GO! 5 Ways to Implement Faster and Better!

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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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Many executives perceive developing strategy as a long, slow process. In fact, senior executives that contact The Brainzooming Group for help in developing strategy often do so because previous strategic planning efforts drug on for almost a year.

So it was no surprise the other day when we received several inquiries about quick strategy questions.

The questioners did not specify whether the strategy questions themselves are supposed to be quick. They may have meant that, or perhaps that the answers were quick. Questions themselves may be quick because they are easy to retrieve and use in a strategy meeting.

To our way of thinking, it is less about quick strategy questions. Our focus is whether a question allows you to develop strategy more quickly, thoroughly, and successfully (as defined by creating positive results).

Strategy Questions – 5 Characteristics to Make Them Quick

Thinking about quick strategy questions that way, we look for the following characteristics when developing and selecting strategy questions. They need to:

When strategic planning questions fulfill those five characteristics, they set the stage for developing strategy quickly, thoroughly, and successfully.

The thing is, those characteristics won’t universally apply for all participants in all strategic planning situations. That’s where our background and experience in collaborative strategic planning play a major role in matching the right questions to the right situations.

Put all the pieces together, and you CAN get through strategy in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take! – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook!
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation

Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

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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