Strategic Planning | The Brainzooming Group - Part 8 – page 8
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The folks at Armada Corporate Intelligence shared, via their “Inside the Executive Suite” feature, a number of ideas to improve the effectiveness of rolling out your strategic planning document for the upcoming year. They were gracious enough to let us feature the six approaches since there’s still time to improve the effectiveness of how you introduce your strategic plan. We list each of their suggestions followed by our own thoughts in italics.

6 Ways to Make an Impact with this Year’s Strategic Planning Document

New ideas and strategic planning initiatives are ready to roll out, but strategies often aren’t developed with a full understanding of the audiences most affected by them. This can create a mismatch between executives sharing new strategic planning documents and those on the receiving end that are expected to implement them.

New-Year-Strategic-Planning

While some approaches for smooth strategy roll-outs could be too late to implement, there are multiple possibilities to improve the experience and impact.

  1. Create messaging focused on audience benefits and motivations

While the inclination is often to communicate a plan based on the external factors that justify the direction, it’s far better to communicate a plan in language that motivates the relevant audiences to understand how successful plan implementation helps them be successful in helping the organization be successful.

  1. Make sure the plan language SOUNDS like the audience

If you’re strategic plan sounds like freshly-minted MBA consultants put it together, STOP! Even if you don’t have time to revise all the language throughout the plan, at least make sure the shortened version you share with your organization SOUNDS like they talk. Make the language so simple that anyone in the organization knows what the plan means for them individually and what they need to do to make it successful.

  1. Give potential influencers an early look

Who are the operations leaders, sales veterans, and others that all the rest of the organization will look to for cues on what to think about the strategic plan? Spend the time to identify the list of people matching these descriptions and then invest the time to reach out and give them an early look on what you plan to share with the rest of the organization. You want to make sure they’re bought in and saying ALL the right things about the strategic plan.

  1. Shorten what you’re communicating to a single page or infographic

Do whatever it takes to come up with a one-page version of the plan for each audience you need to embrace, own, and actively implement the plan. Make it easy for people to understand what they need to do!

  1. Identify opportunities for user customization in the strategy

Don’t be ridiculous . . . you haven’t covered EVERYTHING people need to do in your strategic plan. Be upfront and identify where employees have latitude to make good business decisions and customize how they approach and implement the organization’s strategic plan.

  1. Communicate the strategy in a compelling way this year

Don’t send out a plan and expect ANYONE will read your email with the plan attachment. Just as you try to cut through the clutter with your customer communication, think about all the boring, crappy internal communications that create clutter internally. Then do something completely different and exciting to share this year’s plan!

There Is Still Time

As the folks at Armada suggested, you can pick just one of these ideas and realize greater impact from this year’s plan. 

The big strategic thinking question is, “Which one will you pick?”

 

 

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

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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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Checking our Brainzooming web analytics, “free strategic planning exercises” is a frequent search bringing people to the Brainzooming website. That is no surprise. We share all kinds of free strategic planning exercises, such as these, these, and these.

Those strategic planning exercises simply scratch the surface. In fact, there are only a few exercises we use that we DON’T share with you here – all for free.

If you are an executive looking for “free strategic planning exercises,” any place you find them SHOULD provide a corresponding warning label. Sometimes we mention some of the typical warnings, but we have never shared a full list of what the warning label should include.

5 Warnings for Free Strategic Planning Exercises

Warning-Sign

  • Prior to using free strategic thinking exercises, consider the participants, organizational culture, and layout of the room. All of these, and other factors, can impact your success.
  • Keep free strategic planning exercises out of the reach of untrained, unpracticed facilitators.
  • If you experience prolonged periods of silence after using a free strategic thinking question, stop immediately, and contact a trained facilitator.
  • Participants that have already been stymied by previous deadly strategic planning sessions will require a different approach than the recommended usage.
  • Common adverse reactions to the misuse of free strategic planning exercises include fidgeting, headache, yawning, slow burns, rolling eyes, doodling, head explosions, and shortened careers.

I’ve witnessed these a few times this year where someone used our questions, and nothing happened with a group. Sure the questions are important, but ultimately it’s how you ask them.

If you want help in using any of our questions and strategic thinking exercises, let us know. We’d be glad to help you!

Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 and let’s get started!  – Mike Brown

 

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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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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.

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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

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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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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.

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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

 

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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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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

 

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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.

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