Seven Rules of Strategic Guessing: Part 7

Rule Number Six El fantastic numero seis is that the planning group must be able to actually work and create together. This has to be much more than “plays well in the sandbox” kind of behavior. The planning group needs to be creative, productive, and able to move quickly to implement change. They have to be collaborators, problem solvers, and change agents within their organization. A company with a high-performance planning/guessing team has many advantages over its competition. One of my clients has grown remarkably in the past very challenging business conditions. This company experienced growth of 60 percent in spite of changing marketplaces and customers. Members of the high-performance leadership planning team at this company trust each other. People can speak their minds, and communication is taken as straight communication about the business, rather than as personal commentary. This type of focus gives the leadership team a great advantage when competing against other business leadership teams that are rife with gossip, mistrust, and miscommunication. For more information about creating the optimal planning team click...

Seven Rules of Strategic Guessing: Part 6

Rule Number Five   The incredible rule number five is that you must face the brutal facts confronting your company. This is a command, if you will, given to us by Jim Collins in Good to Great. It means honestly facing the issues that challenge your organization, determining solutions, and implementing them in an intelligent way.   Your planning team can do this by defining critical issues facing the growth of the company both now and in the future. Let’s say you’re a training company that utilizes technology. Some of the questions you ask your planning team might be:   What new products are we bringing out in the next year? How are we going to grow 20 percent per year for the next three years? What improvements do we need to make for us to reduce costs by 10 percent?   Typically, these types of critical issues are addressed by writing a White Paper.   “What is that?” you ask.   “Good question!” I respond.   A White Paper is a three- to five-page paper that addresses the critical issue. Sometimes a White Paper will take on a number of critical issues that are similar in nature. For instance, the White Paper “What is Our 2019 Sales and Marketing Plan?” might address the issues of (a) what new products are being introduced next year and (b) how to grow by 20 percent. However, it would not explore the question of what improvements need to be made in the plant to reduce costs by 10 percent. This issue would need a White Paper of its own.   White Papers...

Seven Rules of Strategic Guessing: Part 5

Rule Number Four By far, my favorite rule is el grandote numero quatro: start big by creating a vision of the future of the company. It is important that the breakthrough guessing/planning process allows for dreaming and looking at what it is the organization needs for a bright future. This is critical. When you have a vision, you are creating a future for the company that employees can then fulfill. Typically, I do this by asking the group to envision three to five years into the future and record their thoughts on a flip chart. I ask the following questions to arrive at a future vision. If you were already standing three to five years in the future, what would the world look like? What are the important trends affecting your industry at that point? Once a futuristic scenario is developed, the group should look at what it would like the organization’s image to be in this future. What are customers saying about the organization? Why are customers loyal five years from today? What goods, services, and new products have been brought forth? How much revenue will the organization bring in, and how many employees will it have? This part of planning can be used to run growth scenarios. Have at least one for aggressive, medium, sluggish, and no growth. Play with the numbers and have some fun with what could be. The planning team should get familiar with the possible territories and futures that could be facing the organization. For more information about creating a company vision click...

Seven Rules of Strategic Guessing: Part 4

  Rule Number Three For the third amazing rule, it is important that you complete the previous year. A powerful completion process will allow you to put that year behind you as you welcome a new one. It’s important for the organization to distinguish the previous year and discuss what occurred during that time, good and bad. At the very first session of the planning process, the past goes into the past. When I coach these sessions, the group lists the previous year’s information on flip charts. The past is broken down into a number of categories, such as BREAKDOWNS FOR THE YEAR, BREAKTHROUGHS, FIASCOS, DISAPPOINTMENTS, ACCOMPLISHMENTS, and the like. One of the great aspects of this exercise is that the executives and key employees of the organization get to review all the work that was accomplished during the past 12 months. What aspects of this year are we taking into the next? What aspects are we leaving behind? It’s all included in the meeting minutes and brings completion to the year. One season completes and the next opens up. Excuse me while I get a little weepy. This exercise is worthwhile and useful; everyone is now ready to invent the organization’s future. For more information about CMI’s strategic planning process click...

Seven Rules of Strategic Guessing: Part 3

Rule Number Two The second golden rule of planning is to make sure the design of the planning is one that will yield a good result. I am not a believer in leadership teams locking themselves in a room at a resort for two or three days. This type of planning may be sprinkled with some golfing, gambling, or other “fun stuff.” From this design, a strategic plan is supposedly born and created. The problem with this design is that it curtails critical thinking. This process begins to smell of “Plan-In-Binder Syndrome”, which is exactly what it sounds like: the leadership group ends up developing a “plan” that then ends up securely contained in a nice plastic binder that is then lost and forgotten. These binders tend to become nestled in executive bookcases. After the year begins and the fires start raging, no one looks at the plan. Poke me in the eye with a hot stick; “Plan-In-Binder Syndrome” is such a waste of time and resources. In addition, if you do all your planning during one session, you risk just doing more of what you are currently doing. There is no opportunity for research or involving other employees within the organization who are not at the planning session. I find that these plans run the risk of superficiality and being UN-implementable. Is that a word? Here is what to do. The process should take place over two to three months and take three to four days. It is predicated on white papers and dialogue. Listening and understanding are critical. Better research ensures better debate and thinking. “What is...