Front Line Heroes – Chapter Seven….Seven Rules of Strategic Guessing/Part Two

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, visioning, and looking at what is needed by the organization to realize a bright future.  Typically, I do this by asking the group to go three to five years into the future and record the results on a flip chart.  As the Bible says, without vision the people perish (Proverbs 19:18).  The Bible does not say that you have to attain the vision.  It simply says that people need one to live into.  This is critical.  When you have a vision, you are creating a future for the company that employees can then fulfill.

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 four 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.

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.  “Examples, puhleeze!” you demand.  Coming right up, I respond.

Let’s say you’re a training company that utilizes technology.  Some of the questions you ask your planning team might be:

  • How is the organization going to transition from our old CD-ROM technology to the new “streaming” technology?  How are we going to fund this transition?
  • 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 2018 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 are written between planning sessions by the members of the leadership group who are best suited to address the problem.  This group can also include members outside the planning team who have useful knowledge to contribute.

The paper should deal directly with the issues.  It is, with research and analysis, the “answer” submitted by the smaller group to the entire planning team.  The entire planning team will read the paper prior to the session, and everyone is invited to bring feedback, questions, and concerns.  In the session, the critical issues are dealt with and problem solving can occur.

Rule Number Six

El Fantastic numero seis is that the planning group must be able to actually work and create together.  For good, productive work to be done, there can be no pretense regarding an ability to perform together.  The group has to be able to implement the plan.  It has to perform as a whole.

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 organizations.

A company with a high-performance planning/guessing team has many advantages over its competition.  I have a particular client in mind.  This company has done a remarkable job of growing in very challenging business conditions.  This has included changing marketplaces and customers.  However, this company experienced growth of 60 percent.  They continue to hire and retain great people and pay real attention to whether or not those people enjoy their work.

Furthermore, there is trust in the high-performance leadership planning team at this company.  People can speak their minds, and communication is taken as straight communication about the business, rather than as personal commentary.  The team is not engaged in petty issues, nor is it interested in who gets along with and agrees with whom.  Their corporate culture is not a smelly, gossipy political environment.  This type of focus give the leadership team a great advantage when competing against other business leadership teams that are rife with gossip, mistrust, and miscommunication.

Rule Number Seven

Rule number siete is by far the coolest.  This reglo says: It is critical that the team show discipline and do the work. Remember the saying, “garbage in, garbage out”?  It is important that the leadership team does complete the work.  In this endeavor, it is better to do less with better quality than to do a lot with mediocrity.

Some companies have a heck of a time getting out of the firefighting mode.  Others never do get out of that stage.  Sometimes members of the leadership team are addicted to firefighting.  They are addicted to the way things are and not to dreaming up ways the company could improve.  To participate in a good breakthrough planning/guessing process, the planning team must commit time to this endeavor.  Real thinking and dialogue must exist.

Once you have created the plan, you need to make sure it is acted upon.  Monthly meetings of one to three hours and spending time on objectives and action plans will ensure focus.  Then, once a quarter, the planning team should meet offsite, preferably with a coaching resource like yours truly.  (Bonus points if the coach is bald-headed.  It makes the coach smarter and buffer – really.)  At the session, the group will look at what happened in the quarter and then focus on what needs to happen in the next quarter.  This will keep everyone aligned on what needs to take place to push the company forward.

Well, there you have it:  Seven rules that will support you in establishing a successful planning process.  Put another way, it is the plan to producing and implementing good strategic planning/guessing.  Using these rules will help you create a bright business future – and when you get there, let everyone know that the Brucie sent you.