Work backwards

June 27, 2006

One of my pet peeves with the standard strategic planning process is the focus on the organization – crafting a mission statement and then determining how to achieve that mission.

Here’s a thought – use a specific audience as your starting point instead of your organization. What do they want/need? What compells them to become (stay) your customer/client/supporter? It’s a sure bet they don’t care about your strategic plan measurements.

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Getting to the next level

March 14, 2006

When talking with clients, I’m frequently told “I need help taking my business/group/organization to the next level.” And, I even use that “next level” term sometimes myself in talking about strategic planning and such.

But, what are we really talking about? And, is it even necessary? Often, the reason folks think they need to go up a level is the one they’re already on isn’t working.

Idea: Before you think about moving up (or ahead) – make sure you’re not missing the obvious right where you are. Example: Before spending more money on increasing your web traffic (after all, traffic doesn’t automatically translate into profits) – look at how you answer the phone; how you respond to customer problems; and how often you talk to your customers (even when – gasp – you’re not selling them something or asking for money!).

Bottom Line: There may nothing wrong with your level – you just may need to do some renovation (and look at the basics).

Read More: The Brickyard (great example re getting back to basics)

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The personal piece in planning

March 9, 2006

Here’s another frequent blind spot for you: Forgetting your personal goals and needs when doing strategic and business planning.

People often get so focused on the “the bottom line” “results” and “stakeholder value” that they forget that they (the owners, leaders, managers, planners, implementers) have personal needs and goals too.

No, I’m not getting all “new-agey” on you. But if you’re not happy with your business or job – you’re not going to be doing your best either – which isn’t good for anybody.

So, here’s a quick five-minute reality check:

1. Write down three things that make you happy (and energized). Don’t think about it – just do it.
2. Write down three things (no more) that you want to personally accomplish.
3. Now, compare this to your business/organization goals. Is there a disconnect? Does it make you tired just looking at the business/organization goals? If so, then you need to do some more thinking about what’s best for both you and your business.

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Dangerous myths of strategic planning

March 2, 2006

Dave Taylor over at the Intuitive Business Life Blog has listed the “Ten Dangerous Myths About Strategic Planning.”

Two in particular really resonated with me:

Myth #2: Strategic planning can only be done at a resort.
Strategic planning is serious and shouldn’t be equated with a vacation. Everyone can play golf on their own time. All you need for a productive process is a meeting room at a local hotel or conference center.

Myth #3: “It interferes with our real jobs.”
Strategic planning is arguably the most important part of your job because it can determine the effectiveness of all the rest of your efforts.

That resort/retreat mindset (to my mind) is one of the biggest contributors to the negative reputation of strategic planning. People do what I call “drive-by strategic planning” – cramming a lot of great talking and ideas into a short space of time (and often paying high dollars to a facilitator and space). Then nothing ever gets implemented. Having done many such retreats in my past Corporate lives, I know they get really old, with the same ol’ stuff every time – chart papers, colored dots, “parking lots” and soothing voiced (often patronizing) facilitators that have never held a real job. Of course, meetings are imperative to a good plan, but it’s not a one-shot or one-time deal.

As for interfering with work – done right, a plan is part of and supportive of the work. Making everyone’s life easier and more productive.

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Strategy & Advertising

February 28, 2006

As Holly Buchanan notes, “Holy Cow. I’m speechless.” Well, not really (who, me?) She’s talking about the startling world-shaking news that the big ad agency Grey Worldwide has realized that it’s important to have a strategy (?!) Here’s part of what Grey had to say:

“In recent times, we’ve not had great clarity in our strategy. One of the huge wastes of time is to use creative teams to get to a strategic insight. That was often a problem on Mars (a former Grey account), where we’d work up 15 different commercials to get to the few that were right on,” said Mr. Mellors. “It would have been easier to start with a strong strategic brief.” Grey had strategic planners on staff, but they didn’t work together as a team.

Wow! If I were one of their clients, I’d be on the phone right now, asking for a big retroactive refund!

I grant you that “strategic planning” has gotten a lot of negative press – and justifiably so in many cases. Way too people have confused the means for the ends and consultants have numbed our brains with complicated methodologies that inhibit real work. But, if you’re creating without a plan – that’s rather like a surgeon deciding to start cutting and see what they find (Lots of interesting stuff in there!)

Holly’s got a lot more useful perspective, based on her background as a creative director – so click on over and read her entire post.

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Strategy in the rear view mirror

February 28, 2006

Over at Being Reasonable, Marc is talking about brand/marketing guru’s Al Ries’ proposed test for strategies: reverse them and see if the result applies to the competition. (And, yes, we all have competition – for both wallet and mind share of the customer/client/donor).

Marc adds his “acid test” Does it add up to a reason to choose you – and not the competition.

I’d add one more reverse point of view: Look from the results back. Can you see how the proposed strategy will produce – in a progressive, realistic manner – the results you need. Keep in mind that “need” is often very different than “want.” Also, Rome (or any great organization) wasn’t built in a day or even year.

And, a final overall “reality check” – Can you, right now, with the resources you have now successfully implement the strategy? If you’re depending on a contract, VC or funder to implement that “killer” strategy, you should likely rethink it. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a great strategy – and no business.

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Thinking like a business.

February 16, 2006

Jim Collins’ monograph, Good to Great for the Social Sectors, highlights and reinforces a thought I’ve had all along. Why should non-profit organizations “think like a business?” All too often businesses have institutionalized mindless bureaucracy and are committed to mass mediocrity. That, and they often don’t respect their employees or their customers.

So, that’s why I alway say, “best practices” when talking with non-profit groups and clients. Business practices such as consistent processes, effective measurements, and boring ol’ record-keeping can help a non-profit get a grip on their issues, identify problems (or prevent them all together) and manage proactively.

Yet, even in the best organizations, there can be blind spots. Here are a couple I see often in strategic planning (in both the business and social sectors):


1. Addiction to methodology. “We’ve always done it that way.”
Well, why? Is it working?

2. Constantly trying that “flavor of the month.” One of the things that Collins notes as a key difference between the organizations who made the leap to great and those who didn’t is: The great ones were very committed and methodical. Sure, they set some scary goals and took some risks but they stayed the course. They didn’t abruptly change in a different direction when things got a little rough.

So, keep these in mind as you build (or renovate)your strategic plan.

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