Posts in Strategic Planning

Do Employees Really Need a Sense of Purpose?

January 18th, 2018 Posted by Blog Post, Goal, Objective, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Uncategorized 1 thought on “Do Employees Really Need a Sense of Purpose?”

“Executing a strategy without engaged people is impossible, and brilliant strategies without execution are meaningless.”

That’s how an article at Inc., entitled Why Strategy Without Execution Will Get You Nowhere begins.

It’s like we wrote that ourselves. In fact, we have written very similar statements on numerous occasions. Want to know why? Because it’s true.

It’s mid-January. By now, a large percentage of New Years resolutions have already been long forgotten. That’s true in business as well as personal life. Businesses often end the year giddy with the excitement about the new plans and strategies they’ve developed for the new year.

“We’re going to do great. We’re going to increase sales and profits. We’re going to hire new, fresh talent. We’re going to…”

Sometimes actual targets or objectives accompany those statements. Sometimes they’re followed by statements that start with “And here’s how we’re going to do it.”

But what’s often missing is, “Here’s why we’re going to do it,” or “Here’s why it’s imperative that we do.”

Let’s use the Plan Canvas purpose statement as an example

Simply put, we want businesses to increase their odds of success and do better. Why?

Because even a modest improvement in business performance will make a tremendously positive impact on the economy, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and take us that much closer to improving lives and eliminating poverty.

Value-based vs. profit-driven goals

Setting value-based goals is one way to improve employee engagement. Watch our 2 brief videos on the topic.

Is it a coincidence that the reported percentage of disengaged employees is almost the same as the failure rate of strategic plans?

The American Management Association (AMA) reports more than 60% of strategies are not successfully executed. A Gallup poll indicated that only 32% of employees in the United States were engaged in their work in 2015, virtually flat over the 31.5% reported in 2014.

Let’s see – there’s a 60% failure rate in strategy execution, while the employee disengagement is rate is 68%.

Coincidence?

There has to be SOME kind of purpose

Perhaps the answer to the high failure rate of strategies is to simply give employees a greater sense of purpose.

The purpose for any business doesn’t have to be big and lofty nor world changing. It can be almost anything. But it has to be SOMETHING because that sense of purpose is what you need in order to get your employees excited and engaged.

If the only sense of purpose they feel is “to put money in the pockets of someone other than myself”, they aren’t going to be very engaged. If they aren’t engaged, you are on your own and the strategy will fail.

Great Ideas for 2018 – A Resolution Revolution

December 19th, 2017 Posted by Behavior, Blog Post, Business Plan, Entrepreneur, Goal, Inspiration, Strategic Planning 0 thoughts on “Great Ideas for 2018 – A Resolution Revolution”

Let’s make 2018 the year of the resolution revolution. No more empty promises that fizzle out within the first 2 to 6 weeks. Let’s get serious this time.

An article at The Balance entitled Top New Year’s Resolutions for Business Success has some easy, actionable ideas that we really like a lot, particularly:

  • Make business planning a weekly event
  • Set realistic goals
  • Join a new business organization or networking group
  • Give something back to your community

Of course we like them because they are essentially some of the basic premises on which Plan Canvas is built. Let’s take a look at them a little more closely.

Resolution 1 – Business planning as a weekly event

Honestly, as much as we love business planning, doing it weekly may be a bit of an over-reach. But there are some things relative to the business plan that really should be done weekly. Namely:

  • Review progress against both the strategic and the business plan on a weekly basis. Note, some objectives may only require monthly or quarterly progress checks.
  • Review progress against assigned action items, internal initiatives, and client projects.

Whatever you do, do not write a business plan that is never referred to, tracked against, or updated. Otherwise, you are missing out on the primary benefits of strategically managing a plan – greater results.

Resolution 2 – Set realistic goals

Again, if we are being completely honest, we are OK with setting goals that might seem a little “out there.” Goals should be big, lofty things. Add a dose of reality but think and dream big when setting goals.

Now objectives are another story. Objectives let you know how you are progressing toward goals. One objective may support many goals and one goal is likely to be supported by many objectives. By nature, objectives should be realistic.

In fact that is one of 5 characteristics of a well defined SMART objective:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Achievable
  • R – Realistic
  • T – Time-bound

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Resolution 3 – Join a new business organization or networking group

There are two primary types of groups we highly encourage you to join. One is a business networking group. The other is a peer mastermind group.

Networking groups are focused on growing your business through referrals. In these types of groups you get to know others on a more personal level, building relationships to the point that you mutually, genuinely refer each others’ business, products or services to others – key because it is also your reputation on the line when you refer others to people in your own network.

Peer mastermind groups, are not networking groups at all. They are work groups designed to help members resolve business and personal issues that affect the business. A well run mastermind group “rolls up the sleeves and gets to work.” It is not about socializing over cocktails and business referrals.

Resolution 4 – Give something back to your community

We saved the best for last. Giving back through your business is called “Corporate Social Responsibility” or CSR. Formally defining a CSR program for your business, no matter what size, actually increases your odds of success.

We call it setting value-based goals as opposed to profit-driven goals. When you focus CSR goals, then employee goals, then customer goals, your profit goals will naturally follow and you will feel much more fulfilled.

Resolution 5 – Be intentional in 2018

The year 2018. Here it comes. What will you do? Will you wait and see what happens, or will you intentionally lay out a plan and go after it?

What is SEM – Strategic Execution Management?

December 12th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Business is ART, Business Plan, Objective, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Vision 1 thought on “What is SEM – Strategic Execution Management?”

As we prepared to launch Plan Canvas, a bootstrapped passion project led by subject matter and technical experts, none of who had a clue about marketing and public relations, we began thinking about how to truly position ourselves in the market.

Plan Canvas’ origins are in the book Business is ART (Articulate, Revise, Track), which makes it clear that there is a distinction between strategic planning and strategic management.

See related post 2 Main Phases of Business – Planning it and Running it.

How to differentiate

So, from the start, Plan Canvas has never been about “develop a one-and-done business plan” even though the prevailing sentiment erroneously assumes that is exactly all a business plan is – one-and-done. Instead, Plan Canvas has always been about executing to and revising the plan as you move along. That is where the real benefit of planning is realized.

So rather than being a simpler business planning tool in a saturated market, we knew we had to position ourselves differently because we are genuinely different.

As an unknown startup with limited means to reach large numbers of potential customers, we were excited (and somewhat shocked) to accept an invitation to meet with representatives from technology research firm Gartner, who had come across Plan Canvas through our humble and limited content marketing efforts.

Should Gartner decide at some point to review Plan Canvas in greater detail, it would be a tremendous honor because Gartner is a major influencer.

A Eureka Moment

In the meantime, they provided us with the perfect answer to our question – how do we position ourselves in the market?

The answer is that Plan Canvas fits into an emerging market of Strategic Execution Management, or SEM, tools. At a very high level you can think of SEM as the bringing together of business/strategic planning and project portfolio management (PPM) – with a focus on communication and the achievement of measurable results.

From Gartner’s perspective, SEM tools support the process of ART-ful strategy execution in several ways, including, but not limited to:

  • Visualizing the organization’s strategies, goals, missions, objectives, plans, projects, etc – Articulate
  • Prioritizing any continuing, upcoming and in-flight investments relative to strategies – Articulate, Revise
  • Continuous planning and project investments – Articulate, Revise
  • Capturing actual metrics – Track

Plan Canvas does this and more, including the additional elements of Gartner’s definition of SEM.

We’re getting there

And so we carry on with our journey to put Plan Canvas in the hands of those who stand to benefit from its use – but now with a renewed sense of who we truly are.

Step 1: Build and validate the product – CHECK!

Step 2: Determine the market position – CHECK!

Step 3: Determine appropriate market messaging and introductions to influencers – WORKING ON IT!

2 Main Phases of Business – Planning It and Running It

December 5th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Business Plan, Objective, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “2 Main Phases of Business – Planning It and Running It”

There are two major phases to starting and maintaining any business or organization: planning it and running it. We refer to this as strategic planning and strategic management, and actually break things down a little further.

Strategic Planning is the formal development of plans (vision, goals, objectives, initiatives and action items). It includes:

  • Analysis & Assessment
  • Strategy Formulation & Documentation

Strategic Management is the on-going running of the business based on those plans. It includes:

  • Strategic Execution
  • Sustainment Management

“Planning” Isn’t “Set It and Forget It”

A common mistake made by entrepreneurs, owners and leaders is that planning is a one-time event, relatively unrelated to running the business. The American Management Association (AMA) reports that more than 60% of strategies are not implemented. That is particularly a disturbing stat when you consider a 2015 survey by Wells Fargo that found an even greater percentage of small businesses never develop strategies in the first place.

Meanwhile, a report by Cognizant states that organizations that don’t focus on strategic execution “are at risk of wasting 14 times more money” than those who put an emphasis on strategic execution.

An Unofficial Recognition

The Plan Canvas team recently spoke with representatives from the technology research firm Gartner, who informally stated that they see Plan Canvas as a Strategic Execution Management software (SEM).

This was music to our ears because since its inception, that is how we have viewed Plan Canvas. Yes, you can produce strategic plans, business plans, and personal plans from Plan Canvas, but, more importantly, you can strategically manage with it.

In fact, of the 8 major characteristics of an SEM solution, as defined by Gartner, Plan Canvas at least touches on all of them – some more deeply than others, but all are addressed.

This is a very important distinction for both the Plan Canvas team and the Plan Canvas user.

Contact us for a free 30-day trial of Plan Canvas.

We cover all phases

See a list of Plan Canvas features and an 8-minute demo

Learn more…

Strategize to Maximize

August 15th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Strategic Planning, Strategy 0 thoughts on “Strategize to Maximize”

Running a successful business means much more than having a product that customers want and are willing to pay for.

It is also about formulating actionable plans, being flexible enough to make changes to them as you go, having the discipline to measure progress, and, importantly, having the patience to think before taking action. It is about getting all your ducks in a row.

It is about maximizing your odds of success – and for that, you need to strategize.

Don’t run with your eyes closed

Even the best and brightest ideas are useless when there is no strategic planning process to support them. Without a documented, actionable strategy, your ideas are just thoughts – daydreams.

But what if your idea is positively a great one? Why is it necessary to go through the strategic planning process when you can just dive right into your business and hit the ground running?

The answer is simple: if you take off running with your eyes closed, you are bound to trip or run in to something. Even if you are lucky enough to stay upright for a while, you will eventually fall, hit a wall, or run out of energy to take another step.

Strategic Planning Minimizes your Risk of Failure

Strategic planning is the fundamental process by which you give your business or organization shape. It is how you prepare for and close the gap between your Vision and today’s reality.

In order to employ the strategic planning process, you must first set your goals and objectives, then determine the action steps necessary for achieving them.

Most importantly, you must put your plans in writing so that everyone involved in your organization can understand them. It is essential to communicate your plan effectively so that your employees, partners and stakeholder can “get on-board” – without them, you are truly all alone.

Focus on the Future, but Don’t Think Ahead Too Far

As with any plan, you need to have a set of short and long-term goals. Set realistic timeframes in which to achieve your goals. Ask yourself what you want to achieve in the next year, and in the next three.

It is difficult to plan much further into the future than that because there are too many unknowns. Everything around us changes so rapidly.

On the other hand, that is also exactly why you can’t just live in the present.

The strategic planning process requires you to be flexible, to expect and anticipate changes around every corner. Plans rarely go off without a hitch. Something unexpected will happen. Good strategic planners have the ability to adapt accordingly.

Plan Canvas is Here

The Strategic Planning Process is essential for any business. Even if your idea is flawless, you need to have the discipline, instinct, and ingenuity to make it happen.

Plan Canvas is a community, but it is also a software tool that simplifies the Strategic Planning Process. With it you can define and track your vision, goals, objectives, action items and much more. Yesterday, we announced the “soft opening” of Plan Canvas to several dozen of our initial Plan Canvas Community members.

Our “public grand opening” is imminent!

Stay tuned.

3 Tips to Ensure Success

March 25th, 2016 Posted by Business is ART, Strategic Planning, Strategy 0 thoughts on “3 Tips to Ensure Success”
Strategic Planning

Photo courtesy gratisogrphy.com

A strategic initiative is not the same as a strategy, but a strategic plan without strategic initiatives is just an open-ended discussion leading to nowhere. Strategic initiatives support strategic goals and objectives.

Note: The Business is ART book goes into this subject in detail, while providing a real life example. Download a free copy of the 1-page strategic plan template described in Business is ART and order the book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. If you’re having trouble putting meaningful strategic plans together, please contact me to see how I can help.

Strategic Planning vs Strategic Management

We commonly think of 4 phases when it comes to strategies. The first 2 fall under the category of strategic planning. The others fall under the category of strategic management.

  • Phase 1 – analysis & assessment
  • Phase 2 – strategy formulation
  • Phase 3 – strategy execution
  • Phase 4 – sustainment/management

Strategic initiatives are born in Phase 2, but live and die in Phases 3 and 4. The unfortunate reality, however, is that most businesses never get beyond Phase 2 and many of those never get past Phase 1

Tips for Ensuring Success

The following are some quick tips to ensure your strategic initiatives are successful:

  1. Focus. It’s OK to identify as many important, value-adding initiatives as possible, but prioritize them. You can’t do them all at once even though you wish you could. Limit yourself to no more than 3 at a time so that you can remain focused.
  2. Plan accordingly. Strategic initiatives are projects – which mean they have defined start and end dates, defined objectives, defined roles, and resources assigned to those roles. They may even have a budget.
  3. Assign ownership. Someone has to “own” each initiative. Maybe that’s you. Maybe it’s someone else. Owning it doesn’t necessarily mean “doing it.” It means the owner is responsible for making sure it gets done.

Smart Business Practices vs Strategic Initiatives

Just because something is a smart thing to do does not mean it is necessarily a strategic initiative. As an example, if you are in the business of software development and don’t have well defined release management procedures, you need to implement them.

Some things are just smart things to do that are core to your business, but that doesn’t necessarily make them strategic initiatives.

Consider the Timing

Whether it’s a strategic initiative or not, consider the timing before launching in to it. There never is a perfect time, so don’t wait around for that to come. But, going back to the point about focusing and prioritizing, unless you have unlimited resources, you can’t do it all at once. Something may be a good thing to do…just not right now.

The key is to get it in the queue so that you aren’t continually saying, “Some day.”

How to Host a Better Brainstorm

March 9th, 2016 Posted by Business Plan, Manager, Objective, Strategic Planning, Strategy 0 thoughts on “How to Host a Better Brainstorm”

business is artGroup brainstorming was a revolutionary idea when it was introduced to the corporate world around 1940.  Developed by Alex Osborn, these “think up” sessions were designed to creatively attack problems by gathering spontaneous responses from different coworkers.

There were four rules that Osborn established:

  • No criticism allowed
  • Go for a large quantity of ideas
  • Build on each other’s ideas
  • Encourage wild and exaggerated ideas

In the brainstorm, there was no such thing as a wrong answer or a stupid solution.  There were only raw and beautiful ideas.

Though Osborn’s concept spread like wildfire, it was not without its fair share of criticism.  Today, brainstorming often carries a negative connotation in modern business and creative environments.  They see it as nothing more than a waste of time.

But it doesn’t have to be.  Done correctly, there is a time and place for a collective brainstorm.  To do so, however, you have to avoid the common pitfalls.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Brainstorming

Modern brainstorming sessions fall into a number of unhelpful tropes.

Often, one or two influential/talkative attendees will dominate the conversation, sharing far more than anyone else, even cutting others off, and ultimately oversaturating the room with their perspective.  In the meantime, others may forget their ideas or deem them irrelevant to the direction the conversation has gone.

All of this leads to a problem called “groupthink”.

Groupthink is an actual psychological occurrence that happens when people seek to conform to a singular outcome, even if it’s irrational or mediocre.

Alternatively, you may have a person in the group who simply spends their time shooting down everyone else’s ideas without offering a suggestion of their own.

That’s why you need some rules and strategy.

How to Brainstorm Better: Add Some Structure

Adding structure and additional rules to a brainstorming session might seem counter-intuitive, but hear us out.  By establishing some ground rules, you can consciously avoid the pitfalls of brainstorming.

When the session starts, make sure everyone has something to write on so they can jot quick thoughts down if someone else is already talking.  If there’s a fear that one or two voices will dominate the conversation, maybe the solution is to limit the amount of ideas that can by shared per person.

If you’re afraid a lot of your team won’t say anything, make it a requirement for everyone to share an idea.  You’ll be surprised by what a person might come up with when they have to come up with something.

And for those teammates who spend all their energy shooting down others’ concepts, you could establish a rule that you can’t reject an idea unless you have an alternative suggestion.

Looking to take it a step further?  Here’s one method we suggest:

The Sticky Note Brainstorm

At the start of the session, give everyone a sticky-note pad and a pen.  Then, present the group with a problem or question and tell them they have 30-60 seconds to write down as many solutions as possible.

When the time’s up, move to your next question or problem, and keep going until you’ve exhausted all of the topics.

Once that’s done, collect all of the sticky notes and start to arrange them on the wall.  As you do, you’ll begin to see patterns emerge and applicable solutions arise.  From there, you can discuss and refine as a group, knowing that everyone has had a chance to contribute to the discussion in a pure, efficient manner.

Knowing When It’s Time to Walk Away

If you’re having a brainstorming session and it’s not going anywhere, don’t hesitate to pause or post-pone things till a later time and day.  People, even in groups, hit creative walls.  The best solution for that is to simply break, decompress and comeback later.

Brainstorming can still serve a purpose in the modern conference room.  You just need to utilize some business leadership skills like awareness and planning, and you can set your team up for success.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a modern twist on brainstorming. The yellow sticky note approach may still apply but there are also online software tools that you can use just as effectively. In his book Will It Fly?, Pat Flynn discusses mind mapping in more detail.

Whether it’s mind mapping, brainstorming, ideation or anything else, the idea is the same – to get as many ideas out on the table as possible so that you can better define whatever it is you are creating or better attack whatever issue or challenge you are facing.

The Importance of Day-to-Day Operations

January 27th, 2016 Posted by Business is ART, Engagement, Strategic Planning 0 thoughts on “The Importance of Day-to-Day Operations”

Having the right business tools is vital to a company’s day-to-day operations, and when it comes to running a business, it’s those daily tasks that really matter.

Too many businesses fall into the habit of thinking too much on strategy and not enough on operations. It’s a really easy trap to fall into. You make plans, then you make some more plans, and all the while your eyes fixed are on the horizon, but you’ve forgotten what is right in front of you.

And that’s how businesses crash and burn.

Think Big, then Act Small

While your vision is the ultimate way to go from startup to success, it’s the small, day-to-day tasks that actually get you there.

Think of your business vision as a roadmap and your day-to-day operations as the car that takes you to your destination. The map is a blueprint that shows you the way, but the car is the one doing all the work. In order to make sure that you get to where you are going, that car is going to need gas, oil changes and all sorts of other maintenance along the way.

BIAThese bits of maintenance are your daily operations, and they really do matter to your business.

Formulating your Day-to-Day Operations

The Business is ART book talks a lot about business visions and strategies for success, but it also covers how your business should operate on a day-to-day basis.

And it all starts with delegation and accountability.

On the “One Page Strategic Plan”, located in the “Freebies” section of the website, you will notice that there are multiples areas for strategic objectives and initiatives, each of which can be assigned to members of your team (or yourself).

These are the building blocks from which successful business operations are built. But they are not listed on the plan just so that you can keep track of who is in charge of what. They are there to remind team members every day of what needs to get done.

The biggest mistake that a business leader can make if failing to communicate the needs of the business from day to day. Employees need to know what is essential for success. The purpose of assigning tasks to a person’s name is not to scare them into feeling that they have to get it done but to keep them accountable to themselves and the their team.

Take Care of Your Clients, Not Just Your Sales

It’s the daily work you do that helps you retain your customers, and it is important to not allow the business to become overloaded on the back end. Sure, making a lot of sales and driving in new business is an effective method of growth, but healthy growth is sustained only by taking care of the clients that you have.

Once your resources and manpower become stretched to the point where your team cannot keep up with the day-to-day operations, you have entered the territory of unhealthy growth.

Equip Yourself with the Right Tools

The Business is ART book is a great way to learn the ropes of running a successful business, but it is the BIA Software (which will be available soon) that will act as a guide for your day-to-day operations. The templates it provides will help you keep your business on track. For now, you can always check out the other BIA resources that are available for free.

Creating a One-page Strategic Plan that’s Easy to Understand

December 30th, 2015 Posted by Strategic Planning, Strategy 0 thoughts on “Creating a One-page Strategic Plan that’s Easy to Understand”

The strategic planning process is one of the most important aspects of starting a successful business. The trouble is, most entrepreneurs dislike taking the time to make proper plans.

When you formulate the vision for your company, it’s easy to get wrapped up in where you will begin and where you could go. That’s because having a business idea is exciting, and imagining where that idea could take you is even more so.

we had a strategic planning meeting last nightNow, take that excitement a step further, have fun with it, and develop a strategy. Spoiler alert! If you have an existing business, you should have both a Strategic Plan and a Business Plan. If you are a start-up, or planning one, create the Strategic Plan first because you may not need a Business Plan…yet!

Why Do I Even Need a Strategic Plan?

Whether you have an existing business or you’re starting a business, you can’t become too enamored with the beginning and the end. Just like anything in life, the journey is far more important than the start and finish. The strategic plan represents the journey. More to the point, it is the method by which you close the gap between your vision and today’s reality.

Many people make the mistake that a strategic plan is only developed when the business is started, but the fact is, a strategic plan is necessary throughout the life of the business. What’s more is that, once you have your initial team assembled, you will find it is hard for them to envision exactly what is going on in your head. You have to establish a set of procedures that will carry you all to your end goals.

And that is where the one-page strategic plan comes in handy.

But Why One Page?

The U.S. Tax Code is thousands of pages long, and not easy to understand. A Haiku is 3 lines long, and far too ambiguous for many to comprehend.

So in the case of your strategic plan, a single page will do. It’s the perfect length for a resume or a checklist, and it’s the perfect way to express your vision as well as your plan to achieve it.

In fact, I’ve even got a free template of the one-page strategic plan all set up for you in our Resources section of the website. It’s easy to download and fill in, and even easier to understand.

So Let’s Get Started on Your Strategic Plan

Once you have the template downloaded and in front of you, notice that there are sections for your vision, goals, strategic objectives and strategic initiatives. Each of these sections is an integral part of what your company will become, and each is further explained in the Business is ART book.

In the meantime, you can use the template to fill in your specific goals, set objectives that will help you reach those goals and even assign initiatives to your team. Remember that nothing is achieved by simply planning. Everything requires action and it is for that reason that my template includes a place for you to identify Strategic Initiatives. These are the projects you will undertake in order to achieve your strategic goals and objectives.

Achieving Your Vision

Articulating your vision and creating a strategic plan are only the initial steps in running a successful business. In order to achieve and maintain your success, you also have to revise your strategies and track your performance metrics to see what is working and what isn’t. All of this can be achieved by using the Business is ART software.

Additional Resources

The strategic plan was the topic of one of my online radio broadcasts. Find the Business is ART show at TrueChatInc.com and look for Segment 10, entitled “Strategery”. In this segment, I walk you through the template and provide you with some tips and pointers.

The Purpose of the Strategy

November 21st, 2015 Posted by Business is ART, Engagement, Inspiration, Leadership, Significance, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Vision 0 thoughts on “The Purpose of the Strategy”
1st Lt. Andrew K. Umstead

1st Lt. Andrew K. Umstead

In my weekly personal blog entitled #Significance, the focus is on life and not necessarily business. But in this week’s post, there is a direct business lesson to be gained that is completely consistent with Business is ART – the purpose of the strategic plan is to close the gap between vision and reality.

Read more at the #Significance blog site and see how my Army officer son has employed this theory while he and his team focused on the success of others.

Plan Canvas is a community and a powerful software for improving your odds of business success and personal fulfillment.

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