A to Z Tips for Strategic Thinkers and Planners

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I just finished teaching Strategic Thinking and Planning for Leaders at UCLA Extension’s Technical Management Program. I’ve now taught this esteemed one-week program twice a year for over 30 years. This time around, the smart geeks and leaders in my course challenged me to capture my key teaching points using the alphabet.

These tips will serve anyone engaged in developing or updating strategic and annual business plans.

Remember that the purpose of planning is to take Action. Turn your analysis and insights into actionable recommendations.

Take a fresh look at your Business Model and adjust as necessary to remain relevant.  Avoid disruption by reinventing or refinishing how you create value.

Decide how to Communicate the results to others with a need to know. My clients most frequent complaint share is that the strategies are not communicated or clear.

Strategic thinking requires making Decisions about resources priorities, and ways to achieve the vision and goals. But deciding what not to do is equally important.

Conduct an Environmental Scan to inform the team of what’s changing in the world that affects you. Don’t get blindsided by a predictable trend or change factor that could have been anticipated.

Focus your strategy on what the organization does well. Avoid getting distracted by bright shiny objects that steer away from core competencies.

Set meaningful and measurable Goals. Follow this sequence: goals, first strategies to achieve them next, followed by projects.

Keep things Honest. Don’t let anyone highjack the process for political gain.

Work from an Issues list. Engage leaders by addressing the hot button concerns that keep them up at night.

Be able to Justify the major decisions. Use objective criteria for deciding among alternatives, not force of personality.

Establish a common base of Knowledge on strategic planning best practices. Getting all key players to use the same planning language and model boosts effectiveness.

Explore Learnings during the former period. Identify the good, the bad, and the ugly and apply those lessons learned.

Refine Measures and monitor the handful of indicators that move the needle toward goals.  Keep the dashboard simple.

Look at the Numbers and understand what they mean. If you grow by 10% but the market increase by 20%, you are slipping behind.

Search for unexploited Opportunities that are ripe for the picking.   Low-hanging fruit often hides behind leaves due for pruning.

Turn decisions into executable PROJECTS and build teams around them. The Logical Framework Approach works wonders for.

Ask fresh Questions, those that barrier provoke busting answers like. Here are the questions must-ask.

Reviews past results. Evaluate both how well the strategies worked, as well as the planning/execution process, itself so there is continuous system improvement.

Get buy-in from key Stakeholders. Get key stakeholders, those people involved with, concerned about, or affected by the results. Solicit their input because people support what they help create.

Identify emerging Threats as part of the SWOT analysis. Surface them with a well-done environmental scan and develop counter measures.

Aim for shared Understanding of the plan and what it means. Find ways to communicate it to others in a way they comprehend.

Revisit the Vision statement and tweak as needed. Turn fluffy statements into management tools by establishing indicators and measures that reflect progress.

Tap into the greater Wisdom of the organization by engaging front-line and mid-level folks provide input. You’ll need their support to implement.

To keep folks entertained, bring lots of Xylophones to play during breaks. (OK – just kidding, X’s are hard. Okay, got one) Use X-Ray vision to delve deeply into topics that matter and discover patterns and solutions.

Maintain a Yearly planning calendar, with periodic updates scheduled in advance. Roll your plan forward in a continuing cadence.

Sprinkle Zest into the process.  Make your live planning workshops engaging, and stimulating through active facilitation, boundary-stretching and surprises.


Need help customizing your strategic planning approach?   Give me a shout and we will discuss how to make it soar.

 

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