Archive for the ‘Strategic Objectives’ Category

Getting Everything Done

Friday, March 10th, 2017

By Robert W. Bradford, President & CEO

Strategic Planning Expert
Robert W. Bradford

One of the sticky problems most people face in strategic planning is execution.  Over 80% of executives we survey in our seminars cite strategy implementation as their biggest issue with strategic planning.  Meeting strategic objectives is difficult enough that many companies bypass this part of the strategy process and focus most of their effort on key performance metrics.  While performance metrics – such as Balanced Scorecard – can play a useful role in implementing strategy, they tend to fall short in the areas of true strategic change and innovation.  This is because good strategies – for many companies – may involve forays into new technologies, markets and processes.

In such situations, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to manage change through the use of metrics – especially since the management team, while familiar with their current operational metrics, may have little experience with understanding the numbers in new areas.  A good example of this can be seen in the transition from using print and broadcast advertising to advertising using SEO and social networks.  An experienced hand at print advertising could, indeed, make good inroads in digital marketing, but the numbers will at first seem meaningless – and then, possibly, much too large or small.  This is because the nature of interaction changes when you make such a big strategic shift – and the value of the eyeballs you may be accessing with your advertising can change dramatically based upon how they are targeted.  The metrics of the one world simply don’t help manage the metrics of the other, except at a very basic accounting level.

Getting real strategic objectives completed, then, is rarely a matter of moving the needle on a metric.  It’s much more likely to be a learning activity where the objective is simply knowing how to do the things needed – and then, ideally defining a path to mastery.

Without question, the greatest tools for getting this kind of objective done are project-based, and tend to have three things in common:

  1. Sound objective setting
  2. Realistic resource allocation
  3. Routine progress review

A process that assures a simple, but robust approach to these things will greatly enhance real strategic activity directed towards your objectives.  How does your process stack up?

To learn ways to take your strategic planning to the next level please listen to our webinar:  Why my strategic planning isn’t working.

Robert Bradford is President/CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at rbradford@cssp.com.

© Copyright 2017 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution

The Strategic Value of Values – Part 3

Friday, October 14th, 2016

By Thomas E. Ambler, Senior Consultant

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

Note:  This article is part of a series taken from Thomas E. Ambler’s article The Strategic Value of  Values originally published in Compass Points in April 2002.  In Part 1, we introduced the series.  In Part 2, we discussed Values’ Value.  In this post we will discuss Market Value.

Market Value

Now let’s shift attention specifically to the impact of Values in the marketplace. If you have been highly successful in the marketplace you likely have consistently done an excellent job at answering three Strategic Questions:

  • What are you going to sell?
  • Who is your market?
  • How are you going to beat or avoid your competition?

All three questions are totally wrapped up with Values. For example, will you offer only products and services that provide social benefit? Which customers (and suppliers) should you “fire” because they cause you to constantly spin your wheels over a misfit of Values? What benefits can you provide that differentiate you and your offering from your competitors’. Even if you have to compete on a Commodity basis, where price is king, what can you do to get your act together internally to reduce your customer’s total transaction costs and still satisfy your Values, including profitability?

Everywhere you look you see anecdotal evidence that Values and market success are causally related. Scores of our clients report that their Values such as trustworthiness and integrity are the reason their customers choose them over their competitors.

Values will become even more critical determinants of market success in the future as the marketplace evolves. What is known as the Experience Economy is superseding the Service Economy and will itself be superseded by an emerging Transformation Economy, in which the highest product forms are the customers themselves, transformed the way they want to be. So it is not hard to conceive of markets where Values become the most important, explicit part of an organization’s offering.

Conclusion? Values of organizations cause market success today and in the future.

The next topic in this series will be Internal Value.

For information on how to take your strategic planning to the next level, please listen to our webinar: Why Isn’t My Strategic Planning Working?

© Copyright 2016 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.

Tom Ambler is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at ambler@cssp.com

March to a Different Drummer – Part Four

Friday, August 12th, 2016

By Denise Harrison

Denise Harrison

Note:  This article is part of a series taken from Denise Harrison’s article March to a Different Drummer originally published in Compass Points in August 2002.  Although this article was written in 2002, this discussion is timeless.  In Part One, published July 1, 2016, we introduced the series.  In Part Two, published July 22, we discussed some Historical Examples.  Part Three, published July 29,2016, discussed Don’t Follow the Leader and this post will discuss How to find the right marching beat for your company.

Situation Analysis

First evaluate external forces: What impacts your business from the outside?

Examine your core business by describing your market segments. Market segments are groups of customers with similar needs and preferences. Write down what your customers in each segment now and what they will require in the future. Next evaluate your competition; what are their strengths and weaknesses? Where is each company’s soft underbelly? Next you need to assess trends in technology, supplier issues, economic trends, and any recent or pending changes in the regulatory environment.

Regulatory change was the catalyst that spurred all of the airlines, not only Piedmont, to revise their strategies.

Next look internally; what are your company’s strengths and weaknesses? What is the key intellectual capital that sets you apart from the competition? Again, IIS found that it was the relentless dedication to zero defects and customer satisfaction that set them apart from the competition.

Assumptions for the Future

Next look to the future; how will trends change? What will customers require? What new opportunities should you pursue to achieve your growth and profit goals? What prospects are right for you to consider, given the strengths and intellectual capital that you identified.

Careful analysis leads to focus. Focus allows you to purposefully select the best road to travel.

Strategy Development

A clearly defined strategy that optimizes the future potential of the business is the goal.

This clearly defined strategy includes answers to the following:

  1. What are you going to do in your core businesses?
  2. What new opportunities will you pursue?
  3. What must you accomplish internally to achieve steps 1 and 2?

Developing a strategy is defining not only what the company will do, but also what it will not do. Making definitive choices is one of the most important aspects of strategic planning. Choosing the best road for your company may or may not be the road less traveled, but it will be the right road for your company. Your company’s ability to capitalize on its unique mix of assets and capabilities will give it sustainable competitive advantage in its markets.

To learn how to take your strategic planning to the next level, please listen to our webinar:  Why Isn’t My Strategic Plan Working?.

Denise Harrison is a senior consultant for the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  She can be reached at  harrison@cssp.com.

© Copyright 2016 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.

Implementation Advantage – Part 5

Friday, June 24th, 2016

By Robert W. Bradford, President & CEO

Strategic Planning Expert Robert W. Bradford

Strategic Planning Expert
Robert W. Bradford

Note: This article was originally posted in Compass Points in May 2006.  We are discussing the root causes of poor implementation in a series of posts.  Part 5 covers the fifth root cause of poor implementation.

The plan attempts too much too quickly

This is probably the second most common issue, and, as we said, sometimes difficult to distinguish from issue 3 (The implementation is given insufficient resources). As managers, and as teams, we all seem to have eyes that are much bigger than our stomachs. If five objectives are good, ten must be better, right?

Well, wrong… ten objectives are almost always worse, from an implementation perspective, than five. There are two key reasons for this. First, we psychologically tend to focus more on items when they are limited in quantity. Everyone in your company is likely to know your company’s objectives if you only have four or five. If you have forty-two (we call this a “laundry list”), chances are no one will know most of them, and few will even care. This is not because your employees are bad – rather, it’s because it’s not humanly possible for a group of people to remember and properly prioritize forty-two objectives.

The solution for this issue is simple, but often difficult. Don’t let yourself tackle more objectives than you can handle. If you had trouble with nine last year, try seven this year. In our experience, implementation is optimized somewhere between five and ten objectives, depending on the organization, its culture and resources.

In the past few posts, we have discussed just a few of the most common implementation issues we run into in our work as strategy consultants, assisting companies like your own in strategic planning. It’s not exhaustive, but hopefully, as you get out your plans for this year, you will think about taking some of the steps outlined here to improve your implementation.

Is your company having a hard time implementing your strategic plan?  Let us know how you are dealing with it – or, better yet, attend our amazing, data-driven workshop on Simplified Strategic Planning to learn how to develop and implement your strategic plan.  Our highly acclaimed Simplified Strategic Planning approach has helped many hundreds of organizations improve their strategies and bottom line results with effective, actionable strategies.  Please listen to our webinar:  Why my strategic planning isn’t working.

Robert Bradford is President/CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at rbradford@cssp.com.

© Copyright 2016 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution

Implementation Advantage – Part 4

Friday, June 17th, 2016

By Robert W. Bradford, President & CEO

Note: This article was originally posted in Compass Points in May 2006.  We are discussing the root causes of poor implementation in a series of posts.  Part 4 covers the fourth root cause of poor implementation.

Strategic Planning Expert Robert W. Bradford

Strategic Planning Expert
Robert W. Bradford

Managers change their objectives too quickly

In some companies, the main strategy implementation amounts to a kind of corporate “short attention span”.  Many of these companies don’t make much headway in their strategy implementation because they are never heading in one direction long enough for the strategy to pick up steam.

A common symptom of this implementation issue is a company that seems to be perpetually in the middle of dramatic changes. In a company with a sound, consistent strategy, change is occurring, but change tends to flow around the strategy, because the strategy represents a stable, unchanging reality, such as “Starbucks customers like good coffee in a good environment”.

Another symptom is the classic “flavor of the month” syndrome, where the company shifts direction every month or two based upon the viewpoint of the management guru that is currently in favor with the top executives. This is a dangerous problem, as many of today’s management gurus espouse strategic outlooks that are diametrically opposed. For example, “The Experience Economy” espouses a strong, service-centered specialty strategy, while “Nuts!” centers on a focused commodity strategy. You might succeed in shoehorning both of these outlooks into one company, but you are just as likely to end up with a train wreck.

The annual planning process, and strict discipline around that process, is the best antidote we know to “short attention span”. The key here is to make sure you have sound strategic reasons for every change you make in your objectives (and no, “there’s a lot of money to be made” is NOT a sound strategic reason). Likewise, test every change against the wisdom that is inherent in your own strategy. If it fits, great – but when it doesn’t, be very wary of making changes because of small, temporary changes in your marketplace or (worse) your reading list.

In the upcoming weeks, we will discuss other root causes of poor implementation.

Is your company having a hard time implementing your strategic plan?  Let us know how you are dealing with it – or, better yet, attend our amazing, data-driven workshop on Simplified Strategic Planning to learn how to develop and implement your strategic plan.  Our highly acclaimed Simplified Strategic Planning approach has helped many hundreds of organizations improve their strategies and bottom line results with effective, actionable strategies.  Please listen to our webinar:  Why my strategic planning isn’t working.

Robert Bradford is President/CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at rbradford@cssp.com.

© Copyright 2016 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution

Implementation Advantage – Part 2

Friday, May 27th, 2016

By Robert W. Bradford, President & CEO

Note: This article was originally posted in Compass Points in May 2006.  We are discussing the root causes of poor implementation in a series of posts.  Part 2 covers the second root cause of poor implementation.

Strategic Planning Expert Robert W. Bradford

Strategic Planning Expert
Robert W. Bradford

The implementation lacks follow-through

Sometimes, we see companies that do a decent job of linking their strategies to objectives and action plans, but still lose steam in the implementation part of the planning cycle. A lack of follow-through is one of the most common causes of this “petering out”.

The best indication of poor follow-through is action plans that haven’t been updated since the plan was completed, or perhaps a month or two afterwards. The team set up their implementation plans with good intentions, but then dropped the ball as more urgent activities drove strategy implementation out of their minds. This is common because the very best strategies are never urgent – they are undertaken well ahead of time, because time and money can usually be traded off in strategy implementation. Companies that choose to spend time when they have it – even when the strategic initiative is not urgent – are almost always more efficient.

To remedy the lack of follow-through requires commitment from the highest level of the management team. If the owner, president, or CEO insists upon a serious, routine periodic review of progress on strategy implementation, it is highly unlikely that your company will drop the ball. Practically speaking, this means you must keep to the monthly monitoring process that we outline in the Simplified Strategic Planning seminar and manual.

In the upcoming weeks, we will discuss other root causes of poor implementation.

Is your company having a hard time implementing your strategic plan?  Let us know how you are dealing with it – or, better yet, attend our amazing, data-driven workshop on Simplified Strategic Planning to learn how to develop and implement your strategic plan.  Our highly acclaimed Simplified Strategic Planning approach has helped many hundreds of organizations improve their strategies and bottom line results with effective, actionable strategies.  Please listen to our webinar:  Why my strategic planning isn’t working.

Robert Bradford is President/CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at rbradford@cssp.com.

© Copyright 2016 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution

What is a “SMART” Objective?

Friday, February 19th, 2016

By M. Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

In strategic planning, we often talk about “SMART” objectives.  But when it comes down to actually picking our objectives, are we really being smart, or are we simply reaching for an easy way out?

We define an objective as a task or project that is necessary to accomplish, but for which we do not have an established procedure.  The task is supposed to be strategic in nature, meaning that it is necessary to accomplish the task in order to further our progress in our strategies.

What are the characteristics of a “SMART” objective”?  Convention says that each objective should be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-related.  We will examine what each of these characteristics means and how they contribute to the overall strategy of the organization.

SPECIFIC: When an objective is specific, it is well-defined about what has to be achieved to accomplish the task.  This requires the objective to be stated well enough that everyone who works on completing this objective understands what is to be accomplished, how it is to be accomplished and why it is a part of the overall strategy of the organization.

MEASURABLE: When an objective is truly measurable, it means that the outcome of the task not only is well-defined (specific), but that its contribution to the overall strategy of the organization is clear and unambiguous.  There should be some form of metric which can measure how well the objective’s results contribute to the success of the organization.

ACHIEVABLE: The resources of the organization must be sufficient to actually carry out the objective.  If the company can’t dedicate both the capital and people to execute the steps of the action plan which provides a roadmap of the steps necessary to achieve the objective, then it really doesn’t meet the goal of being achievable.  Appropriate inputs of funds and time must be allocated in order to actually complete the action plan covering the objective.

RELEVANT: Is the objective appropriate and necessary to carry out the strategies of the organization?  If not, it is not relevant to the goals of the organization and likely should be dropped in favor of an objective which will further the organization’s strategies.

TIME-RELATED: Every objective, indeed every step of every action plan, should have a time for action and dates for completion.  Without the guidance and pressure of these time-related factors, actions will often be postponed and neglected.  The efficacy of the objective will be compromised and the strategies of the organization hindered.  These are not the outcomes desired when the organization started strategic planning, and should be avoided whenever possible.

If you are having difficulties achieving your objectives, contact me at baldwin@cssp.com or at 616-575-3193 to discuss how we may help you be more effective in your strategic planning and in the execution of your strategic plans and objectives.

To learn ways to take your strategic planning to the next level please listen to our webinar:  Why my strategic planning isn’t working.

M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at: baldwin@cssp.com

© Copyright 2016 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.

Communicating Your Strategic Plan With Employees – Part Two

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

By Robert W. Bradford, President & CEO

Strategic Planning Expert Robert W. Bradford

Strategic Planning Expert
Robert W. Bradford

This article was originally posted in Course and Direction May 2004 and this is Part Two of that article.

It’s critically important that employees understand your strategy. Employees who understand your strategy will be able to make better day-to-day decisions that will support your vision. But, while most of us understand this – at least intellectually – we often have difficulty effectively communicating our strategies to people outside of the strategic planning team. This may be especially difficult if you feel that parts of your strategy are sensitive and should not be shared with people outside of your management team. In addition, it may be undesirable to load employees with the task of thoroughly understanding all of your strategic planning documents when many employees only touch on one small operational area. How can we reconcile these difficulties?   In Part One of this article, we covered three ways to better communicate your strategy.

Here are a few additional tips that will help you communicate your strategy more effectively:

  1. Use a few defined categories:You will lose a little detail by having five market segments rather than ten. What you will gain is a framework that your employees can and will remember – which means they are more likely to use it in their day-to-day thinking, as well. Remember, one of the key reasons why you are communicating your strategy with your employees is that they will, in fact, have to support it with their actions. Employees who can’t remember your strategy because it is too complex certainly will have difficulty supporting your strategy.
  2. Say what you don’t do:Don’t give a lengthy list of good intentions. Instead of defining strategy in terms of the obvious, cut to the chase and let your people know the things your company isn’t going to do. It may be harder to come up with, but it will give a much clearer sense of your strategy, faster. Many companies use the “good intention laundry list” to avoid admitting that they haven’t made any real decisions – and their employees know it. It’s a very good idea to let your people know your strategic focus in clear, unambiguous language.
  3. Make the difference between you and your competitors clear:If your strategy doesn’t set you apart from the competition, it won’t work – so make sure your employees understand how they can help put some teeth into your differentiation. This is especially important for your people in sales. Knowing that your company has clear points of distinction from competitors will also help your employees to be proud of who you are.
  4. Limit yourself:Don’t try to list everything you can do or should do – define your strategy in terms of a simple vision with a limited number of objectives. Companies that set themselves more than 10 objectives tend to do far worse on implementation, and in fact many companies should have only five or six objectives. Not only won’t you be in danger of running out of things to do – you are also unlikely to ever hear the complaint that your strategy was too clear.
  5. Make objectives concrete and measurable:Vague objectives may make your management team comfortable by giving them “wiggle room”, but concrete, measurable objectives with deadline dates are better for quickly clarifying the results you are seeking as well as who is accountable. If you have difficulty with this, try to identify a measurable objective that is close to the half-way point. By all means, make your objectives a bit of a stretch, but leave your employees feeling confident that you will, in fact, achieve most – if not all – of the objectives you are communicating with them.

In our experience, companies that share their strategy with their employees get far greater alignment with their vision. This makes implementation much easier, and helps to give your vision a life of its own. If you want to get all of your employees – and not just your planning team – helping to move your vision forward, try communicating your strategy with them this week!

If your company needs to improve its strategies, contact us for great, experienced leadership through the strategy development process.  Our highly acclaimed Simplified Strategic Planning approach has helped many hundreds of organizations improve their strategies and bottom line results with effective, actionable strategies.  Please listen to our webinar:  Why my strategic planning isn’t working.

Robert Bradford is President/CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at rbradford@cssp.com.
© Copyright 2015 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution

Lessons Learned in Aligning an Organization. Two Way Communication is Key – Part 3

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Part 3: Developing the solution

By Denise A. Harrison

Strategic Planning Expert Denise Harrison

Strategic Planning Expert
Denise Harrison

How do you develop a process for strategic alignment in your company? Here are some thoughts as to how you can engage each department:

  1. Strategy Review
    1. Start by reviewing the corporate strategy, goals and objectives. Make sure that the associates understand the big picture.
  2. Situation Analysis
    1. Hold a team meeting for each department. Start by reviewing the corporate strategy, goals and objectives.
    2. Ask the department who its customers are: internal and external
    3. What are the needs and preferences of the different customer groups?
    4. What are the technology issues?
    5. Are there any supplier issues?
    6. Are there any issues driven by the economy?
    7. Are there any regulatory issues?
    8. What are the departments’ strengths and weaknesses?
    9. What new opportunities could the department pursue?
  3. Departmental Objective Development
    1. What are the 3-5 most important projects for the department to complete in the next 9-12 months?
    2. How do these objectives support the overall corporate strategy? (If they do not should they be departmental objectives?)
  4. Implementation and Planning
    1. Develop action plans for each objective.
    2. Are you dependent on any other department to achieve any of the objectives?
    3. Get approval to move forward with the objectives.

This process gains each department key objectives to accomplish during the next 9-12 months. It also enables the senior management team to make course corrections if they find that a department is not aligned with the company’s strategy. It also allows the senior management team to adjust corporate strategy if a department uncovers issues that need to be addressed at the corporate level.

In addition, it will help each department and the senior management team resolves interdepartmental issues before they become problems.

Developing a strategy will help your company optimize its future. Ensuring that the whole company is aligned with corporate strategy will help you achieve corporate goals and objectives in a shorter time frame.

If you are interested in taking your strategic planning to the next level, please listen to our webinar:  Why Isn’t My Strategic Plan Working or contact Denise Harrison; 910-763-5194, harrison@cssp.com .

Denise Harrison is a senior consultant for the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  She can be reached at  harrison@cssp.com.

© Copyright 2015 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.

Part Three: Better Strategic Planning in the Smaller Company

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Robert W. Bradford, President & CEO

Strategic Planning Expert Robert W. Bradford

Strategic Planning Expert
Robert W. Bradford

In two prior articles we discussed the key differences between strategic planning for somewhat larger companies and the smaller companies we are concentrating on here and listed the first four tips we have developed for making Simplified Strategic Planning easier for smaller companies. In this article, we will list the remaining four tips.

  1. Push yourself — and your team — to keep the strategies as focused as possible. A two million dollar company CAN play in a billion dollar market, but it’s much more likely to succeed in a ten million dollar market. Always ask the question ”Can we realistically expect to dominate this market in five years?”.
  2. Don’t have too many objectives — smaller companies will be well served to have 3-5 objectives. If you finish these, you can always start to work on the next set of objectives earlier.
  3. Pay close attention to implementation — because there aren’t excess resources which can be dedicated to strategic activity, routine functions will always demand a higher proportion of your team’s time. You will need to be very careful about allocating time to action plans, and must be highly disciplined about having monthly monitoring of action plan progress to keep the ball rolling.
  4. Outsource as much as you are comfortable with in the process itself. It’s hard enough to learn how to be the best at the things your company does, so consider outsourcing at least some of the planning process and possibly the market research to people who do those things professionally.

Remember, strategic planning should be viewed as a routine part of your year, rather than a separate event, so make sure the process fits into your normal business cycle with a minimum of hassle. If you use these tips, you should complete the process described in our seminars in a reasonable amount of time and get tremendous benefit.

To learn ways to take your strategic planning to the next level please listen to our webinar:  Why my strategic planning isn’t working.

Robert Bradford is President/CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at rbradford@cssp.com.
Note:  This article was previously printed in full in Course and Direction in September 2006.
© Copyright 2015 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution