Posts Tagged ‘strategic plan’

Team Building at the Executive Level

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Strategic Planning Expert

M Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant

Executive team building principles: What are some basics?  While one could write reams on executive team building, and indeed, many have, much of what shakes out of a deep analysis of the subject results in the whole thing being boiled down to some basic principles.  Although a short article like this can only skim the surface of the subject, here are some key points to consider.

First Principle: Have the right people on the team or, as Jim Collins wrote, “have the right people on the bus.”  This presumes you have developed a solid course and direction on which the bus should be driven. Many different attributes can be used to determine who those people are, and every company or organization will have its own definitions of what attributes pertain best to that organization.  In general terms, all need to be expert in their primary areas of responsibility.  All need to have sufficient experience to allow them to see and understand the perspectives of their teammates as well.  All must have the ability to communicate effectively both at the executive team level as well as in other layers of the organization.

By implication, having the right people on the bus also means getting the “wrong” people off the bus.  Nothing can throw a rock into the gears of an operation like having someone who simply doesn’t fit.  This definitely does not imply that anyone should be a “yes person”, but on occasion, people simply do not fit the culture of the organization at the top levels.

Second Principle: People at the top of an organization have no more hours available in the day than others in the organization.  To be effective, they should be concentrating on those vital activities which only they can do, and be willing and able to delegate effectively the rest to others in their part of the organization or consider not doing that part of the function at all.  An inability to delegate effectively will limit the productivity of the executive and hamper the results of the whole organization.

Third Principle: Monitor output and results tirelessly.  That does not mean that one should micro-manage.  It does imply that on a regular basis, with frequency determined by the importance of the project or duty, one should keep abreast of what progress is being made, what is scheduled to be done in the next time period, what problems have arisen and what is being done about solving the problems or even, changing the duty or project action plan to meet changing conditions.

If your team is having challenges with any of the principles above, you should first be sure your organization has a sound course and direction toward which you are aiming.  To do this, a comprehensive strategic plan with a robust execution process is vital.  We can help you achieve your strategic plan.  Give me a call at 616-575-3193 or email me at baldwin@cssp.com.

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

March to a Different Drummer – Part Two

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

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.

Historical Examples

Many East Coast readers fondly remember Piedmont Airlines. When airline deregulation looked Piedmont in the face, Piedmont knew that in this new competitive environment they would face challenges from larger, better-financed airlines. How could they compete?

Larger airlines chose to compete in the busiest airports. This head-to-head competition led to inevitable price wars. Piedmont, on the other hand, continued to build its network in the Southeast servicing many airports that other airlines would not even consider. Their strategy paid off as the company was voted “Best Airline,” clearly differentiating itself as the high quality service provider in the industry. Next, US Airways purchased them, and you know the rest of the story!

Market trends are some of the key factors to look at when developing a strategic plan. But in addition to studying the market’s attractiveness, a company must also look inside to assess its own strengths and weaknesses. Compete on strengths and avoid areas of weakness. All of the airlines developed their respective strategies by evaluating the markets, looking at demographics and transportation trends. But Piedmont also chose to avoid competing with better-financed airlines in popular hubs. Instead, it decided to service the area where it was already well established, an area that was less attractive to its larger competitors.

Southwest – yes, another airline story-noted the hub-and-spoke configurations of the major airlines and decided to compete with a no frills, point-to-point service. They targeted the “no frills” traveler in every route they flew-no seat assignments, no first class, no food (well, okay, peanuts) just cheap, efficient service. They developed their model to keep costs low, using only one type of aircraft to maintain, one type of plane on which to train their pilots and flight attendants. Did this service appeal to all travelers? No, of course not, but Southwest excelled at providing low-cost service for the cost-sensitive flyer. Have they been successful? Yes, they are consistently profitable, often the most profitable airline in the industry.

Alamo Rental Car identified the budget-sensitive traveler in the rental car industry. Hertz, Avis, and National were focused on the business traveler who was willing to pay for the convenience of onsite rental. Alamo saw people paying for rental cars out of their own pockets while on vacation and determined that many non-business renters were willing to trade the convenience of on-site rental for lower cost off-site rental. Here again, another success story unfolds because a company looked at the market and created new ways to serve customers whose needs were not met by current suppliers.

We will continue this series with “Don’t follow the leader!” in a future post.

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.

Five Ways to Think More Strategically Every Day

Friday, May 6th, 2016

By Robert W. Bradford, President & CEO, Center for Simplified Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning Expert Robert W. Bradford

Strategic Planning Expert
Robert W. Bradford

One of my favorite parts of my work is speaking at conventions.  Interestingly, I’ve noticed far more interest in hearing about strategic thinking than strategic planning in the past few years.  While this trend is likely because most people are doing strategic planning the wrong way, it’s still interesting to ponder why people have difficulty thinking strategically.

Ultimately, the difficult part of strategic thinking is that it’s not what we are hard-wired to do.  Scott Halford, author of “Activate Your Brain”, points out that there are excellent biological reasons for this.  Our brains developed during a time when the immediate threat of being eaten by a lion was very real and immediate for humans.  The strongest and fastest parts of our brains, as a result, tend to be those that help us respond to threats, since deep analysis could well be fatal in those “lion is attacking you NOW” situations.

In today’s world, however, there are precious few lion-induced fatalities.  Indeed, most of us would be far better off paying far more attention to good strategic thinking, but that means getting past the well-meaning defenses our brains have set up for us.  Here are a few, simple things you can do to accomplish this:

  1. Learn to focus

The term “focus” is incredibly misused, even in strategy.  It sounds so good – but focus is so hard for most of us.  The problem of focus is not one of thinking about whatever you choose to focus on – it’s much more a problem of NOT thinking about the things you aren’t focusing on.  This is a serious skill, and one that requires practice.  If you can build effective shields that keep useless distractions from entering your thinking, you’ll be far ahead in the strategy game.

  1. Use your sword (and not your shield)

In the pre-modern world, soldiers who fought with sword and shield tended to defend better when attacked from their left (shield) side.  While this makes sense, it creates a strong tendency to favor defensive, “hunkered down” thinking that – while creating decent defenses – often interferes with forward-thinking strategies.  If your thinking doesn’t involve attacking effectively with the best weapons you have at your disposal, you may be guilty of defensive thinking.  This can work – for a short while – but ultimately will leave you exposed and vulnerable to threats that you failed to anticipate.

  1. Be more like Einstein

Of course, by this I don’t mean be a genius – though this can help.  What I mean here is that you have to think in relative terms.  Your company doesn’t exist in a vacuum – your choices will change customer, supplier and competitor behaviors in ways you can predict, if you think through the second and third order effects of your strategic choices.  Good strategic thinking tends to demonstrate an awareness that we function within a huge network of decision-making processes which can change our strategic choices in unanticipated ways.

  1. Remember your competitors have motives, too

While this can be seen as an extension of relativistic thinking, some of the most effective strategies I’ve used have simply involved giving your competitor an easy way to succeed by letting you dominate the customers you choose to get.  This isn’t a magic bullet – it requires accepting something that’s bad enough that your competitors wouldn’t choose it – but most competitors would rather take the easy bait than fight you tooth and nail for market share in places where you have strategic advantage.  All you need to do is make sure the bait is the customers you don’t want.

  1. Have a well-considered plan

All of the above approaches work far better when your team has – and understands – a rigorously developed, flexible strategic plan.  A quality strategic plan – which doesn’t mean reams of budgets or oversimplified rah-rah truisms – will give your team the confidence to think strategically about novel situations.  This reaction – a strategic one – is far better for your long-term success than instinctive “the lion is going to eat me” thinking.

Naturally, the details of using all of these approaches are not always easy, and an experienced focused strategist can greatly improve your team’s ability to use these tools.

Does your company think strategically everyday?  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 think strategically.  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

Improve Morale — Increase Motivation! Part Six

Friday, March 25th, 2016

M. Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant, CSSP, Inc.

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

Note:  This article is part of a series taken from Dana Baldwin’s article Improve Morale-Increase Motivation originally published in Compass Points in January 2003.  Although this article was written in 2003, these tips are timeless.

In Part One, we defined morale and motivation and said that one way to improve morale is to build trust between employees and the management.  In Part Two we discussed one way to build trust.  In Part Three, we discussed effective delegation.  In Part Four, we discussed several reasons why managers don’t delegate.  In Part Five, we discussed why some managers have a poor relationship with their subordinates.

In previous posts we’ve discussed what affects morale.  The other side of this coin is motivation.  How does one develop this motivation?  That’s what we will discuss in this post.

Clearly identify your expectations. Expectations are not goals. Goals are the final results you are shooting for. Expectations are the processes and activities needed to attain the goals.

Communicate those expectations to your people in whatever way makes their full understanding most likely. Depending on the situation, you might do this in writing, one on one, or in a group, or in some combination of the three approaches.

Be sure your people ask enough questions to clear up any misconceptions. Don’t just assume that because you told them, they will understand. Everyone comes at a problem from his/her own point of view, and what you understand something to mean may not be the same to someone else. Clarify until there is complete understanding.

Work with the individual or the team to set interim goals or waypoints which can be measured. Set dates for review meetings — keep them short and to the point or you may lose the others. This allows good visibility of the process and the progress to date, and good accountability for those responsible for carrying out the tasks.

Know when to step in and when to stay out. There is a real tendency for some managers to want to jump in and prevent mistakes. Others will allow those responsible for doing the job to delegate upwards, putting the burden on the back of the person who delegated the job to begin with. Either can be a mistake. A good manager will allow some mistakes, as long as they are within certain limits, so the person or people who are charged with the job can see what their mistakes are and learn from them. A good manager will also be available as a counselor to advise the team when asked, without allowing the team to push responsibility back up to the manager.

Another way to enhance motivation includes eliminating non-productive tasks or waste. As stated above, most employees feel themselves to be overburdened today. One way to lessen that impression is to analyze work, and to eliminate those things we don’t need to do, or to improve those things we need to do, but currently do poorly or ineffectively. Avoiding or eliminating waste is seen by the employees as a higher and better use of their time and company resources, and many will respond by working better and smarter themselves.

By having a good, well-developed strategic plan, effectively communicated throughout the company, the vast majority of workers at all levels should understand how their own efforts will have an impact on the success of the company. A well communicated plan brings the fundamentals into focus for most employees. And it gives them something to build on, for themselves. Knowing that the company has planned out where it is going, they will have a much easier time in establishing their personal faith in the future of the company. While this sounds somewhat idealistic, there is, in reality, much more to this than first meets the eye. When a person believes that the company he/she works for has a plan for where it is going, this brings a certain level of security to that individual. Based on that secure feeling, that person is more often willing to make a better effort, do the extra bit to make the company meet its goals and to be more successful. The snowball effect is real, and the company most likely will be more successful, given a realistically generated, effective strategic plan.

We will wrap up this series next week with some Strategic Thinking Points.

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.

Lessons Learned: Flint, Michigan

Friday, March 4th, 2016

By Denise Harrison, Senior Consultant

Strategic Planning Expert Denise Harrison

Strategic Planning Expert
Denise Harrison

How do you anticipate unexpected outcomes from good ideas?  Flint, Michigan under financial duress made many decisions to improve its financial condition.   One decision was to change its water source from Detroit Water Sewerage Department (DWSD) to an alternative, cheaper source.  The three year transition plan was put in place.  What happened?

  • DWSD stopped selling water to Flint before the pipeline was complete to the alternative source
  • Flint chose to use the Flint River as an interim measure
  • Flint chose not to put in an additive to prevent the corrosion of pipes costing about $100.00 a day, even though it was federally mandated
  • Immediately people noticed that the water was discolored, smelly and had a funny taste
  • Even when people raised red flags about high lead levels, warning signs were ignored
  • After finally owning up to the problem, the cost is estimated to be about $100 million to fix, and the negative damage to the health of Flint residents will be long reaching

How could we shoot ourselves in the foot?

Often good ideas have potential negative outcomes, but these outcomes can be mitigated if they are anticipated up front or caught quickly as warning signs develop.  This risk mitigation assessment is important if you want to really benefit from the good idea, rather than getting caught up in the unexpected consequences as Flint did.  What could Flint have done?

  • First, assessed whether or not DWSD would cut the water supply before the infrastructure for the alternative source was complete. Three years is a long time, so having a plan B developed as an interim measure would allow a switch to be made with some forethought rather than as a last minute stopgap measure.
  • When switching to the Flint River source, taking time to truly understand the implications.
  • Comply with federally mandated standards – use the additive!
  • When early warning signs developed, hire an impartial third party firm to truly assess the damage and fix it quickly.

Sadly, we know that none of this occurred.  When you develop a strategic plan with good ideas, be sure to recognize the human tendency to view the ideas with rose-colored glasses and engage in wishful thinking.  Force yourselves to envision and discuss possible negative outcomes and, if you can, mitigate the risk upfront.  Also identify early warning signs of what might indicate a problem and take the necessary actions to insure that you do not have the negative consequences the problems might cause.  There are often unknowns with good ideas, but a proactive approach to resolving problems will allow you to capitalize on the good idea, without bearing the brunt of unexpected outcomes.  Like Flint, you just put the additive in, understand you may not have as much financial benefit as anticipated, and move on.  Sacrificing public health and safety due to financial constraints will hurt Flint and the decision-making leaders far into the future.

If you have questions about how to make your strategic planning process more robust please email Denise Harrison at harrison@cssp.com.

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 2016 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 1

Friday, September 25th, 2015

Part 1: Analysis of the problem
By Denise A. Harrison, Senior Consultant

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

Thoroughly discouraged — that summed up how I felt. For the past two years I had been president of a financial services firm and we had some key success metrics under our belt, the company was now solidly profitable, cycle time had decreased by 60%, we had earned more this past year than in the past decade — so why was I feeling so discouraged?

We had just received the employee survey back, and overall, morale was up, people were motivated, but the answers to two questions still bothered me:

  1. Are you familiar with the company’s strategy?
  2. Do you know what you need to do in your position to move the company forward?

The answers to both questions were no. Susan, director of human resources, looked as perplexed as I felt.

How had we communicated the strategy over the past two years? Each year we had a company-wide meeting to kick off the year. During this meeting I presented the strategy the senior management team had developed for the next three years. In addition, I presented the key objectives for the year. We had a question and answer session following the presentation to handle any questions about the strategic plan. But this was not the only communication; I knew this one presentation was not enough: the strategy needed reinforcement on a regular basis to keep people focused on the longer term objectives rather than the day-to-day firefighting.

Quarterly Reinforcement
To attain this reinforcement and to celebrate our quarterly achievements I set aside two days each quarter for small group meetings where I once again presented the strategy, the key objectives and discussed the progress made during the previous quarter. I knew people felt more comfortable answering questions in smaller groups so I kept these meetings to groups of 8-10. Even with the annual presentation and the quarterly meetings employees did not relate their day-to-day reality with the strategy.

Sadly, Susan and I both knew that even though we thought we were communicating effectively we were not getting the job done. We had to do something different to engage associates at all levels in thinking strategically. We knew that setting the strategy was the top priority of senior management and strategy development with a larger group would become large and unwieldy. We discussed getting more involvement in the research that was need for the process — yes, involving more people in the information needed to develop a strategic plan was a good idea, but still this would not solve the problem.

We already involved a broad range of people in the development of action plans to meet the year’s key objectives, we would continue doing this, but once again, it was not the solution to our problem.

Finally we hit upon the following idea: what if we had each department think about their role in moving the company’s strategy forward and develop its own set of objectives and metrics? Well, it was worth a try.

Next: Attacking the problems.  Read this in our next blog article.

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.

The Importance of Scenarios when Dealing with Uncertainty

Friday, May 1st, 2015

By Denise Harrison, Senior Consultant

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

How can we better deal with uncertainty when we develop our strategic plan?  Many strategic planning teams struggle with this issue.  While it is important to understand what you know as facts and what your assumptions for the future are, I have found that some good scenario planning helps a team prepare for a wider range of possibilities that might occur in the future.  By looking at different scenarios, the team can assess what will work in each scenario and then select the approach that will benefit the company in the most likely scenario, but still balance that approach by not closing out options that will work if another scenario unfolds.

Generating different scenarios

Some teams generate a probable scenario and then move to generate an upside and downside.  For example, the probable scenario is that we achieve 10% growth and the upside is 12.5% and downside in 8%.  While this works, I find that high performing teams that discuss actual events/trends and then develop scenarios corresponding to possible outcomes is a better way of generating scenarios.  Some examples of trends and events include:

  1. Product launch is delayed by 12 months.
  2. Oil prices plummet and stay down longer than our probable scenario (this could be good or bad depending on what your company does and who your customers are).
  3. Acquisition has unexpected fall-out and customers leave and go to competitors.
  4. Customers’ preferences change faster than we anticipate (Blackberry).

You should have your team members come up with ideas for different scenarios.  Generate what these environments will look like out 5-10 years.  Ask the question: What will we need to do to be successful if this is the competitive landscape?  You will notice before you start working, that several of the outcomes will have similar results.  Select scenarios that will generate different actions.

Once you have generated different “success” strategies, then evaluate which scenario is most probable, and then look to see what you can do to accommodate other “success” strategies so that you maintain your flexibility moving forward.   While you may not be able to keep all options open, you may be able to keep some avenues open until time passes and you have a better view of what the future has in store for your company.

Another benefit of this exercise is it allows the team to think more broadly and be more aware of the external factors that impact your business.  This will help the team deal with the changes that will inevitably happen during the planning horizon.  As you start to see movement that makes another scenario unfold, bring the team back together and recast your strategy.  If you anticipate this movement faster than your competition, it will help position your company to gain market share or weather an industry downturn better than your competitors.

If you are interested in discussing more about how to generate scenarios that will enhance your team’s flexibility, please give me a call at: 910-763-5194 or email me at harrison@cssp.com.  For more information about how to enhance your team’s strategic planning process please listen to our webinar: Why My Strategic Planning Is Not Working?

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.

When Your Strategic Plan Execution Stalls

Friday, April 17th, 2015

By M. Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

When your team gets so busy they can’t put in the time to continue their responsibilities to execute their parts of your strategic plan, what do you do?  No surprise, it is up to you to change the atmosphere in which they are working to get them back on task.  What needs to happen?

It is up to you to reinvigorate the team.  One thing to do is to be sure you are meeting at least once a month to review your progress on the strategic plan and each of your action plans.  Accept no excuses for missing this meeting, as this sends the message that the update session is important to you and to your team members.  At this meeting, go over the strategies you have selected for each of your core business segments to be sure that everyone understands what is expected and who is to do each part.  Review your action plans, step by step, to reinforce to the team that it is imperative that steps be accomplished as each person committed to do when you originally scheduled the action plans at the tail end of your strategy development sessions.

Find out what is preventing or hampering the execution of the various items people should be addressing.  Did people overcommit, did they promise time to carry out their action steps which they can no longer deliver?  You need to dive deeply enough into the problems they have to determine what is really happening.  Have their responsibilities changed since the ending of the formal planning sessions?  Have they lost someone in their departments, so their work load has increased since the process started?

Once you have worked out the details of why things aren’t moving, you and each team member need to determine what to do about the roadblocks.  Can responsibilities be spread over more people, so that time may be made available to work at the strategic level?  Are there functions which are being performed today which no longer need to be done?  As technology changes, it is possible that certain operations which have been done historically no longer need to be done, or at least could be done at a reduced level, or done by others who are not involved in carrying out strategic initiatives.

The most important factor, I believe, is that you need to set a good example.  You need to hold scheduled meetings to review progress, address any problems your team members may have, and to hold people accountable for meeting their commitments.  You also need to complete your own assignments on time, to set the tone for holding others accountable.

If you have problems with your execution, we can help.  Give me a call at 616-575-3193 or email me at baldwin@cssp.com.  We also have our booklet: Alignment for Implementation, which may help you with getting your people to make your strategies work.  Contact me to get a copy.

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

Dealing with a Low Cost Competitor

Friday, January 30th, 2015

By M. Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

How can you compete with a low cost, low price competitor? Let’s discuss price wars: They usually don’t work! When your company is competing with a lower cost competitor, you must realize they can sell and make a positive contribution to their bottom line at or below a price where you will break even or lose money. All a price war does is to lower the profitability of everyone in the market segment.

So, how can we compete?  If we are serving different parts of the market, and if it is highly unlikely that our low cost competition will enter those segments, we can probably continue to do what we are doing and not worry too much about the low cost entry.

If we assume that this lower cost entity will eventually come after the segments we serve, or, is currently in our chosen markets, what can we do? The answer is essentially the same in either case.

Often, the first line of defense will be building up the differentiation between their products and services and ours.

You must be able to persuade customers to pay for the higher value we provide.

To get these added features and benefits, you must continually introduce new and innovative products/services.

You must bring your costs in line with the level needed to compete effectively and to support the innovation and development you are pursuing.

These three must be pursued in concert with each other.

What will this mean for your company? Start with an objective analysis of where you stand relative to your competition. Knowledge of your markets needs and preferences should guide your future course and direction in your strategic planning.  A good strategic plan is a necessity when a new player hits your markets, so you may react effectively to defend your position, and to determine where you need to go to remain viable and profitable.  We can help you to develop a realistic, actionable strategic plan.  Contact me to discuss how we may help your company.

For more information on how to take your strategic planning to the next level please listen to our webinar: Why Isn’t My Strategic Planning 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 2015 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.

Sometimes a Road Less Traveled is Best

Friday, October 10th, 2014

By Denise A. Harrison, Senior Consultant

Previously published in Compass Points July 2006

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

Many readers are confronted with 800 pound gorillas in their market place – how should they compete? Should they follow the leader or devise a strategy that capitalizes on their unique capabilities?

Choose the Road Less Traveled

Many readers fondly remember Piedmont Airlines. When airline deregulation looked Piedmont in the face Piedmont knew that in this new competitive environment they would face challenges from larger, better financed airlines. How could they compete?

Larger airlines chose to compete in the busiest airports. This head to head competition led to inevitable price wars. Piedmont, on the other hand, continued to build its network in the southeast servicing many airports that other airlines would not even consider. This strategy paid off as the company was voted ”Best Airline”, clearly differentiating the airline as the high quality service provider in the industry. Next, US Airways purchased them, and you know the rest of the story!

Market trends are some of the key factors to look at when developing a strategic plan. But in addition to looking at the market attractiveness a company must also look inside and assess its own strengths and weaknesses. Compete on strengths and avoid areas of weakness. All of the airlines developed their respective strategies by evaluating the markets, looking at demographics and transportation trends. Piedmont chose to avoid competing with better-financed airlines in popular hubs. Instead it looked to service the area where it was already well established and an area that was less attractive to its larger competitors.

During the 90’s many companies saw the Internet expansion as a key trend to enhance growth. Pundits argued that the new economy was immune to business cycles – the new management mantra was ”get big fast – or go home”. Webvan embodied that mantra – to what end?
”Webvan Group, Inc. said it shut down its online grocery-delivery service and will file for Chapter 11, marking one of the most spectacular and expensive failures of the Internet era…. Webvan poured …$830 million… into high technology warehouse facilities and a 26-city expansion plan that most observers have since said was too ambitious.”(Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2001)

This is only one example of how companies assumed the Internet was the ”land of opportunity” pouring millions of dollars into plans that were ill-conceived and based on invalid business models.

Intelligent Information Systems, Durham, NC

During this dot.com boom Intelligent Information Systems (IIS), a software-consulting firm, was evaluating different potential growth strategies. IIS was clearly differentiated by its high quality standards and its commitment to total customer satisfaction. To many, ”quality” and ”total customer satisfaction” are just buzz words, but to the team at IIS these phrases are driving principles. While many technology firms in the Research Triangle Park were taking advantage of the lucrative public offerings, the senior management team at IIS knew that a public offering would cause the team to lose its focus on customer satisfaction and zero defects. After a public offering, associates would be imagining what they could do with their newfound wealth, watching the stock price daily, hourly, assessing minute to minute his or her net worth. This myopic self-interest would cause the company to lose its competitive advantage. A difficult decision to make during a critical time frame, but 20/20 hindsight shows that the IIS team chose the optimal course and direction for their firm by focusing on the key areas that set the company apart from the competition.

When developing your company’s strategy look for ways your company can capitalize on its unique mix of assets and capabilities. Do not follow the leader; choose the road that works best for your company – often the road less traveled.

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

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

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