Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Strategic Planning - the great chance

Sometimes, when doing strategic planning, we encounter opportunities that scare us. Now, opportunities could scare us for a number of reasons, but I'd like to focus on opportunities that are frightening because we simply cannot know, before committing to the opportunity, whether it will work or not.

What should we do when we face such opportunities? I've noticed three distinct behaviors when such an opportunity comes up: 1. Pretend it won't matter. 2. Embrace it. 3. Figure out a way to try it, cheaply.

Of the three, I'd say #3, The Cheap Trial Run, is by far the best. I think this is because I'm partial to the scientific method - form a hypothesis, figure out a way to test it (ideally with a control!) and compare the results. The more we can do this in our business lives, the better off we will be.

Option #2 is better than #1, in the long run, unless the cost of embracing the opportunity is unaffordably high. I say this because we, as humans, have a terrible penchant for sticking with the tried and true. In business, this is almost always the enemy of innovation, and time and again I see companies get in trouble because they insist on the "safe" route which ultimately leads down the path of staleness and lost market share.

Have you seen other behaviors? How do you respond to the big unknown opportunities in your business? Some thinking about this - and the long term impact it has on your strategic success - may be a productive way to begin your next strategic planning meeting.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Strategic Planning - Commas Cause Problems

This past week I gave a speech on strategy to a bunch of professional speakers in Arizona. One of the first things I asked the audience to do was write a list of the topics they speak on. When they were finished, I asked how many of the speakers had commas in their answer. For example, it's not uncommon to have a speaker say "motivation, team building, change management and leadership". I think every comma in their answers represents a focus problem that's pretty acute for a lot of speakers. And when I talked to audience members after that, I was taken with how many of their business issues were wrapped up in this focus issue.

Focus is a serious, serious problem for a professional speaker for two reasons. First, when you speak you are absolutely selling your experience, expertise and polish. These increase dramatically with repetition, and a speaker who gives the same speech twenty times is far better than one who gives twenty speeches once. Secondly, it is so very very easy to lose focus as a speaker. In manufacturing, you have to develop new products or markets, hire new people, and sometimes acquire new facilities or equipment to lose focus. For a speaker to wander off focus, all he or she has to do is read a couple of books and agree to speak on a topic that is outside of his or her focus.

Do you have commas in your list? Why are they there? And can you imagine how much better you would be if they weren't?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Strategic Planning Seminar

Some of my readers will want to know that my Fall 2007 Simplified Strategic Planning seminar schedule is up on the CSSP website. This is a great program that consistently gets rave reviews - and it's a chance to talk about your strategic planning issues face to face.

I will be teaching the programs in Troy, San Francisco and Orlando - so if you'd like to see me in person, be sure to sign up!