Strategic Planning

Great 3 Min. Video for Anyone with Nonprofit Connections

Posted by on Feb 20, 2015 in Strategic Planning | 0 comments

Watch this video if you serve on a nonprofit board, work for or with a nonprofit, or know anyone who does. It takes the Business Model Canvas designed for creating a business and applies it to the way nonprofits work with and strategize about their programming and donors.   Even if you don’t have nonprofit involvement you might find it gives you ideas for your own business:   You can download the canvas from the link at the end of the...

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Hourglass Model improves your budgeting or planning process

Posted by on Oct 4, 2013 in Strategic Planning, Strategic Thinking | 0 comments

Too often, budgeting is a rushed process of tweaking what was done last year, or a battle for funds that pits one department against another, and the department heads against the controller or CFO.  Instead, use the opportunity to think strategically.  Use the Hourglass Model (see below). Start with big picture goals, instead of details and line items.  Evaluate what’s working and what’s not – don’t make the mistake of closing your eyes to your losers.  Think of where you fit in the whole organization, and be willing to sub-optimize – what’s great for you or your team may not be great for the whole.  (Think of the Congress – or no, on second thought, don’t get me started!) Then you prioritize.  Don’t forget that a budget also represents people’s time and energy and isn’t just about money.  Make sure you evaluate the whole cost versus benefits.  Determine likelihood of success, demand for resources, and size of return on investment. Only then do you start digging down into the details.  Try this model next time you’re budgeting or planning for next year: STRATEGIC THINKING PROCESS FOR PLANNING & BUDGETING Think big:  Begin by looking out far and wide.  Look back at your past, look inside your organization and out for ideas.  Examine the big picture, the competitive landscape.  Think creatively and expansively, exploring all possibilities. Think critically:  Take stock of the current reality, and future trends, internally and externally.  Understand your place in the whole.  Prioritize new ideas.  Toss out old losers! Think selectively:  Choose your best path forward.  Select the top 3-5 strategic goals with the best potential return on investment.  Eliminate anything with high resource requirements and low likelihood of success Think strategically:  For each goal, define the key strategies that will move you toward your goal, as well as specific definitions of success.  Think operationally: For each strategy, determine the key actions necessary to achieve your defined success metrics.  For each action, specify a timeline, resources necessary, and assign responsibility.  Examine the whole for realistic viability. © 2013 Listening 2 Leaders       BOOK SIGNING AND BUBBLY! OCTOBER 5, 2013 2-4 PM BOOKS BY THE SEA OSTERVILLE, MA      ...

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Nifty Free Visionary Thinking Tool for Business, Nonprofits and Individuals

Posted by on Mar 22, 2013 in Creativity, Leadership, Leadership Priorities, Presentations, Strategic Planning | 1 comment

You’ve got to take a look at this elegantly simple Business Model Canvas.  It could help you gain clarity whether you’re creating a whole new business, a new product or service, getting your non-profit to think more like a business, or even looking for a new job.  Use it to strategize and communicate to others. Here’s what it looks like but don’t underestimate it!                                   You can download it for free at, along with enough of the supporting book to get you started.  I saw it in action when I was serving as a coach at a recent Start-Up Weekend, sponsored by the Cape Cod Chamber, where people are encouraged to create new businesses in just 54 hours.  Copies of the Business Model Canvas were provided to each group, many of whom had just met each other that weekend, and it was amazing what they accomplished. The Canvas itself is just a one page graphic tool to explore and test assumptions, covering the four main areas of a business:  customers, offer, infrastructure and financial viability.  There are actually nine blocks to complete:  Key activities, Key Partners, Key Resources, and Cost structure are on the left and make up the efficiency side of the model.  The right side blocks make up value and are Customer relationships, Customer segments, Value propositions, Channels, and Revenue streams. Watch the two minute video below for a clearer idea.  You’re encouraged to play with sticky notes so that nothing becomes set in stone too early.  It is meant to be an iterative process that allows you to work as an individual or team and explore different options in a simple but complete format. The companion book, Business Model Generation, was created by 470 practitioners from around the world.  There is a downloadable excerpt on the website that has plenty to help you understand each block or category and some interesting examples of how the tool can be widely used beyond the creation of a new business: The public sector is often challenged to implement private sector principles. I have used the Canvas to help a department view itself as a service- oriented business, establishing externalized as-is and to-be business models. It has created a whole new conversa- tion around describing and innovating the business. Mike Lachapelle, Canada I wish I had known the Canvas years ago! With a particular tough and complicated print-to-digital project within the publishing industry it would have been so helpful to show all project members in this visual way both the big picture, their (important) own roles in it and the inter-dependencies. Hours of explaining, arguing, and mis- understanding could have been saved. Jille Sol, Netherlands A close friend was looking for a new job. I used the Business Model Canvas in order to assess her personal business model. Her core competences and Value Proposition were outstanding but she failed to leverage her strategic partners...

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Strategic planning is for one or many

Posted by on Oct 10, 2012 in Leadership, Strategic Planning, Strategic Thinking | 0 comments

Whether you are self-employed and an organization of one,  lead a team, or run a huge organization, planning is important.  With fall officially here, it’s time to think about how this year has been going, what you need to do to finish it out successfully.  Then take time to plan what you want the next few years to look like and how you’re going to make that happen. But planning comes easier for some than others.  I have a friend (you know who you are) who has always had a five year plan that she updates annually.  It has sections for career, home, health, etc.  That plan has led her to massively successful career and life changes. For others, it doesn’t come naturally, and they ignore it, procrastinate, shoot from the hip, whatever.  And then there are those who get so bogged in the detail that the process becomes a massive to-do list rather than a strategic plan. Even those who do create plans can suffer from  the plan becoming a dust collector syndrome.  If you’re going to plan, you DO need to make sure you create a strategy for using that plan – quarterly review meetings, major goals posted on bulletin boards in lunch rooms – not just in a book or an electronic file that never gets opened, and making the plan is the measure used when decisions get made. So if you are embarking on strategic planning, whether your organization is large or small, here are some ways to avoid common pitfalls and end up with a great process and a great plan: LISTEN:  The exercise should begin and end with great listening.  Figure out how to listen to all your stakeholders:  leaders, front line, customers, vendors, community.  Use face to face conversations and quantitative surveys.  Pay attention to what you want to hear and even closer attention to what’s unpleasant to hear.  Get outside help to collect opinions if people won’t be honest with you. LOOK INWARD:  What are your strengths?  What are your weaknesses?  Take time to really think this through.  Check your assumptions with others.  Is there anything coming at you that is a threat?  What are the opportunities you might take advantage of?  Compare your strengths and weaknesses with your threats and opportunities.  What will happen if you do nothing different? TURN ALL THE WAY AROUND:  Look out at your environment.  What’s changing?  Look at your competitors. Not just direct competitors, but look closely at anyone your customer compares you with.  Get perspective and ideas anywhere you can, especially multi-generationally.  Get out of your office and go visit great examples of success to get ideas. Test your assumptions about what you think you know. DON’T FORGET TO DREAM BIG DREAMS:  Strategic planning has to be grounded in reality.  It also should be inspirational.  Think big.  Particularly at first.  What would wild and crazy success look like?  What would it take to get there?  Start with the big ideas.  Don’t get into the...

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Strategic Confusion: Tactics for Solutions

Posted by on Mar 9, 2012 in Leadership, Leadership Priorities, Strategic Planning, Strategic Thinking | 0 comments

Do you think about your problems strategically or tactically?  Strategic thinking requires you to step back and look at the whole system around the problem.  Are you asking how to fit your products on the shelf (tactics) or how the display will best motivate the customer to buy (strategy)? I keep getting these questions about strategies versus tactics.  I keep seeing meetings that are bringing people together to discuss strategy dissolve down into the tactics.  Tactics are absolutely important but only if the strategy is defined.  The strategy says where we’re going.  The tactics say how we’ll get there.  Turning left isn’t a useful tactic if you don’t know what town you want to end up in. Here are some tactics to keep in mind if you want to keep people thinking strategically: Ask the following questions: Where are we trying to get to? What outcome are we trying to achieve? What elements could impact that outcome? What assumptions do we hold and how might we rethink them? Why does this matter? According to, the word strategy comes from the Greek work meaning a military commander; leader guiding the army.  A strategy is a plan for making something happen using the resources available.   Figure out where you want to go and how to make the best use of the resources you have available. Steve Robbins web page gives us a specific example.  If you are trying to decide whether to paint a level on a manufacturing machine red, that’s probably tactics.  If you are trying to decide whether to outsource your manufacturing, that’s strategy. Check out Luke Houghton’s webpage for more detail on these 5 ways to think strategically: See it from multiple points of view. Look at the conditions that created the situation. Explore what elements are related; which are obvious and what might be hidden. Make sure to see what elements are not connected.  Think from multiple disciplines. Finally, here’s a chart from Simply Effective that you might find useful as a quick guide:...

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Components of a Strategic Plan

Posted by on Feb 10, 2012 in Change, Leadership, Measurement, Strategic Planning | 0 comments

The questions a leadership team ask themselves when planning have great importance.  The components of a good strategic plan are designed to explore a wide variety of questions.  You can access lots of online resources and each has its own language and definitions, but here’s a quick guide to what I encourage organizations to include as  valuable components of a plan: TIME FRAME:  Think broadly about the next 3 years.  Some organizations look out 5 or 10 years, but in this economy and period of technological change, it seems almost like writing fiction to go out that far. SWOT: (Stengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)  A survey of our internal and external environmental conditions.  It can be useful as part of this exercise to create an organizational history. MISSION: Broad description of what we do, with/for whom we do it, our distinctive competence, and WHY we do it.  STRATEGIC VISION: Describes what we want the organization to look like in ideal terms in the future – the results we will be achieving and characteristics the organization will need to possess in order to achieve those results. The strategic vision statement provides direction and inspiration for organizational goal setting. VALUES:  Principles and standards defining what’s most important to our group and how will people treat each other.  Desired attitudes and behaviors toward internal and external stakeholders.  Defines our cultural/ethical aspirations.  GOALS/IMPACTS: Broad statements of what the organization hopes to achieve in the next 3-5 years. Goals focus on outcomes or results and are qualitative in nature. INDICATORS:  Ways to measure our success on achieving our goals.  Data we’ll look at to determine our progress.  STRATEGIES: Statements of major approach or method (the means) for attaining broad goals and resolving specific issues.  TACTICS/KEY ACTIONS: Specific, concrete, measurable statements of what will be done to achieve a goal generally within a one-year time frame.  This can be a different document, in matrix format listing action step, time frame for completion, resources needed (e.g., money, new committee, etc.), person or department responsible, and outcome measures. COMMUNICATION PLAN:  Sequence of steps to share the plan internally and externally, as appropriate.  Think about including stakeholders such as vendors, customers, members, community, etc.. SUSTAINABILITY PLAN:  Ways to be sure the plan will be acted upon and progress will be assessed as necessary.  May include a designated “Plan Owner” and a regular schedule of revisitations. Don’t think planning is just for big companies.  If you work in a small business or even work alone, creating a strategic plan is a wonderful discipline for  widening your perspective on your current situation and creating new opportunities.  What’s your plan?...

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