Posts Tagged ‘business planning’

How to avoid ‘Bah Humbug’

Must be because I called this post ‘Bah humbug” that the system then promptly wiped it as I went to post!  So here goes for a second time – apologies if you came here and found it blank earlier –

It’s that time of year when Christmas decorations start appearing in the malls and shopping centres, in civic buildings and in suburban streets.  It’s easy to have that ‘Bah humbug’ feeling, conceptualised by Charles Dickens in his Scrooge character from A Christmas Carol,  as you realise everything there is to do between now and Christmas.  I think this phenomenon is worse in the Southern Hemisphere where businesses tend to close down over Christmas and New Year, and the schools and universities take their long summer break.  A lot of staff in many organizations are on leave throughout January and all this tends to put huge pressure on getting things done by Christmas.  And that on top of shopping, cooking and arranging family travel and holidays.

However its a good time to also reflect on all you have achieved over the past 12 months.  I was facilitating a strategic thinking and business planning session for a client organization last week, and as we went through all the items from their plan over the past year, I was impressed by how much they had progressed, and the many critical objectives and plans they had actioned.  It’s too easy to get caught up in all the things you have yet to do, and forget to celebrate the many things you have already accomplished.

So this week, as you notice the Christmas Carols playing and the decorations that are going up, rather than thinking ‘Bah humbug’ and remembering your long to-do list, instead reflect on all the things you have accomplished in 2012.  There’s bound to be plenty of them.  And then you can focus on having a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday and New year!

Categories: Business and Strategy

History Always Repeats…..

My Strategic Management lecturer in College insisted that very little in business, economic and weather cycles is completely unpredictable and businesses ought to be able to plan for most eventualities, no matter how rare.  I have recently been thinking how right he was and how poorly many businesses manage that.  For instance, I have been working with a company that has had to lay off a large number of staff due to a drop in commodity prices internationally.  One of the senior managers was mortified that he had recently employed a number of recruits, leading them to believe that they had a job for many years.  That’s what the company were telling us, he told me.  And yet, when I questioned him about his experiences of the industry, he could cite at least three previous international commodity price drops that had resulted in large-scale layoffs.  So the present issues were in fact, not surprising, to anyone with industry experience.

A similar thing happened five years ago when the area I live in experienced a long dry summer and a resulting drought for a couple of months.  Many farmers were caught without enough feed for their stock and forced to sell at low prices.  There was a call from some for Central Government to offer subsidies for this ‘unpredictable’ event.  And yet, I could remember many similar summers a number of years previously (I’ve lived around this area on and off, most of my life).  Sure enough, a local agricultural paper ran a story afterwards about how farmers had, in past times, grown extra produce over early summer to tide them through the following drought, but most had stopped bothering in recent years as the weather pattern had changed!

So how do experienced managers get caught up in the belief that things have changed so significantly that external forces will not repeat?  Perhaps it’s a human condition that we want to believe good news, or perhaps we just get excited by leadership vision or good times, and forget the past too quickly.  Thinking strategically requires broad consideration of external factors, and past events and trends can help us predict more accurately possible future scenarios.  The people who can remember and relay some of those stories have a valuable role to play.  A bit of research doesn’t hurt either.

A free report showing you how to think strategically is available for you at

Do I Pay or Do I Read the Ads?

A few years ago now I remember reading a prediction that companies would begin to offer two types of services to clients.  One would be a paid service, and the other free or low-cost in return for accepting advertising.  For instance, you could get a rental car at normal rates, or get one at low rates that is covered in advertising for a company, who are paying for the car rental instead of you, in return for their message being driven around.  Another example would be a paid drink at a vending machine immediately, or a reduced price one after watching 2 minutes of advertising on the screen.  The assumption at the time, as I recall, was that it was likely to be the younger generations happy to take the advertising and the older consumers more willing to pay for speed, discretion etc.  Sadly I cannot remember where I read it, but whoever wrote it was certainly on the right track because this has become common with some products and services.

I am facing a dilemma of exactly that kind right now.  I am about to source some new webinar software.  I do not currently run many webinars and certainly at this stage cannot justify the high monthly rate of some providers, however excellent their product might be.  I need to start somewhere and the product I am looking at has two options – one with a monthly fee, and one free – but the free version includes the webinar attenders have advertising displayed on their screens during the webinar.  So I find myself endeavouring to answer these questions:

If I opt for the free version, will my clients mind the advertising?  Who will, who won’t?

If I opt for the paid version, can I sell enough products and services from the webinars to cover this and more?

Will my clients have a different view about seeing advertising if the webinar is free, versus part of a paid subscription product?

Does the appearance of advertising during the webinar affect in a negative way, my own and my company brand?

If you have a view on this I would love you to share it.  In the meantime I will deliberate further and let you know in a later post what I’ve decided to do!

Categories: Business and Strategy

10 questions all professionals should ask

If you are in an advisory or professional role, or just want to be seen as a strategic thinker within your organisation, here are 10 questions to have in your toolbox.

1. How do you see this organisation in 5 years time?

2. What will y/our customers be likely to expect from us in 4 years time?

3. Who are our key competitors?

4. What are our key competitors likely to be doing over the next three years?

5. What can my/your department/organisation do to help us be first choice in our market?

6 Which of y/our strategies are not working anymore?

7. Will this (idea) help deliver on our strategies?

8. What’s the most profitable activity/product right now, and will it still be in four years?

9. What could we stop doing that no-one would notice (or everyone would be thankful for?)

10. What have I/you done today to implement our strategies/vision?

Categories: Uncategorized

Are you strategic enough?

Most professionals and operational experts have been rewarded throughout their study and experience on the job for their critical analysis skills and the ability to assess risk and offer expert advice.  The more competent the person, the more likely it is they can quickly judge ideas from an implementation perspective.  However, these very skills that have lead to a certain level within their career can begin to fail them as they seek more strategic roles.  Their expert risk analysis and sometimes detailed questions frustrate some others, who can perceive them as negative and too low level.  And yet, some manage to have technical competence and also be deemed strategic thinkers by others.  In over a decade of responsibility for developing future leaders in corporate settings, I began to identify the characteristics that lead senior managers to predict certain people as having the ability to move into strategic roles.  I call this attribute Strategical Savvy.

Strategical Savvy differs from Political Savvy, in that Political Savvy is the ability to connect with the ‘right’ people in an organisation, get involved with high profile projects and events, and be able to say and do the right things to make a positive impression.  Strategical Savvy is more specifically about hearing an idea or suggestion and responding in a way that others can recognise as strategic rather than operational.

To develop Strategical Savvy, you must:

  • Have some knowledge of the trends in business generally and in your industry in particular
  • ask questions that explore how the idea presented might align with key strategies and how they might impact across the whole organisation and its various parts
  • understand how an idea could be implemented in a particular role or task
  • have the personal discipline to refrain from voicing any initial view of the idea too soon
  • respond in a way that indicates that you have heard and understood the strategic implications before considering the specific impacts.

Handling strategic conversations effectively can avoid you being perceived as ‘not strategic’, even when disagreeing with the idea or exploring negative consequences.

 Strategical Savvy can be learnt, just like any other behavioural competency.  Even highly detailed experts can learn to relate to strategic ideas and concepts in ways that allow them to contribute from their area of expertise and still present themselves to others as positive and strategic.

Are You A Strategic Thinker?

Have ever been told you are not a strategic thinker? Is strategic thinking a competency required for your next career step? Are you wanting to align your team’s activities to organisational goals? Are you wanting long-term business or career success? Then it’s probably in your interests to understand how to have, what I call, ‘strategical savvy’.

Although there are a range of models for use in strategic planning, being strategically savvy is more about strategic thinking and conversations. A difficulty with strategic thinking is a lack of consensus of what it actually is. There does seem to be general agreement amongst researchers that:
· Strategic thinking is more important than ever in our increasingly interdependent and global world
· Strategic thinking improves operational decisions and planning
· Strategic thinking involves creative thinking
· Strategic thinking involves systems thinking
· Most people are not strategic thinkers, even if their position title indicates they are, or they think they are.

It’s probably pretty safe to say that strategic thinking in a planning context involves creating a vision and developing a plan to get to the vision. While this may be relevant for high level executives and strategic planners it is not highly useful for professionals and operational managers within organisations. They need a different model because they are rarely responsible for developing the vision or strategic plan, but are often required to contribute to it, comment on initiatives and policies being developed by others, implement strategy they have not been involved in creating or devise policies or processes that have strategic fit. Most of these involve some level of interaction or relationship with strategic thinkers and planners.

When strategic issues are being discussed it easy for operational or professional experts to quickly judge ideas from an implementation perspective. Often these people can quickly and accurately judge operational impacts of strategic ideas but their questions and comments frustrate the strategists who can perceive them as negative and too low level. ‘Strategical savvy’ is about asking the right questions at the right time in order to understand where strategic ideas are coming from and to indicate to others that you have heard and understood the strategic implications before considering the operational impacts. Handling these conversations effectively can avoid others perceiving you as ‘not strategic’.

Just as strategic thinking can be learnt, so can ‘strategical savvy’. Even highly detailed and operational experts can learn to relate to strategic ideas and concepts in ways that allow them to contribute from their area of expertise and still present themselves to others as positive and strategic.

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