Strategy

Strategic planning during uncertainty

Most organizations recognize the importance of long term planning. However, some organizations get caught up in what the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling describe as the “whirlwind” which is “made up of urgencies that consume your time and energy” (p. 7). As I have discussed strategic planning with current and prospective clients in recent months, many are struggling to plan when there is so much uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Photo by Airam Vargas on Pexels.com

When I first became involved with strategic planning processes, I was introduced to the classic Jim Collins and Jerry Porras article “Building Your Company’s Vision” which was published in the Harvard Business Review in 1996. This article remains a classic strategy article and is included in HBR’s 10 Must Reads in Strategy. The authors discuss how successful organizations set a 10-30 year “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.” I don’t know about you, but setting a 10-30 year goal during this time of uncertainty seems daunting and perhaps a bit unrealistic. 

Unfortunately, the current uncertainty has led many organizations to maintain the status quo and get caught up in the “whirlwind” instead of strategically planning for the future. For those organizations struggling with strategic thinking, I encourage them to consider the following approaches as variations to traditional strategic planning processes:

  1. The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) identifies four disciplines that help organizations develop strategy and improve execution of strategy. To avoid having too broad of a focus, 4DX encourages organizations to focus on a single “Wildly Important Goal” or “WIG.” All individuals and teams within the organization align their efforts with the WIG by “acting on lead measures.” Lead measures are behaviors that are directly tied to the WIG. A “compelling scoreboard” is created to track success. “A cadence of accountability” is established through brief weekly “WIG sessions” that review progress and make commitments for the upcoming week. This intense focus can really help an organization set a vision for the future, and implement it, and regularly review progress. 
  1. A strategy screen helps organizations identify criteria for making decisions. In his book The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution, David LaPiana writes: “The Strategy Screen is not a rigid framework. Its value is in making your decision-making criteria explicit” (p. 66). Organizations can spend time developing a strategy screen by reflecting on why the organization exists, what it values, and what is feasible. LaPiana (2018) suggests all strategy screens have criteria related to how well the strategy is consistent with the organization’s mission and will “build on or reinforce our competitive advantage” (p. 64). Other examples might include: Will this strategy become profitable within one year? Is this strategy consistent with our organization’s values? A strategy screen can be created now, and developing this criteria in advance of strategic decisions can be beneficial for all organizations. 
  1. Scenario planning helps organize plan for uncertainty, and this process can be particularly valuable while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Belinda Lyons-Newman (2020) identifies four steps for scenario planning: (1) “Identify external uncertainties,” (2) “Identify internal uncertainties,” (3) “Explore multiple, alternative futures,” and (4) “Assess the scenarios using a strategy screen.” This process helps identify “what if” scenarios, develops a plan for responding to them, and clarifies criteria for making decisions. Scenario planning can be particularly valuable for industries that are experiencing significant disruption and uncertainty. 

There are numerous approaches to strategic planning, and this article is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of approaches. If you are interested in learning more about strategy, I encourage you to spend some time reading the articles and books that I have written about. One thing is certain: we can’t afford to wait around until things become “normal” again to think strategically and plan for long term success. 

We facilitate planning processes with a wide range of organizations and customize processes to meet their organizational needs. Planning processes can be facilitated in person or virtually. If you are interested in learning more about how we can help you plan for future success, please contact us

References:

Collins, J., & Porras, J.I. (1996, September-October). “Building Your Company’s Vision.” Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/1996/09/building-your-companys-vision#:~:text=Vision%20provides%20guidance%20about%20what,core%20ideology%20and%20envisioned%20future.

HBR’s 10 Must Reads in Strategy. (2011). Harvard Business Review. 

LaPiana, D., & Campos, M.M. (2018). The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution (2nd Ed.). Turner. 

McChesney, C., Huling, J., & Covey, S. (2015). The 4 Disciplines of Execution. Simon & Schuster. 

Lyons-Newman, B. (2020, May 8). “Scenario Planning: Rapid Planning in a Time of Rapid Change.” Retrieved from: https://blog.boardsource.org/blog/scenario-planning-rapid-planning-in-a-time-of-rapid-change?_ga=2.216094229.241316251.1595867701-1637645238.1574390002

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Are you ready to learn how we can help you plan for future organizational success?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) Certified Practitioner.

Strategy

A simple tool for strategic growth

I was recently working with a group of religious leaders who are trying to decide how their congregations should move forward in light of the challenges caused by COVID-19. They are used to in person services, educational programs, and community building events. Unfortunately, opportunities to bring people together in person will be limited for an extended period of time. 

Ansoff Matrix - Wikipedia
(From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansoff_Matrix)

I introduced them to the Ansoff Matrix which is a tool developed by Igor Ansoff that can be used to explore opportunities for organizational growth. On the left side, the existing market (or customers) are on the bottom and new markets on top. On the bottom row, there are existing products and services on the left and new products/services on the right.

The bottom left box (Market Penetration) focuses on existing markets and products/services. Focusing on this box can result in growth through increasing market share or penetration. The top left box (Market Development) focuses on growth through existing products but new market(s).

By focusing on the bottom right box (Product Development), we strive for growth through existing markets with new products/services. The top right box (Diversification) focuses on new markets and new products/services. It is important to note that risk increases as one moves up or to the right of the matrix with the top right box having the most risk.

I encourage organizations to complete the Ansoff Matrix through divergent and convergent thinking. They can begin by individually or collectively generating opportunities for growth in each box of the matrix. After the team divergently identifies possibilities, they can converge by discussing the most promising opportunities. Here are examples of possible discussions that can take place for each box:

Bottom left (Market Penetration):

  1. Begin by discussing existing market (customers)
  2. How might we sell to more people like our existing customers?
  3. How might we encourage existing customers to use more of our existing products or services?

Top left (Market Development):

  1. What demographic groups are not existing customers?
  2. How might we identify new market segments that could benefit from our existing products or services? 
  3. How might we market our products or services to appeal to different demographics than our existing customers?

Bottom right (Product Development):

  1. How might we add value to our existing customers through new products or services?
  2. Are there related products or services that our customers could benefit from?

Top right (Diversification):

  1. How might we adapt to changing trends in society?
  2. Are there new opportunities that we are uniquely positioned to capitalize on?

The Ansoff Matrix is not perfect. When looking at new opportunities for growth, organizations need to consider factors such as competition, organizational strengths, and assets. A common strategy for growth today is a merger or acquisition, and it is possible that a merger or acquisition may help accelerate market penetration, new markets, new products, and/or diversification. 

The Ansoff Growth Matrix is one of many tools that can be used for developing strategy. We work with a wide variety of organizations to develop strategy for future success and growth. There are many approaches to successful strategic planning processes, and it is important to customize a process that best meets your organization’s needs. If you are interested in learning more about how we can help your organization develop a strategic planning process, please contact us

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

Effective Teams, Innovation

Encouraging a more innovative culture

As organizations are navigating the COVID-19, many organizations are forced to adapt or face dire consequences. Leaders are asking, “How might we develop a more innovative culture?”

In a previous blog, I applied John Kotter’s change management process to crisis planning. The first step of his process is “Create a sense of urgency.” The pandemic has provided a “sense of urgency. Organizations can view this time as an opportunity to evaluate how they operate and determine how they will behave in the future. 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle shares three skills of highly successful organizational cultures: (1) Build safety, (2) Share vulnerability, and (3) Establish purpose. Under each skill, I’ve included strategies for leaders to encourage innovation. 

Skill 1: Build safety

When we “build safety,” team members experience a sense of belonging. In addition, they feel psychologically safe to share new ideas without fear of judgement or repercussion.

“Build safety” innovation strategy #1: Google has studied the characteristics of effective teams, and the most important characteristic is psychological safety. One strategy they use to encourage psychological safety is to begin meetings with each team member sharing a recent risk they took. No judgement is passed on whether the risk taking led to a successful result.

“Build safety” innovation strategy #2: Our approach to facilitating creative problem solving includes divergent and convergent thinking. Instead of traditional meetings that invite evaluation after each new idea is shared, we encourage collecting all ideas while deferring judgement. After all ideas are collected, we then use convergent thinking to evaluate ideas and begin focusing our options. This approach fosters creative thinking and psychological safety. 

Skill 2: Share vulnerability

Team members who display vulnerability willingly share when they don’t know something and need help. They are willing to admit when they are wrong and encourage learning from mistakes. 

“Share vulnerability” innovation strategy #1 Similar to the Google strategy to foster psychological safety, I encourage teams to find opportunities for each team member to share something they want or need to learn in the near future. Team members can volunteer to impart knowledge to others who desire to learn more about a topic. 

“Share vulnerability” innovation strategy #2: When we suggest new ideas to our team members, we often feel compelled to “sell” the idea as a complete solution. I recommend developing a meeting environment that allows team members to present ideas as imperfect and incomplete. In this type of seeing, we can admit that our ideas are not perfect and solicit open and honest feedback from our team members. 

Skill 3: Establish purpose

Team members share a sense of shared purpose. They understand why their organization exists and have a shared vision for the future. 

“Establish purpose” innovation strategy #1: In recent years, Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action has emphasized the importance of determining our individual and organizational purpose (our “why”) before we identify our “how” and “what.” All employees can benefit from understanding their organization’s purpose and aligning their decisions with it. 

“Establish purpose” innovation strategy #2: Leaders need to articulate their organization’s purpose and intentionally discuss what that means and looks like. Leaders can highlight important decisions and recognize individuals who live out the organization’s purpose. 

Successful organizational cultures take time to develop. Leaders must intentionally work towards develop a company culture that fosters innovation. Organizations that are able to adapt and innovate during this pandemic will be much stronger in the long run than those who attempt to maintain the status quo.

How can we help your organization develop a more innovative culture? We provide creative problem solving training, leadership coaching, and strategic planning services. Contact us to learn more.

References:

Coyle, D. (2018). The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. Bantam Books.

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Portfolio.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

Effective Teams, Leadership, Strategy

What is your organization’s long term remote working strategy?

I recently provided a webinar through University of Evansville’s Center for the Advancement of Learning related to engaging remote workers. As organizations navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, many are scrambling to accommodate a remote work environment for their employees. The adjustment can be particularly challenging for those organizations who have maintained a traditional office working environment. I encourage organizations to explore whether there are new opportunities for them as a result of the current remote working environment. 

Gallup has been tracking employee engagement since 2000. They categorize employees into the following groups (Harter, 4 February 2020):

  1. Engaged – “those who are highly involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace”
  2. Not engaged – “those who are psychologically unattached to their work and company and who put time, but not energy or passion, into their work”
  3. Actively disengaged – “those who have miserable work experiences and spread their unhappiness to their colleagues”

Gallup reports a record percentage of employees at the engaged level for 2019: 35% (with 52% not engaged and 13% actively disengaged). According to Harter (4 February 2020), engaged employees: 

  • “produce substantially better outcomes
  • treat customers better and attract new ones
  • are more likely to remain with their organization than those who are less engaged.
  • Engaged employees are also healthier and less likely to experience burnout.”

According to the Remote Work Study (Zapier, 13 November 2019), 

  • “95 percent of U.S. knowledge workers want to work remotely”
  • “74 percent would be willing to quit a job to do so”
  • “57 percent” say the option to work remotely is one of the perks they’d most prefer to be offered by an employer.

I was surprised to see the incredibly high interest in remote working, and I think there will be continued desire for remote working after the pandemic. 

Gallup (Hickman & Robison, 24 January 2020) has linked the highest level of engagement to those who work remotely three to four days a week (60%-<80%) and work in the office one to two days a week (41% engaged, 48% not engaged, and 11% actively disengaged). It is important to note that employees who worked remotely all of the time had lower levels of engagement (30% engaged, 54% not engaged, and 16% actively disengaged), and these engagement numbers are similar to those who do not work remotely at all (30% engaged, 55% not engaged, and 15% actively disengaged). 

Based on the desire for employees to work remotely and the high levels of engagement that can result from a hybrid remote working environment (time spent working remotely and in a traditional office), organizations have the opportunity to reimagine their future working arrangements. 

Here are some items to consider regarding remote working:

  1. Are there cost savings opportunities to reduce office space?
  2. Will a remote working environment help us improve employee engagement?
  3. Will a remote work environment help us retain and attract talent?
  4. Are our leaders equipped with the necessary skills to successfully manage remote employees?
  5. What work activities can take place remotely and what needs to take place in person?
  6. Do we need to more fully explore ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) to clearly define outcomes for employees’ work?

As many organizations are developing a plan to return to the office, I recommend strategic discussions about the future of remote working in organizations. This is a great opportunity to gather input and make decisions that could have an impact on the future success of organizations. We are skilled facilitators who have helped organizations navigate complex problem solving. If you need help in this area, please contact us

References:

Harter, J. (2020, February 4). 4 Factors Driving Record-High Employee Engagement in U.S. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/284180/factors-driving-record-high-employee-engagement.aspx

Hickman, A., & Robison, J, (24 January 2020). Is Working Remotely Effective? Gallup Research Says Yes. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/283985/working-remotely-effective-gallup-research-says-yes.aspx

Zapier Editorial Team (13 November 2019). The Remote Work Report. Retrieved from https://zapier.com/blog/remote-work-report-by-zapier/

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Ready to learn how we can help your organization develop a planning process for long term success?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer.

Effective Teams, Innovation

Looking to virtually build your team’s creative and collaborative capacity?

As organizations navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, our clients regularly discuss the importance of encouraging innovative thinking and building effective teams. They are looking to:

  1. Develop a more cohesive team in this remote work environment.
  2. Encourage innovative thinking among individuals and the team.
  3. Develop individuals’ appreciation and understanding of team member differences.
  4. Introduce a common vocabulary that fosters more creative and collaborative thinking. 

We’re excited to offer a two hour virtual Creative Thinking Boot Camp that helps teams build their individual and collective abilities to think creatively and work collaboratively. This is one of our most popular introductory offerings and has been used by a wide variety of organizations to build more creative, collaborative, and effective teams. 

The Two Hour Boot Camp is offered through a highly interactive and engaging online Zoom workshop. We’ve all attended many boring webinars, but this workshop includes hands on exercises, discussions, and small group activities. It has been well received by businesses, nonprofits, churches, and schools. 

Participants learn about why innovation is so important now, divergent and convergent thinking, what hinders creativity and innovation, and characteristics of effective and innovative teams. In advance of the workshop, participants will complete the Basadur Profile which is used to help them understand how they and those around them approach creativity and problem solving. At the end of the workshop, participants will discuss how they can apply these skills within their organization.

We are scheduling Creative Thinking Boot Camps right now. Please contact us for more information. We look forward to hearing from you. 

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer.