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, 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.

Strategy

Crisis planning using Kotter’s change management process

As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, our organizations are being forced to change and adapt. Some organizations are more directly impacted than others. For example, the restaurant industry has been forced to adapt and only provide curbside pick up and deliveries. I have heard stories of restaurants making quick changes to keep the business running and others than have had to close temporarily or permanently.

We might be tempted to wait this situation out, but I think it would be more valuable to develop a focus for the upcoming weeks and months. This focus can help us survive this downturn and come out with a competitive advantage.

John Kotter’s book Leading Change is considered a classic book on organizational change management. For this blog, I have utilized his eight-step process for creating change to demonstrate how organizations can navigate change during these challenging times.

1. “Establishing a sense of urgency”

We begin by identifying the crisis that we are experiencing. Change is hard, and urgency can help people understand the need for change. Many of us are experiencing this urgency right now. We need to ask, “How is COVID-19 really affecting our organization?” Many organizations are adjusting to a remote workforce. Others are seeing a demand for sales decrease or sometimes increase. We also need to ask, “What opportunities does this crisis present for our organization?” This time is a great opportunity to innovate, increase productivity, better document processes, and train employees.

2. “Creating the guiding coalition”

An influential team is important to lead the change management process. We want to include those people who have the necessary skills and power to lead change throughout the entire organization. Are there certain areas within the organization that might try to resist change? If so, plan the team accordingly. We want to include those with strong credibility to ensure people will listen and accept their direction. The team should not just include the senior management. We want to make sure the team will include diverse perspectives especially frontline employees and middle managers. Once the team is selected, it is time to build trust and mutual goals. Trust can be built through time together openly discussing the organization’s challenges and opportunities and being deliberate about developing psychological safety among the members.  

3. “Developing a vision and strategy”

The guiding coalition must work to develop a vision for the organization. Kotter suggests, “If you cannot describe your vision to someone in five minutes and get their interest, you have more work to do in this phase of a transformation process” (p. 81). The vision and strategy can be a multiple page document and also a more concise statement that is shared more often. If the organization is particularly impacted by the current crisis, we might develop a vision for how the company will operate in the coming months. Perhaps we will focus on innovation, improving customer relationships, documenting processes, or training team members. The strategy might also include multiple scenarios and how the organization will respond to them. It is very important that the guiding coalition is involved with the development of the vision and strategy and have buy in.

Kotter shares an example of a clear and focused vision:

“The vision driving our department’s reengineering effort is simple. We want to reduce our costs by at least 30 percent and increase the speed with which we can respond to customers by at least 40 percent. These are stretch goals, but we know based on the pilot project in Austin that they are achievable if we all work together. When this is completed, in approximately three years, we will have leapfrogged our biggest competitors and achieved all the associated benefits: better customers, increased revenue growth, more job security, and the enormous pride that comes from great accomplishments.” (p. 81)

4. “Communicating the change vision”

During this time of uncertainty, we probably cannot overcommunicate where we are going as an organization. We need to use all available forms of communication to ensure our organization is fully aware of where we are going. The message needs to clear, concise, and free of jargon. Kotter points out the importance of addressing “seeming inconsistencies” (p. 99) by describing a company’s vision to reduce unnecessary spending but continuing to provide private jets for the executives. That inconsistency can stall change management efforts and must be addressed, or we must communicate a compelling reason for the inconsistency. In addition, the guiding coalition plays a key role in the vision’s implementation by role modeling the desired change/

5. “Empowering broad-based action”

Once the vision is communicated, employees must be empowered to implement. The guiding coalition should spend some time determining how to empower employees and remove barriers. Barriers to empower employees must be eliminated, and Kotter identifies four common barriers: (1) “ Formal structures make it difficult to act,” (2) “A lack of needed skills undermines action,” (3) Personnel and information systems make it difficult to act,” and (4) “Bosses discourage actions aimed at implementing the new vision” (p. 106). When we change the way our organization operates, we need to make sure we spend adequate time training employees for the expected change. In addition, we need to align the efforts of each organizational department, division, etc., with the new vision. Performance evaluations should be aligned with the vision.

6. “Generating short-term wins”

The COVID-19 pandemic has created anxiety within our organizations related to concerns about the illness and its financial implications. We need to make sure we have developed a vision and strategy that will allow us to celebrate short-term wins. In times of crisis, we might develop weekly, monthly, or quarterly metrics for short-term wins to keep the organization focused on where we are going. Kotter writes, “A good short-term win has at least these three characteristics: (1) “It’s visible; large numbers of people can see for themselves whether the result is real or just hype,” (2) “It’s unambiguous; there can be little argument over the call,” and (3) “It’s clearly related to the change effort” (p. 126).

7. “Consolidating gains and producing more change”

Step 7 can be one of the longest lasting steps in the change management process. Leaders need to think long term about their organization. As we generate short-terms wins, we work to take on larger scale changes that align with our vision. Shifting responsibilities, new skills, or additional staffing might be needed to more fully achieve the vision. The role of managers continues to be very important to articulate the vision and communicate the urgency for change.

Kotter emphasizes the need to eliminate “unnecessary interconnections” by sharing how many organizations have developed unnecessary barriers over time to achieve the new vision. He writes:

“Cleaning up historical artifacts does create an even longer change agenda, which an exhausted organization will not like. But the purging of unnecessary interconnections can ultimately make a transformation much easier. And in a world where change is increasingly the norm rather than the exception, cleaning house can also make all future reorganizing efforts or strategic shifts less difficult.” (pp. 149-150)

8. “Anchoring new approaches in the culture”

Throughout these challenging times, we might make changes that become competitive advantages, and we ultimately want these types of changes to be rooted in the culture of the organization. If you are focusing on improving productivity during this time of crisis, this vision if fully adopted by the culture will ultimately make your organization stronger in the long run. When our organizations see the results that come from our changes, the new way of doing business will become part of the culture.

I sincerely hope the coming weeks and months are a time for your organization to adapt and change in ways that will make you stronger in the future.

Reference: Kotter, J.P. (2012). Leading Change. Harvard Business Review Press.

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 an effective crisis management or strategic plan?

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.

Innovation, Leadership, Strategy

The new normal

A lot has changed since the middle of last week as a result of COVID-19. On Thursday night, the president addressed the country, and on Friday social distancing became a common phrase, schools were cancelled, universities moved to all online classes, travel plans were changed, and businesses started feeling the impact of the pandemic. I am not a health expert but have closely followed the news. Based on what I continue to read, things will get worse before they get better, and we all need to find ways to adapt.

As a self-employed consultant, I have started to feel the impact of COVID-19. Some of the in-person workshops I am scheduled to lead have been postponed and others have been moved to an online format. Onsite group facilitated meetings might be cancelled unless another alternative can be arranged. My work will continue, but I will need to adjust to the new normal. I recommend organizations do the following during these challenging times:

  1. Stay the course. It is easy to get overwhelmed right now, but our organizations need to keep moving forward. Our products and services are still important and needed. The economy needs business activity.
  2. Plan accordingly. The US Chamber of Commerce has shared resources for businesses in response to COVID-19. Their checklist suggests businesses “prioritize critical operations, prepare for school closings, create a communication plan, establish possible teleworking policies, and coordinate with state external & local external health officials.” Encourage your employees to take the necessary precautions to eliminate and reduce the spread of the virus.
  3. Adjust. I have tried to stay positive during this time and continue to consider new ways to leverage technology to deliver services. In the coming months, I anticipate delivering more online workshops and using videoconferencing tools to conduct meetings. These tools can keep our organizations moving forward and reduce travel.

We are skilled at utilizing technology to deliver leadership training / coaching. In addition, we have had success working remotely with clients facilitating meetings, developing strategy, and leading creative problem solving. It can be difficult to replicate the experience of being in person, but there are many great tools available for organizations. In addition to leadership, strategy, and creative problem solving services, we have helped organizations leverage technology to deliver training.

The coming weeks and months will likely give us all more time at home. I hope we can all make the most of this time to devote our attention to family and friends. In addition, I sincerely hope that we can all adapt and become stronger as a result of these challenges. Stay healthy.

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’s leadership, strategy, creativity through the use of technology?

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.