Jan 122012

The Best Laid Plans, Part I

The Best Laid Plans, Part I

One of my readers asked me if I have a formula that I use to develop strategic plans.  While every year and every situation is different, I do have a general outline that I’ve followed that has been pretty successful over the years at Return Path.  There are three phases — input, analysis, and output.  I’ll break this up into three postings over the next three weeks.

The Input Phase goes something like this:

Conduct stakeholder interviews with a few top clients, resellers, suppliers; Board of directors; and junior staff roundtables.  Formal interviews set up in advance, with questions given ahead.  Goal for customers: find out their view of the business today, how we’re serving them, what they’d like to see us do differently, what other products we could provide them.  Goal for Board/staff: get their general take on the business and the market, current and future.

Conduct non-stakeholder interviews with a few industry experts who know the company at least a little bit.  Goal: learn what they think about how we were doing today…and what they would do if they were CEO to grow the business in the future.

Re-skim a handful of classic business books and articles.  Perennial favorite include Good to Great, Contrarian Thinking, and Crossing the Chasm.

Hold a solo visioning exercise.  Take a day off, wander around Central Park.  No phone, no email.  Nothing but thinking about business, your career, where you want everything to head from a high level.

Hold senior staff brainstorming.  Two-day off-site strategy session with senior team and maybe Board.

Next up:  the Analysis Phase.

  • http://nickgrossman.com.info Nick

    This is great. Looking forward to the rest.

    Do you typically do this on a regular schedule (like annually?) or more ad hoc?

    • Matt Blumberg

      Thanks, Nick. I think I will post the others the next two Thursdays.Matt

  • http://www.danielclough.com Daniel Clough

    This was useful and I'm looking forward to the next two posts!

    I'm currently going through a process to lay out strategies and plans for the next 6 months for a product and I'm learning a lot as we move through it. There are so many steps you need to go through and some in a certain order so that you can product a really solid set of strategies and plans that are solid and can also be realistically executed.

    The solo visioning exercise is good advice. Whilst you want to include your whole team in helping to produce the plan, ultimately if you have ownership for the product and execution of the plan, getting your head clear up front really helps.

    Involving key individuals across the business is also key. It helps to stress test and expose ideas and you often end up with something slightly different and stronger. At the minimum it helps with priorities. Too many people just come up with ideas themselves or just within their own product teams and fail to utilise experience / expertise outside of their team.

    Matt, are you familiar with OGSP's? I'm trying to build the plan on that basis. Pick your big strategic areas, plans for each and then start laying things out in quarters to get a sense for how the focus and strategy comes together over a 6-12 month period.

    The next 2 weeks for me are seeing the final strategies and plans coming together and then going through a detailed costing process across the company. With multiple products and many service teams across the business, everyone has to be synced. If you have any advice on how to help co-ordinate that, it's be super useful!!

    • Matt Blumberg

      Thanks for the great comment.I’m not familiar with OGSPs – what is that framework/acronym?Laying things out by quarter can be a helpful exercise from both a visualization and synchronization perspective (e.g., you can’t have four product launches at the same time).I will give some thought to your question about how to keep things synchronized in a larger organization, perhaps for a fourth installment in the series!Matt

      • Cloughie2012

        OGSP stands for Objectives, Goals, Strategies and Plans – check out http://www.ogsp.org/.

        It's essentially getting this all onto one piece of paper so that everyone can be very focused on what they need to do.

        Useful site – enjoy!

        • Matt Blumberg

          I've heard of this and other frameworks like it over the years. While we don't do this exactly, we do something equivalent.Matt