Guide Business Plans to Game Plans: A Practical System for Turning Strategies into Action

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Language is the everyday tool for thinking, communication of ideas and collaboration, with words used as the vehicle for transport between people. When words lack meaning, are too abstract or ambiguous, this can create confusion, misinterpretation and misunderstanding. In a strategy execution context, the lack of shared meaning can often lead to significant frustration, cost and risk. As human beings, we all think slightly differently.

Our individual life experiences also alter our personal understanding of the language and words used. Our mental models are highly visual and are in the majority communicated through language. The challenge is that quite often our mental models of language often differ from each other. Different people can use even the same word in different ways.

This creates a risk of misunderstanding and misalignment that can severely impact business performance. Particularly, when articulating a strategy and expecting everyone to understand, and act on it. When modelling the corporate vision — via a series of visualisation workshops — to overcome the risk of misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the language used, I ensure that ambiguity, abstract as well as management and technical speak are avoided. Where appropriate, I even ensure that keywords, terms or phrases are defined to ensure everyone is clear and working on the same page with the exact same understanding.

Drawing on the research of how humans see and understand the visual world around us, visual thinking spans visual perception, neuroscience, colour theory, graphic design, media theory, visual storytelling, and information design. The visual thinking techniques I use, focus on improving ways for people to work better and more effectively together. The visual thinking approaches I apply are inspired by how architects and engineers work. The evolution of computer graphics and social media has been folded into my approach, with the addition of the latest thought leadership on systems thinking how natural systems organise and connect to each other.

We are all hard-wired to think visually — capturing complex issues in visual form; using models, mind-maps, tables, symbols and pictures enable individuals and groups of people to understand and engage more effectively together. Visualisation is a powerful way to resolve confusion in groups that arise from inadequate or conflicting mental models.

This is crucial when those models involve our ideas of how work gets done, how teams cooperate, how to make decisions, how to organise and how to learn. A considerable amount of time in meetings is spent working out these differences. A picture up on a wall or a computer screen creates a visual target for groups of people to explore, debate and challenge — this makes problem-solving very much easier as it is collaborative and effectively draws on the group genius — while also creating a cohesive single perspective and team.

Much of our understanding of systems and how things work together is represented through visual imagery. When helping senior teams to develop their corporate vision, I apply cutting-edge visual techniques to help ground and test the business thinking in a real, meaningful and whole-system way.

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A strategic narrative aka corporate story is the ideal mechanism to collaboratively identify and shape strategic intent into a coherent vision capable of informing and framing policy. I have found the process of developing a strategic narrative the most effective way to get a group of senior leaders working on the same page. The story creation process provides an element of group therapy, providing space and quality airtime for the senior leadership to work through conflicting perspectives — that otherwise might never have been addressed in the workplace.

I have also found that strategic narrative is the optimal mechanism to support and enable vision-led design. It addresses a range of critical elements that need to be tackled when translating strategy into meaningful execution. For brevity reasons I will list the top three benefits gained from a strategic narrative:. A strategic Narrative is a powerful tool that captures strategic thinking, complex technical concepts and creative ideas in a way that everyone can understand, identify with and believe in.

It is also capable of:. The corporate vision approach that I describe in this article has been developed since During this time, I have cherry-picked, blended and road-tested thought leadership from a wide range of experts in the fields of strategy, change, psychology including sports psychology , anthropology, sociology and philosophy. The thinking within this book, published by Harvard Business School Press in , provided an immensely helpful lens that helped frame and join-up my practitioner ideas and concepts into this uniquely fresh approach.

Otherwise, a strategy is nothing more than a marketing slogan that will not withstand competition. It is not the result of a single decision or action. It is the result of a series of integrated decisions or actions over time. Vision: The language of strategy formulation covers high-level concepts such as organisation purpose, vision, mission, intent and identity. It connects this collective who, what, and why with the corporate culture and appropriate structure, and with the goals and metrics that will be used to measure strategic success.

Action: The language of the project portfolio covers the specifics of getting things done — who, how, when, and with which resources. It links the strategic project investments with ongoing operations and supports the transfer of new capabilities to the frontline. Connecting Vision To Action: In the human brain there is a clever piece of kit called the corpus callosum.


Similar to the corpus callosum, a strategic narrative connects an organisations vision and strategic intent to action. It is my experience that you cannot execute without active engagement. I am not suggesting that you adopt a management by committee approach — far from it.

However, I do advise that a broad base of the right stakeholders are included to ensure the thinking that underpins your corporate vision is business ready — i. From extensive experience helping people and teams navigate change, one of the biggest lessons that I have learned is that you first need to get your people to care if you want them to engage actively. The need for meaningful engagement is one reason why storytelling is a valuable part of the corporate vision development process. In a study at Princeton University , scientists found that when we listen to a well-told story, our brain responds as if we are inside the story ourselves, we also feel a powerful connection to the storyteller.

Why is this? Have you ever been in an audience when someone is telling a story on stage? Maybe at a theatre or TED-style talk. Notice how it feels like there is magic in the air?

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If we were to put you in an MRI machine and tell you a story like at the beginning of this article! They are the data processing regions of your brain see Fig. Storytelling has the power to engage, influence, teach and inspire listeners. When applied in the right way, storytelling can be a highly useful tool to develop, evangelise and execute the corporate vision. Even if the presenter is animated, when we hear information being ticked off in a dry transactional way, the language processing parts in our brain get to work translating those bullet points into story form where we can find our own meaning.

The problem with this, however, is that the story we come up with in our mind may not be the same one the speaker intends to convey through data — in the context of strategy execution this presents a significant risk. Perhaps most importantly, storytelling is central to meaning-making and sense-making. It is through the story that our minds form and examine our truths and beliefs, as well as discern how they correlate with the realities and beliefs of others.

Through story, we gain new perspectives and a better understanding of the world around us. We challenge and expand our knowledge by exploring how others see and understand the world through their lens. This enhanced collective intelligence and increased team cohesion — on an organisation-wide scale — feed through to stronger, more consistent and more effective execution. It is my experience that when we listen to a good story — rich in detail, full of metaphor, expressive of character — we tend to imagine ourselves in the same situation.

Can you think of a better way to help people understand, buy-in and eventually, hopefully, own the vision as if they came up with the idea themselves? Ultimately, storytelling is about the exchange of ideas. The interview was fascinating, and our CEO was both visionary and immensely engaging when sharing what our organisation was focused on. Heck, the message my CEO was evangelising was great!

If I had not been part of the organisation already, I would have signed up immediately! Unfortunately, and much to my surprise and dismay, when comparing my personal real world work experiences and the company messaging I had been receiving, I did not recognise an awful lot of what our CEO shared with the CNBC news anchor that day — suffice to say that I found this profoundly troubling at the time.

The disconnect that I experienced above is much more common than many executives realise — it is incredibly demoralising for a workforce and a significant threat. If the corporate messaging does not congruently align with the real world — aka critical activities, projects and initiatives — successful execution is impossible. A good start would be to take a good look at the previous two years investment and project activity. I also recall a conversation when presenting to a significant client prospect.

My audience at the time was a new-in-post COO who was shaking things up and seeking a fresh approach to strategic engagement. To illustrate an important concept I told the COO the following story….

Business Plans to Game Plans: A Practical System for Turning Strategies into Action

To set the scene… I was a middle manager in a large listed organisation. Unsurprisingly this hammering filtered down to our fortnightly all-hands call that our CEO regularly chaired. Doing or saying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result does not work. In the absence of clear direction, people will apply their own decision rules — which can prove fatal for corporate performance see Fig. The process of translating corporate vision into strategic initiatives, then into a portfolio of projects, is more straightforward when there are clear and meaningful terms of reference to inform and guide the design and planning process.

Alongside clear direction, companies need to be responsive and disciplined when executing the game plan. Translated, this means effectively monitoring and aligning project-based work to match the shifting change environment both internally and externally. This is because the clean and stable logic of strategic delivery gets messy in the real world. To successfully navigate, the planned project portfolio and the actual project portfolio need to be ready to change as-and-when required. In the heat of complex and challenging transformation delivery, companies need a well-defined, coordinated and transparent process that connects thinking to doing.

With this in mind, I have listed some of the things that help ensure the corporate vision is front-and-centre to all follow-on delivery:. Unfortunately, for client non-disclosure reasons I am unable to share client work examples of the strategy development framework on public channels. If however you would like more information on the strategy development framework approach that I have developed, please feel free to contact me.

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There is also some additional information that can be found here…. To ensure the corporate vision and strategic intent is central to all design, build and embedding activity I simultaneously utilise three transformation tools see Fig. The tools provide a practical bridge between strategy and execution and include:.

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This role typically takes on a TOM Director or Manager title with the responsibility of providing focused support to both the Executive Sponsor and Programme Director, ensuring all design, planning and delivery is fully aligned to the vision and strategic intent. The following governance model illustrates how this approach works see Fig. If by this point I have still managed to keep your attention, you might be wondering how the introductory story at the top of the article ended and my round of golf went.

Well it went both terribly and wonderfully!

Business Plans to Game Plans: A Practical System for Turning Strategies Into Action

After successful delivery of the contract, I enquired why I had been selected. Being a small SME I was by far the riskier choice on a vendor shortlist that included representation from the Big The reason for my winning was that I had been accurate and succinct when explaining the challenges — I had also painted a compelling vision of the solution that I was proposing to lead.

What sealed my selection was the simple fact that I achieved this whilst navigating trees, ponds and bushes whilst hacking terribly at a tiny ball. The ability to download complex concepts while in a challenging environment — and in a way that was clearly understood, identified with and believed in — was the determining factor that led to my succeeding. Is this not what corporate vision is fundamentally about …the articulation of a big enterprise idea that helps you and the organisation succeed.

Setting The Scene I can remember it like yesterday. I of course did not know this then… I sat nervously in the luxuriously decorated reception of an iconic old-school merchant bank, mentally running over my presentation, ensuring I had the key messages firmly fixed in my mind. A corporate vision: Provides clarity, focus and energy to the leadership as well as providing direction, hope and belief to the wider work population. Provides context for alignment across the organisation — joining-up strategic performance indicators, structural capabilities, business activities, ways-of-working, decision-making, prioritisation, behaviour et al.

Provides a behavioural framework that leadership can embed. Serves as a foundation for a broader strategic plan. Acts as a high-level roadmap, articulating what the organisation wants to become — guiding transformational initiatives by articulating strategic intent and setting a defined clear and understandable direction. Behaves similarly to an Ikea instruction guide, providing practical, clear and meaningful guidance and instructions.

Serves as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action — designed to both inform and direct decision-making, behaviour and prioritisation. Promotes supports and enables successful execution of the organisational game plan — articulating what it wants to do, how it wants to do it, where, when, who-with and who-to. Example corporate vision traits include: Inspiring: motivates and engages employees and is something that employees view as desirable and useful. Challenging: not something that can be easily met and discarded, but realistically achievable.

A good marketing strategy helps you target your products and services to the people most likely to buy them. It usually involves you creating one or two powerful ideas to raise awareness and sell your products. Developing a marketing strategy that includes the components listed below will help you make the most of your marketing investment, keep your marketing focused, and measure and improve your sales results.

To develop your marketing strategy, identify your overarching business goals, so that you can then define a set of marketing goals to support them. Your business goals might include:.

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  • When setting goals it's critical to be as targeted as possible so you can effectively measure the outcomes against what you set out to achieve. Define a set of specific marketing goals based on the business goals you listed above. These goals will motivate you and your team and help you benchmark your success. Examples of marketing goals include increased market penetration selling more existing products to existing customers or market development selling existing products to new target markets.

    These marketing goals could be long-term and might take a few years to successfully achieve. However, they should be clear and measurable and have time frames for achievement. Make sure your overall strategies are also practical and measurable. A good marketing strategy will not be changed every year, but revised when your strategies have been achieved or your marketing goals have been met.

    Also, you may need to amend your strategy if your external market changes due to a new competitor or new technology, or if your products substantially change. Research is an essential part of your marketing strategy. You need to gather information about your market , such as its size, growth, social trends and demographics population statistics such as age, gender and family type. It is important to keep an eye on your market so you are aware of any changes over time, so your strategy remains relevant and targeted.

    Use your market research to develop a profile of the customers you are targeting and identify their needs. The profile will reveal their buying patterns, including how they buy, where they buy and what they buy. Again, regularly review trends so you don't miss out on new opportunities or become irrelevant with your marketing message. While you try to find new customers , make sure your marketing strategy also allows you to maintain relationships with your existing customers.

    Similarly, as part of your marketing strategy you should develop a profile of your competitors by identifying their products, supply chains, pricing and marketing tactics. Use this to identify your competitive advantage - what sets your business apart from your competitors. You may also want to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your own internal processes to help improve your performance compared with your competition. List your target markets and devise a set of strategies to attract and retain them. An example goal could be to increase young people's awareness of your products.

    Your corresponding strategies could be to increase your online social media presence by posting regular updates about your product on Twitter and Facebook; advertising in local magazines targeted to young people; and offering discounts for students. Identify your tactical marketing mix using the 7 Ps of marketing.

    If you can choose the right combination of marketing across product, price, promotion, place, people, process and physical evidence, your marketing strategy is more likely to be a success. In deciding your tactics, do some online research, test some ideas and approaches on your customers and your staff, and review what works. You will need to choose a number of tactics in order to meet your customers' needs, reach the customers within your target market and improve your sales results. Phone scam reported - 'Queensland Business Development Office'.

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