Shep21's Blog….Leadership, marketing & customer service through the printed words of many

Top 10 questions you ask in doing strategic planning! January 6, 2010

Filed under: Business Planning — shep21 @ 6:00 am
On Twitter from @garybcohen
Scott Glatstein, President of Imperatives shares with us the Top 10 questions you ask in doing strategic planning! And how they will inform you.

1. What’s your marketplace promise?
a. Identifies whether a clear promise exists
b. Asking the same question across the organization tests alignment

2. Lots of companies make promises they don’t keep; why should the marketplace believe yours?
a. Identifies whether the company has thought beyond the t-shirt slogan
b. Determines whether there is understanding of how the promise is delivered
3. How do your products and services deliver on the promise?
a. Checks to see if the marketplace offerings are aligned to promise made
4. Has the end-to-end customer experience been mapped to ensure it aligns with the promise?
a. Identifies the key touch points and sensitizes the company to heretofore ignored drivers of preference and success
5. Do hiring and training practices create a company culture poised to fulfill the promise?
a. Tests to see how serious the company is in driving their promise through their people
6. Are internal processes managed holistically across silos with a critical eye toward their effect on the customer experience?
a. Tests awareness of breakdowns that can occur when processes cross silos
b. Tests awareness of the effects of every process on the customer’s image of the company
7. How do you gather feedback from your market-facing employees regarding potential improvements to your business processes?
a. Tests lines of communication and respect for front-line employees
b. Offers insight into management’s awareness of the market and the organization
8. Do you have any business processes you believe are strictly internal and have no bearing on the customer? If so, why are you doing them?
a. Offers an opportunity to point out that everything the company does should, in some way, serve the customer promise. If it doesn’t, it shouldn’t be done.
9. How do you ensure new IT systems support delivery of the marketplace promise?
a. Tests linkage between the development of tools and their effect on the customer experience. (“I’m sorry sir…the system just won’t let me do that.”)
10. Do your employees embrace the tools you’ve provided or do they view them as a hindrance to doing their jobs?
a. Identifies potential disconnects that could stymie strategy implementation:
i. Employee doesn’t understand role and thus sees no value in the tool
ii. Employee understands role but tool does not enable employee to fulfill the promise
iii. Employee has not been properly trained

Get s-m-a-r-t with goal setting January 4, 2010

Filed under: Business Planning — shep21 @ 2:00 pm

Make them “s-m-a-r-t.” 

  • Specific—your goals just identify exactly what you want to accomplish in as much specificity as you can muster.
  • Measurable—as the old adage says, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
  • Actionable—every goal should start with a verb (e.g., “quit,” “run,” “finish,” “eliminate,” etc.)
  • Realistic—you have to be careful here. A good goal should stretch you, but you have to add a dose of common sense.
  • Time-bound—every goal needs a date associated with it. When do you plan to deliver on that goal. It could be by year-end (December 31) or it could be more near-term (March 31).

Write them down. This is critical. There is a huge power in writing your goals on paper even if you never develop an action plan or do anything else. Henriette Anne Klauser documents this in her fascinating book, Write It Down and Make It Happen .

Go public.  Going public creates accountability and leverage. Several years ago, I blogged about my goal to run a half marathon. Once I did that, there was no turning back. People would ask, “So how’s your training going?” I wanted to have a good answer, so I would haul myself out of bed and go run.

This blog post was adapted from Michael Hyatt’s post on resolutions found here:


3 eye opening ideas about business planning January 3, 2010

Filed under: Business Planning — shep21 @ 6:00 am

In my blog post on New Year’s day, I shared some thoughts on the great insight provided by Harry Beckwith in his book “Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing”. Today I’d like share some more from this great book. Hope you enjoy…

“Everyone involved in planning should start with three ideas:

First, accept the limitations of planning. Don’t assume that putting eight smart people in a room with good data will automatically produce something. Ford put eight smart planners in a room, and out popped the Edsel.

Second, don’t value planning for its result: the plan. The greatest value of the plan is the process, the thinking that went into it.

Third, don’t plan your future. Plan your people. Outstanding people who fit your basic broad vision will tend to make the right decisions along the way, not by following  a plan, but by using their skill.”

My favorite is the third point. Logical but overlooked advice. Way too often we are focused more on process rather than people.


Defining objectives, goals, strategies and tactics December 29, 2009

Filed under: Business Planning — shep21 @ 3:15 pm

This is a great article on clearly defining O, G, S & T as a first step in strategic planning. Thanks to Ben McConnell at

It’s that time: time to create strategic plans for next year.

Most people use some form of objectives, goals, strategies and tactics for their plans, but get a group of 10 people into a room and you might have 10 different definitions of what those terms mean? That’s why agreeing on their meaning is vital to your plan. Term agreement is a lubricant to productivity.

With that in mind, here’s how we define the intention, purpose and usage of “objectives, goals, strategies and tactics” when assembling a strategic plan.


An objective is a high-level achievement. The simpler the better, like “Improve customer loyalty” or “Grow our market share.” They can also be mountain-tops of company success: “Make our brand a word of mouth success story.” They could be trying to solve a nagging, systemic problem or doing something big, like entering a new market. Objectives are a rally point for leaders who manage day-to-day efforts: “Will the idea being pitched to me help us reduce our churn?” or “Will this project help us develop a new market?” For us, objectives sit at the top of the strategic plan, and an ideal plan has no more than a handful of them. Anything more can be overload — for leaders and the people who work for them.


In our framework, a goal is anything that’s measured. Goals can be revenue, profit margin, members in a community, certifications delivered, a Net Promoter Score number, etc. Goals determine how you fulfill an objective. Multiple goals can, and should, support a single objective. A goal of “Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 59” can support multiple objectives like “become a word of mouth success story” and “deliver best-in-class service.” Just like in sports, a goal is based on numbers.


A strategy is a way to describe a series of tactics, or very specific actions. In sports or war, strategy is often described as an action: Increase troop levels in a region. Do man-to-man coverage. The commonality is action performed by a team or group of people. Each strategy description begins with a verb to signify that something is being done. Example verbs include: create, hire, develop, launch, etc. Each strategy is supported, typically, by a series of specific tactics that may or may not be linear in execution or time. Every item in our strategic planning framework begins with a verb.


A tactic is a very specific action, like creating a new program or improving an existing one. In our framework, a tactic might be “Launch a online listening program” or “Form a customer advisory board for the manufacturing group.” Each tactic has an owner who may rely on the work of multiple people in direct or dotted-line reporting relationships to make the tactic work. Each tactic typically has its own plan, too, whether laid out in a spreadsheet or a Gantt chart. Tactics are best, too, when they are preceded with a verb. Specificity is the driver to improvement.

Later: Afterward, Beth Harte raised this point: Who should own the definition of terms like objectives, goals, strategies and tactics? If you believe language is a reflection of culture, and that culture is largely driven from the top, then I would suggest definitions come from office of the CEO and/or COO. It’s from there that planning terminology, and even the planning process, should be taught clearly, succinctly and repeatedly. Beth thinks definitions could be owned by an outside association.


How to set clear goals

Filed under: Business Planning — shep21 @ 2:32 pm

by Mark Foo

 Without goals, there would be no passion, purpose, or drive in
life. If your goals are too vague, you’ll find much more difficulty
on your journey than if you’d properly prepared in the first place.

Planning Your Goals

The planning phase is the most important stage when it comes to
achieving your goals. Planning might come easy or hard for you, but
one thing’s for sure, without planning the end goal may not even
exist at all.

While it’s important to set up your own system that works for you,
there are some simple goal setting strategies you can use to make
your planning easier.

Consider the following tips for finding clarity in your goals:

1. Decide what you want. Whether your goal is lofty or little,
decide exactly what it is that you want. If you want money, how
much? If you want to lose weight, how many pounds? If you want
success, how do you describe your vision of success?

* Don’t be afraid to take your time to figure out what you want. At
some point you’ll need to eventually sift through your thoughts and
take action, but make sure you’re acting on what’s most important
to you!

2. Be specific. Be very detailed as you develop every part of your
goal. Instead of a goal like “I want to be better at sports,” consider
a goal like “I want to perform exceptionally well during spring tryouts so I can become the all-star point guard for my high school basketball team.” Just being “better” at sports is too vague. There are too many options and avenues to take that your mind can’t focus on any one route to your goal.

3. Write it down. Write down your ideas and decisions. It doesn’t
matter if you use pencil and paper, a computer, or even a cell
phone. What’s important is the fact that you can keep track of a
large amount of specific information instead of trying to remember
everything. After all, goals only seem real when you see them
clearly before you.

4. Break down your goal into increments. If you have a lofty goal, it’ll become manageable if you break it down into smaller pieces. Smaller pieces will make your goal seem less complex. Plus, it’ll be easier for you to achieve your goal if everything is set out for you as mini-goals, instead of just one huge feat.

5. Repeat the process. Once you’ve found a good system, it’s time
to repeat the process. Clarify your other goals that you’d like to

* For example, if you’d like to “spend more time with the family,”
which is too vague, make a list of specific family activities you’d
like to do together, and then make more lists that detail how you
can make those goals a reality.

Don’t Wait For “Someday”

Some of the reasons why people tend to keep their goals vague is
that they’re actually afraid of achieving them. It’s true!  After all, it’s a whole lot easier to put off your goals and do nothing, than to take action to achieve it. But what good is a goal that merely resides on paper?  Once you’ve decided on a clear goal, it’s time to take swift action to make it a reality. Don’t wait for someday to achieve your goals. There’s no time like the present… so get moving!


Solid Strategies = Solid Success November 20, 2009

Filed under: Business Planning — shep21 @ 11:58 am

Solid Strategies = Solid Success By Nido Qubein Success results from a solid strategy.  (Mr. Qubein is President of High Point University. HPU is a model example of how to run an institution of higher education)

Even the greatest ideas are of little value unless they are backed up by a practical and workable plan of action. The word strategy comes from an ancient Greek term which literally means to be a general leading troops into battle. Setting up a good strategic plan involves five steps: The first step is to translate your vision into measurable and achievable goals. You decide specifically what you want to accomplish during the next five to ten years – those are your long range goals. Next, you break those goals down into intermediate goals – things you wish to accomplish during the next six months or year. Then you break them down further into short term goals covering the next month or six weeks. The second step is to break your goals down into achievable objectives. Dr. Robert Schuller says, “Yard by yard life is hard, inch by inch it’s a cinch.” Working by objectives helps you concentrate on what’s important, instead of spinning your wheels on those things that seem urgent, but don’t lead to your long term goals. Objectives add purpose and direction to all your activities. The third step is to set up your strategies for accomplishing your objectives. Strategies are the specific ways you will go about achieving your objectives. The more clearly thought out they are, the more effective they will be. Fourth, you choose each task you must complete each day to achieve your goals. This is where most planning breaks down. We tend to leave it vague – thinking that, as long as we are working hard all the time, we are achieving our goals. Most people I talk with are extremely busy – and most of them are working hard to do things right. The problem is they are not doing enough of the right things – the things that will help them achieve their goals. It is not enough to merely list each task you need to do; you need to build it into your schedule. So many hours every day you are working on specific actions that will lead to accomplishing your definite objectives. And, finally, build in the monitoring mechanisms that will help you keep track of your progress toward implementing your plan. It’s one thing to have a “gut level feeling” that you must be doing something right because you are always working hard. But it is far better to design simple mechanisms to let you know precisely how much progress you are making. Look for a few key indicators that will help you stay on track, and monitor those like a doctor would monitor the vital signs of a patient. It doesn’t matter how much activity is going on. What matters is how well you are doing at achieving your objectives. One good example would be that you would target to contact three people each day to generate new business. At the end of the day, you’d know whether you have achieved that goal. Your plan is not complete until it has been communicated satisfactorily to every person in your organization who must help to implement it. Here are some guidelines to help you communicate your vision and plan to your staff, associates and others: 1. Involve others in formulating the plan. People tend to understand and support plans they help create. 2. Clearly identify roles and expectations. Every person needs to know clearly what you expect and understand the basis on which his or her performance is to be judged. 3. Make sure everyone understands all deadlines and schedules. A good plan has teeth in it, and the only way to give it those teeth is to set definite deadlines for specific actions. 4. Count on the plan for intrinsic motivation rather than seeking to motivate people with gimmicks. If the plan is built around the strengths and personal motivations of the people who must execute it, and has its own built-in rewards, motivation will take care of itself. If not, you cannot come up with enough gimmicks to make it work 5. Get feedback to make sure people understand exactly what you expect. It’s not very helpful to say, “Does everyone understand the plan?” A far better approach is to say, “Tell me what you understand the plan to be and how you see yourself fitting into it.”