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08 23 2013

Strategic Planning: How to Chart your Course for Success


August 2013

Charting Your Course For Success

Business Strategy and Implementation, Business Success, Improvement, Leadership Development/ Executive Coaching, Mergers: How to Manage Organizational Change, Project Implementation: How to Create Ownership


In order for any business to end the year successfully, it must have begun the year properly by establishing achievable goals at the micro and macro levels. Setting a clear course toward those goals includes gathering accurate formative and summative measures of success and maintaining the flexibility to anticipate and adapt to the unknown. A leader who is clear on the direction of the organization will more easily maneuver around possible bumps in the road ahead.

Given there are a multitude of factors influencing organizational success, not the least of which include developing human capital, usefulness of procedures and policies, growing market share, and coping with the inevitable unknowns, how can a business effectively set broad goals, chart its course, and act accordingly?

The simple answer to that question is in effective strategic planning and purposeful implementation. However, like anything this important, a simplistic answer does not adequately express the depth and breadth of the task at hand. To complete a thoughtful strategic plan, as well as implement this plan successfully, takes time and effort. The basics of writing and implementing a successful strategic plan are as follows:

Clarifying Your Core Values

Prior to writing a strategic plan, an organization needs to ascertain and communicate its guiding beliefs. Core values precede strategy because they represent what the organization believes in. They clarify its purpose; why it exists.

Ask the Following:

  • What do we value and believe about our organization, our responsibilities, our people, and our work?
  • Why are we here doing what we do?

Creating Your Organizational Vision

Next, through representative leadership, the organization must have a vision. The vision establishes what the organization will be, do, know, and look like in the future. In this phase, it is wise to be bold. Use consensusbuilding communication techniques, such as wall charts or document sharing applications to mutually develop where your organization will be by the end of the coming years.

Ask the Following:

  • Where do we want to be in one to two years? (Be VERY specific.)

Scaffolding Your Strategic Plan

Now that there is mutual agreement on your direction toward a clear destination, it is time to formulate the means to get there. Once the picture of the future has been created, it is best to work backward to determine what has to be changed today in order to reach tomorrow.

The strategic plan itself will be in the form of a living document that will likely evolve throughout the year as new information unfolds, but overall its focus will remain the same if the strategies were founded on accurate baseline information. Developing specific incremental steps to get to your future destination should include clear measures of success along the way. Further considerations should include environmental factors, physical plants and facilities, competition, potential threats and opportunities, and any other existing parameters or limitations.

Ask the Following:

  • Given our long-term vision, what factors will influence our success?

Implementing the Plan and Assessing Progress Toward Goals

Ask the Following:

  • How will our leadership, management, and/or supervisory staffs make meaning of this plan in its entirety? (This is a macro point of view.)
  • How will each individual and department on a micro level respond to this plan?
  • What human capital and talents will be required to meet these strategic goals?
  • Who will review the procedures, systems, policies, environments and resources that must be changed in order to best support our people to achieve these goals and objectives?

Aligning Individual and Department Objectives with Organizational Goals

Organizational goals and outcomes are useless if the people within the organization do not fully support and “own” them. This may seem obvious, but in our role as professional consultants and objective observers we often hear leaders say one thing and go in one direction only to witness the employees saying something else and going in an entirely different direction.

Ask the Following:

  • What concrete evidence do we have that our people, processes, procedures and programs are aligned with our vision and our strategic plan?
  • How often and in what ways do we need to revisit the vision and strategic plan in order to ensure successful commitment to its goals at all levels?

Strategic Plan Implementation

Most organizations we consult with have well-written strategic plans housed in fancy binders, but often these plans are not utilized because the leadership and the line staff don’t know how, or aren’t motivated to implement the plan.This happens for any number of reasons. But, regardless of why, if an organization doesn’t intend to refer to the strategic plan regularly, ensure its effective implementation, follow its recommendations or at least hire a consulting firm to help to make its goals a reality within the organization, then it would be wiser not to even start the process in the first place.

If your strategic plan is just sitting on a shelf gathering dust, or your individual or departmental goals are not aligned with the organizational vision, it might be because of these reasons:

  • The organization’s goals and objectives are too vague.
  • No one feels “ownership” of this document or process.
  • Leadership and management don’t regularly communicate and revisit the vision or demonstrate the value of the strategic plan.
    • NOTE: This “de-valuing” may be due to the mistaken belief that strategic planning is only an executive-level function.
  • The strategic plan’s components aren’t directly related to or aligned with individual performance expectations and objectives.
  • Individual and departmental goals are not aligned with organizational vision and goals because communication or trust issues exist within the organization.
  • There is little or no reinforcement and monitoring of progress toward macro or micro goals because these features are not clearly delineated within the plan.

Becoming a Wise and Innovative Leader

Unfortunately, many leaders don’t recognize obstacles until after the fact. But, make no mistake about it: It’s the CEO’s job, the business owner’s job, and the department manager’s job to not only chart the course, but also anticipate challenges. In highly competitive markets this is not only good business, it is crucial to survival. And those leaders who have the experience and wisdom to be innovative and proactive will find success beyond their reactionary peers. Through thoughtful strategic planning and implementation, your organization can make it to the next level.


Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

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Posted by at 1:34 PM

08 23 2013

Technology is no Substitute for Effective Communication


August 2013

Give Us a Technology Pill to Cure All Our Ills

Communication Issues, Leadership Development/ Executive Coaching, Project Implementation: How to Create Ownership, Work Place Articles


Technology is no substitute for effective communication, trust and leadership development:

  • Super software will not always cure your organizational ills!
  • Digital systems will not always trim the fat off your budget!
  • Strategic plan software will never help you implement your cool new plan!

I have to admit that I am just as intrigued by fun trends as the next person, but I also have an obligation to speak the truth in front of seductive technologies and their impressive draws: There simply is no substitute for rolling up your sleeves and getting to know the needs of your people and customers. Yes. Trendy software can be pretty darn cool. Yes, improved software programs can be very helpful and may even save you plenty under the right conditions. But no tool will work if you do not have successful communication, trust and professional development as the foundation for your organization.

One way to develop successful communication with your people is to recognize what stage they are in as a group. Most people have heard of Bruce Tuckman’s the four stages of group development: Forming, Storming, Norming and Perfuming.  click here to link to it:

It’s truly sad and very costly that 95% of leaders don’t truly understand how to leverage this knowledge to help themselves and their companies mature and grow through these very normal stages. As we all know, each new passing day in business, departments and organizations go through predictable stages. Having an awareness of these stages will help individuals and leaders recognize and accept these natural phases. You and your people will likely feel a heightened level of safety and security in knowing where you are on your journey and what you need to do to get to the next stage successfully. Often people and organizations get stuck in one of these stages and assume wrongly that “this is just the way it is.” I am here to assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. In this case, knowledge is power and the knowledge of social dynamics is imperative in growing a successful corporation.

Group Development Examples

Laying out the four stages of group development, the model is well-known and highly effective in helping groups and their leaders understand what to look for and then what to do to increase a group’s communication, trust and leadership effectiveness through stages of change. If your organization is facing change brought on by the introduction of a new idea, a new program or a trend, we recommend you give this model some thought. Consider sharing this information with your people to open up a dialogue and begin to build trust. All groups, regardless of their history and regardless of their level of knowledge or skills, will go through or remain stuck in these stages. As you read through these, locate where you are and decide if you want to create effective change. Then take steps toward improving your team, department or organization.

Keep in mind when you are tempted to drop a dime on any number of quick fixes: Business models may appear to be what you need. Even computer programs may seem like the “safe” bet. But they may seem safe because you are caught in the fantasy or illusion that if you buy the new “widget” then you’ll become the success.

The Tools are Only as Good as the User

Models, diagrams, computer programs, technologies and trends are just tools. That’s all they are. Tools. In the hands of the right people, they will enhance a good thing. But, on their own, they will not help us change our behaviors. Further, they alone will not help us improve our communication. They alone will not build trust or buy-in. They won’t do our work. They will only postpone the inevitable. Make no mistake about this. Businesses succeed or fail through their people. The better your people communicate with each other and your internal and external customers, the better off your business will be. If you understand this then utilize the models, the best technologies, and the motivational programs, but always with the caveat to see them for what they are: just tools to help your people grow and develop your organization and themselves.


Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

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Posted by at 1:20 PM

08 21 2013

Strategic Plan & Project Implementation How to Create Ownership

Business Strategy and Implementation, Project Implementation: How to Create Ownership

August 2013

Project Implementation: How to Create Ownership

This is where you are, but… THIS is where you WANT to be…
  • An “us versus them” culture has been created and will not relent.
  1. People grasp the issues.
  2. Individuals and departments are aligned around a common purpose.
  3. People understand both the difficulties and the opportunities inherent in change.
  4. Goal-oriented, positive atmosphere and attitudes are measurably increased.
  • Communication and conflict resolution are poor and steadily getting worse.
  • Vital information is being withheld or hidden as a means of control.
  1. Capacity for future change increases.
  2. People develop the skills and processes to meet not just the current challenges, but the future challenges, as well.
  • The strategic plan, project plan or merger outline is clear, but implementing it is proving more difficult than expected
  1. Involving stakeholders ensures their input and buy-in early in the process.
  • Production schedules and timelines are being missed.
  1. Enhanced stakeholder involvement translates into diversity of ideas.
  2. Bottom line results are measurably improved.
  3. People articulate personal and departmental buy-in to organizational goals, objectives, and specific timelines.
  • People are nodding in agreement, but silently fighting the changes and direction.
  1. Collaboration with internal and external stakeholders builds cohesive and profitable partnerships.
  • Frustration and stress are increasing.
  1. Improved communication translates to less frustration.

Participative Management

My experience with successful organizations has led me to focus on the dynamic tension between leaders’ ownership of the strategies for change and their key stakeholders’ acceptance and buy-in of the plan. (Key stakeholders here are those who are crucial to the successful implementation of the desired change.) Often, there is a dynamic gap between these two entities that must be bridged successfully if the desired change is to proceed effectively.

The process I recommend can be used with internal and/or external stakeholders, as well as for regular feedback on many topics from strategic planning to mergers and change management.

In reality there are eight parallel process steps necessary to bridge the gap between those who lead change and those who implement it. Any mis-step or short cut will inevitably lead to breakdowns later in the process and require extensive duplication of work and a slowing of the project. Briefly, I will describe how vitally important real-time meetings held with leadership and key stakeholders prove to be an integral step in this process. For a more in-depth explanation on this process and how we may partner on your implementation project, please contact

The purpose of real-time meetings is twofold:

  1. to share information and provide feedback to the core leadership team in order to troubleshoot and improve the plans, and
  2. to gain understanding, acceptance (i.e., buy-in), and commitment to the overall direction and implementation of the plan.

One important factor to remember is: people support what they help create. Thus, it is crucial to involve key stakeholders early on in the planning and change process. If this crucial step is omitted or briefly touched on, long term organizational outcomes will pay the price. Poor stakeholder motivation or ambivalence later on is an expensive problem to fix. It is much more effective to alter a plan before it is put into place, rather than try to turn back time and re-work a process mid-stream.

Successful leaders plan ahead for their organizations strategic and human change needs. Even though change is inevitable, in order to be efficient and effective, managing successful change takes preparation and planning. Simply put: investing in and creating buy-in and ownership at all levels pays off.


Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

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Posted by at 11:31 AM