Strategic filters are tools you can use to prioritize your organization’s initiatives. Being able to evaluate the initiatives you’re going to pursue as part of your strategic plan is at the core of the strategic planning process. You need to be able to identify what the high-priority initiatives are and what the low-priority initiatives are. To do so, you need a common set of criteria that everyone across the organization is going to use to conduct those evaluations. I call them strategic filters. These filters are going to be things that are important to your organization, things like this idea meets a customer need, or it helps us be differentiated versus our competition, or it has an acceptable level of complexity. Sometimes your filters aren’t qualitative; they’re quantitative. So what’s the net present value of this initiative? What’s the financial return? What’s the return on investment? By articulating this set of criteria, you’re going to have a common lens to evaluate your initiatives through. These filters are going to screen out initiatives that aren’t consistent with the stated direction of the organization. And they’re going to be customized based upon the needs of the organization. For example, if you need to grow internationally, you probably need a filter that says, “Helps us be more global.” If the initiative does that and gets you into new countries and new geographies, then it would be high on the priority list. If it doesn’t and it keeps you domestic, that initiative would be low. Once you’ve generated your set of strategic filters, you need to understand how much risk they’re going to have you take on. There are five things to look at as you evaluate that risk. First, consider how relevant your existing capabilities are. Are the strengths you have today going to […]
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Today’s post is by Robert Bruce Shaw, author of Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter (CLICK HERE to get your copy). Leaders are faced with two conflicting needs. The first is to act with a deep confidence in their abilities and the strategies they are implementing. This allows them to pursue audacious goals and persevere when faced with adversity. The second is to be aware of their vulnerabilities and the need for a healthy dose of self-doubt. This allows them to see themselves and their situations accurately — avoiding, in particular, the hazards of over-confidence and excessive optimism. Those who fail to do so run the risk of having blindspots — which are the unrecognized weaknesses or threats that have the potential to harm a leader and his or her company. Savvy leaders understand that blindspots, while they vary in severity and are different for each individual, are not the exception — instead, they “come with the territory.” The question then becomes: How do I surface and address the blindspots that matter? One way is to ask the right questions in the right way. Here are some guidelines for identifying blindspots: 1. Avoid yes-or-no questions. Closed-end questions (those that can answered yes or no) are efficient, but don’t surface information that may be critical to understanding a potential weakness or threat. Questions are called open-ended when they allow for a variety of responses and provoke a fuller discussion. For example, a closed-end question might be, “Are you going to deliver your business plan this year?” while an open-ended question is, “Tell me about the risks you face in delivering your plan and the actions you are taking to mitigate them?” 2. Don’t lead the witness. Hard-charging leaders often push to confirm their own assumptions […]
Our reader poll today asks: How often is your organization “penny-wise and pound foolish?” All the time. We save a little money here but at the expense of important things like quality 42.55% Sometimes. We’ll pinch pennies on less important things but generally spend on important stuff 47.51% Never. We always look at the broader implications of spend decisions and make good choices 9.94% Save now, pay later. A striking portion of respondents (43%) say your organizations focus more on savings than on the longer-term implications of saving a few bucks in the near term. This is usually a costly strategy. What does a lack of quality cost? What does rework cost? While budget and cost pressures are always prevalent, you need to understand the implications of being cheap and how it can cost you more money in the long run. If you’re the person trying to get money to spend, present the cost of skimping on quality as part of your business case. If you can show the negative impact of that short-term savings, you might be able to influence your approving authority to spend in a more thoughtful way. – Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC Did you enjoy this post? If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog. It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!). SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!
Define your mission, vision, guiding principles, and goals to set the direction of your organization. When you set direction for your organization as part of the strategic planning process, there are four elements to doing so: Articulating your mission, your vision, your guiding principles, and your goals. A mission is: Why does your organization exist? What is its purpose in the world? The vision is then saying: If we’re fulfilling that purpose, at some point in time, where are we going to be? What do we want to achieve? What do want the organization to look like at some future point? Your guiding principles are the rules you want your team to live by. How do you want people in the organization behaving, especially when the boss isn’t around? What are the lenses you’re going to look through as you try to evaluate decisions? And lastly, your goals. Try to quantify these. It may be X number of customers by a certain date, or dollars of revenue, dollars of profit, a margin percentage, being able to put out hard numbers by a certain point in time to orient the organization and say, “Here’s what we’re shooting for.” Here are some of the pitfalls that I’ve seen during this step of defining where you’re going. First, many vision statements and mission statements are way too long. I’ve seen some that have spanned multiple pages. To the extent possible, make them short, clear, and free of buzzwords. Next, your guiding principles need to be clear enough that everyone in the organization understands them and can apply them, even to the smallest actions. And last, your goals need to be aggressive, but pragmatic. If they’re not aggressive, the organization isn’t going to push itself. They’re not going to innovate to try and fill that gap between where they are and where the goal says they should be. If the goals are too aggressive and you’re not pragmatic, […]
Achieving your goals is all about taking tangible steps every day. If you change your time horizon and ask yourself six simple questions, you’ll find you’re achieving your goals more rapidly than you ever thought possible. Today’s post is by David Horsager, author of THE DAILY EDGE: Simple Strategies to Increase Efficiency and Make an Impact Every Day (CLICK HERE to get your copy). I met an eighty-eight-year-old man named Orville at my health club. I first noticed him one afternoon while checking in at the front desk. He was stumbling along behind me. There was no way this man, slowly shuffling along the path to the gym, was going to do any kind of meaningful workout! Orville patiently moved, inch by inch, into the weight-training area, picked up some dumbbells, and, with an audible grunt, started his routine. One day I happened to see Orville out of the corner of my eye, stepping onto one of the treadmills. I was across the room, and he was already reaching for the start button. Too far away to help him, I just stood there and watched. As the treadmill came to life, Orville took one small step, and then another. The machine picked up speed, but miraculously, so did his legs. Within a minute, he hit full stride, running like a man half his age! At this point the reality of the situation dawned on me. Orville’s problem was not with his legs, it was with his vision. He couldn’t see where he was going. Though Orville did nothing to cause his vision problem, it is a powerful example of how limited we are when we lack clarity and vision. How often do leaders and employees lack clarity in their communication, and as a result, drive forward ambiguous goals? I think […]
Our reader poll today asks: How rigorous is your succession planning process and execution of it? Extremely — we know who’s going where next and execute the plan well 5.24% Very — we know where most people are headed and generally execute the plan 20.95% Somewhat — we know where key players are going but don’t always execute 33.50% Not very — it’s unclear where people are headed and we don’t execute well 25.13% Not at all — what’s succession planning? 15.18% Who’s next? Nobody knows! Almost 75% of you report only having a vague idea, at best, of who’s going where and when in terms of succession planning. This lack of planning is creating a lot of risks for your organization. First, in a crisis when someone leaves the organization, the lack of planning leads to delays in filling the open role. Second, a lack of succession planning creates attrition risk. If people don’t know what their career path looks like, they get anxious. They want visibility. And if they can’t get visibility with your organization, they’ll leave and get it at another one. By the way, these people craving this visibility are usually high performers who want to take their careers places. Can you afford to lose them (which then triggers the first risk I mentioned). If “people are our most important asset” then we need to act like it. Spend some time assessing trajectories, roles, growth, and expectations. Build and communicate a plan. It will keep your people around longer and it will prepare you to address inevitable departures from the organization. – Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC Did you enjoy this post? If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog. It’s free, fun, practical, and […]
Laying out your organization’s strategic plan can be overwhelming. Follow these steps to keep your strategic planning process simple and effective. Strategic planning is an inherently simple process. There are some major tools and steps that you’re going to follow as you pull together your strategic plan. First, you need to set direction and stay in a lane. That begins with articulating the vision, the mission, and the goals of the organization. Once you’ve set that destination, it’s important to define the organization’s core competencies. What are you great at? And how are you going to compete in the market? The next step of the process is defining strategic filters. This is the heart of the method. These filters are going to be the objective functions you’re trying to achieve. They’ll be the evaluation criteria you’ll use as you analyze the initiatives that you are or are not going to pursue. Next, you’re going to say no to distractions. You’re going to stay focused. You’ll use tools like a two by two matrix to evaluate which opportunities you should pursue and which ones you should avoid. You’ll take all the initiatives on your list and run them through those strategic filters to identify the ones that are high value and high potential and the ones that should be avoided. Next, you’re going to draw the line. Strategic planning is about focus and you’ll have your list of initiatives. You’re going to identify the top ones, the bottom ones, and resource them appropriately. You should only work on things above the line for which you have resources. Next is making sure you have a diversified portfolio of initiatives, and then executing the strategic plan. You’ll look at your initiatives in the following ways. Are they long term? Short term? Do they balance your core […]
If you’re not mindful of the direction your life is headed, you might end up somewhere you’re unhappy with. Be deliberate and intentional about where you’re headed. Answer this set of four questions to get a better sense of your direction. Today’s post is by Donna Stoneham, PhD, author of The Thriver’s Edge (CLICK HERE to get your copy). We all face crossroads moments in our lives and careers, those times when we feel compelled to change direction. Those choice points most often arise because we feel inspired to embark on a new adventure or we’re desperate to change the situation we’re in. One of my biggest choice points came seventeen years ago, when I realized that if I didn’t change the bus I was riding on, I might not even be around to have a life and a career. At the time, I was in my late thirties. I was running my own coaching and consulting practice, starting a new women’s leadership company, and I was going to graduate school, consistently working seventy to eighty weeks. I was employed as a consultant on a change management project for a division of Fortune 500 Company, partnering with a Vice President named Ellen to help to “humanize” her organization. Ellen and I had developed a close friendship over the two years we’d worked together on the project. She’d become a corporate mentor to me and I, an informal coach to her. One day in late September, Ellen and I met for lunch. She was reeling from her performance review earlier that morning that hadn’t gone well. Working 24/7 with little support, Ellen had single-handedly attempted to change the culture of her organization. Her efforts threatened her boss and some of the senior leadership team as their hierarchical and dictatorial approach to […]
Our reader poll today asks: How is your organization handling price increases and rising costs? We’re accepting those increases — everything costs more these days and we understand 22.56% We accept most increases but push back on unreasonable ones 55.64% We push back on most increases but accept a few small ones 9.02% We push back hard on all increases and accept very few 12.78% Prices are going up, but people understand (within reason). An inflationary environment is tough on everyone but generally respondents agree that they’re willing to take on reasonable price increases from suppliers. 79% of you said you’re accepting reasonable price increases. For those who are increasing prices, be sure your increases are reasonable and justifiable. If it’s been a long time since you’ve increased prices, be sure to point that out in your discussions. Be wary of getting too aggressive though – it could undermine the goodwill you’ve built with your customer. And don’t forget, when your profits increase due to price increases, be a good leader and pass along some of that benefit to your employees. They see you raising prices. They see profits increasing. Most of them won’t ask for a raise but they will leave your organization if they feel like they’re not being valued. – Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC Did you enjoy this post? If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog. It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!). SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!
Create better strategic plans by avoiding these five common mistakes. Strategic planning takes a lot of time and energy. It is a high-resource type of exercise. Unfortunately, many times that process can be a worthless pain, and the worst thing that can happen with a strategic plan is everybody puts in all this effort, and then it gets archived, put on a shelf, and never looked at again. Here are some warning signs that you can look for to determine if your strategic planning process is flawed. First, initiative proliferation. Do you have to use multiple pages just to add up all the different initiatives you’re thinking about pursuing? The second risk is thinking too small. All the initiatives that are on your list are really small, incremental improvements to your business. They don’t really advance you to your strategic goals. A third is thinking too big. All the initiatives are huge, everything has to line up perfectly, and it’s a really large bet that you’re taking with the organization. A fourth risk is what I call starving the kids. Many organizations have a large, profitable business unit, and then they have a lot of smaller ideas that are going to be more rapid growth. The risk is you invest all your resources in the big known business and you starve those smaller businesses. The problem is you’re starving your future in doing so. Finally, I call this fifth risk the random initiative generator. You look at all your initiatives, and they all seem really great, but when you try to figure out where they’re taking you, there’s no clear direction. An example I’ve seen was when I worked in a strategic planning group. When I first arrived in the group, I said, “Let me see our strategic plan.” I was […]
Our reader poll today asks: How much value do you place on your own time? An extreme amount: It’s the only commodity I can never get back 20.33% A significant amount: I get pretty upset when people waste my time 40.42% A moderate amount: Time is important, but I don’t obsess over it 29.79% A minor amount: I have more important things to worry about 3.23% A negligible amount: I focus more on outcomes than my time 6.23% Know your worth. While 60% of you place a premium on your time, the other 40% value it less. This perspective can lead you to take on work you shouldn’t be doing. If you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, this means doing work that doesn’t properly compensate you for the value of your time. If you’re working in corporate, it might lead you to take on jobs that don’t value your skills appropriately. This mindset can also show up in you not pushing back on your employer taking advantage of your willingness to do additional work (evenings, weekends, days off, etc.) because you don’t value your time highly enough. Here are two quick ways to assess the value of your time. First, take your total annual compensation (base, bonus, benefits, etc.), divide by 250 days then divide by 8 hours. Now triple that number. That’s your hourly rate to account for vacation, time off, etc. Ask yourself if the work you’re doing is worth the rate you should make. If not, consider turning it down. The other method is to assess opportunity cost. Ask yourself: if I say “yes” to this work, what do I have to say “no” to? That might be time with family/friends, vacation, exercise, or hobbies. Is it worth giving up those things you like to do in […]
Learn about the three principles of strategic planning and how they can focus your efforts. What is a strategic plan, and why is it important? A strategic plan defines what your organization stands for. It defines the market where you compete and how you compete in that market. It’s the definition of the goals you’re going to pursue and, more importantly, the initiatives you’re going to pursue to achieve those goals. It’s also going to help you allocate your very limited resources to pursue those initiatives and reach those goals. Why is a strategic plan so important? First, it provides focus for your efforts and your limited investments. It gives your team something to rally around and be excited about. And lastly, it helps you identify the risks and opportunities you’re going to face in the market, and then plan for those risks or exploit those opportunities. There are three principles of strategic planning that you should follow. First, set a clear direction and stay in your lane, versus meandering and pursuing strategies that change every year. Second, say no to distractions. It’s very easy to get caught up in the “Wow, that looks like a cool initiative, let’s pursue that.” The third is making sure you diversify your bets. You have limited pools of money and people and time. Make sure you don’t put all your eggs in one basket and instead pursue initiatives that are spread across different time horizons, different markets, and different products. If you follow these three principles of strategic planning, you’re going to have a clear direction that you’re able to follow over time and achieve your goals. Want to learn more about strategic planning? How about taking an entire course on it? Go directly to the course and start learning how plan strategically. The entire course is available at LinkedIn Learning. Enjoy! Did you enjoy this […]