Thursday, 30 September 2010

Strategy Into Action – An Example

Following on from the previous Strategy Into Action post, here is a worked example to illustrate the process in a little more detail.

The process is broken down into two major stages:image



Action Framework - sets the overall strategic aim and the subsidiary aims that will provide focus and direction (“Focused Directions”). It also considers the obstacles that may be encountered and allows for the end situation to be described to help recognise success when it is achieved - this is called the "Practical Vision"

Action Timetable - the critical part for getting things moving. Taking the information from the Action Framework, this stage identifies owners for the Focused Directions. Actions are identified and assessed against the Focused Directions to confirm they are worth doing and will contribute to the overall strategy. Confirmed actions are also scheduled against a simple timetable: now; in the next 3 months; 6 months; 9 months; next year. A simple schedule of high level actions is produced.



In the original post, 5 questions were introduced, which if answered, would lead to an a first pass strategy and action plan. 

Responses to questions 1-4 may be structured using the Action Framework stage. Answering question 5 provides the list of actions that are defined further in the Action Framework stage.




imageIn the example here, managers have considered what is needed for the future of their organisation's Internet service and arrived at the Action Framework illustrated.


Next, they moved to the Action Timetable stage and listed and defined actions, paying particular attention to the "obstacles" they need to overcome and the things they need to do to achieve the "practical vision".


imageThe actions have been mapped to the relevant "direction" - the directions now providing useful streams of activity. Each of these was assigned an owner for delivery.

The actions were also scheduled against the broad timetable: now; next 3 months; and so on.





As you can see from the illustrations, all of this was captured and refined using a software tool, in this case MindView Business Edition from MatchWare. Using a tool such as this an outline report of the work can be created by exporting the analysis and planning to MS Word.



To better understand the schedule of actions we can use MindView to create either a timeline view or a Gantt view. These provide a better view of what is going to be done when. Additional work may amend the schedule and break down the actions into more detailed tasks. This may be done using the Gantt feature of the software or the data may be exported to MS Project.




Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Weave A Great Meeting?


There is a visual tool to aid communication and networking at conferences and within organisations – and it’s far more exciting and useful than a mere delegate list or internal phone directory.

imageIt's called "Weave" and it lets you build an online view of everyone at your conference, meeting or organisation.

You can include photos, summary biographies, locations, roles, items of interest and, for instance, favourite conversations topics.

imageA visual database is prepared and accessible via the Internet. The list of people may be viewed according to different categories, such as location, interest and speciality.

The idea is to help people "get to know" other people attending the conference or meeting. Armed with this useful information users may find  networking becomes easier, corporate engagement more effective.

imageConference organisers may use the Weave tool to get discussion going before and during the conference.  Online meetings can also benefit as everyone on the call is able to picture the other attendees and know something about them.

There is an excellent online demo and the main website can be found here.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Business Process – When A Map Just Won’t Do

Understanding a business process often involves drawing a map or model of the process.
imageA business process map will show key things about the process: the process trigger; the process steps; the flow of work between process steps; the roles involved. 
Annotations to the map may be used to add helpful detail however too much and the map becomes too busy to be meaningful.

imageWhen a lot of information must be documented, supplement the process map with a text document – let’s call it the “Process Definition”. The Process Definition can hold information about many attributes of the process not apparent from a normal process map.
These attributes include subjects such as:
  • scope and ownership
  • policy and business rules
  • exceptions
  • performance measures, SLAs and targets
  • constraints – internal and external such as regulation
  • issues, risks and opportunities
  • business continuity and audit
  • people skills and training.
Depending on why the process is being mapped and defined, the list of attributes for the process definition may be customised to meet the purpose.
image The suggested list of process attributes in the illustration above is available as a MindManager mind map at either BiggerPlate or There’s A Map For That.  The mind map includes supporting notes, examples, tips and templates for MS Word 2007 and earlier.  Word templates are available to download here, either Word 2007 or Word 97-2003.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Strategy Into Action

Everyone will tell you that you need a strategy for your business or department – and they are right.  Whether it is “grand” strategy that establishes the direction for your business overall or whether it is a “tactical” strategy designed to effect more specific changes, it’s a good idea to know where you are going and what it will look like when you arrive.

But many strategies fail to deliver.  There are many reasons for this - one being a failure to turn the big ideas into actions that people can work on.  Sometimes there is a plan but it is too grand and too long in the preparation - by the time the actions actually get started the world has changed and the plan doesn’t seem relevant any more.  Or there is a strategy but no clear idea of the directions to follow, no one is responsible and there is no obvious place to start.  The momentum generated by the “strategic” thinking soon dissipates.

With just 5 questions it is possible in the space of a few hours to generate a robust action plan that will get you moving on achieving your strategy.  You can do this on your own or with your team, in a meeting or workshop, and with or without a facilitator.

Question 1     What is our focus?
Question 2     What are the key directions we should take?
Question 3     What are the obstacles that are blocking us?
Question 4     What to do to remove the obstacles and achieve what we want?
Question 5     What are the immediate, practical actions we can take?

The focus question defines the overall goal and scope – you might already know the answer and just need to restate it.  The key directions are the themes or areas that if followed will lead to the goal.  The obstacles are the constraints, the blockers that will defeat the plan if not addressed – some of the actions will be focussed on overcoming these.  Other actions will address new things that need to be created or delivered.  Consideration of these should be focussed on short term or very short term timescales – what can we do today, tomorrow, this week, this month that get us following the key directions.  Medium and longer term actions can be logged but will most likely be consider later.  Assign ownership to the key themes and the actions.  Document it all – preferably on a single sheet of paper (see the example). Get started.

In just a few hours you have an action plan.  It won’t be perfect nor will it be complete.  But it will provide a basis on which to move forward.  New or missing actions can be added as each action is completed.  Keep the plan alive, review it regularly, keep adding the next actions that come to mind.
Acknowledgement: The format of the action plan was suggested by examples using the ToP Participatory Strategic Planning method designed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA).