There are many frameworks and systems that claim to have the tools to help entrepreneurs get what they want from their business. But how do you know which strategic planning framework you should use for your business?
In this episode of the Growth Whisperers podcast, Kevin Lawrence and Brad Giles discuss the six things to consider when evaluating which strategic planning framework is best for you.
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Brad Giles 00:13
Welcome to The Growth Whisperers where everything that we talk about is building enduring great companies. I’m Brad Giles. And today, as always, I’m joined with by my co host, Kevin Lawrence. Hello, Kevin, how are things today with you?
Kevin Lawrence 00:27
Things are great, Brad. It’s a beautiful day in the early part of our winter here in Canada, a little bit of sun shining through life was good. Lots of great things happening. This is busy time for us.
Brad Giles 00:43
Same here. But the opposite! Obviously, we’re heading towards our first weekend over 31 degrees. So we’re looking forward to that. Tell me, we always like to start with a word or phrase of the day, what perhaps potentially might be your word for today?
Kevin Lawrence 01:01
Yeah, it’s competitive advantage. You know, we did a show last week show, we talked about some things around strategy. But it’s about competitive advantages in a meeting with a great company that I work with today. And we were talking about strategy. And I noticed the conversation was about brand and positioning. But not the core competitive advantage of the enterprise and how it’s hard when you’re in the middle of a business, and you’re fighting battles and making things happen to stay focused on competitive advantage. So yeah, that’s where I’m at today. Just how important that is.
Brad Giles 01:36
Awesome. Yeah, I, since we recorded that last week, I used last week’s episode, which was episode 84, the seven common strategy mistakes from Michael Porter. So I use those as a stress test with the team for the first time. Are you falling into one of these strategy mistakes, and it worked really, really, really well. So my thanks for asking my word of the day is web three, web three. So we’ve got web two at the moment. And web three involves the blockchain and a whole range of those types of things. But I think it’s going to have a very big effect. I’ve done quite a lot of research in it lately. And I actually spent the last two days with one of my clients who is involved in the blockchain. And so yeah, I’ve, that’s what’s on my mind is web three, and how it’s going to impact all of business and society.
Kevin Lawrence 02:34
So how web three can help improve your competitive strategy. We weave these things together. And being tied into these trends and things in the world is a big part of competitive strategy. In all seriousness, yeah, is knowing you know, how fast or how slow do we move towards these new technologies, or new platforms or things that are happening? So let’s jump into today’s show? What are we talking about? Brad? And this is something we did funny for everyone listening. And thank you for listening, by the way. Um, you know, we went, you know, we this is episode 85. Five, or like, of course, we’ve talked about this topic. This is like the core of what we spend our days doing. And we haven’t so the first time and almost, we’re almost at episode 100. And we haven’t talked about the power of strategic planning, and what you need in a strategic planning framework.
Brad Giles 03:25
There is a lot you didn’t when we did the review, you didn’t believe me? You were like, Come on, we must have done it. I’m like, No, we didn’t do it. Yeah, so today, we’re talking about how to get the most from a strategic planning framework. It’s like I said, it’s our bread and butter. It’s what we do every single day is work with tools to help companies build strategy, a plan, everything that they do. And so yeah, that’s, that’s what we’re talking about today. Interesting, that we haven’t spoken about before, but very interesting subject. Because I think that there are lots of frameworks out there, from, you know, a tiny coach who’s just out there having a go through to the big four accounting firms. And there are different flavors for different customers at the buffet. Some people like the chicken, some people like the beef, some people like to fish, but you’ve got to have the right framework to suit your kind of organization. If you’re a little local coffee shop. Maybe some of the stuff that we do may not be appropriate, if you’ve just got one store and two employees.
Kevin Lawrence 04:46
But you want to have 20 stores and 200 employees.
Brad Giles 04:50
Very, very, very good pickup there. Thank you. Yeah, so there are different models in terms of strategic planning and you’ve got to find the right fit.
Kevin Lawrence 04:59
Yeah, and we had a model is important because it gives you the keyword framework to help you with your thinking. All it is, is it’s to help improve your thinking and organize your thoughts. So you don’t lose sight of your plans, once you get them clear. And often frameworks help you to get clear. And stay clear would be a great way of putting it. So we got a whole bunch of points. But the main thing of strategic planning, and it’s, you know, you don’t want to have to convince people to do it, because it works because it aligns your thinking and with the rest of your team and rest of your company. Ideally, one of the main things is helping people to get time to zoom out and focus on the business versus being in the business caught up on all the issues and the fires and stuff. And it’s interesting. We found when we implement the strategic planning frameworks that we work with mostly framework, it takes about 18 months on average, until the system settles down, things get calm and clear. And that people can actually get more strategic, because they’re just catching up on all the fires and the tactical, and, but they think the machine starts to go and he gets into a nice rhythm. And again, it’s a rhythm of being able to be more on it. So then you can have better perspective and think farther ahead and think more about how your business will be enduring and great.
Brad Giles 06:20
Yeah, so a strategic planning framework is the framework that you apply to work on the business, rather than in the business. That’s the distinction, right?
Kevin Lawrence 06:30
Yes. And the core of the work that we do is a framework called Scaling up that originally was called Rockefeller habits. And, and you know, Brad, that’s where Brad and I met is around that framework. And I was writing the new book scaling up and doing a lot of work on building the next iteration of that framework. And Brad was a super keen coach wanting to learn everything to master it. And that’s, and that’s where we connected. And we have other frameworks that we use around that, around that. Around that scaling up framework, or with a one page strategic plan. We have lots of other frameworks. But that’s like a core backbone. That is a commonality that Brad and I have. But there’s lots of other ones, Brad does more work with one called Three hag that a friend of ours, Shannon has, has developed, and lots and lots of other ones. But the point of it is, is having a simple framework, which we’ll talk about more that allows you to get on the business, and help improve your business. Yeah. So the first point that we want to make here is no matter what the framework, and there are some bad ones, I mean, we see a lot of really bad ones. And, again, they usually fall into category and point two, which we’ll get to in a minute. But the thing to get more important in framework is the coach, or the facilitator, or the advisor, who is the expert in it, and who will lead you through it cuz you can have the perfect framework. But if you have the person walking through it, that doesn’t know what they’re doing, they’re kind of an amateur or they’re just, you know, for whatever or they just not a good fit for you. They could be excellent, but not the right person for you, because fit matters as well. Yeah, it doesn’t, it doesn’t really matter how good the framework is, you won’t get the value out of it.
Brad Giles 08:21
A friend of ours, Martin Green, who’s based out of New Jersey, he has a great saying around this. And he likens it to kitchen remodelling. And he will say, if I’m going to get someone to remodel my kitchen, I’m not really worried about what the tools they’re going to use to do it. Because I’m guessing that some people use one tool and others use another. But broadly, what matters is how the kitchen turns out, and what’s the quality of the workmanship. And so it’s a really good way to look at it. Because different there are different types of coaches, there are many different types of coaches, and they all use their own tools, and that’s okay. But it’s not all about the tools. Because the tools, the people who own or develop the tools want you to think that it’s all about the tools but in terms of the results that you really want. It’s actually all about the quality and the experience and the mastery of the advisor or coach.
Kevin Lawrence 09:20
Yep 100% So a couple things that that that that coach or advisor will do consultant is they’ll own the agenda for the meeting and make sure you talk about the right things. They will make sure the right preparation is done so the meeting is effective. They’ll run the meeting and love many examples of what great looks like that’s what we call in my book your oxygen mask first we call 14x advisors, which is episode 60 You know you want these masters to make it easier so I was talking with one CEO about this today. And any finally got someone to start doing this for him. But we’re talking about I said why are you doing all the planning He’s got a booming business, and why are you doing all the planning for these meetings and all the organizing and figuring out the agenda and the exercises, that’s not your job. Your job is to delegate that someone else. So just you know, the coach makes a big difference, because they just pull it all together and make it work. And they got to be a good fit. And ideally, they’re very, very strong and very experienced at what they do.
Brad Giles 10:25
We know we’ve spoken before about how coaches or advisors make the difference. But it’s not all about the framework or the tool, the framework is really a very important tool to get the result that you want. But But knowing that it’s not all the framework.
Kevin Lawrence 10:48
Exactly. So let’s go into the second point. And it’s that simple frameworks of scale another. Now this is the part where the framework doesn’t matter. Because it needs to be simple in some of the stuff I’ve seen from companies that our firm started to work with. My gosh, are they complex, and they got four goals of this type, and then three drivers of this type, and then seven initiatives. And it’s just like, you’ve got 27 things going on at once that that’s not simple enough. And unfortunately, you know, people who aren’t masters of things create a lot of complexity, because that’s not their thing. So we had years ago, simplicity, scales, and we’re looking for minimum viable products, what’s the least you need to make this effective? Because you’ll be more likely to be able to follow through on it.
Brad Giles 11:39
Anyone can make these things more complex, but only when you’ve got mastery or a really deep understanding, can you actually make it simple. And it’s the deep insights, when you make it simple. That connects to all of the other pieces. When I’m working with teams, I always use the word jigsaw, because whatever built bit, that we’ve just built, whatever component of the framework we’ve just built, it has to interlock with all of the other ones. Simply, yes. And so yeah, it’s simple really matters. But it can’t be simplistic. Like you can oversimplify things. And, you know, we’ve certainly seen examples out there without naming any, from anybody, maybe it works for them. But sometimes, some people can make it too simplistic. And it doesn’t have a deep rooted understanding,
Kevin Lawrence 12:39
or it doesn’t have enough teeth to it or enough to make it work. And yeah, it’s a great point, Brad. So we’re, you know, Brandon iron. And you know, we’re simple hunters, who are looking for simple, impactful tools all the time. And then we test them, make sure they create the value. Interesting. As a side note, you know, I also say to new people that join our team, is that you need to do something close to 100 times before you’ll be a master. Yeah. And when you get closer to 100 times, it’ll get so simple. And so obvious. Yeah, it’s almost like learning to ride a bike.
Brad Giles 13:15
Yesterday I was running a workshop two day workshop, and I happen to spill apple juice on my laptop. And the CEO was what she was terrified. He was really, really worried. And I said, Look, even if the laptop completely stops working, I can just keep going. Like I know this stuff. I’ve got the agenda. All I need is to know what are the points we’ve got to cover off? I could do it without the laptop, no worries, because I’ve done it so many times.
Kevin Lawrence 13:45
There you go. Yeah, so it gets the and it gets easier. Er, as again, the CEO today says, you know, it’s like nobody situation I know, I’ve seen situations three or 400 times where a new coach or advisor will have seen it three or four times. Yeah. And it’s just it’s because we’re pattern recognition, people that you know, seeing it again and again and doing it’s just it’s mastering. Okay, let’s bring that point up. Boy, I got lots of quick points. We love this one.
Brad Giles 14:15
So with the one page strategic plan, the tool we both know really well. What I’ve seen people do is butcher that. And if they take things out, okay, so they’ll pick something, I don’t know, brand promise or the actions or the Prophet parex. And they don’t really understand it. And so they’ll take one or two or three or four things out of it. And then they’ll make it their own in their mind and the prevailing
Kevin Lawrence 14:43
and they’re proud of it, and they’re proud of it because they don’t know any better.
Brad Giles 14:47
Yeah. And I look at I think, why have you taken those things are so important and
Kevin Lawrence 14:52
critical in and that’s the point is that it’s got to be simple but not simplistic. It will be like somebody’s removing the radiator from the car, because they’re removing weight, and I don’t think it’s important. And that’s why I have a rule, that’s a good one. And that’s why I have a rule, a rule with people is, until you’ve used a framework for a few years, don’t touch it. Because touching, it assumes that you’re smarter than the person who built it.
Brad Giles 15:26
And that is rarely the case,t that could be your best analogy that I’ve heard you like that. And I actually really liked that one.
Kevin Lawrence 15:32
That’s a good one, huh? You know, metaphors powerful. All right. So the point of it is, is that, you know, keep it simple. And, and, and experience will help you to keep it simple as is as well, a good framework. So so the next thing is visual and culture to align number three, vision and culture to align again, it’s not rocket science, the challenge is a lot of people will create a vision and map out a culture. And it’s a squishy, not sharp, it’s not distinct in terms of the way your company is. And it’s sometimes it’s just it could, you could just replace your company name and put any company name into it. So there’s lots to that. But the idea behind it is, you know, it’s like you’re kind of building the bus that people are going to get on to go on this journey with you. And they got to be clear about the bus and excited about the journey.
Brad Giles 16:29
So your strategic planning framework must incorporate culture and helping you to build an aligned culture, because culture eats strategy for breakfast.
Kevin Lawrence 16:43
Yes, if you don’t have the right people that are lined up and engaged, it doesn’t matter what your strategy is.
Brad Giles 16:48
Yeah, it’s got to include your culture, your strategy and your execution.
Kevin Lawrence 16:54
That’s for sure. Um, so let’s go on before. And we’re probably say, the strategy to win a look at we’ve talked a lot about this in Episode 84, the last episode, but the root of it is a lot of people make a lot of strategic mistakes, and many people don’t eat, they have a certain level the have a strategic plan, and they can spell the word strategy. But there ain’t no strategy in any part of the plan. It’s just goals. It’s just an execution plan. It’s a plan that will have them competing directly against their competitors, with no differentiation that allow them to make a healthy profit or healthy sustainable profits. So look, we’ve done lots of discussions around strategy, last episode is one of the best ones.
Brad Giles 17:48
But it’s the strategy that allows you to win in the medium to long term, your strategy is not writing a date three years from now, and then doubling your revenue, and then writing it on a piece of paper and saying, Yep, that’s our strategy. That is only setting a goal strategy is how you will be different. So the strategic planning framework isn’t goal setting, it’s not just saying what we’re going to do, it should encapsulate and incorporate things like what can you be the best in the world at what are we deeply passionate about? What our single economic denominator or profit per eggs, and then beyond that, how we’re going to be different in the market, which is a deeper dive into our strategy. So it’s got to include all of the strategic aspects of your business.
Kevin Lawrence 18:34
Awesome. So is number four, number five, then you get to the goal setting part that Brad just mentioned, and where it helps you to prioritize your goals to the top three, or four or five, not more than that, because it’s too complex. But this is the more common piece that we will see in companies, although it’s usually loose, but you know, prioritize those top goals for three to five years, when you probably will double your business at least, and for the year, and ideally for the quarter. And this is the good old stuff about knowing what matters most and smart goals. And believe it or not, time and time and time again, SMART goals specific, measurable, realistic, time bound, missed one. Attainable, Realistic time bound. It’s very hard to do because people have conceptual goals, project goals, but not goals that have a tangible outcome for the business.
Brad Giles 19:30
Yeah, many simple, overly simple strategic planning frameworks, as we’ve alluded to, are only about goal setting. Okay, but what our framework has to be able to do is to incorporate the strategy and the culture and the goal setting and the execution as well. How are we executing it? It’s not just what we’ve got to do, why we’ve got to do it, but also how we’re going to do it. And part of the reason it comes from Harvard Business School, they said that 92% of strategy Geez, fail due to poor execution. So it’s got to incorporate all of those things. Yep.
Kevin Lawrence 20:07
As Jim Collins says, you know, success is relentless execution of the boring basics. It’s not rocket science. And in companies who work with getting the execution engines is going well as strong, which takes us into number six, which is a key driver of the execution engine, which is the accountability and learning loop. It’s basically standing deliver every month on your progress, and standard, deliver every quarter on accomplishment of your quarterly goals, financials, KPIs, your goals and projects around your people. And then the actual company execution goals, and how and how you did if you’re not
Brad Giles 20:47
looking at the business plan that you built a year ago? And thinking how simple that was, it was perhaps too simple, or what was the problem there? I can’t believe that we were so simple, then. Then are you really growing as a team? A stretch on your strategic thinking muscles?
Kevin Lawrence 21:09
Yes, and this is where a coach can add a lot about you. It’s hard for some CEOs and leaders to do this. Because in order to create growth, you have to create tension. And accountability should create tension, because then it leads to learning and improving. So it’s the tension meeting where you, you can celebrate. And then you got to look at the things that can be better next time around and you go through these quarterly cycles and things do should get better and better and faster, but without a whole pile attention. It doesn’t work and my favorite, favorite question to ask at these meetings when someone doesn’t achieve a goal. And this is from another coach that you and I know in common Dave Bini, who was in Chicago. Now he’s in Las Vegas. Love Dave, you know, an ex corporate executive. And he said, You know, when someone doesn’t deliver, here is the question you ask? Was it bad strategy? Or was it bad execution? And those are the only two options either you didn’t think well, or you didn’t work? Well. Yeah. But both of them are you. And everything else is just a dog ate my homework excuse. So anyways, thanks, Dave, for that one, bad strategy, or bad execution, which was it, which again, forces the learning to be better next time.
Brad Giles 22:30
There’s actually a nuance to that second part from Dave. And that is, my, my team didn’t do the things that I told them to do. I didn’t set the goal, right, in a smart manner. I couldn’t be bothered. I was distracted. Like, he’s got about five or six other little selections that really hone in on. So tell me, why did you not achieve that goal? Yeah, shout out to Dave Biney. And he’s got a book called 55 questions, which is excellent. Correct?
Kevin Lawrence 22:59
Yep. Yep. We know a lot of great people that, again, where we’ve picked up lots of these little simple things. And again, Dave’s question, instead of yelling and screaming, instead of insulting someone that doesn’t deliver whatever it happens to be, when you ask that question, it just puts all the pressure back on their shoulders. And then their brain has to do the thinking to fix it. So it’s great.
Brad Giles 23:21
So to close that one out, what we’re saying is that the strategic framework has to include an accountability loop. If it’s with a coach, then that’s even better.
Kevin Lawrence 23:35
So that’s our stuff on what you know what you need to get the most from a strategic planning network. So we’ll go maybe we’ll go for the first three, Brad, you go through the last three. First of all, the coach, the coach counts more than a framework, the frameworks got to be good. Ideally, the coach is great. And ideally, there are 14 Extra, they’ve done this 14 times before. Second is when he gets to the framework, simple framework scale, and you don’t want to home bake this, you don’t want to make it yourself. You want a real simple tool that’s proven, and that you can work with to get the meaningful clarity and focus you need. And then three, it’s got to help you to define a vision and culture that you’re going to align people around so they can drive that bus towards wherever you want to achieve next.
Brad Giles 24:19
Number four, your strategic planning framework must include a clear strategy to win not just goals, but how you’re going to be different relative to the competitors and meet the customers needs. Number five, your strategic planning framework must be clear about the top goals that you’ve got, it must include how you’re going to execute that strategy. And then number six, it must include accountability in a learning loop. There must be some kind of mechanism within there that can help you to be able to close the accountability loop so that you’re able to do the end Coaches are a great mechanism to help with that.
Kevin Lawrence 25:04
Awesome. Well, it’s great discussion Brad’s Pakatan a concept that we’re both very passionate about because we spend a lot of time using and developing and enhancing these tools. So thanks for listening. This has been the growth whisperers Podcast. I’m Kevin Lawrence and Brad Giles is my co host here. For the video version go to youtube.com Search for the growth whisperers to reach Brad evolution partners.com.au and to reach me Lawrence and co.com Hope you have an awesome week and find some things in the show to dial in and improve your own strategic planning process and to make sure it’s got enough strategy in the planning. Have a good one!