Tag Archives: planning

Business in Vancouver, Ask the Expert: How do I keep meetings focused?

Here’s a possible framework to structure weekly team meetings within your business and keep them on track and worth attending.

  • Personal update: everyone shares the good, bad and ugly of what’s going on with them. This helps explain everyone’s context and helps build trust.
  • Top three: have everyone in the room state the top three things they’re focused on over the next week.
  • Stuck points: have everyone list what the key thing is that’s holding them back. It can be resources, health, time, people, information, technology – anything. Continue reading

BIV Boardroom Strategy: how to executive corporate action plans effectively

The last step in the strategic planning process is often overlooked, and yet, it’s one of the most important: the action steps that will lead to the successful completion of your objectives.

But we need well-formed objectives before we can map out action steps.

Here are eight things we need to consider for solid action plans:

Ownership: one person must be responsible and accountable for tracing the progress toward each objective, keeping the team informed, ensuring timely action steps are occurring and adjusting the actions as reality teaches us what needs to shift.

Action steps: each objective needs to have a series of action steps that lay out a clear path throughout the year on how it can be achieved. If the objective is the “what,” then the action steps are the “hows.” It’s critical that the action steps are clear and actionable steps versus vague ideas or thoughts.

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BIV Boardroom Strategy: Presiding over a happy marriage of strategic plans and company budgets

[read time: 3 mins]

Budgeting or strategic planning, which one comes first? The challenge of building an effective budget ahead of the strategic plan for the next year is that in most cases you are relying on the previous year’s operational numbers to carry over into the coming year. What this leaves out is any strategic decisions including asset purchases, long-term research and development and other projects that may require upfront resources with a longer-term return on investment.

Here are three ways to tackle the challenge of aligning your budget with your strategic plan:

1) Prepare your draft operational budget and wait to finalize your numbers until after the strategic plan has been completed and you have a clear idea of the costs of the various strategic initiatives you and your team have decided on.

2) Hold your strategic planning session before you begin the budgeting process and use the results of your strategic plan to help determine the budget. The challenge here is that you could be making decisions in your strategic plan that turn out to be not financially feasible once you get into your budget process. This is far outweighed by the advantage of building a budget that is consistent with the strategic direction of the business and blends in the operational forecasting that occurred during your planning.

3) Institute a rolling budget approach: each month of the year forecast out 12 months in advance. In most fast-changing industries or organizations experiencing greater than normal growth, a rolling budget is more appropriate than an annual budget and can be implemented at any point by adding the 13th month onto your annual budget and updating the actual versus budget monthly or by adding a quarter to your annual budget and updating every quarter.

The quarterly update makes sense for companies that are using the best practice of reviewing, evaluating and revising their strategic plan on that same schedule. CFOs will appreciate this approach as it helps to align with the rolling cash-flow projections.

The goal of aligning your budget to your strategic plan and introducing a rolling budget is not to add complexity to your business.

Quite the contrary; the purpose is to inject as much reality into the decisions and actions you’re making today for the future.

Having a clear connection between your budget, cash flow and the strategic plan means leaders can make decisions around spending cash in the short term to promote success in the longer-term strategic plan.

When you dive into your budgeting process remember that a balance sheet and income statement can hide weak strategies. If revenue is for show, profit is the return on the risk and cash is oxygen.

Cash-flow statements that are as simple as possible and monitored religiously will help identify weaknesses and point you in the right direction around strategies that lead to positive cash-flow outcomes.

Turning back to the strategic plan, the key there is to ensure that the objectives and action plans have clear metrics, measurements and budgets in place for any new expenditures and investments that are outside of the operating budget.

These numbers can now be added into the budget or at the very least put in context against the overall operating budget.

Whatever methodology you choose, the take-home from this discussion is your strategic plan and budget should be designed to complement and support each other, not act as estranged relatives.

BIV Boardroom Strategy – Strategy and Budget Link – March 2011

BIV Boardroom Strategy: Your company’s strategic plan needs a solid framework

[read time: 4 mins]

A successful strategic plan design keeps two things in mind: focus driven by simplicity and clarity and engagement of the people who will be held accountable for the results.

The more complex the plan, the less likely anyone in your organization will read it or, even worse, take action from it.

Here is a framework and process for your strategic plan that will ensure you focus on what’s important, narrowing down the details to the critical pieces around which your team can rally. Using this framework with your team to build a plan will dramatically increase engagement and accountability.

Wildly Courageous Decision (WCD). As CEO, you are the chief dreamer, schemer and long-term thinker. Before engaging your team in a strategic planning experience, carve out some time from your schedule to dream 10 to 25 years ahead from today. What courageous direction can you passionately make a decision to take your organization in? Think of this as the North Star you are navigating toward: a simple statement that sets a long-term perspective that everyone can rally behind.

Mission. If your wildly courageous decision is the “what” then think of your mission as the “how”: what behaviours and actions over time will lead to your organization realizing its WCD?

Strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats and vulnerabilities. Have you, your team members, and their direct reports list out what your organization is truly strong at, weak at, where the market opportunities lie, what external forces can threaten your success and where you are vulnerable to inside and outside forces – your company’s Achilles Heal.

Rhinos, whinos, sacred cows and hidden agendas.Rhinos are the large, dirty, messy issues that are hiding under your boardroom table causing big distraction, wasted resources and energy, and yet everyone is pretending they’re not in the room. Whinos are the issues team members consistently whine about that never seem to get dealt with. Sacred cows are the core tenets in your business that you’re not willing to compromise on or change: they’re part of the secret sauce of your success. Hidden agendas are the plans that people are not disclosing, instead they’re secretly working on building alliances and putting significant energy into something that may or may not be right for your organization. (The Lexus ISF is a good example of a hidden agenda of an engineer at Lexus. It was built in secret in a remote warehouse behind the head office by a skunk-works team and unveiled to Toyota’s CEO after the final prototype was complete.)

Values and core purpose. What core values are forming the concrete foundation upon which your organization is built? These are the values driving key decisions made at a senior level within your business, not values you may aspire to. What is the core purpose for your company existing in the world? Why will the world be a better place as a result of your long-term success?

Objectives. Use the information you uncover in the sections above to craft a series of five to 10 key objectives that your organization will achieve over the next 12 months. The easiest way to know whether you have a well-framed objective is to ask, “How will we know when this objective is complete and would we throw a party to celebrate achieving it?” If the answer is unclear then you’re likely missing a deadline, a clear success measure or the objective is not specific, reasonable or challenging enough.

Owners. “The executive team” is not the answer to effective accountability for strategic objectives. Each objective should have an accountable champion who ensures that the executive team is kept up to speed on progress and the road blocks along the way.

Action steps. Many companies stop at the objective stage and the result is low clarity on the first move and subsequent steps. The result is a sandbagged plan. Create an action-step plan for each objective that answers the statement, “When these steps are complete, the objective will be successful.”

Communication. Without a communication plan that shares the strategic plan, the reality is the same as winking at someone in the dark: you know what you’re doing but they haven’t a clue. Decide as an executive team what consistent, concise and compelling messages you plan to share with the rest of the organization, including reporting on results throughout the year, and what mediums have the best chance of reaching the widest audience. Using the steps

we’ve walked through will provide a solid framework to build your strategic plan, ensure that year after year you have a consistent way of describing the path for your business and engage your team in executing the plan effectively.

As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice, “If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will take you there.”

BIV Boardroom Strategy – Solid Strategic Plan – Jan 2011

Your year in review…

As we close in on the end of the year now is the time that I like to look back and take stock of the successes I’ve had over the past twelve months. I do this for two reasons:

  1. to help me remember all the positives and truly appreciate where I’m at in my life today.
  2. to help me think about what I want to do more of, less of, what’s just right, and what’s missing from my life.

I learned this approach about four years ago from one of my mentors, Walt Sutton. Walt suggested that I write out my top ten success from the previous year. When I started the list I assumed I’d have trouble finding ten, in fact I could think of a number of things that I wish I would have done differently. As it turns out, I finished writing my list when I hit #27!

So before you begin planning your goals for next year, what are your top ten accomplishments for this past year?

Stop chasing shiny objects and focus on your core business

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Stagnation is the enemy of progress and growth but chasing after every opportunity that comes your way can be just as detrimental to your business. I have a name for these myriad choices that appear like opportunities but in most cases are distracters: shiny objects.

When I ask leaders where they expect their future growth to come from, quite frequently I hear the response, “we have so many opportunities for growth that it’s difficult to stay focused.” Therein lies the rub. Most opportunities are simply mislabeled as such and end up using up valuable time, money, and people resources within organizations. These shiny objects are difficult to choose between because no filter is in place to help evaluate the difference between them and an actual opportunity that the business should go after.

Here are four questions you can ask yourself that will act as a filtering mechanism to differentiate between shiny objects and opportunities:

What are the realities of our business today? We’re taking facts, not opinions here. What is our SWOT+V: break down our strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats, and vulnerabilities? In case you’re wondering, the difference between a threat and vulnerability is that a vulnerability can take your business its knees whereas a weakness is an area where we are not able to compete readily against our competitors. This question can only be answered properly in a culture of candour – a culture where the truth is spoken and can be heard. As difficult as it can be for a senior team to face up to the shortcoming of the business, it’s the only way to truly create a solid plan for the future.

What are the simple, underlying patterns, hidden in the complexity of our business, that make us great at what we do? If we were to capitalize on our greatest strength, what can (not want) we become world class at and as a result we can we not be world class at? What is the single denominator in the key economic equation for our business success, usually stated as “profit per X” [Good to Great, by Jim Collins. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001]. Finally, what does our business stand for that we are truly passionate about?

Do we have access to the resources of money, people, and time? Many a great idea has been stalled by a lack of access to, or an underestimation of, resources. Passion without the ability to execute is daydreaming. For each opportunity before you, review the necessary action steps and time frames that would be required to reach the end goal. Then take stock of the budget required to support these action plans. Finally, determine whether or not you have the right people in your organization to tackle the necessary action steps, or whether you have the ability to hire from outside the business.

If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to? With limited resources available executives need to learn the skill of appropriately, with purpose and clear communication, stopping a project from moving forward, or preventing one from even getting off the ground when it does not fit within the strategic framework. Resources misallocated to objectives that should have died on the vine are being taken away from the core opportunities that will help create a more compelling future for the business.

As a leader, working through the answers to these questions with your team to distill down to the core opportunities you should focus on is far more compelling and inspiring than the alternative – reacting by gut feeling to initiatives that you don’t feel fit the business, without having a clear reason why. The difference in the engagement level of your team will be huge.

BIV Boardroom Strategy – Shiny Objects – July 2010

Strategic Planning: 200 ft above Grouse Mountain

A few days ago I had the unique experience of being able to run a portion of a strategic planning for a client 200 ft in the area above the Peak of Grouse Mountain, suspended in a viewing platform on the Eye of the Wind, wind turbine.

My friend Sarah McNeill recorded a guest post video on my blog a few months back where she spoke about the importance of taking your team away from the day-to-day environment to re-energize the team, be in a creative mindset, and set the plan for the future. I’m not sure this is what she meant!

If you haven’t experienced the difference between strategic planning on-site and off-site know that it’s certainly worth the investment. Not that you have to be 200 ft in the air above the highest point in Vancouver!

Some quick facts on Eye of the Wind:


  • Overall height: 65 metres, 215 feet
  • Made of structural steel in three sections
  • Weight: 133,946 kg/285,300 lbs (145 tons)


  • Diameter: 7 metres, 23 feet
  • Height: 5.5.metres, 18 feet
  • Weight: 13,600 kg/30,000 lbs (15 tons)
  • Capacity: 36 people
  • Framework: Structural steel and glass
  • Glass: Tempered 2.5 cms/.5 inches thick
  • Viewing Area: 360 degrees (all points on the compass)
  • Elevation: 57 metres (187 feet)