Forget Strategic Planning. Improve Your Strategic Planning Meetings with Differentiation

Strategic planning is answering core questions.

I was coaching a friend about a CP session she was leading with a cattleman’s association.

We got into a subject I wish I’d recorded and had transcribed, because it would make an interesting special report or e-book.

The subject of the conversation was about vision and mission statements, core values, and traditional strategic planning approaches. Here are some of my observations after more than three decades of doing the same types of strategy sessions.

Answer Core Questions About Your Organization

Answering crucial questions is the essence of strategic work. These are the most basic questions of your organization. Reviewing the core questions and staying close to what makes you special as an organization is the essence of strategic thinking.

Today I’m proposing to lots of people that they have differentiation sessions versus typical strategic planning sessions. This is a change from what I’ve done in the past, but I see better results from it.

The essence of a differentiation session is to identify what makes your company or organization unique and different in your marketplace. Forget the excellence stuff.   Ferret out the distinctiveness. I think you’ll find that an entirely new type of energy and focus comes from such sessions.

Here’s what Brooke Higgins, a marketing specialist for brands like GM, Smoothie King, and Papa Murphy’s has to say about differentiation:

“Simply put, differentiation is the process in which a business distinguishes its services and products from that of other products and services in the marketplace.” He goes on to say on his marketing blog,

“If a business cannot provide a unique and special reason for customers to solicit the business, the business will not experience sustained success.”

Differentiate or Die

I recommend using ‘Differentiate or Die’ by Jack Trout and Al Ries as a background for differentiation sessions.

Troutman and Al Ries are a great resource to study. Another great resource as preparation for leading such sessions is Blue Ocean strategy. It’s loaded with examples of strategic moves by companies like Cirque du Soleil, Novo Nordisk, and Ralph Lauren.

Use Differentiation to Write a Mission Statement

Many people are sick of wasting their time in meetings trying to come up with perfect mission statements.

It seems like so many things come out of these sessions that get wordsmithed to death and the meetings themselves drive people nuts. The results of such sessions are ugly.

Another thing I heard about from someone at lunch at a conference (wish I could give her credit) was when she worked for the state of Florida. She told me the governor had people determine their department’s functional missions in 3 words. No more. Just three words.

I recommended that to my friend who worked with the cattleman’s association as well as many others and the results are always positive.

The woman from Florida told us her department’s mission was Reduce Juvenile Crime. How’s that for clear and concise? It isn’t full of gobbledy gook, or stiff high falutin’ language.

That’s enough for now. Let me know your thoughts.

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