Brainstorming Your Way to Better Strategy

🎙 THE STRATEGY GAP PODCAST

Brainstorming Your Way to Better Strategy

June 5, 2024

About this episode

This week, hosts Joe Krause (VP of Customer Engagement at AchieveIt) and Jonathan Morgan (VP of Revenue Operations and Head of Marketing at AchieveIt) have a wide-ranging conversation on how to integrate brainstorming into the strategy process. From dos and don’ts to challenges and benefits, Joe and Jonathan cover how all manner of organizations—especially those looking to pivot or shake things up at the year’s halfway mark—can not only generate great ideas and solicit vital contributions from their entire team, but proceed to put those ideas into game-changing action.

Join as we discuss:

  • How diverse perspectives enhance the brainstorming and decision-making processes within organizations
  • The role of incentives in aligning strategic plans
  • Foster a more open and effective idea-sharing culture through pre-work and individual brainstorming
  • The importance of stress testing when developing and executing strategies

Guest Intros

Joe Krause & Jonathan Morgan

VP of Revenue Operations  | SVP of Strategy Consulting


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Transcript đź“ť

Jonathan  0:03  

Welcome back, everybody to another episode of the strategy gap. We had a fun one in store, it's going to be Joe and I just talking all things strategy. And today's topic will be really delving into the topic of brainstorming and how to involve that in your strategic planning process. Certainly this time of the year, whether we're gearing up for the next year of planning, or we're midway through the year, now's where ideas are flowing, we're trying to figure out how to incorporate that into your strategy. But before we do so, figure, it's been a while, particularly for some of our new listeners that maybe don't know a little bit more about Joe and I's background. So, Joe, you wanna kick things off with a little bit of your background and kind of what makes you qualified to talk on this subject? Yes,

Joe  0:45  

my favorite topic. So ultimately, been at the cheaper for about 11 years. And I've, since being here have always worked with clients in the strategy development and execution space. So been doing that for, like I said, 11 years, and then we're talking hundreds of engagements over that time, and pretty much every industry, all of my extra money has gone to higher education as well. So I have an MBA from Rutgers with a focus and strategy. I have a master's in science from Boston University, in healthcare communication that was really centered on health literacy, strategic planning, and a variety of other topics. Prior to achieve it, I worked at a large pharmaceutical company, it did a bunch of rotations and sales, marketing, global speaker management, project management, you name it, so that my goal is to just bring that experience to this podcast and just look at things from an objective perspective. And it only works because I do have a partner with similar experience. And Jonathan, want you to take a moment to go through your background as well. Yeah,

Jonathan  1:43  

absolutely. So join, achieve it, I guess, seven and a half years now as a strategy consultant with Joe. And throughout that time, I spent a variety of years working with customers and organizations on their strategic planning and strategy execution processes. Currently, head up revenue operations, which is its own area of strategy and operations, as well as marketing and both at achieve it and in previous roles have often kind of been that person that wears multiple different hats. And in that process, it's a lot of problem solving a lot of figuring out we're at a pivot point, how do we ideate come up with ideas, move them into a formal process, and then actually execute them beyond that. So looking forward the conversation as well. And I guess, really, to kick things off a little bit more than the lead in Joe, this is going to be no new news for you. But for most organizations, right, we're at a pivot point in the middle of the year, right now coming into June timeframe, where companies are either at the middle of their year, or maybe they're coming up to the end of their fiscal year. And everybody loves the time when either you've hit a problem, or you need some new ideas, or the best scenario is when people come back from conferences with all these great ideas. And people love brainstorming, they love these ideas. But people kind of don't really know how to figure out okay, what do we do now? Like we have this plan, we're building our plan? How do we best incorporate these ideas into something that we can actually execute for organization? So we're gonna talk about this today? How to turn it into a strategy, how to make these decisions. But as we kick things off, when to get your, your general thoughts on the topic, Joe?

Joe  3:27  

Yeah, it's interesting, because there's a couple camps that I see people fall into. So we obviously I speak to a lot of customers, but also in my role, I speak to a lot of folks that are examining achieve it. So you have a blend of perspectives there. And you have people that maybe haven't really done anything that resembles brainstorming for a while, because they're, they've been so heads down with COVID. And then at that point, they're like, well, we've been doing well, without a plan since COVID. So what do we need one for now, and then all of a sudden, the turbulence appears. And now they're like, We gotta, we gotta get serious. So I've seen that. I've seen people who've done it before, where they've done a brainstorming session, they don't really think it's that great of a concept, because nothing came of it. A lot of people have PTSD from going into a conference room for two days, probably an outside consultant came in, and then never hear about it again. And so some people are a little bit scared of going down that path again. And then you have the outliers, the ones that are typically pretty good at this where they'll get in a room, they'll come up with some ideas and refine it down to a plan, I'd say it's a little bit more rare than it should be. Just because I think the there's this weird concept of thinking of big ideas is thought of as a higher level activity. And figuring out how to do it is seem to be less than I can't disagree more. When it comes to business, you have to have people that know how to do both in the room. But sometimes the people that created the ideas, maybe at a higher level in the organization say well, I've done my part Good luck to you make a plan. That doesn't work. And so we're going to talk through some ways to really easily fix that because the issue is then leaving the room how about you don't leave the room. But that's normally what What I see And so you've, you've done a similar role to what I've been doing for a long time. It's been a few years, but you know, those memories let last left lifetime. What if What did you see during your time as a strategy consultant? Jonathan?

Jonathan  5:10  

Yeah, I think I agree with you. For most of the aspects, I think where people tend to struggle more Moore is, you know, how do we incorporate this within our process? Right? It's, we we've come up with all these ideas. We've said, Hey, this, we've got the approval from the board, we've rolled it out to the team. And now something has changed or things are going not the way it was intended to go or anticipated to go. And you're trying to figure out what do we what do we do now? Or someone has a new idea? How do we incorporate that? So that's, you know, people definitely have their own struggles and organs have their own struggles in creating the plan. But I find most of the time is how do we now deviate from this process? And actually incorporate new ideas or adjustments to it the ideas? Because it seems like this very difficult process to then change everything. So I guess maybe I'll kick it off there to you is thinking about the strategic planning process? When Should people incorporate brainstorming and ideation? Is it something that's only happening at the beginning? In your opinion? Is it happening throughout? Is it only at certain inflection points, when do you see successful organizations leverage it?

Joe  6:25  

I think it has to happen a little bit earlier than people think it might need to happen. So if we're thinking the end of the calendar year, we'll just keep the most basic example. You probably want to start this in the October timeframe just to in order to get some ideas on the table. Because as I've stated multiple times in this podcast, and I probably said it 14 times this week to clients is that your your strategic plan, this can't be a collection of good ideas. So brainstorming sometimes lends itself to the idea that every idea is a good one. And therefore if you bring it up in the meeting, it's going to make it into the plan can't happen that way. But you have to start with something. So in a perfect world, if you have anything more than six focus areas, it gets me a little bit nervous because me, Anja. So the idea of you going into a room and only coming out with six focus areas, it's pretty slim, you're probably gonna come out with 16. So that's why starting in October, or even a little bit, you can start a little later than that gives you an opportunity to whittle down that list from 16, down to four to six, that's ideal, but that's the hardest part. And a lot of people either don't do that and keep all 16 in there, or they cut it to the bone and all the ideas are thrown out and no one's happy. So you have to really figure out how you can take the ideas that are coming in and gently say to folks that yes, idea number 17 was fantastic. But it's not going to make the cut this year, because of these reasons. And you have to just be very real. I mean, the idea of the old Triple Constraint with quality price and time, one, one or more things are going to be impacted by impacting the other. And we don't have the ability to execute 16 broad sweeping strategies this year, it is something that's not possible. So something has to be cut. And if people come into the come into the room with the mindset that their idea may not be chosen, that doesn't mean they're a bad person, or the idea was bad, but it doesn't fit into whatever parameters we have for the year. That's a productive brainstorming session. If it's just let's just get on the whiteboard and put some sticky notes up that sets the wrong tone. So something in the middle as you always see me say very right down the middle, do a brainstorming session but set good guardrails on it to let everybody know what they should expect afterwards.

Jonathan  8:27  

Yeah, and I think the mistake that you're mentioning is that you're letting bad ideas become subbed or good ideas become failure of poor timing, right? It's necessarily a bad idea, just maybe not right now and making sure you don't forget about that for the future. I think in my perspective, when you think about the strategic planning process, I don't know that brainstorming should only happen at certain stages, right? It's not only just something that happens in the planning phase, only something that happens at a quarterly basis, or an annual basis, or whatever that pivot point is in your planning lifecycle. For me, there should be different scales of that process, right? You've got a more formal setting for when you're actually developing the plan. But there needs to be abbreviated versions and an opportunity for that brainstorming to happen in situations where maybe one of your key priorities that you expect it to really move the needle on one of the focus areas is off track midway through the year. Well, you can't go back and recreate your entire plan. But there needs to be some way to facilitate a process to generate new ideas, as opposed to just throwing resources at it and not thinking about how do we actually fix this, while maintaining a semblance of our original plan.

Joe  9:42  

It's interesting you say that because I mean brainstorming, we're talking about it happening under happy conditions. A lot of times brainstorming happens when something is going sideways. Best example of this would be Starbucks at a huge quarterly miss and earnings last week, and the CEO went on CNBC and just got pretty much roasted by the morning that the squawk squawk on the street folks. So they had three different reporters just really hammering the CEO on their plans because they missed on pretty much every single category. They're losing share. They're losing sales revenues down and their competitors are up. So the CEO said multiple times. And you can tell he was a somewhat media trend. We we got together and we have an action plan. And that action plan is to bring more value to the consumer, give them more things that they want. And he rattled off, like four things that you can tell came through a brainstorming session PR

Jonathan  10:30  

Yes, the PR team had an action plan probably.

Joe  10:33  

Yes 100%. And then the reporters were like, well, everything you're mentioning doesn't actually impact what everybody sees when they walk into a store, because they have eyeballs that there's 1000 Mobile orders, and then it stores are messy, and there's no place to sit anymore, and all the bathrooms are locked. These are the things that are probably impacting your sales more than any of the things that you mentioned. So sometimes the brainstorming sessions also have to have a little pinch of reality in there as well, where if anybody was in the boardroom, with those executives at Starbucks, they would tell you, in the last week, I went to Starbucks, and here are the five things that I saw that turned me off, and I won't be back, that should lead you. So the information you have going into your brainstorming session is equally as critical as what you actually come up with in the meeting. Because if it's not based in reality, then what's the point? 

Jonathan  11:15  

Yeah,funny enough. The other day, I was reading two articles about brainstorming, right? One from the Harvard Business Review. Duly titled Why group brainstorming is a waste of time. Another one Wall Street Journal office, brainstorms are a waste of time. So probably one influence the other. But yeah, it's I think there's there's a perception out there that to your point earlier, brainstorming is just throwing sticky notes on a whiteboard. And it's a waste of time. And I think there are some valid reasons in these articles about why they're not not helpful for an organization, right, because of social loafing or social anxiety and getting your ideas out there. regression to the mean print preventing it for preventing you from getting your own ideas out there yourself. But I think most people that are listening this podcast, maybe they have a different perspectives on brainstorming, but they're going to need to generate ideas in some way, shape, or form. So when you work with organizations, or when you've sat in a room with organizations that's doing this effectively, how do they facilitate that brainstorming or our ideation process to ultimately get the most out of those that are listening? Or involved in that conversation?

Joe  12:25  

Yeah, there's a little bit of bias built into my answer, because we have a couple services that we offer that my department has three different workshops that we offer, and one is oddly enough called Planning facilitation. And we as a company made the decision a while back that we aren't going to be the company that comes in and does a lot of this sticky note sessions. And lets do PESTEL analysis and SWOT analysis and stakeholder interviews. And all the stuff that you read in business schools is imperative. And not necessarily knocking the value of some of those things. But ultimately, those are things that typically could be better run by the organization themselves. And what we tell our clients, especially when they're coming on board, is that as long as you have a general sense of your focus areas, someone like myself or someone on my team can then help you flesh out that plan. If you have nothing, and it's just complete whitespace, then call us back later when you have that because ultimately, they're the ones that need to come up with that. Because it's going to be unless you're one of the largest consulting firms in the world that has expertise. And even there, there are some gaps. Ultimately, that ideas about what needs to be fixed are going to come from the people, hopefully, internally. And so what we do is we say, Okay, if you have your four to five or six focus areas, let's come into a room and take those what stress test them, let's not take them at face value, we might take away one, we might add one, whatever it may look like. And then we're going to build the hierarchy out of every single part of the plan underneath that. And that usually takes the form of some sort of goal statement for each of the focus areas, aka What does good look like. There's then a level below that with some KPIs. So how are we going to measure if we've achieved the goal? And last but not least, what initiatives are we going to work on to impact those KPIs. And as long as that structure is there to say, we are here to fill out the plan and flesh it out and do all the things that need to be done, it usually sets a decent tone for the people involved, because there is a deliverable by the end of the engagement in our engagement usually lasts about a day, the full day, a very robust day. But the end of the day, there is something they can look at and say this didn't exist at 9am. It does exist it for and I'm bought in because this is not like other processes we went through, which is I sat in this room, and nothing happened afterwards. And so if you're going to do this, right, you have to make sure that there's something that is tangible that the team can really can feel and see. And that tangible thing should be a strategic plan. Maybe you can't get it done that day that sometimes is ambitious, if you don't bring someone in, but it has to be within you know, a week or two after completing the final session. It can't be months, or sometimes even six months to eight months. It's impossible and you're going to lose your entire team.

Jonathan  14:56  

Yeah, I think those are all valid points and turning it into a Plan, one thing that I can maybe speak for myself on how I do it with my own team, and how I've seen it. And this is obviously inspired by other organizations. But I do think there's validity in the fact that when you're in a brainstorming session, people are going to be nervous about presenting their ideas, right? Nobody wants to be the one that is implying that it's an idiotic idea. Or, you know, they may be they get a bunch of looks, or they see people messaging each other or texting each other during the meeting. And it's via, that's going to shut down the rest of the group. Part of that's a culture thing, right? You have to have a culture that enables that. But what I found to be successful is before the session where you're actually in there with the group, right? Ask those that are involved in the conversation to go and brainstorm on their own by themselves, let them come up with their own ideas. And then the group portion that conversation is sharing those ideas, and iterating upon those, it's not okay, we're going to walk into a room. And now this is the first time we've ever even talked about brainstorming for this particular idea isn't like giving people homework ahead of time. But that's enabling to flush out all these ideas, and then we can build upon those in person together. Once you have a culture that supports that, then I find that people are open to sharing their ideas, you go about it in a methodical order, where people are not embarrassed to say those ideas, we're just building on them and working together through those. And then at the end of that process, kind of going through which we'll talk about in a little bit, cutting through those ideas, to ultimately build it into your plan.

Joe  16:30  

Yeah has to be, the ideas have to be more than just because consultants get a lot of there's a lot of consulting jokes out there. But the one is like they come in and look at the business and say, You need to increase revenue and decrease costs, like your Give me my money, like the ideas have to be rooted in some sort of metric. And a lot of times those metrics can be rooted in more money, less expense, but there has to be some real true understanding from the people closest to the work about what are the real problems facing this organization are preventing our ability to scale and grow the way we expect. And let's actually tackle those things. So to your point, there are some topics that may be taboo, where there might be a service line that is not performing at the level it needs to be, but it was the idea of the CEO. So therefore, no one's going to bring up the fact that that needs to be fixed, that those types of things are probably a topic for another podcast. But it is something to consider and Jonathan's recommending is a good one, which is pre work. You can't have people come into these meetings cold. Sometimes that people say I want you to come in cold, I don't believe that's makes sense at all, had to put some thought into your ideas do some research doesn't need to be fully fleshed out. But on our team, we do a thing every quarter where everybody on the customer engagement team takes on different projects to improve the experience for the team or the customer. We have one session where we ideate all the different topics that are the projects that we might work on. And then we poke holes in it everybody in the team goes, what about this? What about that, don't we already have something that does that? Oh, I didn't know. And then they have about a week to then take whatever is leftover, do a scoping plan and see if it still makes sense. And after a week, if they determine that it still makes sense, they'll move forward. And then if they decide it doesn't make sense, no hard feelings, there's no any sort of social score lost on that, they're able to kind of back out based on their research. So that type of thing really has helped us kind of bring the walls down a bit, and not have the pressure of having every idea fully baked out in a meeting. But one week later, if you truly are committed to it, I want you to have it fully baked out. And here's a form you're going to fill out and that's going to determine what you're doing. So that if you're you're struggling, it's not a bad idea.

Jonathan  18:28  

Yeah, and I think people naturally are afraid of their ideas or their team being afraid that their ideas are going to be those idiotic ones or ones that are you know, sometimes laughed out of the room, I saw an interesting quote on this topic, it says in brainstorming sessions. So about 70% of the ideas could be considered idiotic or not good for the team. But that's, that's a fair price to pay for the 30% that are actually going to help the organization. So I think going into what that perspective is like, yes, there are going to be ideas that are outlandish or may not work. But we need to feel comfortable presenting all those because that's going to get us to the 30% that is going to work and ultimately, that's what we're trying to find.

Joe  19:08  

Well, I mean, a lot of these books that are out there helping people build their plans aren't really helping. So I mean, I'm not going to disparage the idea of a be hag big, hairy, audacious goals. Like there's books out there that that help you think that we think these ways, these are the ways that are going to solve the world solve all the world's problems, all your company problems will be solved. And a lot of times the smaller things are what make improvements. So yes, there are going to be some big ideas in your plan. But there's some other small things and if you add them all up, it becomes big. So also framing up the the brainstorming session that not every idea has to be a homerun if we get a bunch of singles and doubles then all of a sudden we now are going and I've been to brainstorming sessions where blue sky only and if you bring up anything that's like less than more kind of tactical you're seen as less than and therefore kind of ostracized a bit. So as you can imagine, there's a lot of expectation setting beforehand and also If you have to know yourself, if you're facilitating the meeting as a leader in the organization, and your tendency is to get mad at bad ideas, then practice your poker face in the mirror and figure out how to not have that happen. And really be conscious about it, because people will pick up on your cues. I've been to sessions before where somebody says an idea. And they all lock eyes on the person across the room that really isn't charged to see what they think. If that's happening, you have to really swat it down. Because otherwise, what's the point, if all the ideas are funneling through that person across the room that everyone keeps looking at before they talk, then then there's something wrong. So really scan the room and see if people are being their authentic self? If so, you've done a good job, if not keep working at it, it comes with time. But the moment you revert to old behavior, all that all that progress is lost. So if you're not gonna get mad at stupid ideas, and you're eight hours into the meeting and set one idea to set you off, and you're like, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard, then all that goodwill is lost. So I'd be an extreme example for future meetings to Yeah, exactly. Don't do it. The beginning the end the middle. Yeah, ultimately, just challenge yourself to be different if you truly want to see a difference in the culture in your organization. 

Jonathan  21:05  

Yeah, so we've talked a lot about this ideation process. Very important for getting them on the table. But I think the main portion of this conversation moving forward is we've got the ideas now what, how do we make sure it's not just an idea how to make sure we formulate it into an initiative, or an entire plan, or adjust our plan? You talked about a little bit around that framework of kind of breaking down the different aspects of the plan based on this ideation process. Maybe let's dive into that a little bit deeper. What are the components that you focus on when you're going from the idea to execution phase?

Joe  21:40  

Yeah, so the focus areas, that's the thing, too, is like we try at least I tried to guide our clients in a way that they pick language that's pragmatic, because you pick up a strategy textbook, you're seeing pillars, pillars of light, all sorts of odd names for the top, and the pillar thing comes from the old, those old illustrations of a Greek temple and you have Corinthian columns. And okay, those are fine. But like it doesn't really resonate with today, just areas of focus makes sense to me as your top level? Because it just sounds great. If you're at a party and someone says, What are you focused on? Well, I'm focused on this, these three things. So you have to have a number of those at the top of your plan. And anything more than six is a problem, anything less than six is typically pretty good, then you have to have some statement, a sentence or two of what good looks like. So if your focus area is customer service, then you better have some example of what the Promised Land looks like. So how do we actually know we're better maybe it's I want to win an award in that particular area, there's an award given your industry for the top customer service organizations based on their excellence in the field that that could be a goal that you're striving for. And then below that, you gotta have some ways to measure it. So the reason why we didn't get the award last year was because our time to connection was too long. When people call our organization, it takes eight minutes before somebody picks up the line, we got to get that down to 30 seconds. Like those types of things, those root causes, need to be in your plan, very simple, very nicely and succinctly, we're talking, hopefully two to three areas that are really causing you pain. If there's anything more than that, you might need to split it out. And then below that, if you're trying to Connections too long, then what are you doing to fix it have those initiatives below? It? Sounds simple. I promise like, Well, Joe, this is basic stuff, I promise you it is not when people get into the strategic planning mode, they start getting creative and getting a little bit more complicated. And we're keeping it very simple. What are we focused on? How do we know we've succeeded in the area? How are we going to measure it? And what are we going to do to impact those measures, and that way, everybody knows exactly if they're hanging out down here, I'm doing this to impact this number, this number is going to allow us to accomplish our goal. This goal is important because we're focused on customer experience, whatever it may be. So having a simple four level five level plan is a good start, make the levels in your plan, very succinct, have good definitions, and then use that throughout the day. And before you know it, the first swim lane, the first focus area is going to probably take more time than you think you're gonna like, we're never gonna get done. But then you realize that after that they got the exercise that muscle, the second, third, fourth, fifth swim lane go by much, much quicker. So that's my recommendation. That's what I've seen work. And that's the only way that you're at the end of the day going to actually have a deliverable. Otherwise, it's going to be alright, I guess we'll pick this up next time. And then the next time it's going to be Oh, I guess we'll pick this up next time. And it's going to be in perpetuity, you have to have finality in your strategic planning process for once.

Jonathan  24:28  

Yeah, and I hate to use buzzwords, but the key in that piece is making sure there's true alignment in the plan and across the organization for what you're doing. I think we've both seen plans and organizations where, and maybe this some listeners fall into this boat where you've got all these metrics that you're tracking, and then you've got all these numbers work that you're tracking. And maybe it's all important, but those that are actually doing it don't actually know what it's driving it, then it's like, well, it kind of impacts that over there. And it kind of impacts this metric. We're, but I'm also working on a lot of this work that's not really doing anything related to these initiatives or KPIs or goals. And that maybe is okay in some cultures. But as you begin to scale up a lot of these processes and projects and KPIs, you're going to start getting individuals where it seeps into their brain. It's like, well hold on a second, you're asking me to do all these things. But then you're also telling me these goals over here important? What you're trying to get me to do does not touch those goals whatsoever. So why am I going to waste my time doing that, particularly in a case where it impacts my own compensation or bonuses or my own performance, you don't want to have a situation where people are choosing what to do and what not to do based on alignment, as opposed to having everything properly aligned. So that's an important piece, that one thing I'll add on to what you mentioned is that, you know, outside of the core planning piece, when you're thinking about maybe just an individual idea right midway through the year, or a new idea you're trying to incorporate in, I think the SMART framework is a very good one that people often forget, everybody's heard the acronym for smart goals and smart initiatives and making sure that everything's specific and measurable as actionable Rs, its results focused and a goal related to it, and then T the timely component. Everybody knows it. But so many organizations forget that on an individual level, they kind of have it in different components, right? This is going to this project and run this time. And this this goal is going to be measurable. But they're not all each individual initiative, or each individual idea isn't smart. And that's what often causes that problem from moving in execution. 

Joe  26:43  

That brought up another good topic for another future podcast is how to align strategic plans with incentives because that's been a major problem with corporate America, you hear a lot like if CEOs are tied to stock price, then they're going to do things that are going to impact the stock price that might be share buybacks, things like that, that have a direct impact on share price, they don't necessarily do much to enhance the customer experience or to create shareholder value. It's just, you know, doing a short term thing for a short term game, which is aligned to their incentives. So that's a, an interesting point you make up and then to your other point, yeah, the plan has to be reflective of your true problems. Not to bring up Starbucks again. But the big thing there is mobile orders. So if you're a barista, and you're like this is the working conditions here stink, because I'm making 1000 frappuccinos a day, which is not too far off. And there's nothing in your five point plan to solve the crisis of the company that involves mobile orders, then it's going to that disconnect can cause them person to shut off completely for the rest of the plan. So the elephant in the room, the biggest problem in your organization has to show up in the plant at some point. Otherwise, it's delusional and secondarily, nobody's gonna pay attention to the planet, they're gonna like, this isn't a serious document, you don't even not even talking about the two things that if you walked in the door, you know, from, from Jump Street, that are a problem. So make sure you do a little that's why you have to have the right people in the room for these brainstorming session. You can't just have three or four people that are in the proverbial ivory tower of your organization, you have the people that are have boots on the ground that see what's happening. I've seen some organizations bring somebody in that maybe has never been in a boardroom in their life, but they're there to really bring some some levity to the conversation and check some assumptions. That's a big thing. So don't go into it thinking you already know the answer. Brainstorming should hopefully lead you to an answer based on organic conversation from various viewpoints. If you walk in with this, and you come out with the same answer You thought you're gonna come out with and something's up. And that probably means you have the wrong people in the room.

Jonathan  28:34  

Yeah, absolutely. I couldn't agree more. I think one last thing before we close out is people we come up with these ideas, you build your plan, they forget about the fact that they have to make choices, right, you can't just continue to add and add and add so quickly, in your perspective. What do you see six successful organizations do to make those decisions on what to do and what not to do?

Joe  29:00  

Ultimately, an idea in a room is fine, but then somebody has to, like I mentioned earlier, go out and actually test it to see well, how much is actually going to cost us? And do we have the right staff to do this, like this sounds great. But we don't we only have five engineers that know that language, and we can't get that done in that timeframe. Otherwise, we're gonna have to hire people, oh, we don't have the budget to hire people. So start doing some stress tests. And that should lead you to what you can do and not do not to say that every hard thing that you come up with, and you say, Well, this is gonna be hard, don't do it. It's just that you have to be realistic if you have five ideas and all five are extremely tenant attend difficult and maybe three of them need to go. And it all comes down to which is going to have the biggest impact on the metric that is the most detrimental to the company at this present time. So if your market share is suffering, then you're gonna have a certain set of strategies that you might employ. And so ultimately, the goal is to figure out which one's going to have the biggest impact. And the way you can figure that out is to say if this project or initiative that I'm putting into the plan, let's say gets done perfectly on time on budget, it's wins awards for its amazingness which metric downstream will add impact directly. And if it's a metric that's big enough, one that is keeping you up at night, it probably belongs in the plan. If the answer is some small thing, or worse yet, I don't actually know, I just think we're doing this to do it. Those are the ones that immediately need to give me a chunk thrown out of the plan. So that's not the perfect answer. There's more nuance to it. But that's a good start.

Jonathan  30:22  

Yeah, I find also that, you know, there are organizations that do this extremely well, right, every single initiative has to have a full ROI process and an investment committee involved. That's fantastic. That's not how a lot of organizations operate, they don't have the insights or the knowledge or it's not as concrete of an idea that they can actually go through that process. So in those cases, I think what's helpful is balancing multiple different ways to prioritize. So, you know, it's looking at things like you mentioned is what is the expected impact of this, whether that's revenue or customer satisfaction, or whatever the case may be? What is the perceived effort that this is going to take, and then balancing that with something like the Eisenhower matrix, right? For those not familiar with the Eisenhower matrix, it's a lovely two by two for all the consultants out there, where on the x axis, you've got urgency, and on the y axis, you've got importance. And so if something is urgent and important, you're going to do it, or that's something you're going to do right away. If something is important, but not urgent, that's something you want to schedule out for a time in the year or time in your planning cycle, where there's resources for that, if something is not important, but it's urgent, while you maybe want to delegate that you want to delegate that to a different team, or a different individual that has the bandwidth to do that. And the most importantly, when things fall into that not urgent and not important category, those are the things you don't want to do you want to minimize those, you want to cut them from the plan. And so as you go through an idea, put it through that process, but also look at the existing ideas you already have on the table. Maybe things have changed throughout the year, maybe things can be reprioritized or moved into a different quadrant, that then opens up some of that space for additional ideas that additional work throughout the course of the year.

Joe  32:11  

That means the Eisenhower matrix is has been around for a long time since President Eisenhower for reason because it is a good a good way to check yourself and understand if you truly are thinking about a problem in the right way. So I couldn't recommend it enough quick google you'll have it printed out put it on your wall. It does help you make decisions even in your personal life. It's not a bad, a bad thing. When you're Saturday, you have a 45 things to do. You can use it to kind of whittle down the list. 

Jonathan  32:35  

Yeah, absolutely. Personal life to absolutely. Well, Joe, it was a fun conversation today. Hopefully this information is timely for those that are either mid year or coming up on their planning cycle and going through the fun process of brainstorming and cutting ideas or building ideas and looking forward to more fun conversations like this in the future.

Joe  32:56  

Absolutely. And just know that we always will if you are stuck, and you need some help, we're always here to help as well. So just this is our area of expertise when it comes to helping you build out your plan. So if that's something you're interested in, you know where to find us go to achieve a.com

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