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The facilitatorMembership - 5 to 7 folks

Should the boss be on the team? Sure, ask them.

Have a leader (and maybe a facilitator) who will run the meetings.

The team should be a mix of aligners (efficiency) folk and adapters (innovative) folk. Shift the balance too far on either side; the results suffer. There must be one person focus on positioning the team to improve its profits.

Most important, the team members must also be responsible for implementation.

If you are getting too big, rather than increasing membership, invite folks to present their issues to the team.

Have a good note taker (often a non-voting member).

Add youngsters with lots of customer contact to participate or invite your customers.


Options or Hidden Agendas - Focus on Options

The team leader must manage the team dynamics to encourage learning, challenge, foster communications and result in innovations. You must consider alternatives.

Strategic planners identify options and make decisions. But since the future is not predictable, these decisions will be modified as the script plays out. It is very hard to optimize the process into a few simple steps.

George Washington 'I chopped down the cherry tree' - no secrets from others A winner takes all attitude, a hidden agenda, a we're sophisticated and you're provincial, or aggressive advocacy for a position is less effective than considering a variety of options and working together to discover the best solution.

A good planner shares data, knowing that no one has perfect insight about the future. They want to increase the information available.

The team must consider options. My experience is four is best. Just a few and you are not thinking critically, and more than four gets too complicated. So be willing to throw out losers early.


Identify the criteria to judge a strategyCriteria, Facts and Customers

Agree to seek facts and keep assumptions to a minimum.

Agree you decision criteria before you begin debating the options. Keep you criteria crisp: usually a sustainable growth rate, gross margin, capital needs, sustainability and timing. Non-profits use surplus rather than gross margin; government planners use budget, tax or bond revenue.

There will be assumptions, so keep a list. If a costly decision hangs on an assumption, then spend money to find out the facts. Don't only look to the future; tell stories about what and why a decision went wrong in the past!

Under the pressure to finish, don't abandon the criteria when there is little data. At the same time, don't seek perfect knowledge. You'll never get there. When the facts are skimpy, acknowledge it and move on.

The adage is "the customer doesn't know what they need, we have to teach them." Ask the customer about the desired outcomes, not their recommended solutions.



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