Strategic Planning – Part III of III – THINK! THINK! THINK!

Posted on July 2, 2020 by Dennis Niven

In Strategic Planning – Part I of III – The Art of War & Enlightenment, I began a discussion of why your company’s Strategic Plan might be collecting dust on the CEO’s shelf. Recapping what I have learned in my 37 years of business experience and philosophy & cultural studies, Part I discussed the vast difference between leaders and strategists, and suggested that the two functions cannot be performed by the same person or people.

In Strategic Planning – Part II – Finders, Minders & Grinders: Why Strategic Planning Isn’t for Everyone, I discuss the main reason why the Strategic Plan is shelved… virtually no employees of the company are culturally able to understand it!

Herein, I will bring it all together and describe it as a very cerebral thing. It is the thinking, not the doing, that makes strategic planning work.

Traditional Approaches Don’t Work (Stop Doing This!)

Traditional approaches to strategic planning (I call them “Fire, Ready, Aim” methods) don’t really work. They lack both strategy and planning because there isn’t time to think.  Without the thinking step, traditional approaches help you feel like you are doing the right thing.  Certainly you have heard their arguments:

  • “If you don’t have a road map, how are you going to know you are there when you get there?” Lewis and Clark smelled the ocean well before they saw it, but they knew they were there. Believe me, you and everyone else will know when you get there!
  • “Businesses don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan.” Cute play on words, but without thinking strategically they seem to fail despite having the requisite plan on the shelf.

Long-term, traditional approaches to planning don’t work because they focus on doing instead of thinking. Our parents taught us to do–do–do–do, work hard at your job, buy a house, have kids and everything will be great when you get the gold watch at your retirement party. Doing leads to results leads to reaping.

  • You are fat so you go on a diet. Really? I gain weight when on a diet, don’t you?
  • You don’t eat right, so you take a vitamin supplement. That really works? My gag reflex perfects itself after a while and I can’t swallow another pill.
  • OK, so go to the gym. Yeah, right! I signed up for three years and went 10 times.
  • You do good deeds and you go to Heaven? Say what? I was raised a Christian, and that one never did seem right, but I digress.

Wouldn’t it be better if I could adjust my attitude, convincing myself that the change in lifestyle was necessary for me to live my life the way I wanted to live it, see my granddaughters grow up, etc?

Why I Say Thinking Is The Key

Let’s examine support for the thinking approach. As in Part I of this series, I call on my theology and philosophy training and mention 17 of them:

  1. 717 BCE – King Solomon – Proverbs 23.7: For as a man thinketh within himself, so is he.” (Note – God gave Solomon riches that naturally go with the new wisdom.)
  2. Paul in 61 CE – letter to Philippians 4.8: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
  3. Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote 100 years after Paul: “A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.”
  4. Renee’ Decartes, 14th century philosopher is remembered for: “I think, therefore I am.”
  5. Born in 1694, author and philosopher Voitare wrote: “To be a hero, think heroic thoughts.”
  6. Sir Isaac Newton: “If I have done the public any service, it is due to my patient thought.” (died 1727)
  7. Thomas Carlisle, Scottish historian in the early 1800s said: “Thought is the parent of the deed.”
  8. Henry David Thoreau wrote: “What man thinks of himself, that which it is that determines or rather indicates his fate.”
  9. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote 2 things: “A man’s what he thinks about all day long.” and “What your heart thinks is great is great; the soul’s emphasis is always right.”
  10. Late 1800s, father of modern physiology William James: “Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”
  11. “In 1905, James Allen wrote the book “As a Man Thinketh,” “The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart, this you will build you life by, this you will become.”
  12. In 1908, a fascinating conversation took place in America. The wealthiest man in the world at that time, Andrew Carnegie, was interviewed by a young journalist. Andrew Carnegie for some reason grew fond of the young man, asked him to stay for dinner, and that interview lasted 2 weeks. During their time together, Mr. Carnegie proposed that the young journalist invest the next 20 years of this life studying the 500 wealthiest men in the world. He would provide letter of reference and introduction to set up the interviews. He could cover all expenses but pay no salary. He asked if he were willing to accept that task of determining what these 500 men had in common, other than wealth, and then write it down and condense it down into a book and make it available to the world. The man accepted the challenge (in 28 seconds – Carnegie was only going to allow 60 seconds for a reply). The rest is history… (Ford, Edison, Bell, the Rockefellers, Wrigley, Orville and Wilbur Wright, etc.) Napoleon Hill published the book in 1937 “Think and Grow Rich.”
    1. First comes thought, then organization of that thought into ideas and plans, and transformation of those plans into reality.
    2. By skipping thought, the plans may be widly accepted but only motivate temporarily.
  13. “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right,” by Henry Ford in the late 1930s
  14. In 1959, David Schwartz attended an award presentation for a salesman that found a way to produce 5x the sales of his next closest colleague. He had an average territory, average intelligence and actually took more time off than the others. What made him that much better? In his book “The Magic of Thinking Big,” you will find the following seven words: “You are what you think you are.”
  15. Studying the more recent writings, Earl Nightingale recorded a vinyl record entitled “The Strangest Secret” that sold a million recordings in 1960 (before audio tape), and since then millions more. The six powerful words that launched the largest personal development corporation in the world, Nightingale-Conant, were “We become what we think
  16. In 1990, another gentleman wrote “The Greatest Secret.” He wrote it for himself and shared it with no one for some time… “Change your thinking and you will change your life.” The writer was Michael S. Clouse, one of the most sought-after speakers in the direct sales industry and a multi-level marketing guru.
  17. Another current author and speaker, Jim Rohn finally provided, in 1991, the roadmap on how to best go from where someone is to where they want to go: “Philosophy determines attitude, attitude determines actions, actions determine results, and results determine lifestyle.”

Prejudice and Attitude Shapes Your Thinking

Thinking is only possible when you allow yourself time to think. Thinking, for you, then, is simply everything you know and how that information affects you. It includes the parents who raised you, the environment you were brought up in, siblings, classmates, books, classes, belief systems, etc.

Information affects you, and we are all different. You might call it our own personal prejudice. I remember the start of the first Gulf War and that people either loved the idea or hated it, depending upon their own bias.

Attitude is what you think about all day long at the rate of 12,000 words an hour. You are the largest influence upon yourself (and most of it is negative).

What Works (Start Doing This!)

From Part I:

  1. Sun Tzu said: “Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.”
    1. Carefully analyze your business. Know what you can do and, more importantly, know what you cannot do. Determine your core values and what your mission is and then hire or contract with people that can get you there. Careful self analysis is painstaking, brutally honest and time consuming.
    2. Carefully analyze the competition. Rate all competitors. Find their strengths and weaknesses. Plan to attack weaknesses but stay away from going head to head against their strengths.
  2. Think strategically. Add a strategic thinker to your planning team. Strategic thinkers are rare, and leaders within a business generally can’t think this way, but it is important to first determine what NOT to do against the competition.
  3. Find your one thing that you do well and learn to do it really, really well.

From Part II:

  1. Identify the Finder, the Minders and Grinders in your organization. Learn how they think and don’t expect them to think like you. Finders are the key to planning. Minders can take notes, but don’t expect them to visualize the future the way the finders do. Grinders won’t tend to trust you, but remember that the best Finders used to be Grinders – identify Grinders that Finders see themselves in. Grinders in sales positions are great members of the planning team (if you can shut them up).
  2. Always have someone at the meeting that you really don’t want to ever disappoint. Perhaps a spouse or mentor.
  3. The group might be smaller than you might have imagined, but it is mighty. Get members to participate in facts, encourage them to be brutally honest, and compensate them well for their help.

From Part III:

  1. Encourage and reward thinking more than speaking. Pass in notes if that might help.
  2. Expect the self-analysis to take a couple of weeks to complete – several short meetings every other day – and don’t move on until you have a good sense of self. Reward honesty and fix broken stuff. Use SWOT analysis.
  3. Expect the SWOT analysis of the completion to take a couple of weeks to complete – several short meetings every other day – and don’t move on until you either know how you might beat each competitor or how you are going to stay away (under the radar or niche them).
  4. THINK! THINK! THINK! This approach, and especially the writings of Napoleon Hill, is a proven basis for planning sessions… thought (to change our attitudes)→ plans→ actions→ results. This “secret” approach of Andrew Carnegie’s will greatly enhance our chances for success.

If this approach works – and it does – using it will allow you to build a financial wall around your business (and personal life) that is so strong that no earthly influence can penetrate it!

Now go kick some you-know-what, and please take time to reply to this blog.

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