Friday, February 29, 2008

Ten Myths About Strategic Planning

The impetus and some of the content for this article came from an article in Mike Johnson's sales newsletter (Mike runs Sales Solutions) by Rick Seaman of Strategy Implementation.

CEOs, owners and senior executives appear to believe some or even all of the following myths about strategic planning and implementation. As with any myth, if one follows it, the results can be not just harmful but potentially disastrous. Let me provide a perspective based on our work with many different companies from the very large Fortune 500 top companies such as Procter & Gamble and Clorox to even the very small sole proprietor.

Myth #1A and 1B: We don’t need a strategic plan! We have one but it isn’t written down.
This is like embarking on a trip without a map. Or just having a vague idea of how to get where you are going beyond the immediate next few steps. 63% of companies do not have a written business plan. In fact, many companies don’t even have the vision and goals crystallized. They are just out there in the distant “fog”. Every organization needs some form of plan to set the direction and guide its actions particularly during turbulent market conditions. Otherwise, it will simply respond to events outside the firm and be controlled by them. If you don’t have it written down the day to day pressures almost guarantee that the company will meander and drift and never reach the desired destination.

Myth #2: The plan is a binder on a shelf and length means strength.
Documentation is necessary but the real benefit of a good plan is the mental framework for problem solving that it provides to the executive team and then cascaded down to all of the employees. A cumbersome lengthy document often inhibits use and the plan stays on the shelf. Additionally, there is a tendency to add many, many projects to fill the pages. This just defocuses the organization and spreads scarce resources thinly. At Maver Management Group we use a one page format. Executives and employees can refer to it frequently and monitor simple measures to stay on track.

Myth #3 Once the plan is put to paper the work is done and we can leave it for another year.
Wrong!! A plan is only good if it is followed and updated regularly to track progress, reassess the competitive climate and modify the tactics accordingly. If you have a binder on your shelf, it will only be of service as a dust catcher. It has to be in your hands, used and stimulating your thinking.

Myth #4: Strategic planning can only be done at a resort.
You should be out of the office where there are no distractions from the daily firefighting, the phone calls and of course the e-mails. All you need for a productive process is a meeting room at a local hotel or conference center. Strategic planning is serious and shouldn’t be equated with a vacation. Everyone can play golf on their own time. Team building is important but realistically how much of that is really done on the course itself.

Myth #5: It interferes with our real jobs.
The time set aside for the thinking part of your job will unquestionably take away time from the mundane responses to e-mails and voice mails and possibly from some of the firefighting too. Strategic planning is arguably the most important part of your job because it can determine the effectiveness of all the rest of your efforts. However, it is often viewed as important but not urgent and therefore not done. The investment in it can have a dramatic effect not only on the business results but also on the amount of truly productive time in your workday. This IS your job!!

Myth #6: We can do it without any help.
Unless your core competency is strategic planning and you spend a lot of time honing the process, you need to get an expert. It is extremely difficult to both participate in and facilitate the same meeting. There is an almost irresistible urge to problem solve on detailed issues and therefore lose track of the big picture. Executives need to focus on the thinking so the plan gets the benefit of the best brainpower.

Myth #7: Our industry is different. It changes too fast to allow for a plan.
Let me assure you that no matter in what industry you compete, having a plan is a necessity. Without exception, all of the clients we have had across a broad range of industries have benefited from the critical thinking and the focused direction that the plan creates. Exploring alternative futures, and the actions needed under those conditions, improves your ability to respond to whatever happens and in fact to get out in front.

Myth #8: We did the plan and we will get to the metrics later.
What gets measured gets done. The dashboard in your car provides vital information even if you don’t understand what goes on under the hood. We all need to have “gas gauges” for all of the key elements so that we can measure our progress and adjust our plans and spending accordingly.

Myth #9: If the CEO says it, it will happen.
Top down management is seen in many companies. However, even in these companies the power of the combined executive team results in a better plan. Importantly, their buy-in helps the plan be understood down into the organization and therefore executed much more effectively. Actual execution of any plan only takes place when employees direct their efforts and change their behavior to comply with the requirements of the plan.

Myth #10: The plan is too confidential to be shared with regular employees.
Even the best strategic plan will never produce the desired results if the people who have to implement it don’t know what it is. Clearly, all of the elements are not shared with all of the employees. But it is important to have the corporate plan cascaded down so that each employee knows where they fit in making the plan work. They need to have enough information to make wise choices in their daily routine even if they are not strategic.

Did you believe these myths?

Probably not. However, contact us if we can help you get to where you want to go with your business or personal goals.


John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

For The Times They Are A-Changin’….Or Are They????

Bob Dylan sang about this back in the ‘60s. 1964 to be more precise. The times are a- changing. Right? We really thought they were then and they have changed in terms of how we accomplish things. However, upon closer examination the basics are still very much the same. We set the same type of objectives, have many of the same desires and want the same positive relationships, for example.

American Idol is back and the theme was ‘60s music this past week. The judges kept asking for the songs to be delivered in a current, contemporary manner, even though the songs themselves were decades old. The same basics, just an updated spin.

Major League Baseball is starting spring training. The equipment has changed in many ways. Just look at the size of the gloves for example and that really is a person behind that catcher’s “mask”. But the basic rules of the game are the same. The way it is played hasn’t changed either over the past decades after the designated hitter was introduced.

So what does that mean to senior executives?

Just like American Idol, Major league Baseball and even the desire for chocolate based ice cream, business is done basically the same. Of course, with modern technology, so much more is possible. And of course we do things in a much different way.

We still need to identify the needs of our target market. We still need to create and market products that meet those needs. We still need to have a written plan to galvanize our company so it is able to meet the demands of the market profitably. We definitely still great people to bring the plans to life. While the execution has changed, the basics are the same.

We at Maver Management Group work with a lot of different companies in many industries. We have found without exception that a simple, workable and useful roadmap plan is applicable everywhere. The analysis is more sophisticated and the implementation much more technology driven, but the basics are the same. We have found that the basic elements of the strategies have remained consistent. Clearly the tactics for executing have changed but the basics have stayed.

When I started in business many years ago, I quickly found a mentor to help me. I knew where I wanted to go and just needed someone who had been there to show me how to get there. The rest I could do myself. No change today except that we are now the mentor. We find as we guide senior executives to get where they want to go, our experience in having already been there is invaluable. No surprises there.

Are the times really a-changin’? Every day, a “new” theory, program, “better than” and gadget are being offered to senior executives. When you cut right through them, they basically are offering what has been offered for decades. The same basic elements are there just like those found in American Idol and in Major League Baseball. No wonder that many companies are questioning consultants, viewing them as an expense and not an investment.

If you are a CEO, a senior executive or aspiring to be one, don’t be misled by the whiz bang “new” program of the day. Find a trusted experienced company. Invest in their sound management principles and let them guide you to reach your goals. Get a mentor. Get one with whom you can build a solid relationship and who has your goals in mind. Get one that will work with you directly and not create the perfect program to go on your shelf rather than into the market. Think back to those that have made a real difference in your life over the years. I’ll bet it wasn’t the whiz bang folks.


John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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Monday, February 18, 2008

The CEO Psyche

Having been a CEO and having worked with many CEOs at Procter & Gamble, Clorox and in my years of consulting, I have come to understand the CEO psyche, at least a little. Although they won’t articulate it directly and may not even admit it, they generally want the following 4 things in very simple terms:

1 Achievement or advancement toward their personal goals.

2 Achievement or advancement toward their business goals and often as a means of delivering number 1 above.

3 Validation, respect and admiration for their talents and achievements, generally from number 2 above, but also from activities in the public domain.

4 Less stress, more peace of mind, more time with their chosen activities, including just thinking time and less fire fighting and fewer unexpected surprises.

Of course there can be others, but these 4 generally fit all CEOs.

So how do we deliver what meets their needs?

Again, keeping it simple.

First, they need a plan. A plan for each that crystallizes their personal and business objectives and goals. The plan has to identify the core competencies personally and for the business. Then it should lay out the strategies to be followed and the initiatives and plans that bring the strategies to life. It shouldn’t be complex since simplicity will enable it to actually be understood and used by others and be successful. Having select metrics is critical since what gets measured gets done.

The Maver Management Group has created hundreds of these plans for executives and companies across a broad range of businesses and industries. Those plans that get followed get results. As a CEO, current or perspective, don’t you see how a solid plan can power you to your goals?

Second, it's all about people. Not just highly qualified, hard working folks who map on to the strategy, but people trained, directed and positioned to use their talents well. This isn’t about development plans or even recruiting. It is about making sure that the company has the means to gain a high ROI for each of their people. I have been amazed at the very high proportion of companies who pay the full salaries, but get so much less than what is possible in results. Getting the right people, not only makes the CEO job more effective, it also makes it much more enjoyable. See psyche point three above for the rewards.

Third, use of technology and best in class processes. Getting this right makes everything else so much easier and effective. Some benchmarking and internal reviews that include the people actually doing the work can pay huge dividends in terms of progress. Getting the right information analyzed and presented in a useable form speeds better decisions. Think about the reams of data available to CEOs from internal and external sources. The key is cutting through it to make it meaningful. This one not only drives the first three psyche points, it is critical to the last one.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t restate, get some professional help. Most CEOs know where they want to go, they just need someone who has been there to guide them and show them how to get there.

Successful CEOs generally mean a successful company and therefore more successful and happier employees.

Win, win, win.


John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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Monday, February 11, 2008

How Small Business CEO’s Can Afford World Class IT Services

Most small to medium sized businesses recognize the strength of, and need to use, Information Technology (IT). Some have not yet reached a size where it is practical to have their own IT Department, while others have a small IT Department but are questioning how best to grow and control that capability.

IT is clearly outside of the core competencies of the Maver Management Group. Dean Lane is an associate of ours and runs his own IT consulting businesses. He has in-depth background and experience in managing the improvement of IT and company operations serving as CIO and interim CIO for a number of large and small companies. He knows his stuff and has written several books as well as this article that has been published in its entirety in a CEO Forum.

Most small businesses can’t afford or don’t need a full time CIO but would still like to have that expertise on tap when it is needed. So what’s a small business to do?

This will come as no surprise on a consulting website, but there are impressive CIOs available on an interim and/or part time basis who can successfully address and resolve these and other concerns. They have been a CIO multiple times before and are skilled at developing, deploying and maintaining an effective IT organization that aligns with enterprise business objectives.

The benefits of putting a CIO on retainer is more than just a cost effective and rapid way to get executive level attention focused on your needs. These individuals bring expertise to bear that only be gained by years of experience doing the job of a CIO. A few other benefits to your organization are that these are individuals that:
· Have been there before and resolved, at least once, the issues you are facing
· Have specific industry and business knowledge
· Can provide interim assistance for a period of time that you determine
· Are willing to work on a fixed fee or time and material basis
· Come with proven approaches and methodologies in all IT areas

Finally, these retained CIOs can negotiate a contract with, and oversee, an Application Service Provider (ASP). ASPs provide information technology solutions to small businesses. Customers of ASPs initially see cost savings and a quick deployment time. The ASP model provides small businesses an alternative to the high fixed costs associated with software projects as well as the impact of these projects being over budget and past deadline. The ASP model allows the small business to refrain from purchasing hardware and software. Another cost saving is that of IT staffing (systems and database administrators, systems analysts, developers, etc., etc.). The savings could more than pay for the investment in the CIO.

For more in depth information visit Dean Lane’s website at He can help you find the right CIO for your business.

Its all about sticking to your core competencies and outsourcing to get the right expert to move your business to the next level.


John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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Friday, February 8, 2008

CEO Leadership – Holding solid despite chaos

“…And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there…”

We generally sing right through this part of our national anthem as we wait for the game to start. That is unfortunate because there is a message there not just for Americans but for CEOs. We, CEOs are the ones that have to hold steady despite the chaos all around us. The entire organization has their collective eyes on us like we do on the flag as we sing. Their reaction and action is going to be dictated by the CEO’s. Undirected action is going to make everything worse. So a clear head and a plan that had been put in place before the pressure moment is critical.

If you can keep your head when all about youAre losing theirs and blaming it on you, …”
Rudyard Kipling

Doesn’t this hit home for the CEO. The credit gets shared and blame is generally singular and it is CEO directed. But “that’s why they pay us the big bucks.” It is also why the lifespan of the CEO is getting dramatically shorter.

CEOs hate surprises because good or bad they mean unexpected action needs to be taken. Look at the problems that Yahoo is having now with the Microsoft offer. Again, having a game plan laid out and in place is critical. It enables not only the right action instead of a reaction but also speed in executing it. The plan had better be clear and at your finger tips. I see so many companies that either don’t have a plan or it is so complex that it just sleeps on the shelf in its large but expensive binder.

Did you work through the Business Acceleration Scorecard in the last post?

Do you have the plan in place?

Is it the right plan?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, be prepared to not only lose your “flag” but also your head.

Call me. I’m the guy companies call when they are tired of struggling through chaos or unexpected events and need a guide to show them the way ahead to their goals.


John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn