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A New Angle on an Old Activity

151Gerry Faust was just here, speaking to our TEC 217 group. Gerry is one of the greats in our venerable institution. Despite being in his 70’s, he continue to add new spark.

Strategic Planning – now there’s an old activity if there is one. The logic of “how to do it” is so ingrained that if you try to go counter to the accepted versions, you will run into a wall of resistance.

“When do we do the SWOT analysis?”

“We don’t.”


So when Gerry proposed a new look, I was concerned. It had to be good or it wouldn’t pass muster in my practice or be adopted by the members. We’ll see what you think…

The first angle is to look for root cause, root leverage in the changes ordered up. Gerry wants to make sure that what you choose to work on is worth your time. So he maps out the world of change subjects you could tackle and exhorts you to give priority only to those subjects that will give you big movement, not little incremental projects.

So he wants to see projects that stem from alignment around corporate purpose, [etc.]. These will give you impact for your work.

I mean you have to consider how often a company does planning – having the exec together to look at the big picture. It isn’t that often – sometimes never [uh oh – nobody’s looking out the windshield at what’s coming!]. So when you do, you want impact. Not a repair of that little scratch on the fender. We want to make sure we have a really solid vehicle and we’re taking it down the right road.

Not that people will naturally embrace tackling these subjects. They aren’t sure they want the hard work. Many think “there’s nothing wrong, so why fix it.” But with sure guidance, they can be brought face to face with the leverage topics and can do some great work that will yield huge returns.

So once we’re on the right subjects, what should be the focus? Well, Gerry has two:

– first, the big fixes. What are the big gnarly obstacles that are holding us back? Which problems, if we fixed them [understanding that they are fundamental and the change may take a while – like maybe a year plus for the big ones] would open up big new territory for us?

An example was in a pet hospital business Gerry was working with. They are large scale, so solving this one meant a big intervention or actually a series of interventions, and it took time to identify and then start the actions.

They looked at the supply of vets in the US and saw an acute shortfall developing. No plans by the training universities to up enrolment.

So they attacked this on a number of fronts. First was identifying when the value was created in the vet – pet owner interface. They got that down to five minutes per visit of juicy time. So they built up the para-vet side – the technicians and “nurses” who off loaded less productive vet chores. Then they went after increasing the supply. In a radical move they went to Mexico and encouraged/ enabled immigration from the oversupplied cadre of vets there.

Just examples of working on a big problem.

– second, new breakouts. Where can we go to build big new sources of business that will take us into new – and profitable – areas? This is a bit more conventional. When you identify adjacencies, next door businesses that utilize the same resources and skills your workforce already possesses, that might open up more streams of value for you.

So, a stimulating visit. You can adopt the ideas, if they appeal. Or call us and we can help you step up your strategic planning to get more out of it.

Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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Bringing out the best in you, your company and your people.

Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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