Retail Observer

December 2014

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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RETAILOBSERVER.COM DECEMBER 2014 44 Libby Wagner Culture Coach Libby Wagner, author of The Influencing Option: The Art of Building a Profit Culture in Business, works with clients to help them create and sustain Profit Cultures. RO D ecember is often the month where companies get together: to celebrate the year's successes, to review what happened in terms of goals and performance, and often to do some strategic planning. My mentor, Alan Weiss, always says that "strategic planning" is an oxymoron—that in fact, the work of strategy and the work of planning are very different. In my experience working with companies large and small, I think this is true. My suggestion to you is that this year, consider taking a different approach to looking toward the horizon of next year. • Take time out for a Blue Sky conversation. Some leaders are known for being visionary. They seem to be great at looking out at the distant horizon, or up at the sky, and envisioning where the business might go or how it will grow. Their active imaginations and sense of "what if?" propel them to engage in this type of activity. Blue Sky conversations are essential and the really critical part is that you must leave the tactical, planning, how-will-we-actually-pull-this-off conversations outside the door. Tactical comments or questions actually can stifle or stunt a blue sky discussion, so often we make a rule that there's no comments about HOW while we're dreaming and looking up into space, brainstorming on big white boards or scribbling in our journals. Sometimes, certain people on your team have very good, very specific strengths and skill sets to help identify the details of how to execute or implement a strategy. This is essential, too, but not during the Blue Sky discussion. During that time, you dream, and you dream big: what would we do if money were no object? If we had a magic wand, and this business, store or team could be any possible way, what would that look like? If next year unfolded perfectly, what would happen? Notice that these beautiful questions all contain WHAT at the center. You actually have to envision a different sort of future before you can actually even evaluate whether or not it could happen. And, it's really important to set the tone for these discussions by sharing: "we're going to have a Blue Sky discussion . . . these are the parameters . . ." This doesn't mean that all ideas are going to be good ones or are going to be adopted, but even if you found one or two breakthrough ideas, that could change the course of your whole next year. • Select your Top Three initiatives and align them with your Vision, Mission and Values. People work for a purpose, not for a dollar; specifically, tie the work of the initiatives to the vision of the organization, not to "we want to make $xyz this next year." Frankly, no one is motivated by a number only, and it's a consequence of the actions, behaviors and activities that you implement. If you're doing the right things, in the right way, aligned with your vision and serving your customers, you'll make your financial goals. Also, selecting a Top Three, and coming up with measurable goals for each initiative, sets you up for success. Organizations who identify too many goals (like 10 or 17 or 23) scatter and fragment the energy of their organization and people can't focus on what's truly important. Instead, pick a Top Three, and ask each person or division to identify 3-5 goals they will set to support that initiative. • Now think about planning. It is really important to have an implementation plan and a method for actually accomplishing the goals, and in reality, you can begin to talk about this during #2, above. The really critical part is to keep it out of the initial discussion, or it will throw a wet blanket on the big visioning that needs to happen during Blue Sky. Make sure you identify measurable outcomes, methodologies, resources needed, people, etc. in your plan, that way you'll not only tap into the most creative ideas you have, you'll actually be able to pull them off in your new year! BLUE SKIES: VISIONING FOR NEXT YEAR

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