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Gather Insights – Reap Strategic Growth

In this article, Caroline Taich shares key steps that can be taken towards gathering insights for strategic growth.

I have been out talking with organizations about strategic growth. It’s a topic I’ve been attracted to throughout my career. When I think about growth there are three principles that I regularly come back to: Get out of the building. Prioritize your energy. Be clear on your definition of success. I’ll talk about the first today.

Get out of the building, watch, and listen. Don’t underestimate the value of talking to customers, competitors, staff, board members, and collaborators to gather insight. For example, one medical device manufacturer that I served early in my McKinsey career asked, how can we improve the performance of our sales staff? One way to answer to this question was to spend time with the top performers. I rode in the car with Michael, one of the highest grossing sales agents, observing him. I learned he was organized, and had a clear, prioritized list of all the decision makers he wanted to visit. I was impressed with his deep understanding of the product and its value proposition. But most importantly? He brought doughnuts on every sales call. Doughnuts got him an “in” to the hospital break rooms where staff hung out; this is where he built relationships, and gathered insight. We put “bring doughnuts” in the sales training playbook, and it helped!

Market research is something that I love to do and over the years I have developed a number of strategies to help me do it. Here are a few of my favorites:

 

Key points include:

  • Use food strategically
  • Give back 
  • Focus and brevity

 

Read the full article, Gathering strategic insights for growth, on LinkedIn.

Caroline Taich shares a  post on change and the skills you need to drive it forward. 

In this blog, we have been exploring the McKinsey model for change. Last week I wrote about conviction as a driver of change.  This week I’m thinking about the skills you need for change.  Here is a big one – the ability to see your unique strengths.

This came up during the wonderful opportunity I had to learn from Councilman Matt Zone.  Councilman Zone serves Ward 15, which includes Cleveland’s Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. Despite its strong roots, the 1960s brought de-industrialization to Detroit Shoreway, and the area began to decline.  Matt Zone’s leadership helped revive the neighborhood, beginning in 2004 with the vision for the Gordon Square Arts District.  Major reinvestment in the community, including 5 major capital projects totaling $30M, led to economic growth and neighborhood beautification that is celebrated here and around the world (read more here).

Councilman Zone stressed that one of the most important keys for change was to focus on Detroit Shoreway’s unique strengths.  But, how do you identify these unique strengths? Here are two of my favorite approaches.

Story-telling approach.  Go talk to people and gather stories of impact.  For example, you can ask others, ‘When have you felt most proud of this neighborhood?’ Ask for a specific story, and then probe on the details that made the experience memorable.

Key points include:

  • Identifying unique strengths
  • Story-telling approach
  • Analytical approach

Read the full post, Identify Unique Strengths to Drive Change, on KirtlandConsulting.com.

 

Caroline Taich shares the second installment of a two-part series on social sector partnerships. 

In a recent blog post I began exploring the question of how to take social sector partnerships from good to great.  We looked at data showing that employers can increase their investment in environmental, social, and governance sustainability.

I now explore the role of non-profits.  By adapting planning, messaging, and reporting with employers, I believe non-profits can achieve greater outcomes.  This hypothesis stems from my own experience across 20 years of consulting with dozens of employers, non-profits, and government offices.  I increasingly see non-profits articulate their value proposition on their terms and share it in search of new or renewed funding sources – but they are often overlooked by employers, who don’t see the direct connection to their own objectives.

We can do better.  Non-profits and employers need to see themselves as partners, working together to make progress on the issues that matter to both.  Here are a few practices that I am working on:

Understand your purpose. Increasingly, as part of the strategic planning that I facilitate, I help leadership teams align on their Purpose. Clarity of purpose helps you communicate the difference you make in a deeper and more meaningful way.

 

Read the full article, How Can We Take Social Sector Partnerships from Good to Great? (part 2), on KirtlandConsulting.com.

 

 

Caroline Taich provides a concise post from her website that is the first in a series of two articles that explores how to improve social sector partnerships.

One component of the question lies in the role of employers.  Intuitively I think we can agree that employers have much to gain from healthy, vibrant communities. But how much should employers invest? And what form should the investment take?

The 2020 SustainAbility Leaders Survey by GlobeScan of 701 sustainability experts across 71 countries can shed some light on the question.  First of all, the survey indicates that the need for sustainability development is more urgent now than ever.  Experts perceive that the urgency of sustainable development challenges is rising across the board – ALL issues tracked in this survey increased in importance since last year.

Challenges on the urgent list include environmental (e.g., climate change #1 and biodiversity loss #2), economic (e.g., poverty #6, economic inequality #7)  and social (e.g., access to quality education #9 and access to quality healthcare #10).

Furthermore, the experts are underwhelmed with the current level of investment borne by employers.  Only 17% of experts feel that employers are doing an “excellent” job addressing sustainable development.

The biggest rationale for employer sustainability development put forth in this survey is resiliency.  The survey draws a connection between internal & external community investment and the very livelihood of the employer itself.

 

Read the full article, How Can We Take Social Sector Partnerships from Good to Great? (part 1),  on KirtlandConsulting.com. 

 

 

Caroline Taich shares a concise post and one key tip on how to improve your client services. 

Are you getting ready to start a planning process?

I help my clients bring new ideas to life. To do this work well, I believe that it helps to know what it’s like to walk in client shoes. So when the arts organization where I am Board President was ready to write a strategic plan, I jumped at the chance to be the client. Here’s what I learned about how to make the most of your planning experience:

You must invest in it. Full stop. Your job as a leader on the strategic planning team is to listen; contribute; reflect; rinse & repeat. Unless you invest, you won’t get the full benefit. When I volunteer my perspective and say out loud what I value (e.g., “part of the purpose of a community arts organization should include making new friendships”) – I build ownership, pride and accountability for realizing it.

Write out your most important questions at the start, and make them as specific as possible. An ok question might be, “How can we have greater impact?” A better question is, “What are the three most important things we can offer our community that they can’t get anywhere else?”

You have to make the length of the planning process work for you. Planning can be done in as little as 1 day or as long as a year. Choose the timeline that allows you to wrestle with the data and your vision – but not so long that you get lost in the process.

 

Key points in this article include:

  • Strategic planning tips
  • Building ownership
  • Question planning

 

Access the article, On Being a Client, on the Kirtland Consulting website.

 

 

Caroline Taich shares how to make the mindset shift from uncertain operator to confident corporate leader.

Dave was one of my first clients as a management consultant. He was in a rotational leadership program at the regional utility. He became the leader of procurement for the construction services category overnight – without any training or preparation. My job was to guide him through the procurement process to identify cost savings.

Dave was taking a risk. In this new role, he was going to be responsible for setting up the vendors and systems that his colleagues would have to use. He cared about the cost savings and he cared about delivering a good outcome for his trusted professional relationships.

I helped Dave by outlining the procurement process. We worked together to define what success looked like. We engaged the people that would be impacted – the line workers, warehouse managers, and vendors. And we got started, working together over ~4.5 months to implement.

 

Key points in this article are:

  • Building capabilities
  • Winning respect
  • Growth mindset

 

Read the full article, How to go from uncertain operator to a confident corporate leader, on the Kirtland Consulting website.

 

 

Caroline Taich can help you improve your strategic planning process by understanding what drives the differences in the team’s expectations. 

Much of my work involves strategic planning. Over the years I have observed that there are different kinds of strategic plans, and different views on what constitutes an excellent plan. This can lead to trouble when it comes with a mismatch of expectations within one team.

I wonder, why is there so much difference? There is probably a long list of reasons. You could argue that variability occurs because the strategy sector does not provide standards like other professions do. You could argue it’s a resource constraint issue – some have more resources to invest in planning, others have less; this affects the workplan, and thus the results.

In my view, though, one of most important drivers of difference is mindset.

Leaders with a strong appetite for change to have a “Growth mindset.” They find themselves aching for more. Some want to serve their base in a new or different way. Some want to solve for a disruption, like a new competitor or even a new CEO. All want to significantly increase their impact. These leaders value a strategic plan with components that include a deep understanding of their target market, current market trends, lessons from others in and outside of the field. They are looking to make a case for change, and new models to realize it.

 

Key points covered include:

  • The growth mindset
  • The operational mindset

 

Read the full article, How to avoid a critical mistake when setting up your strategic planning process, on the Kirtland Consulting website.