One Hour Issue Resolution Planning Process

By: Bob De Contreras

 Your company has an issue that affects success.  As CEO you see that it may be caused by actions from people in different functions.  You need alternative strategies and actions to choose from so you can pick the best solution to solve your situation.  What can you do?

 You can use the management school 101 approach of gathering as much information as possible about the issue in the time allotted and then do what your gut says?  Or, you can take a little more structured approach that can bring you the best possible solution in the shortest time with good alignment to your company vision and good benefit to your customers.

 What follows is an eleven step planning process that you and your selected team members can complete in one hour.  If the issue is a complex one that may take several months to solve, the plan can be updated based on new news in less than one hour.  This can be your productivity improving planning process. 

 Step One: What’s the Issue?

 Simply write a one sentence statement that describes the issue.  E.g., improve strategic alliances.

 Step Two:  What are the Assumptions?

 Complete two columns of simple statements.  One column is “unresolved assumptions” and the other is “resolved assumptions.  After completing this make an estimate of the dollar difference solving this issue will make to your business.  E.g., “unresolved” = low revenue, minimal reach, and minimal growth.  “Resolved” = increased revenue, and expanded business opportunities.  “Dollar difference” = $200,000 per year.

 Step Three:  What are Your Company Values?

 List your company values and then how you can measure them.  The answer to this question is the base you will build your solution on.  E.g., Trust employees, empower employees, best possible customer service, satisfy customer needs, learn from our mistakes – mistakes are OK.  Measure by employee survey, customer survey, management review meetings.

 Step Four:  What is Your Vision?

 Write a simple bulleted statement of your company vision. This statement builds on top of the values base.   E.g., provide unique consulting services, offer these services only in the local area, and provide exceptional quality services that are guaranteed.

 Step Five:  What is the Customer Benefit?

 Write a bulleted list of customer benefits that will be realized from resolving this issue.  The answer to this question is derived from your answer to values and vision.   E.g., increase ROI by 25%, improve revenue by 10%, provide one stop shopping for multiple services.

 Step Six: Who are the Other Beneficiaries?

 Write a bulleted list of other beneficiaries and the benefit.  E.g., partners / principals – more offerings = more interesting work; customers – availability of more services from a known/quality vendor; alliance partners – more business opportunity.

 Step Seven:  What are the Obstacles?

 List one or more obstacles in the format of answering the question – “how to…”  These are obstacles to realizing the customer’s and other beneficiary’s benefits.  E.g., how to deal with poor performance, how to reach more opportunity, how to build the level of productivity, how to coordinate the actions of our company and the alliance partner company, how to decide who is in control of any client situation.

 Step Eight:  What are the Vital Signs?

 Pick a bullet from each of the steps 3, 4, 5, and 6, write it down with its vital sign, i.e., a strength or weakness.  E.g., (3) customer service – still learning from mistakes; (4) guarantee work – never had to refund to a customer; (5) one stop shop – need to add more services; (6) alliance partners – bringing more opportunity.

 Step Nine:  What are Your Strengths, Weaknesses and Opportunities?

 Build three lists and fill in the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.  E.g., “strengths” = good reputation, broad background and experience, cross industry experience; “weaknesses” = minimal visibility in the over $50 million market, quality of principals; “opportunities” = facility sharing, alliance companies together are stronger than any one individual company.

 Step Ten:  What are Your Strategies?

 Choose strategies that overcome obstacles, poor vital signs and weaknesses.  List at least three strategies with associated “from” and “to” states.  E.g., increase consultant utilization from 50% to 75%; reach more prospective alliance partners from 1 per month to 4 per month; get current client recommendation for alliance candidates from none to 2 per month.

 Step Eleven:  What Actions Will You Take?

 Build a long list of actions you can take to achieve the strategies (10), support your SWOT (9), improve your vital signs (8), overcome your obstacles (7), and align with your beneficiaries (6), customers (5), company vision (4) and values (3).  E.g., marketing investment, stronger partner support program, reduce pro-bono work, learn from competitors, do more networking, reengage with past networking groups, join more associations, do more trial joint marketing, do more trial joint sales calls,

 The Secret:  All the Answers go on One Page

 By putting all your answers on one page you can see the whole picture at one time.  You can easily modify and improve your plan.  You can “tune” your answers to the best set of actions to solve your issue by getting your whole company working in the same direction.

 Use the attached one page “form” to work a simple issue and you will see how you can complete the plan in less that one hour.  Also attached is a sample form with the answers used in this article.  Give the process a try and let us know how it worked for you.  If you need some help implementing this process, just give us a call – we can get your planning process tuned-up very quickly and effectively.



One Hour Issue Resolution Planning Process Case Study

By: Bob De Contreras

 We often meet with company leaders who say they are not good at planning.  They say that they are not good at writing a vision or mission, much less a plan to resolve business issues.  Don’t hear this as weak leaders.  Our clients are strong leaders who often depend on strong management under them; management who write, market, sell, control finances, and manage operations. 

We often assist our clients in work sessions to come up with issue solution alternatives.  The one hour planning process documented in the lead article in this newsletter grew out of these sessions.  Let us share one story on how the process was used or better said how the process evolved.

 We were working with a CEO of a services company that had been in business for over 5 years.  This was a small company with revenues of about 2 million dollars.  The business was good and growing.  The CEO’s issue was how to manage growth; how to decide what business area or areas to expand.   

We discussed the pros and cons of several different growth opportunities and three more were added as we discussed the opportunities that this CEO had been reviewing.  The discussion was really a review of assumptions.  We discovered that we had some assumptions that were clear and some that were unresolved.

 In order to be sure we were going to pick the best solution we asked about fit to the company vision and values.  We were not surprised when we heard that the CEO had not documented his vision and values.  He had them in his head, and he had discussed them with employees, but they were not documented.  When we discussed the vision and values, and documented them, our CEO discovered that they were not as clear as he had thought.  Yes we ended up adding to the vision and values as we documented them together in a meeting with his top manager.

 At this point our CEO thought he had come up with a sound base for his decision making.  But, then we asked him about how his customers would benefit.  Again, we were not surprised that he had not yet considered customer needs or customer impact of his business changes.  So, we discussed some quantifiable possibilities for customer benefits.  This discussion then impacted the prior decisions on the issue solutions and their priority.

 Just to be complete we then discussed who else could benefit from the solutions besides the customers.  In this case the CEO had thought about other beneficiaries, but he did not consider them in his solution prioritization.  With these last two steps behind us, our CEO again thought he was ready to make the final decision on the solution to pick. 

 We were not quite ready to move forward with a decision yet.  Because to this point we had only been focused on benefits to the company, the customer and other beneficiaries we suggested discussing what obstacles the CEO might have toward achieving any of the solutions.  Clearly, we discovered some new information when we looked at obstacles.  This led to a discussion about company focus or strengths.

 We always want our clients to build on their strengths.  To attempt growth in a new business area is always harder than “sticking to your knitting.”  So, this caused us to ask that we work on documenting the company’s strengths and weaknesses. 

 With all this discussion and a page each for information on assumptions, values, vision, customer benefits, other beneficiaries, obstacles, strengths and weaknesses we spread the sheets on top of a large table.  It allowed us to get a big picture view of the planning we had just completed.  Looking at all this information allowed the CEO to build a strategy and action plans. 

 This CEO ended up with a clear choice for a solution to his issue and a lot more.  Much of the work we completed this day was reusable for other planning meetings.  This meeting only took about an hour.  The next planning meeting would be shorter.  Admittedly, much of the new discovery was driven by our “what if” questions.  You to need to ask a lot of questions about your answers and your solutions or have someone help you by asking questions testing your assumptions, strategy and action plans.

 After reviewing the meeting notes we were able to get all the important information on a single page.  The template attached to the lead article in this newsletter is that single page summary.

 Brought to you by:                                                         [BACK]

            Bob De Contreras                                                  
            Rich Kramarik                                                     


RTBA | Cary | Greensboro | Raleigh | Research Triangle Park | North Caroliina
Contents © Copyright Research Triangle Business Advisors 2008, All rights reserved.