Strategic Planning and Open Book Management

In our last Blog, we discussed the importance of Positioning Statements. These are vital as they describe your ideal client, how your solution solves their pain points, and what benefits will accrue to the client by using your solution.

Involving Staff in the Strategic Planning Process

Strategic Planning is traditionally a job for senior management. Once the process is completed, the strategy is somehow disseminated to lower management who then disseminate this to front-line staff. Some of the information in a strategic plan can be commercially sensitive so sharing this information needs to be carefully considered. As a result, the message from senior management to front-line staff may be diluted and distorted as the messages go through different management layers.

However, We believe parts of the strategic planning process need to involve the entire team. At EDIStech, we have involved the entire team in the SWOT analysis process. In particular, identifying Strengths and Weaknesses.

We divided the company into 4 quadrants;

  • Staff
  • Operations and Infrastructure
  • Management
  • Finance

The reason for doing this was so our discussions were tightly focussed on one area of the business at a time.

Task Force to Combat Weaknesses

Over a period of 6-8 weeks, we took each of these quadrants and discussed the strengths and weaknesses relating to their field of expertise. From this, we formulated a plan to combat the weaknesses we discovered and utilise our strengths even more.

Once the weaknesses were identified, we selected one individual (either a staff member or manager) to head up a task force to implement solutions to eradicate the weakness. The leader of this team had to provide reports within our staff meetings on their plan’s progress.


Even Management is Under Scrutiny

We thought it was important to add ‘Management’ in the mix as a Quadrant. It takes a manager that is confident in their skin to open themselves up to critique from staff and we felt this was critically important for several reasons;

  1. Staff needed to have absolute confidence in management’s ability to lead the company from where we were to where we wanted to be.
  2. Receiving a different perspective on the performance of our management team was equally important. 360-degree feedback on yourself is a very useful exercise to see where you need to improve and upskill if necessary.
  3. It shows the organisation that the management team is absolutely committed to the ‘cause’ and open to constructive criticism, so that we can improve.


Can You Trust Your Staff With Open Book Management?

The other parts of the strategic plan put together by the senior management team were also shared with the entire team to ensure all staff knew our long-term thinking. We believe you have to trust your staff and allow them to share your vision of where the company is going.

Every quarter, we present the company’s financial performance and our performance against our company-wide KPI’s. We also give a quarterly report on the progress and performance of our strategic plan.

Our philosophy is that of Open Book Management. We trust our staff to perform work for our clients and represent our company. So why can’t we open our books to them, and show that we are or aren’t achieving our financial and strategic goals?


Company Wide Bonus Schemes

Some business owners shun away from sharing the financial position of the company as they think staff will ask for huge pay increases if the company is performing well. That is why we put in place bonus schemes for management and staff. The company must make its financial goals. Any profit made above an agreed amount would be placed in a pool for distribution to staff. Thus they all had a keen interest in knowing the financials. This acted as an incentive for staff to eradicate our weaknesses in systems and operational procedures so we had the best chance of exceeding our financial targets!


Creating a Clear Crystal Ball – Our Positioning Statement

In last week’s blog, I reviewed how EDIStech discovered our WHY? Knowing What You Do is one thing, but knowing Why You Do It can be very powerful for uniting your team to a common purpose.

What is a Positioning Statement?

Having a very clear and concise Positioning Statement is just as important as knowing your WHY?

A positioning statement identifies;

  1. Who you do business with
  2. What problems do you solve for your clients – (ie) Their Pain Points
  3. How quickly can you typically solved these problems (in terms of months, days etc)
  4. The resulting benefit to your clients in terms of reducing costs, increasing productivity, and improving your business’ reputation etc – What does life look like after the client implements your solution?
  5. A brief overview of how you do the above.

Ideally, the Positioning Statement should be no more than two paragraphs.

Your Ideal Client

This aspect is very important, especially if your business is seeking to break into overseas markets as EDIStech is currently doing. If you have not defined very clearly who your ideal client is, then you can be in jeopardy of adopting a ‘Shotgun’ approach rather than ‘Sniper’ approach to marketing, business development, and sales focus. This results in wasting money, time and effort. Since completing our Positioning Statement, EDIStech has a very clear understanding of who our customer is in terms of sector preference and client turnover.

Client Pain Points and Timing

Points 2 and 3 are critically important. This is your opportunity to show your prospective clients that you understand their pain points. More importantly, this is your opportunity to show how your solution alleviates those issues and how quickly you can do it.

Benefits of Your Solution

In covering point 4 above, the Positioning Statement should include percentage improvements, ROI in terms of months, dollar savings etc. This gives clients a clear understanding of the benefits that will ensue if they adopt your solution.

Going through this exercise means you need to step inside your client’s shoes and see the world from their perspective, especially if they have not experienced your solution before.

What does EDIStech do with its Positioning Statement?

  • All our presentations to prospective clients, follow the Positioning Statement format.
  • Our website and any marketing material cover all the points in our Positioning Statement
  • All staff can be confident in giving a 30-second ‘Elevator Pitch’ as they are familiar with our Positioning Statement. It’s easy to remember percentages and time frames; For example; “You will recover the cost of our implementation in 2 months”

Join me next week as I discuss in my penultimate blog – the benefit of including staff in your strategic planning process and adopting an open-book style of management.


Why We Do What We Do – Discovering Your Company’s WHY

Recap of the previous blog

In my previous blog, I wrote about how our values were inculcated amongst all our staff. There is no silver bullet in this process. It’s all about repetition, patience, and rewarding staff for upholding the values. The benefit of having everyone intimately understand our values and actively embodying them in day-to-day operations cannot be understated. It creates a differentiator to your competition.



Why We Do What We Do

One thing I learned from MBA studies and reading a lot of management books is that there is a difference between “what we do” and “why we do it”.

Understanding your WHY is critical for all staff to understand. By doing this, you will find that staff are united in a common purpose.


Are You Building Your Cathedral?

Let me tell you a quick story;

A man was walking down the road in 11th century England. There were thousands of people on the side of the road making what looked like bricks. He said to one man;

“What are you doing?” The man replied; “I’m making bricks from straw and mud”

A bit further down the road he asked another man doing the same job; “What are you doing?”

The second man said; “I’m building a Cathedral!”

The first man knew WHAT he was doing, the second man knew WHY he was doing it.

Which man do you think produced the best bricks?

So at EDIStech, we had to discover ‘What our Cathedral was’ or ‘what is our WHY!’

The way I did this was as follows;

I asked the team the question;

“What do we do?”

I thought this was going to be a quick process. But even the team discussing;  ‘What We DO’ had some debate as we defined this into one sentence.

However, once we had a definitive sentence describing what we did, I then went through 5 iterations of “Why is that Important?”

After working through 5 iterations, we finally discovered our WHY. We put this WHY into two succinct sentences that everyone in the team can now quote and understand. Doing this exercise was critically important as it created a lazer beam focus for our staff on what EDIStech is trying to achieve (Building our Cathedral) This I believe has assisted in lifting our professionalism and our reputation with our clients.

I then included a discussion around ‘Our Why’ in our weekly staff meetings.

In my next blog, I will discuss Positioning Statements and why that is important.


Becoming an Award Winning Business – Part 4

Aligning the company through weekly and daily meetings

Recap of previous blog

In my last blog I talked about the importance of listening and observing when you are new to a leadership role. Talk with all your staff in a neutral location preferably offsite in a café or similar. Let them talk about their frustrations and what they see could be done better within the organisation. Prioritise these points and act on some easy ones quickly to build momentum and build personal credibility.

Daily and Weekly Meetings Build Consistency

This week I want to talk about setting up a regime of Daily and Weekly meetings. The purpose of these are to keep focus on the issues needing resolution and later to align all staff with a set of values that are the company’s D&A. I instigated a weekly staff meeting (all employees) and a daily scrum meeting for our software developers of 15 to 20 minutes maximum.

Weekly staff meeting (Approx 1-1.5 hours)

The thing about staff meetings is that the agenda needs to be thought out clearly so the “buy in” to the meeting is high by all staff.

I set the agenda and forwarded this to all staff so they knew in advance what was to be covered. The agenda followed the same pattern until that pattern needed to change. In general the agenda covered;

  • Weekly Wins – New clients on-boarded or additional business from existing clients.
  • Business Development Manager’s Report – Prospects in the pipeline
  • Marketing Manager’s Report – What marketing activity was coming up and a review of marketing activity just completed.
  • General Manager Report – I would summarize the Good and the Bad from that week as I saw it. The key thing was what we learned from the Bad that needed to change.

I would also train all staff on some aspect of the Business. In EDIS’s evolution these topics covered things like; effective communication, explaining our strategic planning process and the expectation on staff from this process, understanding the company’s KPIs (which I had developed) and reviewing our recent results against these indicators. I also spent a lot of time training our team on our Values – (A dedicated Blog on our Values is coming!)

  • System Improvements – As a collective, we picked a system or procedure within the company that needed improving. We discussed how we could improve the system. Then the GM would draw up an action plan to implement the improvements. At each weekly meeting

we discussed progress against the action plan and those responsible for delivery would report their progress.

NB: A key learning of mine from the start of my career was that; “You only get what you measure”

So holding staff and management to account against a set of action plans and asking them to report on progress was a great incentive for ensuring they delivered.


Daily Scrum Meeting (only for the Software Developers) 15-20 min max


EDIS had a history of going over the time budget for projects. So I instigated a Daily Scrum Meeting. This consisted of a Scrum Board in our meeting room which listed all jobs currently being worked on and the developers working on each job. In affect this meeting was a WIP meeting. But again we held staff accountable to delivery dates on key project milestones. These milestones were clearly written on the board. With this transparency around projects we improved our “On Time” project delivery.


Instigating a weekly and daily meeting regime I believe was vital to building momentum. I also believed that total transparency and understanding of both our strategy and our financials was important to build commitment and Buy In. EDIS had a 100% developer turnover per year, so commitment and buy in was critically important to stem this bleeding of experience.

Every quarter I would present the financials to all staff against our revenue, sales and overheads budget. Again this was to build trust, increase transparency and to build a team culture.


Quarterly Review Meetings:

I also conducted a quarterly Review Meetings with the management team. At this meeting we reviewed where we were against our Strategic Plan. Our plan details the actions required and the completion dates. So this meeting was to ensure we were on track to achieve these deadlines. We also identified Red Flags where delivery dates may be compromised. Therefore we had an opportunity to either revisit the delivery date or add more resource to the project.

Again, its all about keeping that momentum going.