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September 30, 2013 Biz Books

Illustrating business strategy

“Picture Your Business Strategy — Transform Decisions with the Power of Visuals” by Christine Chopyak (McGraw-Hill, $27).

Illustrations bring numbers and words to life because they connect right-brain creative to left-brain logic. When you draw images that show your choices and course, you're creating a success storyboard that engages and energizes people in their roles. The visualization process cuts through gender, generation and cultural barriers because people really see themselves collaborating within the storyline.

Where do you start drawing? Create a picture of your perception of the outcome. Don't be surprised if you have to modify your initial outcome (i.e. recalculating) as you go through the picturing process. Information from your team, the market and stakeholders can alert you to challenges you didn't anticipate.

The initial outcome prompts you and your team into thinking about ideas (thought bubbles), the tools you'll need (draw them), the people involved (stick figures with names), milestones (peaks), detours (arrows), the unknown (squiggly lines), obstacles (mouse trap), etc. And don't forget word bubbles to indicate conversations that need to take place, and a steering wheel to show changes in who is driving at various times.

You'll also have to draw a picture of your organizational DNA because it affects execution. Culture, resources, strengths and weaknesses dictate the way you do business. Understanding the dot-connecting within the organization reduces complexity of execution because it fosters collaboration.

Chopyak believes stories are valuable tools to the building blocks of the firm's DNA. Let people tell their stories and they'll relate their experience to that of the storyteller. The individual stories have group impact — picture overlapping circles.

Once completed, your strategy or project picture becomes an alignment map. The map shows time to destination, landmarks, places of interest, intersections, highways and byways on the road to outcome — and the roles of those engaged (i.e. a series of stick figures sharing “Yes” thought bubbles).

• • •

“Disrupt! Think Epic. Be Epic” by Bill Jensen (netminds, $16.99).

Think about people who have changed “the game”. They have a common denominator: Disruption. They did different things, did things differently and did things others thought impossible. How did they do these things? They didn't think big; they thought “Epic”. The 25 habits culled from Jensen's interviews with over 100 game-changers provide a template for being “Epic”. He divided the habits into three sections, dos, don'ts and guiding principles. Here's a sampling from each:

Dos — Habit 1. “Question Everything.” Seeking answers to what if, why and how fuels learning and discovery. A questioning mindset drives “Make it happen.”

Habit 5. “Blow Stuff Up.” You have two choices: Rock the boat (i.e. Show disdain for the status quo) and sit in a rocking chair (Do what you're told). Boat rockers know that there's always another way. Change changes results.

Habit 6. “Be a Triage Master.” Jensen considers this “the skill that rules all others.” Amidst managing yourself and all the things on your plate, situations change. You have to be able to rapidly assess and prioritize what needs to be done, who needs to be involved and effectively communicate response plans.

Donts — Habit 15. “Don't Fight Stupid.” When your ideas are consistently met with no and “yes, but … ,” it's time to move on. When you “fight stupid,” you're fighting against something, and not for something. If you believe in yourself and your ideas, there are organizations that will say “yes, and … .”

Guiding Principles — Habit 23. “Your Power is Your Network.” You have to have connections in order to get things done. By creating value for others, you build a reputation as a go-to person. When you need input and assistance, those you've helped will help you.

Each habit contains “words from the wise” disrupters.

Jim Pawlak is a nationally syndicated book reviewer.

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