This post is part of a series called Managing the Professional Service Firm.
Managers of professional service firms face many challenges. This series attempts to provide a helpful collection of resources, concepts, and frameworks for understanding and addressing them.
Strategic management templates are formats for brainstorming, plotting, and tracking ideas. Much of strategic planning is taking a complex and confusing situation and distilling it down to its critical components so that the problems become simple and solvable. Strategic planning templates help guide a leader through the process of forming a strategy.
Long form strategic plans provide detail and insight into the premises upon which the conclusion rests. Templates help summarize, and emphasize conclusions that are simple and easy to understand.
The purpose of this post is to present a few of the most popular templates and their benefits.
SWOT is a brainstorming template. It is an important part of the traditional toolkit. It breaks down situational analysis into 4 core categories (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). Strengths and Weaknesses focus on the internal situation. Opportunities and threats outline the outside factors.
A SWOT analysis is a structured planning method used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a project or in a business venture. Wikipedia
SWOT analysis conveys the various factors that can affect the achievement of a business goal or objective by arranging key details into one of the 4 categories. In this way businesses can see clearly what will or will not work.
A3 Thinking Template
Lean, Agile, Lean Startup come out of the new way of thinking where it is more important to make quick adjustments than extensive plans. These methodologies were inspired by Toyota's manufacturing practices designed in the 1990s. One of the key artifacts of the totyota method is the A3 Thinking Template.
The A3 Thinking Template has significant advantages in its format. It is particularly good at communicating action plans to senior executive managers. I wrote an article dedicated to the A3 Thinking Template where I discussed some of the lessons I have learned.
Business Model Canvas
Popularized by the book "Business Model Generation" (2009) by Alex Osterwalder it is a fabulous tool which divides the business into a few key components. It helps visualize, categorize, and display the relationships between various pieces.
[caption id="attachment1532" align="alignnone" width="1100"][![Business Model Canvas](images/5650743orig.png)](http://durichitayat.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/5650743_orig.png) Business Model Canvas[/caption]
The business model canvas is a great tool for entrepreneurs and leaders of mature organizations. It helps sum up the parts of the business in as few words as possible. Its great for brainstorming. Its also a fantastic summary for entrepreneurs looking to engage investors with conversation (not piles of paper).
Interested in getting started? You'll want to check out this video:
Others have popularized alternatives and add-ons to the business model canvas concept.
Vision boards are popular tools for product people and entrepreneurs alike. They welcome a free flow of ideas into simple categories. Its power is to get ideas down on paper. By visualizing and contextualizing ideas, the process of understanding the pivot points can become more clear.
Ash Maurya adapted the Business Model Canvas into the Lean Canvas.
Focused on learning, the Lean Canvas is designed to prompt the user to update it often as assumptions are tested and new insights arrive. This is a great tool for entrepreneurs whose primary problem is identifying a market, product, and value that brings the two together.
My main objective with Lean Canvas was making it as actionable as possible while staying entrepreneur-focused. The metaphor I had in mind was that of a grounds-up tactical plan or blueprint that guided the entrepreneur as they navigated their way from ideation to building a successful startup. Ash Maurya, Why Lean Canvas
Lean Startup is a methodology that addresses the primary problem of entreprenuers "extreme uncertainty".
[...] the Lean Canvas is heavily “problem focused”. Both the canvas and methodology emphasize understanding the problem as a requisite first step. Ash Maurya, Why Lean Canvas
There are many tools and methods. Whether it is a SWOT Analysis, A3, Vision Board, Business Canvas, or Lean Canvas, ultimately, its not which tool that counts, its the output. Try them all and stick with what works