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Strategic Planning - CCI versus SWOT

Posted 5 years ago

From independent business consultants to Fortune 1000 leadership teams, and for everyone in-between, strategic planning is a constant endeavor. Over the years, different philosophical approaches have taken root. Some have become a staple of popular business practices, while others have fallen by the wayside. One thing has remained true: strategic planning is not optional. Sure, you may remain afloat, but you’ll never realize your organization’s full potential without it. International strategic planning consultant and one of this October’s 2016 Users Conference speakers, Dr. Pete Johnson, offers up this week’s story on Platinum Rules for Success. Enjoy – and don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Strategic Planning – CCI versus SWOT

by Pete Johnson

Times have certainly changed since Albert S. Humphrey first developed the SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) Concept through his work at the Stamford Research Institute back in the mid 1960s.  (Initially defined as SOFT – Strengths, Opportunities, Flaws, Threats)  And over the years it has certainly become one of the key ingredients in Strategic Planning for both academics and practitioners alike.  But in today’s rapidly changing, almost fluid business environment perhaps the viability of traditional SWOT Analysis for Vistage-sized companies might be in question. Consider for a moment a more nimble almost fluid approach that dramatically reduces the analysis time in favor of very organized and expedient performance.  This concept, CCI or Current Critical Issues, has a very practical application with regard to developing a “Working” Strategic Plan.  And since in today’s highly fluid business climate we are finding things are changing almost faster that we are able to thoroughly analyze them, a more nimble approach may well be an advantage. Strategic Planning by its very nature is a big picture, long term perspective on business.  However, when there are very real and immediate pressures such as declining markets, lagging cash flow, reduced profit margins, overhead cut-backs, etc… it’s time to shift gears.  Focusing on long term missions rather than immediate critical priorities to some might even seem irresponsible.

Thus the concept of CCI was evolved.  Through our work with the Department of Defense back in the early 1990s we found there was an urgent need to “neutralize” the negative impact that crisis management was having on the ability to think long term.  And in today’s business climate the very same seems true for Vistage companies. Shifting to this CCI concept rather than the traditional SWOT analysis enables management teams and strategic planning groups to rapidly identify the issues, problems or challenges that are currently demanding the immediate attention of vital resources.  Once collaboratively identified, listed and prioritized, multiple sub teams of 4 to 5 people are able to begin drafting proposed recommendations for resolution within less than an hour from the start.  And since CCI takes place at the very onset of a strategic planning meeting (retreat) the “team-building” aspects of this activity become an value-added byproduct and earns immediate credibility with all involved. CCI versus SWOT… What this means to you?

  1. Immediately focuses on and addresses the Current Critical Issues as defined by all the participants in multiple sub-team of 4 to 5 people rather than that of the “front office”.  It’s our concerns and not just the “Boss”.
  2. It’s very quick to move from “identify and list” to sub-team discussion on resolution (within 1 hour from the start).
  3. It helps neutralize negative reaction to Strategic Planning or any type of goals and objectives discussions by demonstrating a willingness to directly address the tough issues up front.
  4. It focused on an organized team approach for accountability and follow-through demonstrating that this is “Our Plan” and not just “The Boss’s Mandate”.
  5. Follow-up recommendations are all subject to executive review, consideration and approval however the emphasis is always on “how can we, as an organization, gain greater leverage and productivity through the use of our current resources.”
  6. A Tracking System utilizing already available Microsoft Excel spread-sheets makes follow up accountability virtually fool-proof and takes but minutes per week to coordinate.  Pre-formatted Templates are available upon request.
  7. It’s a Concept that is simple, straight-forward and easy to conduct on a Quarterly basis to continually adjust to the rapid changes and fluctuations in today’s business climate.
  8. It asks but one simple question… “What keeps you up nights frustrated by the current situation?”  And because people are always in sub-teams of 4 to 5 people they are encouraged to be candid.  If it’s a sensitive issue, the probabilities that most everyone already knows about it anyway, so let’s get it out on the table, address and resolve it as a TEAM!

There will always continue to be situations where a more comprehensive SWOT Analysis is a valuable ingredient in Strategic Planning.  And if you have been using the SWOT approach and it has been consistently delivering the level of “Progress-On-Plan” that has been targeted, then by all means continue to stay with what has been working for you.  Yes, times have certainly changed… just over these past two years alone.  Perhaps your Strategic Planning approach may want to consider changing as well.


strategic planningNoted Strategic Planning Execution Guru, Dr. Pete Johnson has been helping companies rethink and reengineer their business and marketing strategies for over three decades. His clients have ranged from corporate boardrooms and small family owned businesses to Pentagon think-tanks and just about everything in between. As a keynote speaker he has addressed more than 2,000 conferences worldwide with audiences from 15 to 5,000. Through his unique combination of hands-on experience, natural instincts and practical methodology he’s been instrumental in helping companies transition from the academics of defining “The What” (Vision, Mission, Values, SWOT, BHAG) to the practicalities of accomplishing “The How”. His past client list reads like a Who’s Who of world business. His track-record for producing measurable results is a matter of record. Would you like to learn how to leverage Pete’s proven and popular insights to help your business? See his presentation, “Growing Your Business Through Rapid Strategic Execution” at the 2016 Users Conference in San Diego, California (October 6-7).