“It’s not about the boxes, it’s how you fill them in.”
I still remember this quote from a conversation I had with a colleague about strategic planning and using frameworks and facilitation tools. While there is no replacing strong strategic acumen and rigor, having the right boxes to start with certainly helps. Throughout my career, I have used a variety of different planning frameworks to structure how to approach a particular problem and to present solutions. I have used a number of my own, many of which I have published here on my blog or in my newsletter. I have also used a number of other frameworks that many great marketers, strategists, and professors have shared through their own publications. Below are five of my favourites.
I am a big fan of Strategyzer and their books Business Model Generation and Value Proposition Design. While they are best known for their Business Model Canvas, Strategyzer publishes a number of other planning tools that are very useful. One is a simple set of cards that help marketers or product owners to effectively run tests. The Test Card and the subsequent Learning Card are great tools that force people to take the time to codify what they want to achieve in a test, and how the resulting learnings will be used constructively going forward.
Another tool that Strategyzer has in the Value Proposition Design book appears simple, but is powerful (like all good frameworks, really). It takes an ad-lib format and forces those developing a new product or service to very specifically and succinctly articulate its value proposition. As a planning tool, it really cuts to the core and removes the linguistic-fluff that so often surrounds and clouds defining a new proposition.
Gamestorming is a book from Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo that is chock-full of exercises that facilitators can use across a number of different areas. I picked Gamestorming up 5 years ago, and I still refer to it often when I’m considering how to structure workshops. In addition to the 100+ exercises outlined, the book does a great job of explaining how to structure a collaborative session that diverges and converges. I often refer to Dave Gray’s great illustration of this approach when communicating a plan for a workshop with a team.
101 Design Methods from Vijay Kumar is a fantastic resource for exploring different tools focused on the broad practice of innovation. Like Gamestorming, it is a great resource to turn to for a skim in order to find that perfect tool for the planning job. Here is a simple one that I have found really useful in framing trend research and analysis. While much of my work focuses on digital trends, having a broader canvas to explore different aspects affecting a client’s business can be really useful and clear way to summarize research.
The best book that I have read on how the discipline of CRM is evolving with the changing digital media landscape is Managing the New Customer Relationship by Ian Gordon. One metaphor that Gordon uses is a Relationship Ladder, and he explores how marketers can move different customers into higher value segments (or rungs). He captures this in a framework that focuses on what exactly makes a segment more valuable, including attributes which are not necessarily traditional or transactional in nature.
Well, those are a few of my favourites. If you are interested in any of them, I highly recommend picking up the books as I am not really doing them justice in this post. If you have any go-to frameworks or 'sets of boxes' that you use, I'd love to hear about them.