C-Series: “2 Weeks!”

Author: Cara G. Parker, President/CEO of C Parker Consulting, Inc. (CPC)

Do you remember the 1980s movie starring Shelley Long and Tom Hanks, “The Money Pit?” If not, check it out. The famous line from that movie is…”two weeks!”   The premise was that any question asked in the movie had one answer – “it will be ready in 2 weeks!” Well, guess what? -  in 2 weeks, it’s January 1, 2018!   So, my question for you: “Is your business ready for 2018 in 2 weeks?”



I polled women serving in a variety of roles recently and asked them what their plan was in 2 weeks – In other words, what are they focusing on in the new year?  Below are a few of the responses I received:

President of a Member-based Association:

·         Implement the exciting new strategic plan recently created

·         Continue to mentor the staff to embrace challenges and stretch for personal growth


Leadership Development Legal Professional:

·         Launch a mother/daughter leadership retreat at Green Acres Farm in Cape May, New Jersey

·         Launch our Level II Management Development Series for Legal Managers


Director of large U.S. Based Shipping and Transportation Company:

·         Achieve a better work/life balance through eliminating non value-added activity

·         Take my department to a new level by implementing learning in ways our employees can get their learning when, where and how they want it


Manager in Analytics:

·         Become a better storyteller, as I believe this will help me in the work I do with individuals, teams, and organizations


Owner of a Financial Services Institution:

·         Develop more systems and processes for workflow. With the ultimate goal of passing off work to others [delegation], I'd like to create written documentation and procedures for others to follow. That way, at least there are some guidelines for how the work goes through the channel.


·         Earn a new certification in my career field

·         Start-up a leadership institute

What impressed me the most that when I put out the poll, these women responded immediately.  This speed tells me the most productive women are the ones that haven’t waited with only 2 weeks left to develop their 2018 plan.  It’s been in the works for quite some time. And my guess is, they have already started working it.

In the next 2 weeks, I encourage you to think about your plan for 2018 – both personally and professionally.   If you don’t know where to start, steal one of the goals above.  If you need further inspiration, most goals focus on areas like: financials, customer service, process improvement, marketing, learning and development, or philanthropy goals.  Once you develop your goals, write them down and send them to me via my website [below]!  I commit to helping you stay accountable through a gentle check in throughout the year.  That will be one of my 2018 goals!

Happy New Year and here’s to a productive 2018!

C Parker Consulting, Inc. is a strategic planning and leadership development firm located in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Check us out at: www.cparkerconsulting.com

Perpetual Movement Toward Your Success!








The Error of Our Ways.

A recent report indicates that over 85% of large companies devote significant resources to strategic planning.

If such a high percentage of companies are heavily engaged in strategic planning, why are so many still saddled with bad strategies or no strategies? Where do these organizations, many of which have enormous resources and experience in this area, go wrong?

Maximize your chances for success by asking yourself these key questions as you prepare for your own strategic planning process:

When do you do your strategic planning?

If the calendar dictates when you do strategic planning then you’re probably not as connected to your market or your customers as you should be.


For many companies, the annual retreat is the time and place for strategic planning. But all too often this is just a feel good exercise that provides the corporate version of the refrigerator pictures that adorn the kitchens of families with small children.


I’m not suggesting that annual reviews are bad (although quarterlies make a great deal more sense). Rather, I am suggesting that good strategic planning reviews are deliberately scheduled.  Great strategic planning occurs as an on-going event and is agile enough to respond to new opportunities and market trends.

Why are you developing a strategic plan?

At the core of a good strategic plan is a problem.


Your problem may be a new challenge from your competition, shifts in the regulatory environment, or a new technology that threatens obsolescence. The key to a successful strategic plan is to start with the problem.


Often you'll read corporate strategies that say things like “we plan to grow by acquisition” or “our strategy is to vertically integrate.”


Pretty words, but absent a clear understanding the problem the strategy is designed to solve, such top-down corporate marching orders may not be strategic at all.

Is your plan executable?

If your strategy really does address a problem, then it should include the tactics; i.e. the executables by which you will successfully implement the strategy.


In the mid 1990’s, as part of a growth strategy, Quaker purchased Snapple for $1.7 Billion. They already owned Gatorade, so it was clearly a slam dunk to extend their drink offerings.


Or was it?... Snapple had a different distribution network and a different customer base. The implementation failed because the requisite pre-work was never done and problematic issues were never addressed.  Quaker later sold Snapple for $300 million, taking a $1.4 billion loss. Such is the cost of poor strategic decision making.


In an interview after the divestiture, the CEO said things might have gone better had someone on the management team been more assertive such as challenging some of the underlying assumptions.  Assumptions like the distribution matched their current model (they sold in bulk to grocery stores, Snapple was typically delivered in refrigerated vehicles to convenience stores.) The pre-work here would have been a truly thorough job of analysis, including customer behaviors. Their product offerings were essentially “mainstream”, Snapple had more of a “cult” following.


Who is responsible for strategy in your organization?

Ultimately a strategy is set by the person at the top. Committees may fact-find, management teams may debate and recommend, but any strategy set by a group is inevitably less focused, less compelling and more likely to fail.


For an overarching strategy, the responsible person may be the CEO, or it may be a product manager if the strategy is divisional. The point is to make sure the appropriate person is developing and overseeing implementation of the strategy. 

So what does it all mean to you?

This list is not exhaustive, but it is a good starting point to determine whether your process will provide you with a genuine opportunity for successful strategy work.  


2013 Strategic Punch List

1. Renew your strategic plan; Include measures.

Financial Goals (remember to give back to community!)

Customer Service

Internal Process

Employee Leadership

Hint:  Review your strategic plan monthly AND keep it simple!


2. You know what you think about you! Find out what your customers are saying.


3. Conduct an internal climate survey.  Analyze the results to strengthen your team(s).


4. Sharpen your Saw.  Outline your quarterly plan for professional development.


5. Renew yourself. Have Fun/Enjoy the moment.


CParker Consulting, Inc., has received an expansion to its current contract to support Strategic Stakeholder Analysis for Marine Corps Systems Command, Acquisition Logistics Product Support Organization.


Quantico, VA—CParker Consulting, Inc. (CPC) has received an expansion to its current contract to support a Strategic Stakeholder Analysis for Marine Corps Systems Command Acquisition Logistics Product Support (ALPS) Organization. CPC is a subcontractor to Engility Corporation and has served the Marine Corps Systems Command in this capacity since 2010.  The joint contract team has received accolades from the Assistant Commander for superb work in support of strategic plan development, facilitating senior leadership trainings, leading chartering sessions, launching employee satisfaction surveys and formalizing the intern program.


The expansion of the current contract allows the Engility/CPC team to support ALPS by helping them analyze their strategic stakeholder relationships.  Our team will be providing data analysis, focus group, and interview facilitation, with the intent of helping ALPS identify their stakeholder network and assess how they best provide value to exceed stakeholder expectations and meet their core mission. Ms. Elizabeth Scott, from CPC is leading the effort.  "It's such an honor to work with a team that is so mission focused. By focusing on how to add value they are impacting not just their work units but the Marines on the ground."


Cara Parker, President/CEO of CPC states, “We are proud to be asked to support this work by Engility.  Our partnership with Engility Corporation, expertise in analytics, coupled with our ALPS knowledge and experience gives us an advantage that we can add immediate value out of the start gate! We are excited about this support area.”


Founded in 2008, CParker Consulting, Inc. helps clients prepare for and adapt to new organizational development challenges using a systematic, customized approach, providing facilitation, curriculum design, strategic planning, and workforce development for corporate, government, non-profit, and educational customers.

5 Characteristics of Inspiring Vision and Mission Statements

Author: Cara G. Parker, President/CEO of C Parker Consulting, Inc.


Are vision and mission statements the same thing?  What's the difference between the two and do I really need both for my organization?  Let's delve into these questions by first highlighting the benefits of having both a vision and mission statement for your organization.  Having both are absolutely necessary in order to set the stage for the rest of your strategic plan.  Explicitly, they form the foundation of your strategy and set the direction for your organization.  More specifically, benefits include: prioritization of budgets, highlights skill gaps in the workforce, forms the basis for decision making and problem solving, focuses marketing/product promotion needs, and supports forecasting for your customer base and financials. 


Let's start with vision.  The vision of your organization is your polar star. It's visible throughout your organization and is used as a compass to set direction from all angles within your organization. And just as the polar star has five points – your vision should have five points:


  1. Audacious.  In other words – "Go Large!"  Focus on achievement.  Define what success looks like for your organization.
  2. Futuristic: Pull out your old grammar books and look for gerund verbs.  Gerunds are a great beginning.  Many vision statements start with words like, "Creating", "Building," "Moving." Choose your verb carefully though; words matter.  If your vision statement is too general, your audience won't know what you are saying.  If your statement is too specific, it can limit your success.
  3. Clear/Descriptive:  Your statement should be a clear, short statement.  It paints picture of excellence.  Readers should be able to visualize what will be happening in your organization when the vision is fully met. It will be clear what your employees will be talking about around the coffee bar, what your customers are saying standing in front your building, or what your Chief Financial Officer is telling your city mayor!
  4. Time Bound: I recommend setting your vision statement for a three to five year time span.  The world is too volatile to consider any longer.  The days of 10-year strategic plans are gone.  With the technology, political, financial, and global environment, a 10-year forecast is just too long.
  5. Inspirational: Permeate your vision with passion!  Use it to stimulate your employees' creativity and thinking.  Allow it to give meaning to their work by creating a culture of success!  You are headed somewhere big, so set the tone and environment.


    Let's switch to mission now. Mission statements come in all shapes and sizes and the good news is you ultimately get to decide the right style for your organization.  The best missions are short, clear, and succinct.  Often a mission is viewed as a summary of your organization. The mission is a proclamation of our organization's purpose.  It usually does not change too much over time. A mission represents something to be accomplished whereas a vision is something to be pursued.


    Here are five characteristics for your mission statement:
  1. Succinct: Mission statements should be short and snappy.  Details can be found in the strategic plan.
  2. Memorable: Similar to your organization's logo, it should be easy to recall (another reason to keep it short!).  People should be able to remember the overall intent of it even if they cannot recall the full statement.
  3. Unique: Your statement should not be all encompassing, which will cause it to be too broad and not memorable.  Focus on what it that you strive to do differently – what makes your organization stand out, how you achieve excellence!
  4. Realistic: There's fine line between a realistic idea and wishful thinking. Your mission is not your vision – depicting a perfect future of success, but it is a summary of why you exist and what services you deliver.
  5. Current: Although your mission statement should be written for the long haul, review it periodically to ensure it is current.  As your organization changes in slight direction or does a full 180 shift, your mission should keep up with the organization's shifts. 


In closing, vision and mission statements are similar, yet serve very different functions for your employees, customers, and stakeholders.  I challenge you to revisit or write a vision and mission statement as the jumpstart to your strategic plan.  Remember, it's your polar star.  Keep your organization shining!


Cara Parker is President/CEO of C Parker Consulting, Inc. in Fredericksburg, Virginia where she manages The Forum @ CPC – a "forum" for strategic planning, leadership training/development, strategic planning, and good conversation.  Check us out at www.cparkerconsulting.com


C Parker Consulting's Vision: Developing high performance clients.


Solve your Wicked Problems in 5 Steps!

By: Cara G. Parker, President and CEO of C Parker Consulting, Inc. with consultation from Dr. Gail Funke.


This is the time of year many of us in the C-Suite engage in planning for the next calendar or next fiscal year.  Often, we get in a room with our esteemed colleagues to map out our next strategic plan or develop the next operating budget and what happens – BAM! - We are faced with a "problem" as we begin to look into our company's future.  And these are typically not just any problems that we in the consulting field call "opportunities" or try to give a positive spin through the appreciative inquiry lens – No, these are WICKED!  These are problems so paradoxical that we see no-way out . These are problems like, "I need to reduce my budget by 30% AND still maintain the 97th percentile in quality customer service scores.


That's where these 5 steps some can help.


1.     Solve the Right Problem.  Einstein said, "If I were informed the world was in danger of coming to an end in 60 seconds, I would spend the first 59 seconds formulating the question and the 60th second solving for it.  Essentially, Einstein is saying - make sure you're solving the right problem by focusing on the true concerns and constraints.  Dig deep – often our first reaction is not really the right question to be asking. Ask "why" 5 times.  If we are not answering the right problem, we are wasting energy for something that is not going to produce results. A good problem statement describes an unfavorable condition that prevents a goal or objective from being achieved.  A good problem statement includes: the problem or defect, the magnitude of the event (how often it occurs), the location where it occurs, and how important the problem is (use metrics!).


2.     Pinpoint your Stakeholders.  The illustration of "walking a mile in the other person's moccasins" comes to mind here.  With the team you have convened to articulate the problem statement, identify ALL the people, departments, and organizations that are being impacted by the magnitude of the problem.  These stakeholders are the reason we exist.  They come in different shapes, sizes, forms and have just as many diverse needs.  Sample stakeholders include: customers, stockholders, employees, colleagues, distributors, suppliers – and the list continues.  Catalog each set of stakeholders and map the impact the problem is having on them.  Remember, stakeholders have both an interest in the problem and often times the power to influence the outcomes. 


3.     Analyze the Issues.  Problems don't occur in a vacuum; often they represent various issues culminating at one time.  We call this, the perfect storm! In this step, your team will analyze all the concerns and issues feeding into the problem statement.  Look at the problem from all angles. Gather data.  Consider:  resources (people, technology, dollars, time), perceptions (stakeholders, leadership, customers, employees), communication needs (internal and external), your culture, the overall environment (strengths, opportunities, and threats) and your organization's current vision, mission, goals and core values.


4.     Brainstorm Solutions:  This is the fun part.  Now that you have all the needed data – solve it!  You have the right problem statement written, have identified impacts, the issues are transparent, so go to it!  Creativity counts here.  Brainstorm as many ideas and steps needed to right your problem.  Quantity of ideas count – not quality at first.  Don't do this alone – you need more that just your brainpower.  Next, narrow down the solution(s) to the ones that make the problem not so wicked and scary and develop your plan of attack.


5.     Test Your Solution(s): Even our best ideas and solutions need the "gut check."  Once the solution is firm and your plan is in place, test it – experiment with it before you fully launch.  Conduct a focus group with impacted stakeholders and ask them for feedback, undergo a peer review of the idea, talk to a neutral person or trusted colleague, or launch a small pilot to see if the problem shrinks or goes away.  If you're off track, this test phase will save your reputation, your budget, and resources!



One caution:  these 5 steps are not necessarily consecutive steps.  For example, when you analyze the issues in Step 3, you may find you forgot a stakeholder or that the problem statement needs refined.  When you test your solution, you may need to go back and gather more data to analyze or brainstorm a different solution set.  The bigger issue when using these 5 steps is to ensure each step is conducted and no steps are missed.


For more information on Wicked Problem Solving or other organizational matters, watch our "5 Steps in 5 Minutes Whiteboard Session" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARbtX9NVBSQ or contact Cara Parker.  She can be found at: www.cparkerconsulting.com.