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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

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What a Recovery Blueprint is, and Why You Need One 

That old standby, the Strategic Plan, isn't going to get you out of wherever COVID (and everything else) has landed you -

there just isn't enough certainty over the long term to start building detailed 1-3 year plans. 

On the other hand, if we just keep 'block and tackling' - working through our 1-day, 1-week, 1-month 'let's-just-get-through-this' punchlists - we'll never build a sustainable medium- to long-term recovery. 

So, where to start?

Start with a Recovery Blueprint.

I explain what a Recovery Blueprint is, and why you need one in today's video:

Please leave me your questions and observations in the comments below!

(psst:  you can also read the transcript )

Running time: 09' 35"     Don't forget to leave your comments below!

Read Video Transcript

Hi. In this series of videos have been looking at how we might get our head around building a response to at least the economic impacts - particularly, specifically, the growth and leadership impacts of this current crisis that we're still going through.

And I started way back - what it feels like so long ago, but it was just a few weeks ago - explaining how the word of the day, which is to 'pivot', how pivoting isn't in and of itself enough - that if all we do is merely 'pivot' to whatever we can do at the moment, under whatever the current prevailing criteria are, then we'll simply continue to do a continuing series of head-snapping pivots, and that (instead) we've got to begin - to at least build towards some sort of a more longer term, sustainable response to the covid crisis and what it's done to all of our organizations.

And I think we've seen in the last few weeks how, you know, circumstances do change - just merely pivoting on the day, in the moment to the next change, the next change the next change isn't enough. We need to build something that's more sustainable, more long-term.

Then I think maybe three videos ago in the series I talked about how we had begun to get some elevation. I talked about "Leadership at 5,000 feet", and what I meant by that ( and by the way, if you haven't watched any of those videos they are right below here if you're on our webpage, and I strongly recommend you go back and look at them. They're all relatively short.)

I talked about how leading from 5,000 feet - having just got some elevation from the period of time early on in this crisis when we were triaging - you know, when you will recall when we were all just at runway level, doing what we could to get ourselves through the day, through the week. Back then - in March - we were building, you know, one day / one week punch lists. Then we got to the point where we could build a 30- day plan. And now we've reached this sort of five thousand foot level, where we've got some elevation. We can see some of the near-term horizon. It's not all right in our face anymore.

We're nowhere near the 30,000 foot level, so we can't yet begin to build the types of strategic plans that would have been our response to forward planning in past times. That's just not doable because the landscape has changed so much.

And so in the last video but one I talked a little bit about what tool do we reach for if we can't go build a strategic plan at this stage because we haven't got 30,000 feet elevation? What can we do at this sort of five thousand foot level that we're leading from at the moment?

And I briefly went through the fact that it's not a tool, or even a suite of tools. Zoom will not be our savior to be blunt, you know, even the best suite of remote working tools not going to be what will get us back to where we were before.

What we need is a Blueprint, and today in this video. I want to talk a little bit about what I mean by that. 

What's a blueprint? Why is it different from a strategic plan?

Well, a couple things - four things, to be precise, there are four things that a blueprint has. But first of all before I tell you what those four things are that our blueprint has, let me tell you what it is. It's a roadmap.

It's an executable roadmap to launch, grow or lead your organization to where you want it to be. 

So if you're thinking of launching something in this season, (I've got a video about that -go back find it, it's in the series.) I don't recommend it (launching a new venture in this season), but I'm here for you, if that's what you're going to do. Then you need a blueprint that will get that launched successfully and sustainably.

If you're leading an existing organization, and you want to grow it back to where it was - and hopefully beyond, well beyond, you need a Blueprint. A blueprint is a actionable roadmap that will get you there.

If you're not in charge of an overall organization, but you are a leader, then you need a blueprint to help you lead out of this current crisis and into the medium term and then, eventually, into the long-term.

In other words, a blueprint is what will get you from 5,000 feet to 30,000 feet. And then you can begin your one, three, five year strategic planning.

So let me talk about the characteristics of an effective blueprint.

First of all, it works from first principles and eschews recent trends.

Let me say that again: a blueprint works from first principles, but does not take account of recent trends. Strategic plans are mostly (people say they shouldn't be - yeah, I get that - zero based budgeting, know all about it) but 98% of strategic plans are based on recent trends and build on those. A blueprint doesn't do that. It starts from first principles.

So you can't take the statistics for growth in the industry or market you serve over the last few years, because they mean squat at this point. You've got to build from first principles.

The second aspect of a blueprint is that it's got to be customizable and I'll tell you specifically what I mean by that.

I'm looking at a two acre lot just right in front of me from where I'm recording this, and I could decide to build something there, and I could just get myself a blueprint by mail order and start building. Or I could do something a little more sensible which is to get a blueprint made that takes a kind of the fact that we're 350 feet from the bay down there; that it floods from time to time; where the winds come from; what the land looks like in terms of it's elevation, and I could build something from where I start from - from where I am right now, and the blueprint that you need needs to start from where you are.

The third thing is it's got to be flexible in execution.

One thing's absolutely for sure. I guarantee it. Nothing that you or I are going to put into an executable roadmap for the next six months to a year is going to work out the way we project. That's just not going to happen.

And so your blueprint has got to have built-in flexibility so that as things begin to roll out and they're different from what you've planned, you've got options, you've got alternatives. You've got a different option you can select.

Fourthly - finally, it's got to be extensible.

And I mean something very specific by that at the moment. Right now, there's no point taking a blueprint and trying to rebuild a skyscraper. Now is the time to rebuild your foundations - or at least check them and make sure they're okay, then build the first floor, the second floor, the third floor; stop. Breathe.

Regroup, see how things played out the way they are. Re-attack - build a fifth, sixth, seventh floor. So your blueprint has got to be extensible. It's got to get you to a point where you can stop, rest, then start again, move on and not lose ground in between times.

So whether or not you're looking to launch something new, grow back your existing organization, or lead from within your organization, I want to suggest to you at 5,000 feet You don't want to start making big strategic plans right now because we just can't see that far into the future. You know as well as I do the half life of news information right now is very short - things are still changing radically week by week.

What you need is a blueprint.

I'm going to start next week and show you a specific example. I realize I've given you a framework. that's a little bit academic in the way that I've presented in this short video. So in next week's video I want to take you through, on-screen, I'm going to screen-share with you and I'm going to take you through a specific blueprint.

In the meantime, what I'd love you to do is to scroll down in the comments and tell me what you would like a blueprint for specifically. What do you need a blueprint for if I or someone else could hand you a blueprint? Is it to launch your dream business, or to launch the not-for-profit that's going to change the world. Is it to grow back the manufacturing business that you had that was going great guns back in February? Is it to get your church back to some degree of cohesion, the way that it was before? Is it to lead your team of four, five, six people whose morale has been shot over the last few weeks, or they're just struggling to cope with the pressures of virtual working? Just scroll down and leave me your comments. Tell me a little bit about what you would like to see in a blueprint for you.

My name is Les McKeown - despite everything, let's have a great week.

More posts in this Covid-response series
Leading From 5000 Feet
Are you Part of the One Percent?


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  1. Lead a team of trainers and coaches that equip others to train and coach. We won’t be traveling and doing live events for at least the rest of 2020. We have gone virtual but feel training and coaching training happen best in person. We need have a solid leadership pipeline structure in place but not completely filled out nationally. How would the blueprint process help us think through how to raise more trainers and coach trainers to do what we do locally?

    1. Thanks, Charles – take a look at this blog post and see if the process I outline there will help. There’s also a downloadable pdf with some key principles + starter questions that should help. Come back and share what you came up with! – Les

  2. I need a blueprint to get back to servicing my clients. For 12 years I was booked out 4 months in advance doing QuickBooks cleanup and special projects for small-med businesses. I was on site, in the trenches, doing management triage and financial physical therapy Then it went to zero. Funny thing is : companies need my skills like never before. There is a reason why so many businesses failed 2 weeks into the shutdown. No cashflow, no knowledge of where they were. No profit margin due to no COGS visibility, or pricing knowledge. No repeatable process for growth. The ones who need me the most are the ones who cant afford me now. How to blueprint out of that?

    1. Thanks for your comments, Margo. Sadly so many service providers have found themselves in as similar position. Hopefully things will begin to ease shortly and business will begin to return. In the meantime, stay tuned for more on Blueprints!

      Stay safe – Les

  3. Thanks for your videos and guidance during this crazy season. We are a multi-campus church that is having to rethink what we do and our approach to ministry as we consider what our digital footprint needs to continue to be even after we begin meeting back in person. I am interested in developing a blueprint that will help us stop reacting to the current situation and be proactive in our approach leading to a sustainable and new future for our congregations. Any guidance you can provide will be appreciated! I look forward to your weekly posts and always share them with our team!

    1. Thank you so much, Anne – I really appreciate your encouraging words. So pleased to hear that the videos are helping! – Les

  4. LEs – Thank you for these amazing videos. My husband have so enjoyed your lessons since we met you at the INC Gowco event in LA in may of 2019.

    Our warehousing and transportation business was luckily able to continue to operate during the covid crisis as we were deemed essential by WA state…and were lucky to not have any covid cases on our Team.

    Our plan for 2020 included rightsizing our warehouse portion of the business – which is still on pace because it is essentially streamlining and simplifying for more profitable business per square foot.

    But our goal to grow our brokerage side of the business has suffered. We just hired a very experienced sales exec (Feb) a new sales rep, and a marketing team to kick off this growth, only to bring it all to a screeching halt in March.

    The blueprint I will be creating will be – how we should ramp this activity back up – what should be our main focus now, 2 months and 6 months. Luckily our sales exec was able to stay busy reaching out to existing relationships, but our new sales rep was brought into work in the warehouse as she had very few contacts. As you can imagine, establishing new contacts I the last few months has been extremely difficult. Myself and the marketing team have continued to move forward w our marketing plan – albeit extremely slower than we had planned.

    I am looking forward to the video on creating the blueprint. WE have a managers meeting Thursday and we will be doing some brainstorming then!

    1. Thank you, Kimm – I really appreciate it. Good luck with the brainstorming session – do come back and let us know what you come up with!

      Stay safe – Les

  5. Hi
    Thanks for this idea.I’m looking to reimagine how I can safely open the secondary school of 1300 that I run in the UK and provide a valuable education.

    The current safety guidelines are of course essential but delivering them means I need at least twice as many buildings and staff.This obviously isn’t possible and so a creative ,blended approach of remote learning from home and occasional days in school for each year group is what I’m exploring.I’d welcome any thinking around these kinds of challenges.

    With thanks.


    1. Thanks, Phil. My eldest daughter is the assistant principal at a similar sized school in York, so I’m acutely aware of the challenges you’re facing in the UK, especially as directives appear to be changing at a fast pace, and often without clarity when its comes to execution. Would love to hear more about how it works out in practice for you. I know my daughter is having to look any creative alternatives to traditional practice that bring concomitant, negative implications.

      Stay safe – Les

  6. We’re a church of 3500 people. Transitioned from in person to online in a week. Online going great. How do we go back to whatever is going to happen? Some say people won’t come back to in person gathering? Who knows. We’re rethinking everything right now. Blueprint that haha, seriously please!

    1. Thanks for this, Dave. I’ve had the privilege of working through the last few months with the leadership of a number of churches, and hope to have a podcast episode in the next couple of weeks that will help share some of the best practices they’ve developed. In the meantime, I’m sure you’re already getting Carey Nieuwhof’s thinking on all of this – if not, highly recommended!

      Stay safe – Les

  7. Thanks for this concept. I will use it as a framework for reflecting upon my trainingsbusiness. Need to rethink form and content.

    1. Hello, Ad! Greetings to you and all my friends in the Netherlands (many of whom you introduced me to :-). Do come back and share how your reflections work out.

      Stay safe – Les

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