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Kevin Walsh: Scan and plan to maximize your business

Entrepreneur's Corner

Posted: March 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Spring can and should be viewed as a time of renewal and growth. As the winter of our economic recession slowly melts away, organizations that have weathered the storm should focus on developing a plan that is both strategic and agile. 

Doing so will ensure a well-thought-out focus on organizational goals with the ability to adapt to unforeseen barriers.

When looking at a map and planning to go somewhere, you must know two things: your destination and your starting point.

However, some organizations create a business plan without ever taking the time to assess their current state. There are many tools that business owners can utilize to facilitate the planning process by first assessing the prevailing conditions.

Conducting an environmental scan can prove beneficial in gathering relevant data that will inform the planning process. Environmental scans assess the internal state of organizations and the world around them.

A popular scan is the “SWOT analysis.” It assesses the internal strengths and weaknesses of an organization, along with the opportunities and threats of the external environment. While its origin is disputed, Stanford University’s Albert Humphrey was credited for popularizing this scan in the 1960s.

The SWOT model is a phenomenal tool, and has helped thousands of organizations gauge their internal and external environment.

However, while working with an international nonprofit organization’s board in a struggling economy, I found that the SWOT model was not ideal in identifying resources that could springboard the group to new levels of effectiveness.
This prompted me to create the “R.O.P.E.S. Course” environmental scan.

The “R.O.P.E.S. Course” scan can be used to assess current conditions that can influence the direction and the impact of a plan for an organization. R.O.P.E.S. stands for resources, obstacles, possibilities, endangerments and success.

Stephen Covey’s quote “Begin with the end in mind,” prompted me to add “success” to the end of this model and begin each assessment with a visioning process regarding how success will look and feel.

I ask questions like:
* How will we know when we are successful?
* How will we communicate our success to our stakeholders?
* How will we celebrate our success?

Once the group has a clear vision of what will make it successful, we go back to the beginning of the scan and uncover all the resources that can be leveraged to advance the organization toward its goals. This component of the scan requires the assessor to facilitate a creative and energizing brainstorming session that leaves no rock unturned.

Some examples of resources that groups have identified are: partner organizations, community groups, in-house talents, websites, research, databases and personal connections.

Obstacles are potential internal barriers that may emerge during the execution of the plan. I find that they can typically be overcome by leveraging resources.

Every time an obstacle arises in the session, I redirect the group to the resources pool, and ask it to identify items that can address the potential hazard.

Examples of obstacles groups have identified are hiring freezes, lack of capital, lack of accountability and unclear processes.

Facilitation of the possibilities segment requires an open mindset. The world is full of possibilities, and no idea should be shot down. This creative group process can unveil items that have never been discussed as potential opportunities.

A recession can inspire new ways of looking at the world and even allow for the destruction of old and limiting paradigms. Examples of possibilities that groups have identified are: potential partnerships, grant funding, exploring new territories, new products or services, and marketing overseas.

Endangerments are environmental factors beyond our immediate control that may prove harmful if not averted through tactics devised in the planning process.

Endangerments, like obstacles, may be overcome by leveraging resources. Typical endangerments include: the economy, the cost of gas, political instability in markets across the globe, and even the bird flu, which can foul up your plan.

Once all of this information is gathered and aggregated, a clear picture of the starting point can be developed, and strategic planning may begin. But a plan is only as good as the people who execute it, so it is imperative that key individuals are involved in the planning process from the beginning, empowered to accomplish their goals, and recognized for their commitment to organizational success.

The Employee Training Institute at College of the Canyons is here to provide assistance in assessing your business and achieving your organizational goals.

Kevin Walsh, PsyD is the interim director of the Employee Training Institute (ETI) at College of the Canyons.  Walsh’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. For more information about ETI call (661) 362-3245 or visit our website at:


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