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HomeThe GM’s Toolkit

The General Manager's Toolkit

Give us the tools, and we will finish the job! - Churchill

Most of our tools are one page.  They're for running great meetings for strategic and project planning, analysis and execution (project management).  Used with the The GM's Index of Terms, they get everyone speaking the same language.  The Center's workshops and trainers will help you get started quickly.

The Center’s Management Self-Assessment provided extraordinary results. After the short training, our management team spotted both our gaps and strengths and then agreed quickly on the priorities. The comprehensive standard gave me and the board confidence nothing was overlooked. But the conversation was more important: the framework helped everyone appreciate how everyone contributes.– Ruth Schmidt, Executive Director, WECA



Managers and executives spend 35 to 50% of their time in meetings, but 67% of meetings are failures.*  But it only takes one great question to guarantee a successful and energizing exchange of ideas in a staff or board meeting, a sales call or project review.  Just click through The GM's Index of Terms to find the topic, context and 3 good ready-made questions. Better still, scroll down to our free 1/4-Page Meeting Planner.  Don't start a meeting without asking, What did The GM's Index say?  And certainly do not leave a meeting thinking, I wonder what we missed?

*See The Ugly Truth About Meetings at 

1/4-PAGE MEETING PLANNER (free to non-members)
Abraham Lincoln said if he was going to meet someone for an hour, he’d spend three hours preparing. Thanks, Abe, but who’s got the time? The 1/4-Page Meeting Planner will quickly earn you the reputation as someone who always asks the critical question--and that’s what it means to be trusted advisor and servant leader.   Instructions. File. Top



Not knowing your organization’s priorities is frustrating and expensive. As manager, you want to make your team’s priorities clear and to communicate them clearly. The Table of Priorities™ helps everyone focus fast and learn to speak the same language. It’s also a great sales tool: it uncovers a prospect’s true priorities, so you can sell the right thing.  File (members only).  Instructions and sample. Top


The defining and valuable characteristic of a general manager is their ability to ask questions that connect people in different departments to a big decision. This ensures decisions are comprehensive, that team members appreciate each other, and that creativity is maximized. Getting the questions right is 90% of the solution. File (members only). Instructions and sample. Top


5-YEAR LOOK (Vision)
Writing a “vision statement” doesn’t have to be a frustrating and time-consuming—and ineffective—committee activity. The 5-Year Look provides a common-sense structure for painting a word picture of your future. It also gives leaders a 1-page summary to show your record of success to partners, lenders and investors.  File (members only). Instructions and sample. Top

This is an alternative to a traditional SWOT analysis.  The Grid deals with competitive strengths and weaknesses but does so in a more structured and useful way (see the Trends Outline for opportunities and threats).  You’ll need to be brutally honest about what sets you apart, but it’ll pay off in new and stronger differentiators as well as clarity about weakness to counter or correct. File (members only). Instructions and sample. Top

The Trends Outline is an alternative to the SWOT analysis: it deals with opportunities and threats in a constructive, sensible way (see the Competitor Grid for strengths and weaknesses). It takes courage to look squarely at the big forces that might make everyone uncomfortable. But of course, it’s better to get ahead of trends than have them drown you. File (members only).  Instructions and sample. Top

GOAL TREE (strategic plan)
Traditional strategic planning is based on a military model from the 1950’s, which is why it uses terms like mission, strategy, tactic, objective, logistics and so forth. The result is often a thick “strategic plan” binder no one uses. The Goal Tree breaks that habit. Used in conjunction with others of the Center’s tools, it can summarize the critical points of focus for everyone’s work as a team. File (members only). Instructions and sample. Top


The Cost/Benefit Worksheet will work for most decisions, though every decision-maker and organization differ in their need for analysis. The Worksheet will help you and others focus on the critical assumptions; it produces simple ROI and payback numbers. Like all analytical tools, it is meant to provide both rigor and objectivity. File (members only).  Instructions and sample. Top

Who wants to get to the end of their budget year without enough money or big variances? The Zero-Based Budget Worksheet lets you be confident you've thought of everything. The Worksheet is structure differently from most budgets: a different perspective spotlights hidden assumptions. Good budgets and budgeting give leaders confidence to delegate important work. File (members only).  Instructions and sample. Top

The Management Self-Assessment helps ensure important processes are up to date. It is easy to focus only on today's problem and overlook you’ve been doing great things. The Self-Assessment can be used to prepare for planning, developing succession or manager development plans, assessing a vendor or creating a franchise or dealer training program. File (members only).  Instructions and sample. Top


You should use The Integration Checklist before an acquisition, merger or consolidation to identify gaps, overlaps, differences and similarities among systems, processes and staffing. Integrations don’t have to be chaotic, tense or distracting. The Integration Checklist will provide everyone a realistic—and rewarding—set of collaborative projects to achieve the big goals of the new entity! File (members only).  Instructions and sample. Top

In Jim Collin's How the Mighty Fall, stage 3 is "Denial of Risk and Peril."  Every risk has two attributes: probably and consequence. Getting hit by a meteor has terrible consequences but tiny probabilities. There are four ways to mitigate risk: accept it, share it, insure again or shed it.  Assessing risks is a basic duty of a board of directors and your attorney. Use this tool annually and when facing a transformation, like a merger, succession or relocation. File (members only).  Instructions and sample. Top



People resist planning; they want to get to work. Even with the Center’s support, it’s hard to get people to agree on a plan, but four hours of planning can save 400 hours of frustrating reinvention—and lets everyone work together on something big. It’s tough to stick to one page, but the discipline is extremely helpful: it compels everyone to be concise and focused on essentials. File (members only).  Instructions and sample. Top

It’s easy to over-commit the management team unless you can see in one place what they’re working on and the time and money involved. The Projects Summary brings the top issues into focus: status, priority, leadership and of course cost. Used with the Project Planner, it helps people address issues before the review meetings. File (members only).  Instructions and sample. Top

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