Shawn Parr: Is Your Strategy a Compelling Story People Understand?

Why a well-crafted strategy is like the unfolding plot in a great story

Working alongside executive leadership teams at companies, I find that one of the key opportunities for organizational growth and transformation is when leaders recognize the need to revisit, refresh or redefine the key building blocks that drive their business. When the CEO or CMO realizes it’s time to reinvigorate and reposition their brand it oftentimes highlights the need to refine or redefine their overall business strategy.

There is a lack of understanding around some of the most important building blocks for change. More often than not, there is a lack of agreement around what vision, mission and values actually mean, why they’re important and how to put them into action to drive growth. Oftentimes, prior work in this space is discounted because it’s either outdated or irrelevant, and it ends up living in generic and forgettable statements mounted on plaques in conference rooms.

If a team doesn’t have a clear and compelling reason to get out of bed each day, know where they’re heading, how they’re going to get there and understand the rules of the road, they operate in a vacuum and are driving blind. When teams realize they’re lost and doing the wrong things, the organization usually starts to spin until someone says stop and asks for help.

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For startups to successfully take off, a clear vision is key. The vision paints a succinct and competitive picture of why the brand exists. It helps illustrate how they see the future as a result of their influence on it, helping them raise money, attract talent and kick-start momentum. Startups that have their vision nailed get out of the gate the fastest and drive their business efficiently. Start a business without a foundational brand platform and it will go nowhere fast.

As a fresh way to look at their business, leadership teams at larger organizations need to think like passionate entrepreneurs who are entering their space. By revisiting and examining the reason their company exists and the role it plays in the world, they can reveal significant opportunities for dynamic change. It’s not about manufacturing a widget, selling a particular product or hitting a revenue target (although these are all imperative), but digging for a deeper, more meaningful reason the company exists in the world. Ensuring that each member of your team understands, and can clearly articulate your purpose, can unlock new momentum and help drive new focus. Brands are like people, and without purpose they can drift aimlessly.

Building a clear brand platform and keeping it alive is key. The platform should inform every facet of the business. Establishing clarity and buy-in to the company’s vision, mission and values ensures that the strategy is clearly built from that foundation and can be shared as a compelling story your people will proudly execute against. Here are some of Uncommon Sense questions to consider when refreshing and redefining your company’s brand platform and turning your strategy into a compelling story people understand.

Vision is a clear picture of the future. Do you have one? 

If your company’s vision isn’t clear, and if your team isn’t talking about the impact you’re trying to make in the world, then it’s time to revisit it. The vision should be a clear statement that paints a picture of how you want to see the world changed based on your brand’s role in it. The vision should be big and bold. It should be a stretch, thought-provoking and inspiring. Map out the future and the role you’ve played in it thus far. Having a vision makes your brand’s “why” easy to define. People need a paycheck and a career path, but they want to be a part of something bigger––have a clear vision and you will bring clarity to your brand.

Mission is how you intend to make your vision a reality. Are you on one?

A mission statement is not theoretical, but rather makes a factual declaration of your brand’s intent. Think about a mission statement much like a clearly articulated military mission. It’s definitive and directional––it maps and identifies what your brand plans to do, and how it will realize its vision.

Values are the beliefs and principles that guide your actions. Are yours clear?

Values are imperative––they are what the company believes in. They are fundamental beliefs that define the human-centered principles that guide the brand’s decision-making, debates and disagreements, and help define the character and integrity of the company. Hiring based on the company’s values is fundamental. When these values are universally understood, they help to shape the company’s authenticity and culture. If you or your team can’t remember your brand’s values or describe how to use them, then it’s time to reexamine and redefine the values.

Strategy is how you get there. Have you written yours?

A well-crafted strategy is like the unfolding plot in a great story, it connects the characters, helps define their actions and compels the audience to pay attention and stay engaged. A compelling and clear strategy deliberately directs and guides the actions of employees, ensuring they have clear focus and are directionally connected to the overall goals of the company. Strategy defines the actions that complete your brands mission.

Is your 3-year strategy clear?

A well thought through, data-driven strategy that is clearly defined and shared in a compelling manner creates confidence and connection among everyone responsible for driving the brand. Validating your existing strategy, or developing a new strategy based on the current or pending conditions of the business, is the responsibility of a responsive, diligent and adaptive leader. Strategy that is delivered like a compelling story will help achieve the brand mission and deliver meaningful results.

Shawn Parr is the Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Ideo, Sony, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie’s Homegrown, Kashi, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision. Follow the conversation at @BULLDOGDRUMMOND.

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