We're on a mission

I'm in the middle of revising and fine-tuning strategy at work and I'm learning all about strategic communication at school, so I thought this might be an opportune time to talk about the essentials of strategy.  Whatever business you are in, I'm sure you agree that things generally go better when you have a plan.  Living in the moment is all good and well, but it doesn't really work for an organization as well as a person.

The Blues Brothers are on a mission and have a plan. Do you?

Here are the questions you should be asking yourself from the get-go: Who? What? Why? Where? When? How?

Every good organization strategy starts with two statements:  mission and vision. What is your intent and how do you think you can get there? And, why should we care? 

I just read an article by Eugen Tarnow (A Recipe for Mission and Vision Statements) that proposes using a "unifying action declaration" for mission statements—a short statement constructed to (1) suggest a competitive action, (2) identify this action only vaguely, and (3) include a social categorization.  For instance, "We bring you high-performance banking." This motivates the troops, it differentiates the organization from others, and it leaves enough room for interpretation by all departments and teams.  The vision statement can then delve into more detail about how to achieve this mission and why the organization cares about it.

Once you've waded through these two thorny yet genuine pieces of creative writing, you have to address and develop the following:

  • Situation analysis (what is the current state of affairs?)
  • Objectives (what are your goals for the year, for five years?)
  • Audiences (who are you trying to reach?)
  • Brand ambassadors (who can help tell your story?)
  • Tactics (how can you achieve your goals?)
  • Vehicles (what platforms will you use?)
  • Evaluation (how will you measure your success and failure?)

It doesn't matter how deep you dive into these sections, because you have to start somewhere and you will never have a "final" document.  Your strategy should be a living, working document that gets an update at least once a year.  It's hard work, but it can help think through overall operations of the organization.  It is imperative that you have buy-in from a high level within all teams for your strategy.  This means more work upfront, but it's worth it in the long-term.  Don't fly by the seat of your pants if you can help it.