Shaping the 20%: The Radical Balance of Strategic Planning and Messaging

At Three Pillar, we have spent a significant amount of time over the past 9 months talking about who we are, what we do, and how we do it.  Of course, we have always known and agreed on 80% of the answers. I have found, over the years, that the remaining 20% can really shape your business and provide strategic direction.  The team must answer and buy into these questions.

The effort started last December during annual planning as we revisited our core ideology, strategy, and messaging.  I don’t suggest going back to square one on an annual basis, but this was critical for us as we had just merged with LeverPoint (essentially a merger of equals). It was critical to our success that the entire organization buy in to our ideology and messaging.

Since then, we have continued to refine the results.  Looking back, I can see that the time we’ve spent has been invaluable.

There’s a radical balance that must be struck between getting these answers right and driving these efforts to completion.  There’s a tendency to seek perfection and wordsmith to death.  On the other hand, significant thought does need to be put developing your core ideology, strategy, and messaging.

Many articles have been written on core values, purpose, mission, and other idealogical and strategic concepts and I don’t intend to rehash them here. (If you’d like to do some reading, take a look at HBR.) Here are some tips that I would offer in regards to these efforts:

Focus on the meat and potatoes.

Especially as you begin the process, don’t worry about getting the perfect words.  Nail the concepts and move on.

Keep things simple.

There is a tendency to make things complex by intermingling concepts.  For example, don’t mix your core values with your strategy.  When need be, back up and stick with a simple set of bullet points.

Be explicit.

There’s a tendency to have an implicit strategy and an explicit plan.  Write down what your strategy is and why you have it.  What are the highest level stratagem for the organization?

Consider them living documents.

Your strategy, messaging, and annual plan are living documents.  Allow them to evolve and continue to refine them.

Be proportionate to your maturity.

Develop an ideology and strategy that’s proportionate to the maturity of your business. Remember, agility is an advantage.  Don’t become paralyzed by documentation or over analysis.

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