Exactly how will your fiscal year 2018 be different from FY2017?
How will it lay the foundations for 2019?
How will it help sharpen your distinctiveness, ensure you pursue your values and take you further towards your vision?
To make 2018 great, we need to think about these serious questions of leadership. And the answers don’t lie in the spreadsheets, charts and graphs you have put into your latest PowerPoint presentation. This about strategy, but it is also about engagement. Heart, not just head.
The answers to these questions are the components of your Strategic Narrative. This is the core story of your business, and a great way to ensure a strong 2018 is to write that story of the year before it gets going, so that the reality can reflect the narrative you have decided upon.
If you get it right, it will provide real clarity to everyone who needs to be engaged by your activity. It will demonstrate leadership to your employees and your clients. And it will align the team so that everyone is pointing in the same direction.
I am delighted to be coming to Hong Kong early in 2018 to work with Growing Edge. We’ll be offering consulting services and workshops designed to help business leaders answer these questions in a sharp and focused way.
I bring over 20 years of corporate storytelling experience, grounded in 10 years of TV and radio journalism. Growing Edge brings fantastic practical techniques to enable leaders to turn the story into action.
The challenge is to cut through the increasing noise. We are all bombarded with communication, messaging and branding. Nowhere is this more true than in Hong Kong, where the brand messages are almost overwhelming.
To reach those people who are important to your business, it is crucial to adopt a rule that less is more. The task is to reduce that complexity of your strategy into a clear story that your colleagues and those buying from you can understand and see in action.
This is the first question posed at the top of this article. When the year is over, what is the one thing that you want people to remember about how it was special? What is the second thing? And the third? Have a “Top 3 Headlines from 2018” that you can write – and that then can become focus areas for the year.
These may be big client wins, or the launch of a new product. They may be a specific goal – such as, increasing sales by 20% in particular categories and with a clear group of customers. The more specific the better.
I call these the Narrative Themes, and they are the big ideas with which you want to be associated.
What will they be in 2018? For example, there may be a big trend in your customer’s marketplace that you need to be famous for tackling. They may relate to the wider political or social environment. Is there a theme within your business that you want to emphasise – for example, the way you are empowering junior staff to take more responsibility?
The key to Narrative Themes is that they matter to the people you are trying to reach but play to your strengths as a business. In other words, they match their ‘why’ with your ‘how’.
Speaking of your ‘how’, this is the critical element in what makes your organisation distinctive. So, how will 2018 sharpen this difference?
The first task is to identify very clearly your ‘how’. The way in which you deliver your service, manufacture your product or maybe it is your product mix. What is it that makes you better than the other firms in your market?
Once you have identified this very clearly, then telling the story about how 2018 will make this even clearer is a key component of the year’s Strategic Narrative.
By the way, you cannot use the following descriptions of what makes you better:
Everyone says that! This is true even if you want to nurture talent in your organization.
I will assume that you have defined and articulated your ‘why’ – your mission, purpose, vision. This may also identify your values as a key part of your essence as an organisation.
So, how will 2018 strengthen this ‘why’? How will it be consistent with the purpose you have identified? How will it take you towards that vision you have pictured?
Be clear, be as specific as possible. And make sure the answers to 1,2 and 3 connect to this and pass any tests posed by the answer to this question.
Now, if you have not identified your ‘why’ or your ‘how’, or perhaps they need refreshing, we can help. This article is about how to make 2018 great. However, it must be built on the strong foundations of your core Strategic Narrative. If this is not clear, then let’s discuss that as the starting point for the work.
Let’s write a fantastic story so that your reality over the next year is as great as you choose it to be.