Too often I see executive teams hire different people for business planning, training, and marketing efforts.
When I was doing community engagement and outreach for a rural hospital and clinic, I was frustrated with the walls placed between various departments. You know, the silo effect? In this instance, I am specifically referencing the separation of marketing, human resources, business planning, and community engagement.
The point I want to make here is that by establishing an interconnected "A Team", business planning and marketing efforts can easily flow into and out of one each other. While this seems easier for, or potentially the only choice for small businesses, it ensures consistency across the company internally and externally into the target market. Everyone experiences a similar culture and comes to expect uniformity and flow between different services and products.
Imagine yourself as the employee of a large company where you love the work you do. You are loyal to the company and the brand. You can speak to the mission, vision, and identity of the organization. Out in the community, you overhear two strangers discussing your company in a tone of confusion. They are unsure about conflicting messaging between the marketing on a flyer and an experience while visiting the organization. In other words, these consumers have intuitively identified that the mission, identity, and culture are inconsistent.
How do you respond?
From an internal perspective, it can be challenging to accept that the mission and vision developed during strategic planning efforts may be drastically different than the work culture and customer experience of your company. If you feel strongly that these areas of the organization must be aligned, which only makes sense, then consider designing an inventory or assessment to HONESTLY measure the multifaceted identity alignment. (Or you can always hire me.)
This assessment must offer a hybrid assessment that assumes stories or numbers alone are not enough. Metrics critical to the company's success can be paired with narrative from customers and employees to create a map of direction and terrain. Does the alignment of your planning efforts create pathways easy to navigate with gentle rolling hills and beautiful sights to see along the way? Unfortunately, many company's end up with a map that has zig-zags and cliffs that result in confusion and disappointment resulting in minimal brand loyalty.
The methods I have experienced encourage the inclusion of a diverse team of marketing, training, consumers, leadership, outreach, and more to re-map the brand identity and culture of your company to ensure a healthy future.
Here's a little what it looks like to blend marketing, training, and planning into a hybrid model:
Step 1: Always begin by clearly articulating the final outcome of the customer. Please write this in everyday human terminology or symbols and graphics rather than the professional lingo of your industry.
Step 2: Determine 3-5 steps on the critical path to reach that key outcome.
Step 3: Begin to fill in details (3-7 strategies) that will effectively implement the steps already laid out on your critical path.
Step 4: Ask if the details planned so far consider and accommodate the demographics and psychographics of thriving employees and satisfied customers.
Step 5: Own the implementation of the project by setting accountability measures for the onset of a new and inclusive company experience.
Of course these steps are simplified, but the essence is portrayed. Start with the end in mind - back track to fill in the details of your plan. Then, follow what you just designed. Losing focus and bringing ego into the process will bring back failure and misalignment. Glimpses of joy and success will be experienced if there is blind-faith in the delivery of creative and courageous plans; but, be sure to keep in mind the balance of employee wellbeing with productivity outputs as well as collaborative efforts with individual responsibility.
The efforts to bring meaning to employee work, fulfillment to customer experience, and purpose to leadership and development can be painstaking when personalities and design processes conflict. Wherever you're at with a company - start-up, scaling, or pivoting - take some time to reflect on some essential design questions:
Have we considered the wellbeing of employees?
Have we included diverse voices from within and external to our organization?
Did disparate departments work together in establishing strategy, identity, and culture?
Do we balance demands for collaboration and individual accountability?
My favorite projects are working alongside teams to simplify complex projects and help bring joy to change processes. The most fun comes in facilitating relationships and trust for deep brainstorming and reflection in the process of recreating work culture and conditions, customer-employee or customer-product interactions, and executive team fulfillment.