Change. It’s a bitch. It’s also axiomatic in our industry. Whether you’re a startup emerging from stealth mode, an industry disruptor going public, or an enterprise business in the middle of a merger, every organization is learning to succeed amidst exponentially complex, relentlessly rapid change.
We get it. These growth moments force business leaders to rethink everything from value chains to backend technologies. They sometimes require reorganization. And they almost always mean revisiting the brand strategy that got you from where you began to today. More importantly, they force a conversation about where you’re going — how to position your business for what’s next and build a flywheel for growth.
But there’s a catch. Sustained growth isn’t just about getting from Point A to Point B. It actually requires continuous transformation. And very few organizations are good at adapting quickly. Or consistently.
Emotive’s experience working with clients at all growth stages is revealing: leaders believe that designing for the future is critically important, but day-to-day responsibilities almost always supersede forward-looking ambitions. They’re simply too hard to push forward without a strategy that’s actually built with transformation — and the whole organization — in mind.
So what do we usually advise?
1. First, figure out how you’re actually going to design your strategy as a process. Will it be top-down or bottom-up? Top-down means that vision flows from executives to managers to on-the-ground employees. It’s efficient, but there’s often loss of clarity and context by the time it trickles down. It produces a lot of questions: How is this relevant to what I do every day? Is what I do everyday going to change? Do you want me to behave differently? Bottom-up invites participation from people closest to customers first. The work still starts at the top, but it begins by developing open-ended questions that engage employees, asking them to co-create the storyline with leaders.
2. No matter what process model is right for your organization, someone needs to be in charge of change. Maybe it’s the CEO if you’re a smaller startup. Maybe it’s a Chief Brand Officer if you’re a larger, enterprise business. Regardless, great brand strategy is only as effective as how it cascades out and across an organization. And that requires a person or team that’s actually in charge of transformation — operationalizing strategic change for the business, including its people, behavior, and culture.
3. Challenge assumptions. If you want different results, you have to disrupt ingrained ways of doing things. Learn how to make new choices, even if they’re uncomfortable. This is especially true for the leadership team, but applicable across the organization.
4. Unleash strategy from the c-suite! Real change requires that everyone across the business adopt a growth mindset, which in turn requires shared context and understanding of the path forward. If that knowledge gets trapped at the top during the strategy process, it makes execution harder, if not impossible.
5. Communicate the hell out of what you’re doing. No matter what your strategy design process, the majority of execution happens deep inside an organization. If you want the whole business to succeed, everyone has to be a full participant, engaged in the activities of change, not just the recipient of a blueprint or — worse yet — an executive slide presentation. Generate curiosity and buzz along the way. If everyone is rolling up their sleeves together, there’s a collective sense of what’s possible. This makes it a lot easier to move the whole ship in the right direction.
Of course, these are just rules of thumb. Every organization has to define what’s required to meet its own greatest vision of success. Developing effective brand strategy is an integral starting point. Don’t give short shrift to the intentional transformation design necessary to bring smart strategy to life.