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vision, strategy, output

July 18, 2009

I’ve been consulting to health and sustainability enterprises for almost fifteen years, and in that time I’ve become ever clearer about what causes business in this market place to fail.

Most consistently it seems to be that there is a lack of appreciation for the natural order of things, for the hierarchy of influence and how to work most effectively with it.

When businesses seek out a marketing specalist they are usually approaching them at the level of output. Output is product or service definition, branding, copywriting, web-development, advertising. Output is ultimately an activity related to business development.

Yet the presumption – generally an erroneous one – is that the primary stakeholders really know what their business needs. This is because there is usually no documented business strategy, and even if there is, there is a massive disconnect between the strategy and the (generally ambiguous) vision.

I’ve often said that people think that because they have an appreciation of aesthetics, that they are a designer, that because they know how to use a pen, they are a copywriter. The greatest mistake business people make is that they presume that because they are capable of thinking, they know how to strategise.

Michael Gerber talks about this at length in The E-Myth.

The highest point of influence within any enterprise is the vision of the stakeholders. Without taking the time to clarify this vision, to make it utterly compelling, all strategies and outputs will fail. This is quite simply because their sole purpose is to serve a vision. Equally important to this, however, is the synergies between each of these elements of business planning. A strategy needs to faithfully serve a vision, and can only do so through equal measures of intuition and critical intelligence.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2009 23:16

    Thanks for posting this. Enjoyed reading it.

  2. August 12, 2009 00:18

    The idea that pops up in my mind is Holistic Business.

    Stop thinking that vision, strategy, and output are separate entitles – aligning them creates powerful company. When you give authority to separate outputs (designers, programmers etc) who don’t understand strategy and vision, the outputs take on the role of strategy and the vision gets messed up.

    When the vision is clarified, strategy is more precise, outputs produce better because of this understanding of strategy/vision.

    Am I on the right track?

    • August 12, 2009 14:52

      Hey Eddie,

      That’s pretty much it. Businesses are always focused on output – and so they engage designers, copywriters, web developers etc to help them ‘get themselves out there’.

      The problem with this approach is that organisations that work at the level of output may well appreciate the value of vision & strategy – but do not have the experience or skill to be able to develop them further.

      Many of these organisations will attempt to put their clients on the right path, but that makes as much sense as someone like me trying to tidy up some creative work in Photoshop – I can fumble my way around, but ultimately I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

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