Do You See What I See?

We learn faster and retain more through our eyes than our ears. And we know strategy only works when shared and understood. So a visual interpretation of your strategy ensures everyone sees what you see and helps clear the fog.

I was shopping for groceries on the weekend and decided to pick up cereal. Wow! I hadn’t been down that aisle in some time and was overwhelmed by the rows of choices. All of them “new and improved” offering “only natural ingredients” and made for “healthy lifestyles.” It made me wonder how we can process all the information and really understand what it is we are buying.

I think we have a similar problem when it comes to strategy. People are overwhelmed.

For me, strategy is a dynamic combination of thinking and action supported by effective communication. Bottom line, people need to get it – you need to be able to explain clearly how what you are doing will make a difference. Strategy only works when they can understand it, see their part, and commit to the outcome. A sixty-page document does not cut it. Even one page of text can sometimes be too much.

Entrepreneurs are visionaries. We see how things work and use our creativity to make our business stand out and grow. But how can you integrate your vision for the business into your strategy, so your investors and teams see it too?

We need to communicate the story of our business strategy so people can relate to it. But with so many different audiences, how can we keep the story concise and consistent? A picture to explain a strategic vision is extremely effective, not only to connect with people but to simplify complexities and make it memorable.

One value that underlies everything we do in business in practicality. Ideas are great places to start but you have to apply your thinking to make a difference and create value. Expounding on the power of your strategy through a slide deck or voluminous strategic plan doesn’t make it real for people. A one-page visual points directly to the bottom line. It distills strategy to practical terms – something everyone can buy into.

Sounds good, but how?

Strategy is an essential ingredient for business success. As entrepreneurs, I don’t think we spend enough time on strategy or truly value its impact. It’s about thinking, making deliberate decisions, and focusing to execute and deliver results. Strategy isolates how and where you will play – and, most importantly, why you are in the game. If you want your team to execute you need them to get the strategy so they can work together toward the win.

There are two steps to creating a strategy storyboard, which I recommend to quickly connect with people.

Draw your strategy. Rather than writing your strategy, draw it.

  • Understand the customer and make your decisions based on their actions – what is happening, what could happen around them, where value can be created, and what job they are really trying to get done. From there you understand the critical decision factors customers use to make buying decisions.
  • Now assess where your business is against those decision factors and compared to competitors and alternatives – find the gaps
  • Find out where you diverge, see the possibilities to innovate and focus to create differentiated value
  • Draw your thinking in the form of a strategy canvas to visually explain where you are positioning your business, why, and what you need to do to get there – in one page

Picture this. Now, add a picture of what winning looks like using the strategy and you will have people in the palm of your hand. The crucial point is that the picture must mean something to you and allow you to easily explain it each and every time.

An example of BrewDog’s strategy canvas and a vision image (they are squirrelly but innovative Scottish brewer – love their ads!).

A storyboard makes the strategy much more compelling, and turns the strategic planning process on its head.

In a rapidly changing world, a strategy is more important than ever. Without strategy we can’t respond thoughtfully and deliberately to opportunities or challenges as they arise. But if strategy doesn’t become more flexible, entrepreneurs will never commit to investing their time, even in something so critical to their future success.

Strategy is meaningless unless you can communicate it well. With a strategic vision canvas and a visual of the win, your audience will connect to your vision quickly and consistently. More importantly, they will remember it. And, a picture is worth a thousand words.