Why knowing who you are as a company is so critical to your future

By evoke
July 11, 2011

We explained in “Strategic planning is broken and the 5° rule” that traditional strategic planning is frustrating because everyone leaves out the first and most critical question in a three question process, which is “Who are you?” They only try to answer questions 2 and 3, which are “Where you going?” and “How will you get there?”

Why, you may ask, is answering “who are you?” so important? The short answer is that anywhere you say you want to go has to be true to who you are. So it follows logically that you need to know who you are first. If not, you may waste a lot of time, money and energy considering destinations that have no relevance to who you are.

To get a better understanding of this, imagine you are planning a vacation and you are considering two destinations: Paris and the Amazon jungle. You can immediately see that these are two fundamentally different destinations. If you are the kind of person who loves modern amenities, fine food, luxury hotels, and the best of Western art and culture, you are going to find the Amazon jungle a little…lacking. And if you love physical challenge, ancient culture, the rugged outdoors and sleeping under the stars, Paris would seem a little…prissy. You can see in this example that knowing who you are is essential to picking the right destination if you want to have an enjoyable vacation.

Strategic planning is exactly the same. You are picking a destination for your company and then saying this is how we’re going to get there. To pick the right destination, you have to know who you are as an organization, especially since the cost of making a mistake is far greater than a week or two of superficial discomfort. Depending on the size of your organization, the cost of a disconnect between who you are and where you’re going can be anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of millions (New Coke!).

When you really, really nail the answer to the question “Who are you?”, where you are going and how you will get there will always be aligned with your corporate DNA.

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