You’re in a room with a bunch of other smart people.
You’re there to chart the future for your organization.
There’s flip charts and Post-it Notes, binders full of facts and stats and no shortage of opinions and a couple hundred ideas.
You’re asked to answer two big questions.
Where are we going? And how do we get there?
This is when you need to put up your hand and say there’s an even bigger question that needs to be answered first.
Who are we?
Most organizations don’t have a clue. Some have a vague idea that no one can easily articulate. Not knowing the answer to this question will lead you down some wrong paths and have you sail past some great opportunities.
“The question that has to be answered first – who are we? – is one that organizations either don’t typically ask at all, or they pay lip service to answering it, or they try to answer it in a way that is so superficial as to render it meaningless,” say Ian Chamandy and Ken Aber, authors of Why Should I Choose You and founding partners of Blueprint Business Architecture.
“What we found when we really, really nailed the answer to that question is that figuring out where you are going and how you’re going to get there become self-evident. It’s like the veil lifts and the fog clears, and for the first time you really understand what business you’re in and its full value to your clients.”
If asking “who are we?” is too much of an esoteric or existential question that will leave heads spinning and meetings running on indefinitely, try answering this related question instead.
Why we should choose you?
Why should we buy what you’re selling?
Why should we work for you?
Why should we invest in you?
Why should we join forces and go into business with you?
Why should we be your customer, client, member, patient or student?
The answer will eventually lead you to your organizational DNA that makes you uniquely distinct. You’ll know it when you find it. You’ll have your a-ha moment.
Chamandy and Aber call this your organization’s core proposition and you need to wrestle it down to just seven words or less. Some organizations can do it in just two words.
The seven word limit forces you to be clear, concise and compelling. You’ll remember your core proposition and everyone will understand it.
Chamandy and Aber have built a business around helping organizations find their core proposition. You need to look at what your organization really does as opposed to what you think it does. And you need to figure out what deep emotional need is being met by your organization.
“We tear the company apart so that it is in pieces on the table, at some point in the conversation the core proposition pops out, we bulletproof it and then we reassemble the company around the core proposition,” explain the authors.
You can then use the core proposition to drive all the decisions you make about where to take your organization and how to get there. Your core proposition will reveal business opportunities you’ve overlooked and help you steer clear of costly misadventures. It will also inspire and focus creativity among your workers and staff.
“Know your company’s DNA and you can look at every part of your business and determine whether or not it’s aligned with who you are at your core. Know your DNA and you can determine everything you should and shouldn’t say about your business in order to make it a magnet for customers, the best talent, investment and the most valuable strategic partners.”
Chamandy and Aber recap their work in helping create core propositions for organizations including Baycrest (innovation in aging), Longos (treating you like family), United Van Lines (a higher standard of care), Emeritus Financial (following the smart money) and Navigator (when you can’t afford to lose).
Their book will leave you with one question. What’s my organization’s core proposition?