Before leaders set out to change their organization, it helps to be ready to change. To get ready to change, leaders should be clear about their organization as it currently exists. A good place for them to start is with their organization’s purpose.
The purpose of an organization is to solve a problem for a customer. It follows that there must be a customer WHO has to solve a problem (WHY), with WHAT the organization provides to the customer.
As simple as it sounds, most every organization leader and top team finds it more than a little challenging to compile a clear, consistent, and articulate explanation of their WHAT-WHO-WHY. The following tips are to help third-party consultants work with organization leaders to get them ready for change by agreeing on their WHAT-WHO-WHY.
Create a WWW
- Ask each top team member to create a WWW using this template. Make sure that each leader works alone to fill out the template off the top of their head.
- Collect submitted WWWs and share them with the team without attribution. Insist that team members work the point and not the person; that is, it does not matter which of them said what…what matters is what is said.
- Don’t worry if the first cuts are rough. Plan to iterate with the team, stakeholders, and outsiders to distill complexity (and ugliness) into simple, clear statements over time (weeks, months, even years).
- Do not strive for brevity right away. Use all the words that come to mind to get points expressed before editing.
- Encourage team members to not settle for what first comes to mind. Ask them to read and think carefully about each word. Ask for clarification. Parse each word carefully and iterate to achieve specificity, clarity, and accuracy.
- Then dig even deeper, and keep digging until the team gets to the essential truth for each W.
- Encourage the team to share their WWW with as many smart people as they can to get honest feedback. The more input they get, the better the result will be. “Group think” is their enemy.
- Remember that more important than getting the WWW right is getting the team to reach agreement on any WWW.
It is vital to cut through the dream and get to reality. The points below are to push on the WHO and the WHY to move past the obvious, hypothetical, or imagined answers and get to truth.
Work on WHO
- Identify the buyer WHO makes the decision to purchase what the organization provides by role, not by industry or by organization.
- Study people in the role to understand their persona. It is vital to understand the thinking of WHO makes the decision to purchase the product or service. Only once the actual customer is known can those responsible for sales find buyers and market to them.
- The organization’s board of directors and investors are someday soon going to stare into their CEO’s eyes and ask: “Can YOU sell what the organization provides?” It is not possible to answer in the affirmative without the rigor associated with the research and analysis suggested here.
- Once the team knows and understands WHO they are selling to, they can begin to answer WHAT and WHY; specifically: “WHAT does the buyer need/value?” and “WHY does the buyer need/value it?”.
- Organization leaders rarely explicitly know exactly who their buyer is and what their buyer really wants. Once you really understand your WHO you will be able to “crack the code” and stand out compared to the crowd.
- If there are multiple WHOs, have the team create a WWW for each WHAT-WHO-WHY combination by repeating the process documented here for each, and then facilitate the team deciding on which one to run with first.
Work on WHY
- A decision by a customer to pay for the organization’s product or service must be because it solves an important, pervasive, and persistent problem more efficiently, i.e., better, cheaper, and/or faster, than available alternative solutions.
- Push really, really, really hard to get to the reason underlying the customer’s decision to buy. Every buying decision is motivated by a reason and it is rarely obvious. The challenge is to get inside the buyer’s mind to ferret out their logic and understand WHY:
- What drives the purchase decision?
- What are the rewards?
- What are the timelines?
If the answers to these questions are not known, then find them.
- While there may be subordinate/secondary WHYs. It is critical to get to the primary one. Secondary reasons are good to understand and consider because they help differentiate the WHAT from other solutions, but the primary WHY makes the sale.
Stick to the three simple (but, by no means easy to answer) questions.
Don’t modify them as there is no need:
- WHAT does the customer buy?
- WHO buys it?
- WHY do they buy it?
About the Author
Eric Palmer has 30+ years of outstanding success as a lead operating executive in private, public, private equity owned, and venture capital backed companies. He is particularly adept at strategy formulation, operational execution, International operations, M&A, leveraged debt, IPOs, and working with professional funders.