How leaders can get clear about whose problem their organization solves.

Get ClearAny organization that performs and grows, exists to solve a problem in organization for a customer.  Its mission explains why it exists and its vision explains where it is headed but neither, individually or together, necessarily explains the solution (WHAT) it provides customers (WHO) and the problem their solution solves (WHY) for those customers.

While it may at first seem simple or obvious, it is usually surprisingly difficult for leaders to sort out and agree on how to describe all three dimensions. Employee surveys invariably reveal that the most urgent need across the organization is to get a better handle on: Who are we and what do we do? which reveals the importance of clearly and consistently communicating all three dimensions to everyone in the organization.

Core leaders may themselves be clear about one or two of the three dimensions to their organization but do not realize that it is critical to be clear about all three. Core Leaders who all describe the problem their organization solves for whom in the same way are apt to provide more consistent guidance and direction and so increase the odds of better performance across the organization.

Organizations that have developed a purpose, mission, vision, and/or an “elevator pitch” may have already answered the question: “Whose problem do we solve?” If not, however, then the mission, vision, and elevator pitch should be revised, or a separate effort undertaken, to clarify the three dimensions.

Most top teams find that it takes several hours over many work sessions over several months up to a year to reach complete agreement on the W-W-W for their organization. It is worth the trouble for those that do because the resultant clarity and alignment pave the way for peak performance.

To get clear, or to test for clarity, invite each Core Leader to:

  • Collect and consolidate input from each leader.  Note points of alignment and departure.
  • Convene a Core Leadership Group session to share and discuss collected input.  Encourage leaders to iterate to a consolidated articulation; possibly over several sessions.


Challenge Core Leaders to work with each other to improve their consolidated     W-W-W as in the following examples:



To complete the process:

  • Share consolidated articulation with Management Team.
  • Edit to reflect refinements based on input from managers.
  • Review with All Hands in written and stand-up presentations to inform, guide; solicit reaction and collect suggestions for improvement.
  • Revise as appropriate after review with Core Leaders and Management Team.
  • Finalize and publish for use in internal and external communications as a constant reminder, and to re-enforce clarity about, what the organization does for whom and why as well as to be clear about what the organization does not do.
  • Review and revise annually to reflect updated and expanded thinking in the face of experience

For more tips on how to ensure top performance read: Manage to Lead: Seven Truths to Help You Change the World and consider watching the hour-long presentation and workshop in two parts that covers this same material at these links: