Friday, April 7, 2017

Brand Strategy Workshop Errors

We conduct strategy formulation sessions or workshops on the following topics with our clients:
  • Brand mission, vision & values
  • Brand positioning and repositioning
  • Brand architecture
  • Brand extension
  • Inside out branding
  • Customer touch point design
  • Brand storytelling
  • Brand co-creation with customers
  • Pricing strategy
  • Distribution strategy
  • Brand planning

I have personally conducted more than 400 of these workshops and I have also witnessed others conducting similar workshops for a wide variety of clients. Unfortunately, I have observed many errors in conducting these workshops. Here are some of the more common errors:

  • Not having all of the key decision makers participate in the process.
  • Not understanding the group's "culture" and operating style upfront.
  • Being dressed inappropriately for the group and their culture.
  • Using inappropriate language for the group (too formal or informal, etc.).
  • Not preparing adequately for the workshops. Neglecting to conduct pre-workshop participant surveys or prepare appropriate "information sheets" and other handouts.
  • Not having the room set up properly with the right chair and table configuration, easels, marker pens, projection systems, sound systems, etc.
  • Serving food that is too heavy and that will cause people to be drowsy. 
  • Keeping the room too hot or too cold. 
  • Not setting expectations properly or at all.
  • Not gaining the group's upfront trust regarding the process and the intended outcomes.
  • Not providing the appropriate instruction, guidelines, tools and templates so that people will be guided and even forced to develop sound strategies. 
  • Showing off one's expertise or bragging about one's background (versus letting it speak for itself).
  • Not configuring the break-out teams with the optimal mix of people on each team. 
  • Not keeping careful track of time and therefore running way over on time or not completing the intended agenda with the promised outcomes.
  • Related to this, not knowing how to give each person appropriate "air time" without long-winded speeches, rehashing of things previously said or going down unproductive "bunny trails."
  • Not drawing out the quiet people in the room. Not allowing everyone to be heard.
  • Not finding a way to gently shut down people who would dominate the conversation.
  • Not knowing how to handle disruptive or passive aggressive participants. 
  • Giving in to unproductive requests that will derail the process.
  • Allowing people to be distracted by email messages or phone calls.
  • Not paying attention to the energy of the room and calling for breaks when they are needed.
  • Allowing participants to come and go throughout the day so that previous group decisions would need to be revisited to include the temporarily absent people in the process.
  • Not knowing how to drive people to consensus. Not having developed a wide enough array of techniques to do this.
  • Not holding and feeding the energy of the room. This is a key part of a facilitator's role.
  • Accepting group consensus on mediocre or poor strategies. 

People may observe a strategy session or workshop and think, "That's easy. I could do that. Look how easy it was to come to consensus." I would liken it to watching a couple's winter Olympic skating routine. "Look how easy and graceful they make that seem." Indeed.

Before you conduct a strategy workshop, make sure you have fine tuned your group facilitation skills, properly prepared for the workshop with great attention to detail, had a good night's sleep and proper nutrition and thought through what the optimal result might be. It is easy to conduct a workshop. It is less easy to conduct it well with a happy energized team and outstanding results.

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