Finding the Essence

Coffee in a test tubeOne of my clients is going through the process of redeveloping their website. I’m quite fortunate to be involved at ground level, working alongside their Communications Manager to provide input to the scope and also the design brief. This is kind of remarkable in itself, as often I’d be brought in after the design was well down the track to provide the copy in isolation. It’s such a gift for the content person to be involved with scoping – but that’s a topic for another post.

So my client is talking to a few agencies about building the site– while they have a very competent IT team, they’re not the sort of business that has web design and development resources in-house – and we’ve been having some pretty interesting conversations with large and small creative agencies about how they would go about building something that will achieve the outcomes we’ve scoped. What is particularly challenging with this client is that there are a number of people who have a vested interest in the website re-development and they are not necessarily all on the same page.

We were meeting with one of the better known (I won’t say larger, as they only have a small office in Brisbane) full service agencies and they stepped us through their approach, which involves progressing through various fixed stages, following an Agile methodology – BIG tick from me. I love a good process and I love a good project methodology even more. The process was very front-end heavy with a strong emphasis on a clear strategy, right from the outset – starting with communication objectives (yep, another tick). Most of you are probably thinking that none of this is particularly noteworthy, but the thing that I took away from that meeting is what they told us after they outlined the process.

They were sharing a story about another client they had worked with, who was similar to mine: same industry; same issues with stakeholders and nebulousness around what the site needed to do and say. So the story goes that they were well into a discovery workshop to crystallise the objectives of the new site and kept running into brick walls. Turns out, the people around the table were not even aligned on their corporate identity. There were numerous versions of who the company was; what its values were; how they wanted to be seen; who their audiences were; and what they wanted to say. The agency called off the whole workshop on the spot. They sent everyone away and – after some tough conversations with key players – reconvened for a completely different kind of workshop: brand and identity. This time, the dialogue was around agreeing the identity, messages, and audiences/stakeholder groups. It was a tough session, apparently – there were some strong personalities and big egos in the room, but eventually they came to some agreement. It was only after finding common ground about the brand essence that they could progress to have a meaningful conversation about the objectives of the website.

I know, I know. You’re thinking ‘so what?’. It’s a complete, no-brainer, right? But how many times have you been involved in a project where everyone jumps straight into the ‘doing’ without making sure the foundations are rock solid? It’s easy to do – you get so caught up in delivering (especially when there is a time frame involved) that you forget to ask about the ‘why’. So my point is this: in the tradition of Simon Sinek no matter what you’re doing, the degree of success is always – always– dependent on understanding the ‘why’ and ensuring that whatever you are executing serves this. Because without a purpose, the rest is meaningless.

Is there a time when you’ve forged ahead without pausing to find the essence of what you need to achieve?

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