In the digital agency world, strategy is a powerful concept that consumes so many of our conversations around process, design, and technology choices.
It carries a lot of weight when you get it right, and even more when you get it wrong. I’ve found that a light-handed approach to leading digital strategy sessions can alleviate this pressure. With an open mindset, our team can develop better ideas and solutions for our clients.
I was recently preparing for a work trip to tackle the strategy on a client’s project that was still not 100% clear to me. We’d had initial discussions with the team, but I still wasn’t sure exactly what we were going to build. This was nerve-racking for a few reasons:
- How can you deliver what you don’t understand?
- What if you can’t navigate a clear answer before your departing flight home?
- What if you fail?
My approach to resolving this ambiguity was to intentionally not write an agenda for the meeting. I know what you’re thinking: why would you prepare to fail, which is concern number three on your list, and then write about it? Stick with me. Ambiguous conversations are valuable because sometimes the best agenda is an “agenda to listen.” Our role in this room is simply to absorb information by asking questions about our client’s business strategy, needs and goals. It can feel awkward and there are silences, but it’s my belief that the quietness is powerful, because it’s where the mental wheels turn and breakthrough ideas are born.
A few hours into our client’s strategy session, it was clear that we’d hit a stale point. Everyone’s energy seemed to be fleeting and the whiteboard was scribbled with notes. The tired looks on our faces expressed the shared concern of how we were supposed to transform this soup of information into a viable digital presence. This … now this is where it’s time to turn an agenda of listening into an agenda of action.
Our team needed a break to recharge, the creative went on a walk, our client went back to work, and I sat in an empty conference room staring at the brilliance that laid within my pages of notes and in the thousands of thoughts floating above my head. There were quotes, diagrams, paragraphs of content, and that whole whiteboard to consider. Perplexed by the sheer amount of material in front of me, I immersed myself before starting over fresh. The task was complex, and I wanted to ensure we displayed the information in a digestible format that also captured what the project is all about.
I took a picture of our whiteboard and erased it all, wiping it clean. I drew four vertical lines to create five sections: who, what, why, how and who. Those five things that we were taught when we were learning how to create sentences way back in English class. But these elementary parameters gave me the mental space I needed to evolve my thinking, and the strategy began to flow.
It took only an hour to categorize all the thoughts that had accumulated throughout the morning. When the team came back and we went through each section and pulled out the highlights, content and statement, we became united around the same vision. The strategy came alive, sparked by simplicity. This isn’t to tell you all that I’m a strategic wizard because what mattered in that moment was the ability to step back from complexity and seek straightforward answers.
The key to Culture Foundry’s strategy approach is being confident in what we know and transparent about what we don’t. Listening to a client tell their story and establishing a collaborative space will guide you in exciting directions that you never imagined.
Need help bringing your company or organization’s digital strategy to life? Contact Culture Foundry to get started.