What have brand values got to do with planning?
Planning is a practical, methodical discipline with clearly defined outputs and outcomes. It applies creative thinking to practical problems to find innovative and workable solutions.
We tend to think of brand values as more general. Typically, they focus on qualities such as diligence, empathy and respect.
Where, or how, do these values fit with planning’s vigour, precision and creativity?
I'll explain how, as planners, we've applied brand values to our business model and how they continue to shape who we are, how we work and what we can achieve.
Brand values can shape a business and support its continuing growth and development.
But only if these values are relevant, appropriate and applicable. They must align with your business objectives and be true to your core motivations and beliefs.
Individuals in Teams
Our brand values reflect the importance of the individual. Basically, the team is only as good as the individuals in it. At the same time, we can only achieve our goals if the team works effectively together.
We strike a dynamic balance between individual excellence and achievement and group consciousness. We want people to excel professionally but not as mavericks out on a limb.
Therefore, it's a fundamental brand value that we empower individuals, encouraging their creativity.
The working environment should be a supportive platform for them. They should feel that they're in a safe environment that helps them feel confident and that their voices are heard.
They must have the freedom to think, innovate and act.
Playing the Game
You can empower people to make their own decisions within set boundaries. This helps them reach their professional potential while following a clear set of rules.
Our brand values help us establish these parameters. They become practical tools for shaping the business, including internal and external perceptions of it.
And this is personal to me too.
Earlier in my career, I'd been led to expect a promotion from my employer. But I was told this wouldn't happen because they didn't feel I was "part of the club".
There was a complete lack of transparency in this decision-making. This affected my professional growth. My employers gave me no clear reasons why they thought I wasn't developing in my role.
From this point onwards, I knew I wouldn't want anyone working for me to go through something similar. My business had to be transparent.
If your brand values come from a place close to you, they're far more likely to resonate with others.
How we treat our employees is part of an overall ethos of care and consideration that we apply to our clients and projects.
Consistency and the Project Lifecycle
Brand values only carry any currency if you can live them AND show others that you’re doing this.
Consistency is crucial. We achieve this by translating our values into clear policies that we follow diligently. This comes back to having workable, real-world brand values in the first place.
So, to enable individual empowerment, we've built this into how we work.
We operate what we call a project lifecycle model. In this model, each member of a team working on a specific project is involved in every aspect of it. There's no division of labour.
Everybody gets copied on every single email and goes to the same meetings. They’re all kept in the loop.
It's good for the individuals involved and especially motivating for newer, younger team members. They’re immersed from the get-go.
Logically, the client benefits from this shared knowledge because they know they'll get their answers and updates from whichever team member they contact, including assistants.
This represents value-led consistency in both employee engagement and customer care.
From a practical perspective, we monitor performance closely. We conduct quarterly reviews for everybody, setting competency standards that we measure regularly.
By providing a framework within which individuals can exercise their autonomy, we give them a meaningful, workable context.
This is the infrastructure that supports our brand values, which, in turn, drive the business.
Crystallising Brand Values for Growth
If you crystallise your brand values to make them tangible, they become coordinates for growth.
By embedding tools and systems that people use and respect, we enable individuals to flourish.
This lifts the whole enterprise, boosting our collective competency and ability to take on bigger projects and attract new clients.
We can only continue to grow if we have the correct structures in place to support this. Our brand values are the bedrock for these structures.
The planning process requires a concentration of knowledge and effort. People contribute the qualities that make the process work.
You can only have intelligent planning if you nurture individuals and enable them to apply their intelligence creatively.
We set out our beliefs, our objectives and our means of achieving them clearly to encourage the individual excellence that will support the quality of our work.
The most direct and impactful way of achieving this has been through applying our brand values.
When you play by the rules, you can play the game in good faith.