Knowing how to ask the right questions about the future can be more valuable than knowing the right answers about the past.
Seven questions to help steer your business toward future growth:
1. Why does your business exist? It is the most powerful question. And it goes beyond products to express a company’s unique contribution.
“When organizations are clear about their purpose,” says former Starbucks president Howard Behar, “they find the energy and passion to do great things.”
2. Which business are you really in?
Example: Steve Jobs’ ideology at Apple is to find the intersection of technology and the arts. Identify which “theme” is a driver of your decisions.
3. Who are you? Building great brands begins with expressing what you stand for.
Example: Disney—a brand that runs the gamut from amusement parks to princess movies—is about making people happy.
Consider how you describe who you are, as well as how the marketplace describes you. Which components of your identity are constant and which will evolve over time?
4. Where is your business headed?
Example: Coca-Cola’s vision is “to have a Coke within arm’s reach of everyone on the planet.”
Capture your vision, then work backward to figure out how to get there.
5. What are your company’s most important goals? You’ll need measurable results over a certain timeline.
Example: President Kennedy made it our nation’s goal—that by the end of the 1960s—to land a man on the moon and return him safely. With a clear, compelling goal, he moved the nation.
6. How will you achieve your goals?
Example: GE nurtures the talent it needs to succeed throughtraining, reviews, 360 assessments and a leader-centric culture.
How do your processes directly support top goals?
7. When will you take action to address critical issues? What’s the sequence of steps? Create a storyboard, showing how each step leads to the desired outcome.
— Adapted from “Want Better Answers? Try Better Questions,” Norm Levy, Chief Executive.