The Power of Writing Things Down

Are you clear about what you will and will not do?

Any behaviour change expert will tell you that if you want to increase your chances of doing something, set a clear goal and then, crucially, write it down.

Evidence of the effect of this came in a study amongst Harvard MBA students.  The students were asked ‘have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?’.  The result – only 3% had written goals, 13% had goals but they weren’t written down, 84% had no goals at all.

Ten years later, the same group was interviewed again.  The results were pretty interesting.  The 13% of students who had goals, but did not write them down were earning twice the amount of the 84% who had no goals.  However, the 3% who had written down their goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined.  Now, what you earn is only one element of success, but it certainly shows the power of writing things down.

One of the most famous examples of writing things down is the US constitution, which continues to act as the supreme law of the US, 230 years after it was established.  And then there are political manifestos.  Before an election a political party will write down what they plan to do if they are elected.  This forces clarity.  Indeed the word ‘manifesto’ is derived from the latin ‘manifestum’ meaning clear and conspicuous.

Anyway, history lesson over, why are we talking about this?

Well we think the idea behind Manifestos and writing goals down, is incredibly important in our industry.

We often work with large organisations.  A lot of different activities happen.  A lot of different people and functions are involved.  How do you get people aligned behind the right things and make sure they get done consistently?

The right manifesto can set a clear direction of travel.  It can act as a simple decision making tool.  And it can bring an element of objectivity to decision making.  We’ve all been in meetings where person A thinks one thing, person B thinks another and person C thinks something else.  When that happens, how do you judge what is the correct view?  Well, if you’ve got something written down that you can judge against, it certainly makes it easier.

So, how might this manifesto thinking be used to set direction for companies?  Well it can help at both a strategy and an execution level.

Strategy.  It can set direction for where you will play.  It might be which channels you choose to operate in or prioritise.  For example, do you play in Discounters or not? It could be which categories or sub categories you will play in and which price tiers you will or won’t operate in.

Or it could be what criteria a product needs to meet.  On health, for example, your manifesto might say ‘we will deliver products with positive health benefits’, ‘we will not deliver products high in fat or sugar’.  That sets some pretty clear direction.

Execution of Key Activities.  The same principle can be applied to how you execute things – whether that is merchandising, Point of Sale, pack design or promotions.  You can set out what criteria an activity must deliver against.  For example, what could a manifesto for promotions look like?  It could say things such as;

We will always communicate promotions as simply as possible’.  ‘We will not overcomplicate them.

We will run promotions up to a maximum of X discount.  We will not go beyond that’

We will always align promotional mechanics with the shopper behaviour we want to drive.  We will not use mechanics that work against that behaviour.

We will always look as good (how we are displayed) on deal as off deal.  We will not look like we have been dumped on a gondola end’

By being crystal clear on what you will and won’t do, rather than what you ‘should do’ or ‘could do’ you set clear direction for your activities and you commit to that direction.  And you can make clear decisions – ‘shall we do half price…?’, ‘err…no, because we said we wouldn’t go below a 25% discount’.

Do you have a manifesto for your key activities?  And if not, should you?

Feel free to forward.  Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.

© 2020 by Insight Traction