On 2nd August 216 BC near the town of Cannae in southeast Italy 50,000 Roman solders lost their lives, cut down at the rate of 100 men per minute by an outnumbered Carthaginian army led by Hannibal. This was the second greatest defeat of Rome.

At the height of the battle Roman forces pressed into the Carthaginian front line, which was deliberately retreating under orders from Hannibal. In their desire to destroy the retreating opposition, and seduced by their forward progress, the Roman forces were drawn into a pocket, enveloped and annihilated.

The desire to make progress is strong. Most of us tend to feel better if we have achieved, moved onwards, been seen to make things happen. Progress is seductive. It draws us forwards, leads us up the garden path and satiates our need for instant gratification. That’s all very well, but only outcomes get you paid.


 
 
Let's be clear. Only if everyone under your leadership can state, without hesitation, the company goal then you’ve succeeded in your messaging. Test it out today and see what you get.

Maurice Saatchi takes it to extreme with his concept of One Word Equity, which is great for global brand management, but you can start more simply. You don’t even have to stick to one word, but you do need your message to be known by everyone in your company.

Here’s an example. The CEO of a luxury house builder had a simple clear message of “zero snags”. In his view this is what customers should get in a premium build and what would ultimately be good for business. The CEO was so consistent in the delivery and management of this message that it was engrained in everyone at all levels, not only in the firm but also in every subcontractor on site.

They didn’t like him for it. They thought he was being anal (and probably related descriptions) but they got the message, they worked to it, decisions were made based on it and they understood the standard against which their work would be judged.

The net result? The firm’s brand became synominous with high quality and it was bought for a handsome price by a larger developer trying to solve its own image problem.

A simple clear message can align and define an entire workforce. It provides clarity of purpose and decision-making. It can colour every conversation within the company, every conversation with your customers, and every conversation your customers have with each other. That is worth spending time on.