What is a company manifesto?

A manifesto is a document of three to five pages of text that explains the firm’s strategic ambition, the implications for the core business strategy, and the opportunity to explore beyond the core. When done well, it is a statement that every member of the senior team can stand behind and explain to their teams.

Why does a corporation need a manifesto?

A corporation needs a manifesto because it provides a “North Star”- a clear answer to the “big why” question that informs all other growth and transformation efforts. The strategy manifesto also gives aspiring innovators a “license to explore.” This is an invitation to managers and employees to develop ideas for how to solve important customer problems within the boundaries defined by the firm’s strategic ambitions and hunting zones. It says: “This is what we want to achieve, and we are open to ideas on how we get there.” The strategy manifesto does not replace the detailed analytic work of a strategy plan. It just makes explicit the choices that the company is making with its strategy and provides the rationale for those decisions.

What should be included in a company’s manifesto?

The manifesto should include:

  • Context: Acknowledges the past and positions the story within the shared experience of the team. Describe the history, changes, implicit or explicit questions this document will answer, and a succinct statement of the senior team’s point of view.
  • Challenge: The key reasons compelling the company to act now- market change, innovation, opportunities and threats, consequences of not acting.
  • Ambition: A short, memorable, inspiring section with an emotional hook, a rationale for the strategic decisions, and the scale of the aspiration.
  • Strategic Choices: Articulates the “so what” of the ambition. This includes the core business objectives (2-3 year horizon), Hunting Zones- areas where you see the greatest potential for future growth, and an outline of how you will allocate resources across different parts of the business to achieve the ambition.
  • Execution: Describes what it will take to be successful: people and culture, innovation approach, organizational design, and capabilities needed.
  • Next Steps: What happens next- who will lead, what are the milestones, and what can be expected from the reader.

What is an example of an inspiring company manifesto?

One example of an inspiring manifesto comes from European insurer UNIQA. In 2018, UNIQA Insurance was coming to the end of a long-lasting strategy that had led them from the depths of the 2002-2008 financial crisis. The senior team aimed to write the next chapter for growth in the company’s history- UNIQA 3.0- intent upon helping customers live “longer, safer, healthier lives.” Writing their manifesto clarified their thinking as a senior team about the rationale behind UNIQA 3.0, and enabled them to collectively make choices about the strategic direction. They shared this document with the Supervisory Board, and the next hundred leaders. Every member of the group got a copy of the Strategic Manifesto, and they opened a dialogue with the team about what it would take to be successful. Every member of the team had the opportunity to share their feedback on our strategy and recommend actions needed to execute.The Strategic Manifesto ensured that as UNIQA started the next chapter in the company’s evolution, their top hundred leaders all had the same vision of what was changing, why, and what it would take to succeed. It is not filled with perfect foresight; rather, they have had to experiment and learn what the market will reward. The manifesto was a starting point.