Posts by Kristen:
When designing a custom communication system it’s important to know your boundaries and talk about the boundaries. Sometimes these boundaries are created for us by the systems we are working within. Talking about these perceived boundaries will help you determine whether or not you can create your own.
Why is it important to understand boundaries in any system?
Boundaries allow for communicators to understand the possible outcomes their system is creating. Everything in communication is driven by a call-to-action orientation where each campaign and asset is expected to have a specific outcome. If we ignore the boundaries and pretend they don’t exist, we could be surprised by the outcome. I doubt McDonald’s expected to give weight to bashing their brand when they started promoting sharing your McDonald’s stories with the hashtag #McDstories. Yet, this happened and it was a terrible social media experience for this brand with the added bonus that they paid to promote the use of the hashtag on the platform.
Knowing your boundaries is like knowing your competition.
Going through any discovery process is similar no matter the product you are building. Constructing a competitive analysis is similar to a situational analysis and some would argue that a situational analysis should contain the competitive analysis. Knowing your competition is important, but knowing yourself and the brand you represent is even more important. You can’t truly know the brand if you don’t understand the boundaries that it functions within. McDonald’s has to function within the realm of the stereotype of US fast food brands. Stereotypes are important boundaries to recognize because you can’t trick them and they don’t change often. Boundaries should be discovered such as the market you are working within, the physical boundaries of resources and system boundaries like delays in processing and paperwork.
Boundaries don’t matter to everyone but they should matter to the main stakeholder.
Sometimes boundary discussions can come off as making excuses as to why things aren’t done or moving faster. This discussion isn’t for everyone in the pipeline to participate in and it can be frustrating for those who just want to know “the when.” It is possible you may need someone else to move around a boundary for you, like in the case of a deadline you need to hit. Make sure to communicate these boundaries so that even those not responsible for the task are aware they exist and can help out if needed. Not every boundary is movable and not every boundary is concrete. That is why they need to be questioned, discussed and planned around or within depending on your strategy.
Think of boundaries as known, agreed-upon pivot points. These points have been analyzed and validated. As long as we make the turn around that point as planned, a surprise outcome should be for all stakeholders to celebrate or debate depending on that outcome. Having boundary discussions helps to alleviate retrospective comments like, “well I assumed you were doing that step.”