Language matters. It can confuse and create chaos or, if simple and shared, a common language can help you communicate well and find clarity, moving you and your organization forward with understanding and a common purpose.

For more than 25 years, I’ve helped both public and private sector organizations develop sound strategy and product plans. I’m a decent facilitator and naturally strategically-minded so I’ve always managed to draw what we needed out of the team to compile a solid plan. But over the last year or so, I’ve noticed just how powerful it is to have a common language in place before you dive into strategic thinking.

Specifically, our team at Value Creation Co. uses the V-REEL Framework to help leaders and teams think through plans, develop strategies and communicate effectively to solve problems. V-REEL, in case you’re unfamiliar, stands for Value-Rareness-Erosion-Enablers-Longevity. This simple language, when adopted by entire teams and even boards of directors, makes life so much easier…for the team and facilitators.

V-REEL was developed by our founder Dr. David Flint to help people think through problems, ideas, and even organizational strategy. But even more than that, V-REEL facilitates communication. As it turns out, that changes just about everything.

Here’s a recent example:

Modern Day Mary founder Chelsea Wrobel decided to V-REEL her non-profit on a whim about a year ago. Full disclosure, Chelsea is my daughter. One weekend afternoon, she was telling me how she felt frustrated with her fledgling non-profit. She’s going at her non-profit work part-time while raising a young family and she was feeling “stuck.” There was a little whiteboard nearby (yes, really) so I grabbed it and just walked her quickly through V-REEL. It went something like this…

How do you create VALUE?

What is it that your organization promises to deliver to your customers or end users? Do you have or need resources and capabilities to be able to deliver on that promise?

What’s RARE about your resources and capabilities?

What do you have that will make you stand out from all the others looking to offer similar value? Consider tangibles (funding, following) and intangibles (like relationships, culture, etc.) that might set you apart and give you some advantage.

What might ERODE those rare resources and capabilities?

What could happen in your organization or in the marketplace to diminish your ability to be valuable and rare?

How can you ENABLE your ability to create VALUE and be RARE?

What Enablers can you put in place to defend against the most damaging Erosion you identified? How will you enable your operations to be distinctive in your market?

How can you ensure some degree of LONGEVITY?

Thinking about both Erosion and Enablers, how long do you have? How long before Erosion is a problem? How long before you can put Enablers in place? Given your answers, what enablers are most critical?

I walked Chelsea through these questions over the course of an hour or so. Her wheels started spinning again. She was no longer stuck. She knew what she needed to do first, and what she needed to do next.

Since then, Modern Day Mary has moved forward with renewed focus and energy. The team has grown and, as it has, Chelsea has used Value Creation Co.’s free V-REEL Yourself worksheet and even our Strategic Thinking for Non-Profit Leaders online workshop to onboard new team members. With these tools, she’s enabling her organization’s effectiveness and building a strong value-driven culture by establishing a common language from the start.

Last week, I facilitated a workshop with the entire Modern Day Mary team to help them design a new collection of products they will be bringing to the market. It was the easiest workshop I’ve ever facilitated. Everyone spoke the same language. Everyone already understood the need to create value and be rare for MDM customers. And from there, we were able to move quickly through co-creating the features and form of their online seminars.

Language is powerful. It can work against you or, if simple enough and widely adopted, it can make the difference between being stuck and moving forward with clarity. If you’re a non-profit leader managing a board or an executive looking to get your team thinking clearly and moving together toward a common goal, consider adopting the common language of V-REEL. It might just be the enabler you need to set you apart from the competition.