Formerly, VP IBM Global Brand System
Anniversaries are wonderful. They provide us all with ready-made moments to reflect on past achievements and celebrate success.
In our personal lives, birthdays and anniversaries mark out the passage of time and a “big birthday” may signal a transition to the new stage in life’s great journey, causing us to think about what the future holds as well as what the past has brought for us. And, the same holds true for organizations. The best anniversary programs have just the right balance between celebrating past successes, whilst anticipating future paths that will ensure the organization continues to thrive.
From crafting the intent to finding the right content and sourcing the funding, to delivery of a multifaceted anniversary program, realizing the full potential of a momentous milestone can be quite the challenge. And it can be made harder considering that most of us will only get to plan and manage a significant anniversary once in our professional lives. It’s your “show” and you have permission to be provocative; and by following a few basic ground rules you can do things so well that your anniversary is not just a time for celebration, but a program that has material impact on your next 10, 25, 50 or 100 years.
Take a moment to think about birthdays and anniversaries you’ve been to and what made them great — a fabulous band, plenty of drink, and speeches that were not too long. Party planning is not so hard! But has anyone you know done something that really stood out and made you think differently? I have friends that have renewed their wedding vows at major anniversaries, sometimes in a very personal setting, essentially just for themselves, and sometimes as a public celebration of all the bonds and friendships that are significant in their lives.
Depending on the people, the same “moment” can be recognized in quite different ways. And I have one friend who took the opportunity for their 50th birthday to spend a year doing fifty new things, some which they had always wanted to do, and others they had never heard of but were suggested by friends. This turned into a year of adventure shared on social media, bringing joy to all that were involved in the project. It’s a wonderful idea, one I wish I had come across before my own
50th birthday, as it’s something I was inspired by and would love to have emulated myself… maybe for my 60th!
So, what does it take to plan a purposeful organizations’ anniversary? Well, for a start, an anniversary for an organization touches everyone that’s been associated with it, past and present, and they all have a point of view. Indeed, not just one point of view, but many overlapping (and sometimes dissenting) opinions and interests. What are we celebrating? How should we celebrate? Who should be there? These are the three questions that come up first and fastest in any conversation and they were a huge challenge to answer as we planned the Centennial for IBM, a company operating in over 170 countries, with multiple product line, each of which felt they had their own anniversaries and milestone to consider!
Answering these questions well requires a forward-looking strategic perspective, not just a look back to the past — something most organizations have not considered when beginning their anniversary planning.
During IBM’s Centennial, we were able to draw upon 100 years of experience to demonstrate why IBM was uniquely qualified to deliver our current and future business agenda: “Smarter Planet”. And I’ve been privileged to bring those same lessons to bear on anniversary programs in banking, insurance, law, and travel, to help others make the most of the strategic opportunity an anniversary brings over and above the opportunity for celebration.
As Milestone Masters with Anniversary University™ we have a wonderful opportunity to provide critical thinking and proven thought processes that can help you and your team develop common perspectives through tried and tested tools. Tools that flush out a deeper understanding of who you are, how the journey of your past has shaped that, where you are going, and who will matter most to take you there. This process provides the bedrock on which anniversary planning can be built by shaping a forward-looking purpose to the celebration, a vital foundation that informs who you should reach and what success will look like, which in turns provides a framework to decide what you should do.
We look forward to welcoming you to this years’ The Anniversary Forum on April 30, 2019 NYC and sharing what we have learned through our collective experiences in ways that are powerful and pragmatic. You too can make your anniversary special for all that it will touch.