Tips to communicate the organisational strategy
By Neil Shorney, CEO, Navanter Knowledge Bites.
Many leadership teams spend a large amount of time developing goals for their businesses, and strategies to achieve those goals. As leaders tend to have larger salaries, and these leaders all get together in the same room (or video call), this time comes at a cost. So we can say that strategy development is an expensive business, especially if you also bring in a consultant to help with the facilitation of those meetings (which, incidentally, is a good idea).
So I find it quite depressing when this investment in the organisation’s future is wasted because the strategy is so poorly communicated. It ends up with a business having great, well-thought-through plans, that no-one knows about.
I remember doing some work with a company a couple of years ago, for middle managers to work to align their team strategies to the organisational one, and when I arrived in the training room, I was shocked to hear that I knew more about the company’s strategy than the participants did.
And here is our problem – businesses create strategic plans, then either forget to tell the employees, or do it so badly that the information isn’t retained. I like to think that employees are the pilots of their own little aeroplanes, and that the planes represent the employees’ work. And if those pilots don’t know where they’re supposed to be going, how can we expect them to get there? They’ll fly to the wrong destination.
As senior leaders, we need to ensure that all these great plans we develop, get effectively communicated down through the organisation. And to help you do that, I have 3 tips:
1: Ensure you have credibility in your communication
Do employees receive your communication (via whatever media you choose) and feel that you have something which they can believe in? Do you demonstrate buy-in from the entire leadership team? Do they feel this is something that will be followed through? Or will they just think “oh, it’s just another idea from [insert your name here] and it will change in 3 months”?
What this means to you: Take proactive steps to make your message credible, and to provide reassurance that the message will remain consistent.
2: Speak to all employees
Everyone is different, and people like to receive information in different ways. One person might like bullet points which can be clicked on for expanded info; another person might want full background info and reasoning behind strategic decisions; someone else might be too busy to read about a strategy, and would appreciate a 5-minute video. Or a one-to-one with their boss. Or a team meeting.
What this means to you: Mix your media and the detail level of your information to appeal to different personality styles.
3: Connect the dots and provide a WIIFM
For many employees, strategies are things which happen way above them. As the leader or the messenger, you need to connect the dots between the high-level strategy and an employee’s own role. Help them to see how what they do will actually impact the organisation. And help them to see the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) - the benefit to them of aligning their work to the strategy. That will get you buy-in to its success.
What this means to you: Make sure you really understand your employees’ roles, and how they communicate to the strategy. Create a “this is why you should care” section in your communication.
So my high-level message to you today is this: having a well-developed strategy is vital for your business. But communicating that strategy to others is equally important, and getting that communication right can make the difference between strategic success, and strategic failure. Don’t waste all the time you’ve invested in developing the strategy by not helping people to find out about it.
Final tip: If you’ve never used a SOAP to communicate your strategy, it’s a great little tool which you can use to help people join the dots. I’ve made a little video about what it is, and how to use a SOAP to communicate your strategy.