We all know that executing your strategy is the most difficult part of the process. It’s made even more difficult when you don’t have buy-in from the rest of your organisation.
If your team cannot see the forest from the trees when it comes to future strategy, then they won’t have the drive to implement the required changes. At that point, you might as well have had no strategy at all.
At Advisory Works, we’re often called in to assess why a company’s particular strategic execution isn’t working. As we dig deep into the causes behind poor implementation, one common theme occurs again and again: communication. The management team doesn’t have an effective way to disseminate strategic direction throughout the organisation. As a result, there’s no one stepping up to take ownership for strategic initiatives, and the plan quickly stagnates back to the status quo.
If you want to be an effective leader and a disruptor, then you first have to be a communicator. You need to push the message through all layers of the organisation, and ensure it reaches the key people in a format they can understand and get excited about.
Deliver key messages across multiple channels
Kaplan and Norton identify that “Effective strategic execution happens when employees are personally committed to helping their business achieving the strategic objectives. Communicating vision, values and strategy is the first step in creating motivation in employees. It tells them what you want to do, how you intend to do it, and their part in it”.
When communicating strategic planning decisions through your organisation, you need to understand the importance of your role as communicator. You’re not only disseminating information, but you play a key role in the change management of the company. It’s your job to ensure that not only what you’re communicating, but how you’re communicating it, enables the whole team to engage and air concerns.
The message that’s delivered should be concise, goal-focused, and ultimately positive. The wider team doesn’t need to know every facet of every avenue of the strategy. Painting a picture of what is changing on a broad scale, what the goals and risks are, and how this change will be executed on a macro scale is much more effective.
Different people and groups of people engage in unique ways. The key here is cascading communication – ensuring the message on strategic planning decisions rolls down from the top like a waterfall, reaching every corner of the organisation. Use different channels to engage with staff, clients, and stakeholders within their natural environment, in a way that’s comfortable and offers them the chance to engage.
Use meetings as a vehicle for communication
Many employees and leaders alike despise meetings. Seen as the proverbial time-suck, sitting a room with peers for hours, brainstorming or discussing without achieving anything, can seem like hell on earth. In fact, many organisations – such as Buffer – created working conditions that eliminated the need for meetings altogether (with mixed results).
However, the danger in eliminating all meetings – even the non-productive ones – is that the alternatives can be worse. Many Work-In-Progress (WIP) meetings can occur over the phone or even in a Slack channel. But conveying strategy decisions and answering questions will be infinitely more effective in a face-to-face situation than over IM, three-way phone call, or internet “hangout.”
The key isn’t eliminating meetings – it’s in using them wisely as one of the many communication tools you have available, not just as a fallback.
Connect with purpose and direction
The communication process involves more than just stating information. Leaders unleash enormous internal creativity and energy when they can appeal to their employees’ desire to make a positive contribution to the world.
Employees want to take pride in the organisation in which they spend most of their waking lives. When communicating about strategy – concepts that go to the heart of who your organisation is and what it does – you are seeking to connect the team to a new direction and purpose.
This can be hard when you meet resistance to change. We deal with resistance to change and how to manage that in a previous blog post.
The key is to create an environment where people experience no fear, despite incoming changes. Where change is exciting, and where your current and future leaders can make a positive contribution to the process and own their place in bringing strategy to life. Learn more about high-performance leadership in our new guilde, The Four Cornerstones of Strategic Execution.