|Strategy ... keep talking|
This article is intended to provide some pointers to assist you in the development of a plan that will clearly communicate your strategy to your most valuable stakeholder, your employees.
The Importance of Communicating Business StrategyOne of the most common weaknesses plaguing businesses is a lack of a solid understanding by employees of their company’s strategy. Communicating your strategy to employees is vital to ensuring that each member of your staff is involved and understands the company goals, where your long-term plans will lead and how you intend to get there.
All employees, irrespective of their level within the organization need to be aware that their contribution matters. They need to know that they play a key role in your business’ plans for the future, and they need a clear understanding of what the future will look like so that they can contribute to making the shift. The benefits from a motivational standpoint are self-evident. Perhaps more subtle are the benefits that flow from everyone pulling in the same direction.
Irrespective of how carefully you have documented your strategies, tactics, projects and tasks … it is inevitable that your planning will have gaps in it. It is therefore critical that your strategy execution team has a clear understanding of your strategy to ensure they are able to plug any gaps that they come across in a manner that remains true to your strategic vision.
Building your strategy communication planWhat follows is a broad framework that you can use as a starting point when drafting your strategy communication plan. Please feel free to feed back to me if you have any ideas that you believe would add value.
By whomIn most organisations, the CEO is the owner of the strategy plan and keeps a keen eye on its execution. For this reason, it is advised that the CEO personally communicates the ins and outs of your strategy to the employees. If the CEO personally delivers the strategy feedback, it will be apparent to your employees that the issue of strategy is of key importance to the business, given that it is being led from the top.
Interest groupsThere are in essence three interest groups when it comes to communicating strategy, those that will be directly involved its execution, general staff and new recruits.
Session typesFor new staff, you should ensure that your new staff induction material carries content that details your long term strategy.
For existing staff, you should schedule three types of sessions … a kick off session, progress update sessions and a close out session. Given the differing content needs of the two interest groups, it is proposed that the three session types be run separately for each interest group.
Kick off sessionThe kick off session should provide detail of the strategic themes, the thinking that sits behind the strategy as well as your target dates for delivery. You may want to acknowledge the team that will be directly responsible for the execution of your strategy.
Progress update sessionsLeadership needs to set aside time to honestly evaluate strategy execution performance. The findings of these reviews need to form the basis for feedback given to the organization.
Progress updates should occur as frequently as practical, ideally monthly, and should detail progress made, team members whose performance has been exemplary, areas where difficulties are being experienced, refinements made to the strategy and performance relative to deadlines.
Close out sessionThe close out session is there to wrap up and provide detail of your successes, failures, to acknowledge exemplary performance and to detail “lessons learned” during the course of the strategy execution cycle. It is also important to provide detail of your plans for the next strategic cycle at the close out session.
InductionIncluding detail of your strategy in your new staff induction process will ensure that your staff are immersed into your strategy from the onset. As previously stated, this will allow new employees to understand that their contribution is of value, irrespective of where they sit in your hierarchy.
The contentsThe strategy execution team needs a thorough understanding of the strategy, given that they will need to execute against it. They will need sufficient depth of understanding to allow them to “fill any gaps” that come to light during the course of the execution cycle.
General staff will require a less detailed reading of your strategy. The general staff curriculum should emphasise the fact that each employee plays a key role in your business’ plans for the future, what the future looks like and should provide detail of any “change management” issues that are implicit in your strategy. For general staff communication, keep it real, succinct and understandable.
It is advisable to acknowledge your strategy execution stars as a component of your progress updates. There may even be some merit in establishing a reward structure to reinforce exemplary performance. It stands to reason that performance against the strategy plan should constitute a KPI for the staff that are in your strategy execution team. More detail regarding the strategic alignment of KPIs to follow in a subsequent article.
An item that warrants communication to the strategy execution team is that the CEO is available to the team should they wish to engage in discussion regarding the execution of the strategy. This will make the process of “filling in gaps” far easier for the team and will improve the quality of the finished product. There may well be merit in establishing a Steering Committee to provide a forum for the discussion of all things strategic.
It’s often advisable to give strategies or strategic initiatives names as they concretize the abstract, facilitate strategic conversation and give your team something that they can “hook into”.
The venueTake the feedback to where your employees are. This will minimise disruption and lend the interaction a sense of honesty and sincerity.
CollateralThe collateral that you use is up to you, whether it be hand-outs, a PowerPoint presentation, or both, the key is that it needs to be appropriate to your audience.
The execution team should ideally have access to a detailed reference document that they can refer to for context as they execute against the strategy.
My thinking is that collateral on its own is insufficient. You can’t get away from the power of face to face interaction when it comes to putting a message across.