Leaders Must Communicate Strategy More Effectively
An effective corporate strategy identifies your company’s ambitions, clarifies the chosen direction, and specifies the critical few strategic priorities required to achieve its mission. How leaders communicate strategy more effectively can make or break your ability to successfully execute your strategy.
Even though executives and internal communication functions say that ensuring employees feel informed and connected is a top priority:
We have yet to find an employee complain about their corporate strategy being over-communicated. With that being said, strategy communication is not about volume, slogans, emails, posters, and videos. Effective strategy communication is about frequently, consistently, and actively involving people in deep and meaningful two-way conversations about what really matters, how success will be measured, who does what, and why.
Why Corporate Strategy Communication Matters
Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing companies in terms of revenue growth, profitability, customer loyalty, leadership effectiveness, and employee engagement. To create the necessary levels of strategic clarity, you must be able to clearly share, discuss, and debate strategic directions, plans, and priorities.
Clarify, Communicate and Cascade
The more effectively you clarify, communicate and cascade your business strategy the more likely it is to be implemented as planned. But you may not currently be relying on the best way to pass along what matters most. There’s new research that could point you in a better direction about how to communicate strategy more effectively.
Strategy Communication Research
Remember the old-fashioned game where you communicated via tin cans and a string? And there was also that other telephone communication game where one child whispered to another who passed along the message to a third and so on. By the time the message reached the end of the circle, it was almost always unrecognizable from the original version.
This example illustrates one of the risks of relying too heavily on the cascading principle of communicating your organization’s business strategy.
Several years ago a major 60,000 response study was conducted by Charles Galunic of Insead and Immanuel Hermreck of Bertelsmann to better understand how strategy could be most effectively communicated across the workforce. Here are the high level results – some expected and one quite surprising to us.
Engaged employees and those with a lateral view of the organization typically have an easier time understanding, digesting, and implementing new corporate strategies.
Perhaps it is more difficult for tenured employees to think and behave in new ways or to adapt to new circumstances.
It tells us that leaders should ensure development opportunities and career paths are adjusted and aligned with any strategic changes as part of the strategy communication and cascading process.
People need to believe the message and the messenger.
Employees like to hear about company strategy from those who are most in charge of crafting it and making it happen – firsthand, not second- or third-hand.
Employees want to hear the real version from executive leaders. They want the straight, unadulterated version, not one that has been watered down and re-interpreted through the cascade of information dissemination.
Senior leaders have the authority; they have the credibility; they are in a position to know; and they have the answers to employee questions because they are (or should be) the company’s business strategy experts.
The Bottom Line
If you want to communicate strategy more effectively, senior leaders need to take charge and play THE major role in communicating the strategic direction of the organization. Don’t rely on old-fashioned, unproven methods of communicating the strategy that will guide your company into the future. The message is too important to be garbled by ineffective, inexperienced, or misaligned messengers.
Bring your executives in direct contact with the work force, ideally in a forum where meaningful questions can be discussed. This is the way to ensure the right message reaches the right ears without the possibility of miscommunication.
To learn more about how to communicate strategy more effectively, download The 3 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Communicating and Cascading Your Corporate Strategy
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