Is Your Strategy a Moving Target?
If your team believes that your strategy is a moving target that shifts with the wind, it will most likely never be fully understood or implemented. As a leader responsible for setting the direction of your team, shifting strategic priorities is a warning sign that it is time to take stock and simplify your strategic priorities.
Strategy Execution is Harder than Strategy Design
We admit it’s not easy to implement a strategy successfully across a company. And if you are struggling, you are not alone. Trying to pull together all your employees and focus them in one direction over a sustained period of time is a daunting challenge.
The Economist Intelligence Unit reports that almost two-thirds of strategies are woefully unsuccessful because of poor execution.
But in our two plus decades of organizational alignment work with corporate leaders, we have identified part of the problem. Assuming that you have distilled your strategic priorities into the critical few, if employees feel your strategy is a moving target, it may be in how you mistakenly (or lazily) communicate your strategy.
The One-Way Strategy Communication Approach
First, people often think their strategy is a moving target when the company’s strategy is mostly communicated through emails, town halls, and slogans. While marketing and messaging can certainly play a role, business strategies are too nuanced and take too many adjustments to be satisfied with one-way communications.
It takes concerted time and effort for people to understand, believe in, and execute strategic plans across an organization.
The Strategy Cascade Approach
Secondly, most leadership teams believe that the best way to communicate their corporate strategy is via the strategy cascade approach. The strategic cascade method involves senior leaders transferring the strategic goals to their direct reports who, in turn, communicate the plan to their direct reports who are tasked with interpreting the strategy to their teams.
The theory is that the corporate strategy will be passed along from level to level and end up in the hands of those who must implement it. While this is more effective than the one-way communication approach, we know from experience that, inevitably, things get muddled along the way when the corporate strategy version of the telephone game occurs.
5 Common Strategy Cascade Challenges
If people think your strategy is a moving target, avoid these five common mistakes when cascading a strategy:
How To Better Cascade Your Corporate Strategy
Your first step should be to create a clear, believable and implementable strategy that the entire leadership team is committed to standing behind and seeing through.
— Makes sense and what does not make sense
— Barriers must be overcome
— Is required for them to fully commit to implementing the strategy successfully across the company
Keep at this iterative process with senior leaders until they are as committed and aligned as the executive leadership team.
First, employees typically want to hear future corporate plans from those who created it. They will lend much more credence to the corporate strategy when they hear it directly from their leadership and, if communicated simply and compellingly, are much more likely to initially commit to it.
While many mistakenly think employees want to hear about the corporate strategy from their manager, the direct approach eliminates any misunderstandings or misinterpretations by lower level managers. Granted, senior leaders can’t meet one-on-one with all their employees. But they can address them in large sessions and then hold interactive forums where questions can be asked and addressed.
You will know you are headed in the right direction when employees understand how their job helps the organization achieve success and know they will be fairly recognized when they contribute to that success.
Because strategies must go through culture and people to get implemented, your next step is to make sure that your cultural norms align with and support each and every strategic priority. Then you must provide the resources and create the organizational capacity required to execute your plans.
You will know you are headed in the right direction when employees feel like they have the materials, equipment, and other resources required to do their job well and that the work environment helps them to do their best work.
The Bottom Line
When leaders get on the same page, actively involve their workforce, align their culture with their strategy, and see that the resources are allocated appropriately, successful strategy execution is within reach.
If you are afraid your strategy is a moving target download The 3 Big Mistakes to Avoid When Communicating and Cascading Your Corporate Strategy
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