Julie Gray is chief executive of Corporate Faculty and former head of strategy and change programmes at Ashridge Business School. She says communication is key in the delivery of any strategy.
In Whitecap Consulting’s How to create and deliver an agile strategy, they argue that everyone in a company must buy-in to a strategy and believe in the journey they are taking. But how do you ensure that every member of the team is on board? Here I share my tips for helping everyone to understand the destination and how they will help the business get there.
The reality is that most business strategies fail because of poor communication. All too often you see corporates hold a two-day planning session off site, come up with a strategy, write it up, send it out to the team – and then expect it to be implemented without any further attention.
Then, 12 months later, they go back to it and very little has been realised. But what went wrong?
Get your entire team behind the business strategy
A successful strategy is all about behaviours. You need to align what everyone is doing in the business behind your strategy.
Success is only 10% about the actual document and 90% about communication and implementation. Every single person in the business should understand how the strategy will be delivered and what they should be doing in their role on a daily basis to make that happen.
You can’t expect to communicate the strategy once and then expect everyone to understand it and stick to it over the next year or longer. The strategy has to be part of every internal activity and communication you distribute. Make sure it is discussed regularly in meetings, get directors to walk around the business and talk about it, include it in newsletters. Make the strategy part of daily life in your business.
Don’t be afraid to let your strategy evolve
The other key element of ensuring success for your strategy is giving it the freedom to be a dynamic process. Your initial strategy document is just a starting point.
The world changes very quickly these days. Your competitors and customers will be doing new things and your business needs to be spotting and adapting to opportunities as they emerge. You have to be prepared to adapt the strategy to match these opportunities, but still stay true to the intentions originally agreed.
The strategy should remain your clear direction of travel, but you want your employees to be alert to what is changing as they are the ones who are closest to your customers. To get that critical feedback you need an open culture so employees have a licence or permission to challenge you back.
This takes us back to good communication so there is constant two-way discussion with everyone in the business.
Leaders must learn to love uncertainty
With the rapid change and fluid markets we face today, it can be almost impossible to plan a clear long-term strategy and coping with a dynamic, emergent strategy can be very uncomfortable for leaders.
Most leaders like certainty and a plan and it can be extremely challenging for them to step into ambiguity. However, to succeed in today’s fast-paced business world they must.
The best strategies usually come from leaders who are open, curious, listen to their employees and are prepared to flex it.
There’s a great deal more about communicating a business strategy in How to create and deliver an agile strategy and you can read more about closing the strategy-execution gap and see some real-life examples by downloading a copy here.