A good strategy is inclusive for all the stakeholders it is relevant to. The clear and consistent communication of the vision of a business drives alignment, engagement, and results.

If your strategy isn’t simple enough to be communicated to (and explained by) everyone in your organisation then it’s highly unlikely it will succeed.

Having a clearly defined goal and set of realistic ambitions also helps prioritise decision-making and empowers management to implement within clear boundaries for autonomy.

It’s not always this straightforward of course, and there are numerous components that can go wrong between a strategy being developed and the execution process.

We look for three ‘gaps’ that cause significant problems:

  • Effects gap – a difference between the expected outcomes and what actually happens
  • Knowledge gap – a difference between what we would like to know and what we actually know
  • Alignment gap – a difference between what people want to do vs what they actually do

In each situation, the issues that arise tend to be the same: managers spend too much time on tasks, businesses become reporting machines, decision making becomes tactical, motivation and energy decline, and people focus on safe issues and don’t take risks. All-in-all not a great situation for any business to find itself in.

So what’s the solution to avoid this happening? Here are our tips:

  • Effects gap – do not command more than is necessary or plan behind circumstances you can foresee
  • Knowledge gap – communicate and engage with people as much about your overall intent as is needed to achieve the outcome
  • Alignment gap – ensure people retain freedom of decisions and actions but within agreed and defined boundaries

It’s not easy being a business leader. All directors and senior managers have to talk the talk, but if you don’t also walk the walk then how can you expect to authentically energise your people to follow you?

Senior management with direct responsibility for strategy are constantly projecting ahead and looking for issues, whist at the same time challenging the current situation. Sometimes they need to see clearly into the future of any situation or encounter they undertake, whilst also reacting rationally and consciously to changes without the need for intuition or informed guesswork. That’s not an easy combination.

To give yourself the best chance of success it’s important to constantly remind people of the strategy, drive the pace of change, celebrate success at every level when you see it, make brave decisions, and challenge your people to align their everyday thinking and activity with your strategic goals.

Case study – Coca Cola

As one of the most famous brands the world has ever seen, Coca Cola has long aligned itself with football on a global basis. It’s a logical link to make, as football is a global sport, but that link alone is not enough to ensure success. It’s the way Coca Cola has managed this relationship over the years that has made it a resounding success.

By sharing values, building trust and providing mutual benefit to all its stakeholders, including customers, employees and of course football fans, Coca-Cola aims to fulfill its brand promise – to benefit and refresh everyone who is touched by its business.

Sponsorship alone cannot achieve this, the commitment to Coca Cola’s brand promise has to run deeper than that and it needs to be structured and managed very carefully. With any well managed brand, there are guidelines to be followed, rules to be observed, and standards to be maintained.

Coca-Cola is a master of communication, as its successful alignment with football shows. By broadening its football strategy across the communications mix i.e. from International through to grass-roots and the community, Coca-Cola has strengthened its position as a football insider and this helps to build the brand and corporate reputation of Coca-Cola.

6 questions to ask yourself:

  • Does your senior management team have a common view of the company strategy and are all pulling in the same direction?
  • Is the company strategy communicated and understood by all essential people within the company?
  • Is the company strategy communicated and understood by all essential stakeholders outside the company?
  • Are all business functions and departments working in harmony to deliver the company strategy and business plan?
  • Do the company aims and ambitions have a positive motivational impact with your people?
  • What does your organisation do well and badly to ensure alignment to the company strategy?

These questions are mirrored within our Strategy Survey, a free tool also available on our website.

This blog is the fourth and final one in Whitecap’s Strategy Series, published in November/December 2013.