There is often a lot of focus and energy spent by a CEO and executive team on how to communicate their strategy effectively.
This is done with good intentions so that staff understand it and are clear on how it applies to their day-to-day role.
The problem is, people no longer just want to be ‘communicated to’.
It might have perhaps worked when a top-down style was tolerated, simply because that’s how it was done.
But now, if you are just communicating and not involving your management and staff in some part of the strategy process, you are missing a big opportunity for buy-in, ownership and shared understanding.
The scale of the problem
Recent research in Harvard Business Review states that “only 35% of Employees Claimed To Know their Company’s Strategy”.
“Fewer than 20% said they understood why they were following the strategy that had been communicated”.
Imagine, only 20-30% of staff understanding what your organisations strategy is?
When people don’t understand or feel connected to the organisation’s strategy, this typically results in management & staff not making consistent and informed decisions in their own roles.
Why it’s happening
If people don’t have a voice in strategy, there will be minimal psychological ownership or conviction to execute it.
Without involving staff and management in some part of the strategy process, the CEO and executive team try to communicate a strategy that no one has bought into or understands the intent of.
As Julia Hautz Professor of Strategic Management at the University of Innsbruck in Austria quotes:
“Research has shown that even in companies with public strategies that are articulated clearly and often, only around 1/3 of their employees can correctly identify their company’s strategy”. (Devinney; Sull et al., 2015; 2018).
“One-way communication is not enough to create shared understanding” Julia Hautz.
From my own experience and research in the global strategy field, the main reasons that executives have been more focused on trying to ‘communicate’ their strategy are because it feels safe and ‘appears’ time efficient.
What is missing with this assumption is the lack of impact, understanding and ownership of staff when they are trying to execute in their own area of the organisation.
How to overcome the problem
Instead of trying to craft the ‘perfect’ strategy yourself or with your executive team, start to involve some of your key staff members.
You don’t have to start with a big bang, all-out approach.
Start small by running a brief session to get staff and management first-hand perspectives of where they see the most impactful customer problems to be solved.
When a mix of frontline staff and management are involved upfront in market & customer insights, unique insights will come out of it.
This approach reduces the need to try and ‘convince’ people of the strategy.
“Opening up the strategy process speeds up the overall strategy and execution process by between 30-50% compared to the traditional approach”
–Stephan Friedrich von den Eichen, Founder of IMP Consulting the global leaders in Open Strategy.
Listen first-hand to the trailer version of our recent forum below on the topic
When we are just focused on how we communicate our business strategy, it typically means that not many people will understand the core intent.
That’s not to say that communicating strategy isn’t important. It certainly has its place.
But by also involving people in strategy will end up with far better results.
If we feel like our job as a CEO or executive is to communicate our strategy and get ‘buy-in’ we have likely missed a critical step.
To find out how to start getting these results through your own strategy leadership, check out our approach here.