One of the greatest misconceptions of strategy implementation is thinking that it’s done by executives.
Strategy implementation happens when—and only when—you have the support, buy-in and cooperation of teams within the organization. This requires crystal-clear communication—and an intelligent, intentional and inclusive plan to reach every person in your organization.
How can we use internal communication and actions to implement new or updated strategies? Try these five steps to make sure your messaging breaks through:
1. Involve colleagues from the beginning. No one likes to have new plans or directives dumped on them out of the blue.
When people get to voice an opinion before things are set in stone, they’re more likely to accept the outcome. Plus, gathering feedback, insights and preferences beforehand will help you shape a better, more inclusive strategy.
2. Align strategy and operations. A strategy should never be separate from the daily operations of a business. Your strategy should lead the operational activities—not obstruct them, contradict them or be abstract or intangible.
To ensure more alignment between strategy and operations, invite team members to discussions about how their duties directly relate to the overall strategy. If they struggle to see the bigger picture and figure out how they fit into the grand scheme of the business, they’ll never fully engage.
This exercise might also reveal that strategic activities are not aligning with your operations and objectives. If so, don’t be afraid to rethink, adjust and redesign your approach.
3. Use visuals, not text-heavy documents. Your strategy is useless unless it’s easily accessible and understood by everyone.
Writing strategy documents may, of course, be necessary. However, don’t stop there.
Most employees won’t take the time to read through a 10-page manual, so try to make your strategy more visual. Draw maps, use post-its, make videos or use infographics. Use compelling imagery that will grab your colleagues’ attention—and stick in their minds.
4. Align internal and external communications. What’s internal is now external—and vice versa.
Trying to communicate one thing externally and another internally is a huge mistake, and your employees will notice any inconsistencies. If employees feel that what the organization says and expresses towards the market is something other than what they experience inside the organization, they will call you on it.
Make sure your external messaging matches what you say internally. Otherwise, you’ll quickly lose trust, credibility and the ability to persuade your internal influencers.
5. Follow up. Communicating once—especially when change is afoot—is typically not enough. Repeat your key messages in different formats, forums and platforms. Hammer home the gist of what you want employees to know, or do, and frequently follow up.
Another smart move: Incorporate new strategic activities into existing meetings. For example, if your team has weekly or monthly status meetings, discuss how the latest activities have (or have not) been contributing toward larger company objectives. Another key part of following up is measurement, so track progress as you go to see what should be tweaked or adjusted.
Remember, change (of the positive variety) will not happen naturally, and you can’t count on your executives to implement fresh strategies. The onus is on communicators to convey what’s happening in a clear, consistent and memorable manner.