How to convey a complex strategy to staffers in 3 phases

Your employees can and will execute your leaders’ overarching vision—but only if you help them understand it. Here’s an approach for communicating the big picture and all the nuances.

Your top execs spent weeks on the corporate strategy. How can you convey it companywide?

Often a strategy is complex and based on nuanced and contentious decisions, reached after a lot of discussion. It’s hard to communicate it in a way that is memorable and, crucially, gets employees taking the appropriate actions.

Nearly 70 percent of employees are unable to identify their company’s strategy from a set of different choices, as CEB data show. Properly communicating that strategy is essential to successfully executing that overarching plan.

Communicators can build employees’ awareness of the organization’s strategy and spur them to action in three phases:

1. Build your communication framework.

  • First, lay the groundwork for your strategy communication and understand the market context, business goals and crucial elements of the strategy.
  • Next, create a simple narrative and graphical framework for your corporate strategy that outlines the key strategy components. Your framework must aim to take employees from a broader strategic context to specific actions and behaviors they can incorporate in their respective workflows. For example, if you’ve identified macroeconomic trends that are likely to affect the company’s future, prepare to articulate which aspects of the strategy are most important for the employee and what they can do, such as attending specific training, to ensure they understand those trends and how this should affect their day-to-day work.
  • Finally, represent the strategy graphically to land it with your target audience.

2. Create tools to help communicate strategy.

  • Once you have the strategy elements and framework, identify the best channels to use for your communication, such as town halls, one-to-one discussions and social media platforms.
  • Build a communication outline to help leaders focus on the key points of the strategy and deliver consistent messages, while ensuring alignment of the material with the chosen channels. For example, if you’re using a channel or tool to inform a large group, structure your material around big issues and important updates on company initiatives; for a smaller group, conduct a workshop to teach more specific, relevant concepts and understand employee needs.

3. Help employees interact with the strategy.

  • The final step is to help employees understand strategic corporate issues through peer interaction, such as strategy graffiti walls and JAM sessions. These channels help employees express strategic ideas creatively and promote group assimilation of differing strategy perspectives.
  • Additionally, provide a platform for leaders and employees to share examples of strategy in action, and congratulate peers for demonstrating decisions and behaviors that help the company implement the strategy.

A version of this post first appeared on the CEB, now Gartner blog.

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