CEOs: For Better Success Improve Communication of Your Strategy


Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 1.59.03 PMYou’ve worked really hard on your strategy and plan. You’ve communicated it to the troops. You’ve done this frequently though a variety of channels. But six months later, your strategy isn’t getting traction? There are lots of reasons strategies fail.

In a study by Donald Stull (MIT Sloan School of Management) and Kathleen Eisenhardt (Simple Rules), only 55% of middle managers can name one of their company’s top five priorities. Worse, when given five chances to list their companies strategic objectives, half fail to get even one right!

If you say this is unlikely to happen in your organization, then ask the questions. The CEO’s we work with are often shocked at the statistic above, but the problem is due to one simple error in thinking. Communications doesn’t equate to understanding.

Even if your team can parrot back your key initiatives and strategy, it still doesn’t mean understanding. And without understanding, it’s likely all your hard work on strategy will not materialize. What can you do about it? By now, you’ve discovered that yelling louder doesn’t help.

Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Determine your audience first. Is your message for internal, board, stakeholder, or industry consumption? Messages need to be tailored differently for different audiences.
  2. Keep it simple. The greatest communicators often have just one message. As humans, we have difficulty remembering three things, much less a dozen.
  3. Explain why. Why is this your strategy? Why is it imperative? What’s changed?
  4. Explain how. How are you going to implement the strategy? What’s the plan?
  5. Use stories. We are geared to understand stories, metaphors, and examples. It’s the way we simplify and remember.
  6. Help them see their role and what is expected. Participation in the process by all levels, not just the C-Suite helps.
  7. Ask for confirmation. At all levels, confirmation helps reinforce understanding.
  8. Incorporate your strategy into your performance standards and measures for employees.
  9. Make sure your strategy communication is not just top down. It has to be top down, middle-to-middle, and peer to peer.
  10. Test and measure.

Again, there are multiple reasons why strategies fail. This is just one. When you reach a level of understanding, remember that is only the first step. Then the real work begins.

Do Great Things!

Lee Hobart Stocking
Prairie Sky Group
651-357-0110 (C)

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