How to Use Your Strategy Stories to Motivate Team Alignment
You’ve got your strategy, every body is excited, you’ve got a purpose that everybody can connect to, you’ve identified a number of clear and bold moves, you feel you can live up to your strategy and now …finally … you can’t wait to engage and share it with the rest of the organisation! (Or if you’ve missed, the rest of the series, start by knowing the Right Questions to Ask!)
However before you do that, I would like you to do one more thing and that is to answer the following question:
“If we accomplish only one thing during the next 12 months and be able, with any credibility, to say that we had a good period, what would it be?”
For many leadership teams and CEO’s, this is a difficult question to answers and often puts them off balance. “Really?” they answer, “You just pushed and forced us to select only 5 Must Win Battles out of many and reduced our priorities even further, now you are asking to bring those 5 down to just one?”
The Paradox of Choice: Fewer Choices Yield Higher Clarity
The reason is that by selecting just one thing to achieve over the next 12 months and to be able to claim to have a successful period is that it provides ultimate clarity.
When the going gets tough, you and your teams know what to axe and what to uphold to achieve your strategy. If budgets need to be cut, you know which one will go and which one stays. If you need to focus all your resources and time on that one thing, what is that it. What is the most important priority for the next period?
To give you a personal example; after a long and intense debate my team decided that the single most important thing for my social media strategy was to increase the number of followers. What we found was that it was not simply identifying what was most important. What was even more powerful was to understand WHY this was the most important and we discovered that focusing solely on more followers would yield the following results:
- enhance our reputation,
- increase the number of referrals,
- attract publishers for book deals and extend our business outside Pakistan and as a result of all these reasons we would be able to increase our fees and revenue.
Cascade your Strategy to Communicate Better
The other reason why it is important to identify ‘what is the most important thing right now’ is that is helps communicate your strategy and cascade it to the rest of the organisation.
I still remember a story from Phillips, the former Dutch consumer electronics giant, in the 90s whose leadership team was going through an extensive 3 months strategy session. Phillips came up with an agreed grand plan for the company’s strategy which only took one week to cascade it to the company.
After a couple of months the CEO noticed that the strategy was not gaining traction and most of the people were continuing to do their own old work. He asked him team to find out why. What they found was that where they had taken three months to understand and mold the strategy ), they had expected their employees to understand and achieve buy-in of the strategy after a 30 minute town hall session. No surprise it didn’t work.
To bring the point further home; Vanson Bourn in a 2011 study of 450 enterprises found that 80% of those companies felt their people didn’t understand their strategies very well.
Cascading the strategy is as important, if not more important than identifying it. The reason is simple. It is in the execution that the rubber hits the road and you can gain traction and translate your strategy into action.
To help you cascade your strategy, I would strongly advise you to stay away from the PowerPoint presentations or even worse the emailed PowerPoint presentations in which you are supposed to read the strategy yourself to creating a strategy story that will help bring to live your purpose, your bold actions and the reason why you are embarking on this grand new plan.
In a great white paper by Shawn Callahan: How To Make Your Strategy Stick, Shawn mentions that it requires an executive team developing the strategic story themselves so that they can own it. It involves the team being comfortable with telling the story and weaving their own experiences through it. And most importantly, it involves everyone in the organisation learning and telling their own versions of the strategic story so that they all own it and act to support and build on it. You can also check out this article from Phil McKinney (ex-CTO HP) on the 6 lessons ruled on strategy storytelling.
So to engage your organisation and cascade your exciting new strategy to the rest of the organization and ensure people are motivated, please take the first steps to implement your strategy. Make sure you’re clear what your most important target is right now and share your strategy story in as many different ways as there are people (and from personal experience if you think that people should have got it by now, double your effort and triple the number of times that you will continue to share your story).
Good luck sharing your strategy story and, as always, I’m keen to hear yours.