Communicating the company’s strategy should be simple: Share the concept with employees so they understand the strategy and what they can do to support it. But, far too often, strategy communication is so complex that employees can’t interpret what the words mean, much less figure out how the strategy impacts them personally.
The problem often starts with assumptions that senior leaders make about strategy communication. They have the luxury of spending time developing the strategy, so when it comes to communicating it, they think it's just a matter of conveying information. Here are three typical “recommendations” that you might hear from senior leaders and ideas to counter them.
1. Senior leaders say, “Let’s stick to communicating the strategy. It’s the only thing we need to talk about.”
You respond: Employees need context. They’re interested in the “big picture” and they need help to determine how the strategy relates to other important company issues. That's why strategy communication should pull all of the pieces of the message puzzle together; for example, explaining how the strategy supports the vision.
2. Senior leaders say, “Send the memo and everyone will understand.”
You respond: Strategy is often comprised of many moving parts that make it a challenge to understand by simply reading about it. That’s why a single memo-or even a series-won’t do the trick. Employees need multiple opportunities to talk about the strategy in order to build their knowledge and understand how it applies to them.
3. Senior leaders say, “We told everyone about the strategy. Let’s move on to the next big thing.”
You respond: High performing companies communicate strategy over a sustained period of time and link it to other issues being communicated. That’s why you have to integrate strategy messages into communication for the long haul, so employees can make the connections between plans and actions. For example, when financial results are released, relate them to the strategy. When a new product is launched, make the connection again. Don’t forget: Senior management has been working on this for a while; employees need to invest some time too.