How to align your people to the business strategy
We often find that organisations are good at creating their strategy; leadership teams get together, articulate where they’re going and why. They really ‘get it’ and they feel connected to it. But equally, our experience shows the difficulty comes in translating that strategy into something meaningful and tangible that everyone within the organisation will understand and connect with.
Taking everyone on the same journey, from awareness to understanding to implementation, is what creates real change within an organisation. If the strategy isn’t clearly communicated, allowing for every individual to see the part they can play in delivering that outcome, then don’t be surprised if it doesn’t get adopted and delivered at an individual level. If you answer the important question of “what’s in it for me?” then you make it easy for every individual to own their place in delivery.
Do your teams understand your strategy? Do they even know what it is…?
Translating strategy at functional, departmental, team and individual level is fundamental to its success. What does that mean for Nick in Finance? Or Jenny in Marketing? Or Chris in Customer Services? What do they need to do differently to play their parts? Executive teams can often miss the opportunity to translate their strategic plan into an implementation plan that effectively drives activity and change.
Excuse the cliché, but there’s a real need to have a thread that runs through a business that allows people to see where they’re going, understand the part they play and how this affects what they do on a daily and weekly basis. We call this the golden thread.
The approach we recommend is a structured way of connecting your strategy all the way through your business right down to the objectives of individual team members. We call this our Roadmap. If we take Nick from Finance as our example again, he should know what he personally has to do at a task level to impact the Finance team, his function and also the overall business. Our Roadmap shows this in a visual way, so that on a one-pager, Nick can see the golden thread that links what he does all the way back to the business to the function’s objectives and finally up to organisational goals.
There’s an old adage that you have to tell someone something seven times before they can hear it. Anecdotal that may be, but it highlights the need to communicate your key messages as many times as you can, in as many different ways as possible. We use one page visual ‘compelling strategic narratives’ accompanied by plans for every department and ultimately every individual. The same strategic messages need to continue to be reinforced. Taking a fresh approach to communicating these messages (as an email is not enough!) is really important, so for example we have used roadshows, town hall meetings, workshops, playbooks, letters to home and even air fresheners with the plan on! There’s also a place for the usual intranets, Sharepoint, Slack and Teams to keep the messages live on a daily basis.
Strategy can seem complex or remote for some employees. The key is to simplify it and involve them; it will empower them to deliver it. When Executive teams create strategies they look forward, focussing on the big picture, but they don’t necessarily have the skills or knowledge to determine how that strategy should be implemented at a really granular level of detail. We suggest spending time with people at all levels of the organisation to ask “how should we deliver this?”
In one of our case studies, in the health sector, there was a need to create traction on one specific area where there had previously been little engagement or results. We spent time with teams who could genuinely impact the delivery of the strategy. We ran workshops for teams to create their plan within the boundaries set by the organisational plan. We involved the people who really matter. They knew the frustrations that both they and their patients had with the current approach and they offered great solutions. Their plan still met the organisational goals; still worked towards the same targets, but took a far more pragmatic and patient-focused route. The teams were clear that no extra cost could be added (in fact, ideally, cost would reduce), but the quality targets were still crucial. “Their way” showed that there was a better way and the results proved it! They had higher engagement from service users, and the teams were more engaged as a result.
It’s an inspirational part of our approach as people feel genuinely engaged. They have the opportunity to be part of a bigger plan. It makes it real for them and they also feel much more connected to delivering ideas which may have been theirs.
Alex was a guest speaker at Allen Associates’ Zoom HR Hub. Find out about our Latest Events here.