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Communicating Your Strategic Plan With Employees – Part Two

By Robert W. Bradford, President & CEO

Strategic Planning Expert Robert W. Bradford

Strategic Planning Expert
Robert W. Bradford

This article was originally posted in Course and Direction May 2004 and this is Part Two of that article.

It’s critically important that employees understand your strategy. Employees who understand your strategy will be able to make better day-to-day decisions that will support your vision. But, while most of us understand this – at least intellectually – we often have difficulty effectively communicating our strategies to people outside of the strategic planning team. This may be especially difficult if you feel that parts of your strategy are sensitive and should not be shared with people outside of your management team. In addition, it may be undesirable to load employees with the task of thoroughly understanding all of your strategic planning documents when many employees only touch on one small operational area. How can we reconcile these difficulties?   In Part One of this article, we covered three ways to better communicate your strategy.

Here are a few additional tips that will help you communicate your strategy more effectively:

  1. Use a few defined categories:You will lose a little detail by having five market segments rather than ten. What you will gain is a framework that your employees can and will remember – which means they are more likely to use it in their day-to-day thinking, as well. Remember, one of the key reasons why you are communicating your strategy with your employees is that they will, in fact, have to support it with their actions. Employees who can’t remember your strategy because it is too complex certainly will have difficulty supporting your strategy.
  2. Say what you don’t do:Don’t give a lengthy list of good intentions. Instead of defining strategy in terms of the obvious, cut to the chase and let your people know the things your company isn’t going to do. It may be harder to come up with, but it will give a much clearer sense of your strategy, faster. Many companies use the “good intention laundry list” to avoid admitting that they haven’t made any real decisions – and their employees know it. It’s a very good idea to let your people know your strategic focus in clear, unambiguous language.
  3. Make the difference between you and your competitors clear:If your strategy doesn’t set you apart from the competition, it won’t work – so make sure your employees understand how they can help put some teeth into your differentiation. This is especially important for your people in sales. Knowing that your company has clear points of distinction from competitors will also help your employees to be proud of who you are.
  4. Limit yourself:Don’t try to list everything you can do or should do – define your strategy in terms of a simple vision with a limited number of objectives. Companies that set themselves more than 10 objectives tend to do far worse on implementation, and in fact many companies should have only five or six objectives. Not only won’t you be in danger of running out of things to do – you are also unlikely to ever hear the complaint that your strategy was too clear.
  5. Make objectives concrete and measurable:Vague objectives may make your management team comfortable by giving them “wiggle room”, but concrete, measurable objectives with deadline dates are better for quickly clarifying the results you are seeking as well as who is accountable. If you have difficulty with this, try to identify a measurable objective that is close to the half-way point. By all means, make your objectives a bit of a stretch, but leave your employees feeling confident that you will, in fact, achieve most – if not all – of the objectives you are communicating with them.

In our experience, companies that share their strategy with their employees get far greater alignment with their vision. This makes implementation much easier, and helps to give your vision a life of its own. If you want to get all of your employees – and not just your planning team – helping to move your vision forward, try communicating your strategy with them this week!

If your company needs to improve its strategies, contact us for great, experienced leadership through the strategy development process.  Our highly acclaimed Simplified Strategic Planning approach has helped many hundreds of organizations improve their strategies and bottom line results with effective, actionable strategies.  Please listen to our webinar:  Why my strategic planning isn’t working.

Robert Bradford is President/CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at rbradford@cssp.com.
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