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Lessons Learned in Aligning an Organization. Two Way Communication is Key – Part 1

Part 1: Analysis of the problem
By Denise A. Harrison, Senior Consultant

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

Thoroughly discouraged — that summed up how I felt. For the past two years I had been president of a financial services firm and we had some key success metrics under our belt, the company was now solidly profitable, cycle time had decreased by 60%, we had earned more this past year than in the past decade — so why was I feeling so discouraged?

We had just received the employee survey back, and overall, morale was up, people were motivated, but the answers to two questions still bothered me:

  1. Are you familiar with the company’s strategy?
  2. Do you know what you need to do in your position to move the company forward?

The answers to both questions were no. Susan, director of human resources, looked as perplexed as I felt.

How had we communicated the strategy over the past two years? Each year we had a company-wide meeting to kick off the year. During this meeting I presented the strategy the senior management team had developed for the next three years. In addition, I presented the key objectives for the year. We had a question and answer session following the presentation to handle any questions about the strategic plan. But this was not the only communication; I knew this one presentation was not enough: the strategy needed reinforcement on a regular basis to keep people focused on the longer term objectives rather than the day-to-day firefighting.

Quarterly Reinforcement
To attain this reinforcement and to celebrate our quarterly achievements I set aside two days each quarter for small group meetings where I once again presented the strategy, the key objectives and discussed the progress made during the previous quarter. I knew people felt more comfortable answering questions in smaller groups so I kept these meetings to groups of 8-10. Even with the annual presentation and the quarterly meetings employees did not relate their day-to-day reality with the strategy.

Sadly, Susan and I both knew that even though we thought we were communicating effectively we were not getting the job done. We had to do something different to engage associates at all levels in thinking strategically. We knew that setting the strategy was the top priority of senior management and strategy development with a larger group would become large and unwieldy. We discussed getting more involvement in the research that was need for the process — yes, involving more people in the information needed to develop a strategic plan was a good idea, but still this would not solve the problem.

We already involved a broad range of people in the development of action plans to meet the year’s key objectives, we would continue doing this, but once again, it was not the solution to our problem.

Finally we hit upon the following idea: what if we had each department think about their role in moving the company’s strategy forward and develop its own set of objectives and metrics? Well, it was worth a try.

Next: Attacking the problems.  Read this in our next blog article.

Developing a strategy will help your company optimize its future. Ensuring that the whole company is aligned with corporate strategy will help you achieve corporate goals and objectives in a shorter time frame.

If you are interested in taking your strategic planning to the next level, please listen to our webinar:  Why Isn’t My Strategic Plan Working or contact Denise Harrison; 910-763-5194, harrison@cssp.com .

Denise Harrison is a senior consultant for the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. She can be reached at  harrison@cssp.com.

© Copyright 2015 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.