Awareness, Engagement, Execution
Why is it critical for any organization’s leaders to communicate the strategy effectively? For one, it is important for any CEO, or owner, to understand that they are not usually the ones who implement the strategy. Three elements are of vital importance: awareness, engagement, execution. Are They Aware of What the Strategy Is?
The first step is for your stakeholders to understand what the strategy is. There are several categories of stakeholders, as we all are aware.
A CEO must prepare a communication plan for each audience. If you pause and consider this for a moment, the truth of this statement will become apparent. The CEO will not communicate a strategy to investors in the same way as to the sales team.
However, I will focus on internal communication for now since this is one area where most owners/CEOs forget to focus on.
In many organizations I have seen, the organization is simply unaware of the strategy. What the sales team knows, is the sales target for the next month, and they move like automatons to achieve this.
When I was working with the owner of a small firm, I noticed his sales team walk in. Their shoulders drooped, and their body language did not radiate confidence. When I asked the owner if they are aware of the strategy, and direction, of his company, he shrugged and said, “They only need to know their targets. Anything more is beyond their comprehension.”
You Need Awareness to Build Engagement
This is a mistake. When the members of the organization are aware of the strategy, they have a sense of direction. Not only direction, but they will also know which customers to target, and how to speak to them.
It’s one thing to just chase sales with a plea to buy more, and another to explain the benefits of the product/service.
In my experience, team members like to feel that they are part of a greater story and not just cogs in a wheel. Engagement drives commitment to achieve the impossible
Without Awareness & Engagement, Execution Fails
No strategy is excellent unless they can execute well it, and most people forget this. When I have worked with the owners of small companies, this is something that they are oblivious to.
To execute a strategy, you need an implementation plan. No one disputes this, but what most owners forget is that if the team is not aware of the strategy, or not engaged with it. When a team is disengaged, typically they don’t believe in the strategy. When this happens, disaster ensues
A Case Study on Communicating Strategy
I am going to go back to the time when I was heading the self-medication business in Bayer China.
We had acquired Roche’s Consumer Health business via a global acquisition.
What this brought was:
- Latest brands
- Expanded distribution channels
- Additional investment for organic and inorganic growth
- Global focus on our business
After working through the strategy, and sweating through the long nights, we realized we had to communicate this effectively.
What we did was this:
- Prepared a presentation, comparing the business to the building of a house:
- The foundation was the team, with an increased emphasis on training
- The four pillars
- Organic strategy, in which we defined which brands we would focus most of our efforts on. We also defined the support brands.
- Inorganic strategy, in which we defined which segment we intended to expand into
- New businesses
- Improved profitability through localized operations and sourcing
- The roof of the home was our target position in the Chinese market
- Created a special symbol to signify energy, growth, and our intention to achieve the impossible. For this, we took a symbol that every Chinese person could relate to.
- Made stickers, badges, screensavers, and desktop wallpapers
- Started a newsletter
- Presented strategy updates to the local teams whenever we traveled to their regions. We also started a monthly Townhall in the head office.
I did not stay in China long enough to see the results, but we came close to achieving the impossible.
We reached a rank in the market that far exceeded what we had originally thought we could achieve.
I was, and I will state this, blessed with having one of the best teams that I have ever worked with.