Communicating the “how?” Communicating the strategy journey.
We know where we want to go, quite clearly and tangibly. We know why we want to go there. But how do we get there? How do we make the journey? How do we communicate we mean business with this strategy?
To explain the journey, the most effective way I have found starts with a simple cause and effect model .
Communicate the strategy journey: what will change
This is the framework to ensure the whole organisation communicate the same message. It allows you to add measures, targets, incentives, procedures and investments around it. It is based upon the Balanced Scorecard Strategy Map (See ‘Strategy Mapping for Learning Organisations’, Phil Jones, Gower Publishing)
If we learn good customer Service skills…
we can improve the service in our shops…
it will be recognised and appreciated by our customers…
which will create higher sales and customer retention…
which will improve the performance of the company.
Explain the journey behind the strategic objectives
The “how” is frequently expressed as financial targets along the way: “We shall double revenue whilst increasing profits by 25%”.
This is not a how. It is a financial objective. Its a little bit of strategy by hope and magic. I don’t know whether I have to double prices or throw fertiliser on the figures. The financial results are a result of what we do. It is important to know what the financial targets are, but they do not tell us how to get there. This approach shows how they will be achieved.
The same is true of customer targets. We can try to understand and then satisfy their needs, so they give us money in return. We do need to ensure we are clear what they want and what we deliver, but again, customers are outside our direct influence. They react to the organisations actions. So we have to ask what will satisfy these needs.
We can influence the actions we take. By being clear about what are the few critical processes and activities that will really make a difference to the strategy, management will focus the organisation. I doubt if you can succeed at strategy if there are more than 6 really, really, critical processes in an organisation. Ones that will actually make a dramatic difference to the strategies success. There may be others (20, 30 40 others) that are important to the operation of the business, but do they all need to be really excellent? I doubt it. Can you realistically focus on all of them?
Explain the journey: where we will focus
Success is about focus and it is management’s task to communicate what to focus on. For the major retailer with thousands of shops, it was reduced to down to five: Five critical processes that management had to focus on and the organisation excel at. Just imagine how powerful a message that gave to the organisation.
But these critical processes will not succeed unless we also build the capabilities of the organisation. What skills, technology, culture, and knowledge do we absolutely have to excel at to be successful? You can bet that 3M have excellent R&D practices, Wal-Mart focus on their ability to negotiate costs and lower their supply chain costs, Walt Disney on developing customer service skills.
Communicate the strategy journey: tell the story
If you can communicate a clear picture and message: To show how capability drives success in the key processes so that they affect the customers positively and get the financial results.
You are communicating the how of the strategy. the journey of the strategy. The story of the strategy. Quite often it can be read as such. Tools such as the Balanced Scorecard’s Strategy Map are very effective at doing this. They are created by capturing the story of the strategy in a structured manner, so you can re-tell the story of your strategy with a clear plot and explanation.