Communicating strategy and socialising strategy
There is plenty of advice on Communicating Strategy, and planning that communication, here. If you recognise that your strategy relies on more than merely communicating your strategy, but socialising your strategy, then read on. Socialising your strategy will get your strategy into your people’s heads. Our approach is about how you change thinking, then behaviours, and then results.
Successful executives don’t simply communicate their strategy. They have a clear approach that gets the strategy inside people’s heads. They socialise the strategy. They ultimately change the culture and behaviours, to get results.
We have helped many Executive teams to develop, communicate and socialise their strategy. We have also interviewed many executives who have managed successful organisational transformations: where they have changed both the performance and the underlying culture and behaviours.
Our experience, and the findings from our interviews, make it very clear: successful executives don’t simply communicate their strategy. They have a clear approach that gets the strategy inside people’s heads. They socialise the strategy. They ultimately change the culture and behaviours, to get results.
That is the approach we have adopted: the approach we help our clients use. You can read about the principles of communicating and socialising strategy in “Communicating Strategy” written by our Managing Director, Phil Jones. (Published by Gower). (With hindsight it should have be called “Socialising Strategy“: find out more about “Communicating Strategy”, including the 10 heresies of strategy communication that underpin the approach.)
Before we communicate, we need to take a step back
You will appreciate that before you start telling anyone about your strategy there are some things you need first. Our approach helps clients so you:
- Can leave the Board room, all telling the same story
- Have the strategy on a page (or three)
- Have a clear programme of communication & engagement
- Communicate and Socialise the strategy, reinforced by action and evidence of change
- Can burn all strategies and plans!
One final point: we don’t communicate your strategy – you do. It is your strategy, and it has to come from you. We might help you get it clear in your head, brief you, coach you, train you, but in the end you will be standing up there, not us.
1) Leaving the board room all telling the same story
“The big benefit has been clarity of purpose. You allowed us to approach issues in a less emotional and more systematic way. It makes the debate far more rational.” – Trevor Gibson, Director of Environment and Planning, Peterborough City Council
We are sure you understand the importance of leaving the executive suite all telling the same story. A lot is our work is helping you be clear, as a team, about the strategy. You all understand the principles, assumptions, the compelling imperative for change, the timescales and messages. You all know what needs to change.
85% agreement is not enough. We have helped new teams form. We have helped experienced teams improve the quality of their conversation before they act.
“It has helped us Directors work far more closely together, where we would not have normally. We can now lead from the top and are seen to speak in a single voice which was not the case previously” – GD, Director, Peterborough City Council
You will appreciate we don’t talk about the occasional robust debate and tense moments that happen during this stage.
2) Strategy on a page (or three pages)
One aspect of our work that clients value is our ability to get their strategy on a few pages (often one) in as clear as way as possible.
Sometimes we write the simple strategy story. For instance, we recently helped the Daisy Consortium get their strategy clear. Bear in mind they consist of over 50 partners, worldwide, seeking to change how books are published to make them far more accessible for disabled people. In doing so they have already influenced the e-book publishing industry. Working with their President we were able to get their strategy onto three and a half pages (albeit in a largish font). Most importantly that strategy clearly set out the challenges they faced, worldwide, how they were to address the issues throughout the standards and publishing industry, and how this would improve the lives of both visually impaired and general readers.
“I have never met anyone with your ability to take a complex situation and turn it into a simple, clear, easy to understand diagram.” – Simone Jordan, Transformation Director, NHS East Midlands
In another example, we helped the Chief Executive in an NHS Workforce development Confederation (the workforce planning part of Strategic Health Authority), break through the complex environment she had to influence. We got the essence of their strategy on a single A4 page. This went on the Chief Executive’s wall as an A0 diagram, so she could explain their strategy to her visitors. She later said that the Balanced Scorecard work we did (of which this was a part) was instrumental in them becoming one of the country’s top performing Workforce Development Confederations.
This is just a part of the work. Often we will help the client develop the strategic plans that sit behind the strategy, again in a light, easy to maintain format. This really helps with the strategic plan which follows, making it much easier to structure the plan around the strategy.
3) A clear programme of communication and engagement
Successful executives plan a programme of change, communication, reinforcement and action.
“I used our strategy map in our Town Hall Meeting and it helped to tell the overall story of the strategy and the changes we are making.” – Lindsay Stratton, Managing Director, Unite Modular Solutions
A typical engagement has us creating strategy maps for the organisation, and for each of the executive team. Once agreed they are a powerful communication tool. So, as with Peterborough City Council, the Executive Team were able to present their strategy, using their six strategy maps, to their top 50 executives, in under an hour. The session was described as “The first time the executive team have told the story of the strategy, without resorting to detailed thick plans”.
This is just a part of the programme.
4) Communicating strategy and Socialising your strategy
Such simple stories of the strategy (whether words or pictures) are vital to the next stage – socialising the strategy.
“That was the first time the executive team have communicated their strategy effectively.” – Graeme Law, Environmental Planning Manager, Peterborough City Council
The essence of our approach is to ensure that people understand not only what is important but why it is important. Also that it becomes their strategy. So the key is not simply to communicate the strategy, but to socialise it. Socialising it embeds it in the learnt behaviours of the organisation, making it part of the organisation’s culture and fabric.
We can train your staff, coach you in the communication, help you develop your strategy communication plan so you ultimately engage your staff and make a difference.
One US Pharmaceutical company has made our “Communicating Strategy” approach part of their Vice Presidents’ compulsory training.
5) All plans should be burnt
Finally we say “All plans should be burnt!”
OK, we have only had one Chief Executive burn his plans in front of his staff (and he actually ripped them up in case he set off the hotel fire alarm system) but it makes an important point. When the strategy and plans are in people’s heads, they are in action, and so you can safely burn all plans. If they are not in people’s heads you might as well burn them.
What next? How well are you communicating your strategy?
Get your strategy clear and on a page (or three)
Do you have any doubts about the clarity of your message?
If you want to make sure your strategy is clear, either as a picture or in text, get in touch.
Even if you are not entirely clear as a team, we can help you resolve issues and walk out of the Executive Suite all telling the same story.
To discuss your needs, simply contact us
Strategy communication planning and training
We also coach and train our clients in effective communication of their message, so you tell a compelling story with authenticity.
If you want to be able to burn (or rip up) you plans, simple give us a call. To find out more, simply contact us