Do your employees truly understand your strategy?

Business people wearing blindfolds | Axiom Communications

Five steps to align your workforce and deliver success

Imagine you stopped any one of your employees, anywhere in your organisation, at any time. Then imagine you asked them to explain your strategy in their words.   Would you be truly happy with the response you get? Would you be completely confident they could then go on to explain how the work you pay them to deliver contributes to the success of your company?

And if you asked one hundred of your people these same two questions, would you get a consistent response, or perhaps one hundred variations – each one equally fumbling in the dark?

People work best when they have a purpose and understand the context in which their hard work fits in. So, if the answer to any of the above is ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’ here are five steps I recommend you take.

Step 1.  Conduct some ‘presearch’ to check current levels of understanding

It is difficult to plot a course to your final destination if you don’t know where you are starting out from. The first step, therefore, is to find out the extent to which your colleagues genuinely understand your strategy – by asking them. And don’t just ask them if they are ‘aware’ of the strategy – ask them what it actually is and get them to describe how what they do every day helps deliver it. Oh, and while you are talking… ask them if your strategy is a hot topic of conversation, and if it isn’t what is.

Step 2.  Get your strategy story straight – and in plain English

It is important that your people can explain your strategy in their own words; it’s a sure sign that they have internalised it and really get it. So, the next step is to make that as easy as possible for them. Use plain English that everyone can understand; the ‘story’ for your organisation if you like. (Remember even senior managers don’t all speak ‘McKinsey’ or talk with a strategic ‘Accent-ure!’) Once you’ve got your story straight, use it as the basis for all communication to drive up consistency.

Step 3.  Be creative in telling your strategy story

Now get creative and bring your story to life throughout your organisation. You could use a visual metaphor to paint a picture of success for your business, literally drawing the Big Picture. You could produce a pop-up book, create a video-based soap opera, even put the plan in a can and do ‘what it says on the tin’. Sounding Boards, made up of representatives of the very people you seek to engage, can guide your thoughts and work with you to co-create the best ways forward.

Step 4.  Build in and align action plans

By now you know where you are, you’ve got a great story to tell and engaging ways to tell it. But, that doesn’t add up to much if no one does anything differently as a consequence. Your people need to work through what it means for them and their ways of working, and that means functional, team and individual action planning.  And those actions must be reflected in your goal setting and performance review processes, otherwise well-intentioned plans may never become concrete reality.

Step 5.  Recognise and celebrate excellence

To illustrate how well your people now understand your strategy and how they help achieve success, why not showcase their excellence? Launch a competition in which, for example, small teams create short videos on their mobile phones highlighting how they are delivering your strategy in their part of the business. Then you can shortlist some great examples and get the entire workforce to pick the winners, via your internal social media. Get this right and your strategy story could go viral.

I asked a CEO once how many people worked for her company, she replied ‘about half of them.’ How funny. But imagine if they all did. And imagine every single one of them knew exactly why they were there and what they needed to do to deliver success. How much better would your organisation’s performance be?

Now stop imagining. Follow these five steps and deliver a step change in your organisation. See how Axiom’s Big Picture approach can be used to convey vision, strategy and change.