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Archive for May, 2011

Employee Communication: How to Communicate Strategy

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

One of the balancing acts in employee communication is how to convey the message of strategy to all levels of employees, so that it is relevant, exciting, fresh and meaningful.

So the question with strategy is how do you communicate it so that it is a message that employees truly understand and feel engaged with, rather than yet another corporate communiqué with little  connection with anyone other than the leader who requested the message go out.

In my experience, strategy is only communicated successfully when it is integrated with the way we do business at every level.  So what I mean by this is that you should not talk about strategy as if it is something happening over there, but rather integrate it with all your other communication and processes so that it becomes integrated with everything else we do at work.  Whether I am a member of the senior executive team, a supervisor or frontline staff member it is critically important to ensure that strategy is communicated so that each level understands how it relates to the everyday work that they do and therefore how they can contribute to it.

Think in terms of layers, there are many ways of communicating and integrating strategy within your organisation’s everyday processes.  Here are a few ideas that are easy to implement:

1.       Identify how can you integrate the message about your organisation’s strategy and achievements to date in the communication that is distributed by human resources, finance, marketing and operations?  You might consider performance measures linked to strategic outcomes (HR), financial business performance by business unit and state location (financial), marketing campaigns and response rates (marketing) and operational issues.

2.       Consider the key milestones achieved to date with the strategy and at regular team meetings discuss how the next milestones will be achieved based on team performance and contribution to the bigger organisational picture.

3.       Whenever you are communicating the strategy ensure that it is linked to the organisation’s vision and mission – think of it as “connecting the dots” don’t assume employees, even your leaders understand how it all links together. And more importantly always think how to make it relevant to the work people do every day.

If you think of strategy as yet another input into your employee communication then constantly seek information on updates and achievements and how that can be contextualised in a message about the work employees do every day.  I’m interested to share what you do to communicate strategy to employees so welcome your comments.

How to influence leaders when driving strategy and change

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

The key ingredient for any successful change program is management and leadership commitment to the proposed strategy.  The greatest challenge therefore for change managers is to ensure that leaders stay on message and do not waiver from the challenges ahead.  Change is hard, whether you are at the frontline, or at the executive leadership level.  But the most difficult role of all to cope with change is the leader, because pressures come from leadership team members warning against the changes, there will be unrest amongst staff and questions regarding the strategy.  And it is always safer to stay with what is known even if it is not the best outcome for the organisation rather than to take a risk to try to innovate and do something new that is untested.
So here’s what can you do to ensure that the focus stays on strategy.
1. Establish a project management team comprised of key leaders that focus on enterprise wide change and dependencies and is chaired by the CEO or department head.  This ensures that the silo mentality is broken down as managers are required to adapt to a new process, that is, thinking of their specific project and the impact across the organisation, which in turns changes behaviour.
2. From a change communication perspective it is important to ensure that communication is timely and aligned with progress at each of these change meetings.  More importantly it is essential to communicate how each project and strategy execution is aligned with the enterprise wide vision and direction of the organisation.  This way employees and managers will understand how individual projects are linked and how the organisational strategy is dependent on them all coming together.
3. All members of the leadership team need to be aligned.  They must have consistent messaging regarding the direction they are communicating and that it is linked to the organisational vision and strategy. The need to communicate this face to face and influence support, provide specific details of the positive outcomes of the strategy to those who are accountable for driving aspects of the strategy.
4. Identifying and communicating the performance requirements linked to the strategy and confirming this at regular intervals throughout the year keeps everyone focused on the strategy and tasks.
5. Ensure that all managers make the strategy reviews and updates a key part of their regular team meetings.
6. Implementation is the most difficult aspect to manage successfully of any project because this is when it becomes real – most resistance will be at this phase of strategy execution, so it is important to have engagement strategies in place before this phase.
7. Identify those members of the leadership team most likely to be committed to achieving the outcomes and design a specific role for them to influence their peers and their management teams.
8. Where project management falls down is at the middle management level unless they have been engaged from the beginning and this means actually involved in the project and being able to influence the direction.  This is where significant undermining occurs of project implementation and that is largely based in fear.  Find out what the fear is and then address it and ensure that middle management are engaged from the beginning so they feel less threatened by the unknown.

Senior management provide direction for the strategy, ensure that appropriate resources both people and dollars are available, are focussed and directly involved and aware of all the issues and risks of the project and most importantly provide updates and direction on an ongoing basis.  The role of the change manager is to support this by ensuring that all the other issues that could derail the project are dealt with so that the senior leadership do not back track on the strategy.

Finally to maintain commitment to change all projects needs to be integrated into the longer term strategy and vision of the organisation and for all employees from frontline to senior leadership to understand how the project and their role contributes to the overall vision.  Change is only successful when it is seamlessly integrated into the way the organisation operates, not as an appendage to the organisation.