Communication will Make or Break Strategy

Linking Strategy to Execution is the holy grail of most organizations. It’s also the thing most organizations struggle with.  Communications can play a huge role in how a company’s strategy gets executed.

Have you ever been in an organization where the strategy was disconnected from the day to day work?  When you received communications from the organization, did they have anything to do with the strategy?  Oftentimes internal communications don’t reinforce the strategy, widening the divide between strategy and execution.

How can you help keep work aligned with the company strategy?

What is “Communication”?  Let’s start with a definition of “communication”.  Traditional communication is a one-way message that’s blasted out to the masses.  There’s still a place for mass communication in organizations. But let’s also include presentations, meetings, intranet portals and emails in the mix.  Every communication is an opportunity to affect the company’s alignment with strategy.

Know the Difference between “Strategy” and “Work”.  A strategy is “what’s our objective and approach to get there.”  Work is “what are doing to get there.” There is often a lot of confusion about the difference here so let’s take an example.  

Strategy:  Increase sales to millennials by 10% through better digital offerings.

Work:  Build an app portal and increase presence on Instagram.

Build a Habit of Connecting to Strategy.  People love to talk about the work. We talk about the work a lot more than we talk about the strategy.  Communications should constantly create a thread between strategy and work.

Using the example above, whenever we communicate about the “new app portal”, we set the context by starting with a short statement like:

“In support of the strategy to attract more millennials, we’ve launched a new app portal.” 

Prioritization efforts should also be considering strategy all the time.  

Start Asking.  Because many modern communications have room for comments or questions, there’s an opportunity to politely ask how things connect to strategy.  

Avoid Strategy Fluff.  A strategy like “5-year strategy to increase sales” will be seen as fluff.  When the strategy is fluff, people ignore it, and the work gets disconnected from the strategy.  I’ve seen work completely diverge from strategy because the strategy is so meaningless that teams ignore it.  Break the strategy down to the local team and break it down to the shorter time horizon (quarter or month). The strategy is not just for the corner office, it needs to get into the DNA of everyone in the organization.

How have you connected strategy to the work in your company?  Let us know!