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Beyond the Boardroom: Building Excitement for the Strategic Plan

Posted December 1, 2010 11:02 AM by Dylan Miyake

How can leaders communicate excitement about strategic plans? Even the best strategies falter if the objectives and goals fail to resonate with the organization's key audiences. It's not enough for leaders to know where they want the organization to go.They also must find ways to effectively introduce upcoming challenges, explain options, listen to concerns about change, and develop consensus within the entire team, particularly those who keep the lights on, the doors open, and the customers smiling every day.

Encourage Opportunities for Feedback

Many employees may react with apprehension or skepticism – too often, "change" is seen as a synonym for "layoffs" or "more responsibilities." Counteracting resistance starts with sharing ideas across the organization and many positive suggestions for improvement originate with stakeholders in side-conversations encouraged throughout the development process.

Developing venues for "bottom up" communication enhances team performance and often reveals simple answers to problems that have been overlooked. In addition, leadership that extends this kind of courtesy and respect toward employees earns confidence and models healthy exchange of information.

Leadership should explain the big-picture ideas and challenges, then allow smaller focus groups of staff to seek answers. Encouraging solutions developed by the front line often alleviates apprehension and ensures availability of allies and experts throughout implementation.

Constructing "no-fault" systems for feedback from all employees makes it possible to address sensitive concerns that may impede the team's productivity. For example, designating a cafeteria comment box or an e-mail direct to leadership may facilitate insights - or identify log jams - that otherwise might not be forwarded in the typical chain of communication.

Leaders should try to get the most candid and unvarnished feedback; if an organization's staff thinks that the new strategy is a terrible idea, or if employees have major concerns, then leaders need to know and be prepared to adjust. Employees should be viewed as teammates and deserve credit in successful implementation of change. By frequently communicating and actively including their ideas- the strategic plan will have the momentum to overcome any trouble and be on a track for success.

Successfully Communicate the Strategic Plan

Organizations should create a variety of formats to talk about and explain the strategic plan. Some companies use video presentation to recount the organization's history, and then introduce their strategy to overcome current challenges and ensure future success.

Other communication ideas include:

  • Create a dedicated blog on the organization's intranet where elements of the strategic plan can be explained in greater detail – and make it possible for employees to post comments and questions (anonymously, if necessary – and as long as the anonymous comments are constructive). Bill Marriott's blog is a great example. •Host a series of brown bag lunches where the organization provides lunch so that employees can discuss the strategic plan with managers.
  • Send a monthly e-mail newsletter about various key points from the strategic plan – or incorporate the strategic plan into an existing newsletter, with a special article called "Strategy Corner." Invite new employees to write short articles giving their take on the plan; add a personal photograph to highlight a personal touch.
  • Use tangible objects to signal that real change is imminent. If your organization has a strategic goal of reducing waste and improving efficiency, replace everyone's wastebaskets with smaller ones, or install high-efficiency bulbs.
  • Offer certificates of award or appreciation to recognize good input. A nationwide organization of students awards a green brick every time a member goes "above-and-beyond" serving the organization. This simple award was created with two cans of spray paint and an hour of free time- but is now a highly prestigious trophy that influences behavior on a daily basis.

Be Their Biggest Supporter!

Use crystal clear language that people at all levels of the organization will understand and relate to. Engage your audience with a story about what success looks like. In the case of a Southwest baggage handler, expediting the baggage-handling procedure enabled the airline to add one more flight per day.

For hospitals, a single instance of proper hand washing can spare many from the risk of infection. Remember, everyone has a hand in fulfilling the organization's mission. The leaders' job is to include employees in the process, encourage them, and ensure they are equipped to move the organization toward success.

For more resources about implementing a strategic plan or enhancing communication within an organization, contact Ascendant Strategy Management Group.