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Don't Keep Secrets: Why Internal Communication Can Make or Break your Strategy

The first week of our 2023 Cosmic Conference was all about strategy execution. Along with guest academics, consultants, and leaders, we aimed to unpack the question: why do 90% of companies fail to execute their strategies successfully?

1- Communicate the 'what' and the 'why of the strategy to all employees

One of the recurring elements across various sessions is people. As our guest speaker Jean Abou Assi, a PWC consultant, puts it: “It’s all dependent on one big element, people. People need to be aware of the strategy. We need to create a purpose for these people, which we always fail to do.” Jean stressed not only the importance of communicating the strategy across your company but also creating a sense of purpose around it to motivate employees to deliver. While strategic planning is often thought of as a high-level process that should be done behind closed doors, strategy is not executed in the boardroom. Despite this, only 27% of employees get access to strategic plans.

During a visit to the NASA Space Centre in 1962, President Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said: “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy, what are you doing?” The janitor responded: “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr.President.” The janitor understands the importance of his contribution. He truly felt he was a valuable part of something bigger than himself, and his attitude created a feeling of self-confidence in his mission. He wasn’t merely a janitor, he was a member of the 1962 NASA Space Team.

2- Keep employees engaged and informed

Executives need to secure the buy-in of those on the frontline through a formal and intentional approach to communication. This is particularly important if the strategy introduces a major change. The good news is that 73% of successful companies have a formal mechanism to communicate their strategy.

In our Cosmic Conference session about Leading the Strategy Process, Mihai Ionescu highlighted a crucial aspect of this, stating that the planned phase of strategy execution typically involves around 20% of employees, while the success of the unplanned phase heavily depends on effective communication to the broader employee population.

Making sure each member of your organization understands not only the broader strategic goals but also the context and the 'why' behind it. It is important to clarify how it will affect the role of each team and team member and this alignment ensures everyone works towards a collective end goal. Seeing how their individual roles contribute to the organizational strategy also boosts employee engagement and keeps them motivated to work towards the strategy’s success.

3- Communicate your scorecard early and often

From a performance measurement perspective, transparent communication of the strategy is key to clarify how employees are responsible for delivering on the strategy and holding them accountable for those actions. Imagine sitting with your team at the end of a quarter to review progress when you are behind on your collective KPIs. If employees defense are not aware of these KPIs in the first place, how can managers hold them accountable for their performance? When duties and responsibilities are clear, employees are more committed to delivering results.

4- Develop two-way channels of internal communiation

Strategy is an iterative process, and when communicating, leaders looking for feedback should open up two-way communication channels.

According to HBR, more than 80% of employees would rather work for an organization that values open communication than one that only offers perks. Allowing employees to share their ideas, concerns, and insights not only enriches their employee experience but can also be valuable input for refining the strategy. Employees have frontline insight into the day-to-day operations and can provide more well-rounded input on issues and opportunities that are not be visible to the leadership.

In the absence of a well-defined communication plan to keep employees informed and actively involved in your strategic initiatives, employee motivation declines and accountability is lost, leading to increased execution costs. To avoid these issues, create a two-way communication process concerning the company’s strategy to secure your employees’ commitment and drive results.

If you need a place to start, here are some of our free resources to guide you in measuring, planning, and implementing effective internal communications. For more insights on strategy execution, register here to attend upcoming sessions of our 2023 #CosmicConference: Leading Organizations that Deliver.


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