Avoiding the 7 Deadly Sins of Strategy in Your Communications
Communication professionals are well aware that the effective execution of any company’s organizational strategy rests on having a communications plan that clearly connects and enables the business strategy. The true test of any communication strategy’s effectiveness lies in its execution. But as we all know, it doesn’t always quite work out the way we hope.
Does this situation feel familiar?
You and your team have spent hours, days, weeks and maybe even months developing a holistic communication strategy to guide your team’s priorities. You finalize the strategy, breathe a sigh of relief and then… six months later realize that your strategy is not being acted on. Your team is disjointed, and you’re not entirely sure what happened.
There are seven common pitfalls that can derail even the most well-conceived strategies if not addressed promptly. Let’s explore Strategy and Leadership Consultant Jeroen Kraaijenbrink’s “7 deadly sins of strategy” and what you can do to avoid them before they impact your strategic communication plan.
1. Death by Planning
- Sin: An overemphasis on analysis and planning the strategy rather than delivering it.
- Solution: Strike a balance between planning and execution. While thorough planning is essential, it should not become an endless loop. Focus on alignment over consensus and define clear milestones and timelines for implementation that everyone understands and can readily adapt to as needed.
2. Loss of Focus
- Sin: After implementation, attention to the strategy erodes while everyone returns to business as usual.
- Solution: Maintain strategic focus by consistently communicating the strategy’s relevance and progress. Celebrate small wins along the way to show incremental success – it’s not just the big wins and direct progress against KPIs that showcase strategic execution. Ensure that the strategy remains a part of everyday conversations within your team.
- Sin: People adopt new terminology used in the strategy but use it to describe what they were already doing.
- Solution: Clarify the strategy’s key concepts and ensure that everyone understands its unique components. Provide real-world examples that illustrate how the strategy differs from past practices. Consider creating visual roadmaps that show the road ahead (the impact of great visuals on comprehension cannot be overstated!)
- Sin: This happens when the strategy is purely based on top management’s perception of reality.
- Solution: Involve employees at all levels of the strategy development process. If they help plan the battle, they won’t battle the plan! Conduct a survey to gather input and feedback. Ensure that the strategy reflects a collective understanding of your team’s challenges and opportunities as they relate to the overarching organizational strategy.
5. Behavioral Compliance
- Sin: People do literally what is asked from them without really buying into the new strategy.
- Solution: Foster a sense of ownership and commitment to the strategy by explaining the “why” behind the “what.” Help employees understand how their roles contribute to the bigger picture and align their personal goals or individual development plans with the organization’s strategic objectives.
6. Misreading Resistance
- Sin: Employees are blamed for resisting the change when, in fact, something else is going on.
- Solution: Address resistance with empathy. Investigate the root causes, which could be fear, uncertainty or lack of information. Engage in open dialogues to resolve concerns and provide reassurance. By managing through change with compassion, you can bring your team along the journey with you.
7. Broken Agreements
- Sin: Management promotes the strategy in words but undermines it with what they do.
- Solution: Lead by example. Ensure that leaders and managers at all levels consistently align their actions with the strategic goals. Encourage accountability and hold everyone, including top management, responsible for maintaining the integrity of the strategy.
Successful strategic communication is not just about putting the strategy into a nice-looking PowerPoint deck. It’s about navigating these seven deadly sins to ensure that your strategy becomes a living, breathing part of your team’s culture to move from strategy to execution. By proactively addressing these pitfalls, you can pave the way for effective execution and sustainable success.
Remember, it’s not enough to have a great strategy, you must also communicate it effectively and integrate it into the daily fabric of your work.