As leaders, shaping organizational strategy is one of our most important roles. We spend a lot of time developing and implementing strategy, yet we rarely talk about what to do when strategy fails.
In 2019, strategy consultant Jeroen Kraaijenbrink identified 20 reasons why strategies sometimes don’t succeed. Interestingly, “unclear communication” and “no or insufficient communication” are the first two reasons. This resonated with me because one of my key observations since becoming a CEO is just how critical clear communication is to effective leadership – and just how much time I need to invest in communicating. And as I read the other 18 reasons why strategy implementation falls short, I realized just how much communication influences almost all aspects of strategy execution. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two years communicating about our strategic transformation – with the AIA leadership team, with employees, with our Owner and Supplier Community, and with industry partners and peers. And I’m learning every day.
Here are three of my top leadership communication learnings as it relates to organizational strategy:
- Your strategy communicates, whether you plan it or not. Whatever your strategy – and however it is articulated (or not articulated), the way you operate your business is sending a message. To ensure your strategy succeeds, invest time and energy (and expertise) in the development of clear communication that explains your vision, mission, values and strategic priorities.
- Communication takes many forms. For organizational strategy to be “sticky” with internal and external stakeholders, we need to communicate often and in a variety of ways. I’ve learned that when I’m getting tired of talking about an aspect of our strategy, some of my audiences are just beginning to absorb the ideas and get on board. Consistent repetition of clear messages is key. Strategy messaging is never “one and done.”
- Commitment requires communication. The third key problem in strategy execution, according to Kraaijenbrink, is “lack of commitment.” And there’s no way to gain commitment and buy-in from employees and other key partners without effective communication and engagement. Seek input from others as you shape strategy and show them how their ideas helped to influence the final direction. Share. Listen. Repeat.
I’m a believer in lifelong learning, so I’d love to hear what lessons you’ve integrated into your leadership of organizational strategy development and execution.