Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why I can't do what you want if you can't explain it well enough...internal communication

Now I may not have started out as a guru at explaining myself to others. Just ask my team.

But what I do know a little about is explaining (on the large scale) strategy to staff - in financial services but also other industries. 

What does that mean, exactly? The bit about "explaining strategy to staff"?

It means this... what the context is, where the company aims to be in that picture, how we're going to get there (together)...and...drum roll...what your part is in that bigger game plan.

But here's the trick. And listen up leaders because most of you get this wrong. Consistently. I say that with due humility because I get it wrong too.

The "trick" is this:

1. Get clear on the actual strategy
2. Get clear on the context (outside and inside including what your team are thinking, feeling and experiencing right now)
3. Get a sense of what needs to be done to deliver on strategy then (this is really important) 
4. ASK the top team (maybe up to 10% or more of your team) how to do it...and listen to what they say - that's the operating plan! And the messages.
5. Finally, tell everyone. Again, and again, and again, and again and again...until they start to mock you.

There are many other, longer, ways of explaining these top five essential actions in making strategy relevant to teams - and whole organisations.

But after more than a decade and a half inside, and outside (advising), large and small financial services companies (and some others) on internal communication, I can offer you the short version.

Of course the real test is my own business, BlueChip Communication. In recent years I've worked with a mentor who is not a communication expert, at least in the "corporate communication" sense. And yet what he said about communicating strategy is absolutely right. I use this wisdom everyday at BlueChip. 

Paraphrased, it's the summary version of how to make strategy real. 

"Define your strategy in five or six key sentences. Then repeat them. All the time, to everyone."

Has it worked? Well ask one of our people next time you see them...

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