Forming a strategy that actually works is something that many, many companies struggle with. In fact, according to McKinsey research, around 70% of business strategies fall short of their expected results. This is a worrying statistic for CSOs looking to implement change in their business. It's cause for particular alarm in the business world of 2018; innovation has never happened faster or less predictably. Strategies need to be ever-evolving and flexible in order to keep up with the new climate.
But the key to having a successful business plan may be surprisingly simple: communicate with your workforce. A large proportion of these strategies fail because the business doesn't communicate their strategy effectively with their workers. Shockingly, just 14% of employees report that they understand their organization's strategy, according to Forbes. It's understandable that strategies splutter and burn out when so few of those supposed to be involved in their implementation have no idea what they even are.
Not communicating effectively with employees about the company's plans can stand in the way of innovation and ultimately the organizations' success. Tom Culver, one of the speakers at our upcoming R&D Innovation Summit in Chicago, stated in a recent interview with us, "Some of the traps that we often see are companies assuming that people at different levels of the organization have the same vision for what innovating means. [There's] A failure to take a rigorous look at the horizontal silos that exist, it's just assumed that everybody knows and understands the basic competencies and has the same competencies around innovation. But that's not the case."
There are several reasons for this lack of understanding amongst the company's workers. For a start, without effective communication, companies can fall foul of organizational Chinese whispers. As the message of strategy implementation is passed down the different layers of management, it can become warped and change drastically. By the time it reaches the employees lower down, it may have lost any cohesion at all. With ineffective communication, the workforce may also be unaware of the factors at play in the strategy that can cause misalignments, and find themselves unconsciously generating them.
What appears to the C-suite managers to be a genius, innovative strategy may not translate when being spread further down the chain. Employees sometimes struggle to see what's in it for them with a new strategy, especially when management doesn't do enough to connect desired behaviors under the new system with positive recognition. This disconnect has the potential to breed resentment and almost certainly slow the process of the strategy's implementation significantly.
Another issue is, as Culver points out, the confusion between different levels and a lack of understanding the strategy in general. At times, the plan could be too complicated to be understood by all (which has the potential to breed resentment for many staff). In this case, simplification can be painful too and the executive team may be reluctant to simplify the strategy as their understanding of the plan’s complexities are crystal clear to them (and therefore, all other workers should just 'get it').
Ahead of her presentation at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit in Melbourne, we sat down with Jo Clancy, Senior Strategy Analyst with the Transport Accident Commission. She gave us some advice on how you can ensure you are communicating properly. Clancy urges "Facilitate, facilitate and facilitate with groups of people from across the organization (and stakeholders outside of it!) to get their input on your growth strategy. Be really open to new ideas or changing direction - it sets up a foundation for engagement and provides tremendously valuable insight. Once set, communicate, engage and communicate - you can't do this enough but it cannot be completely up to you. Ensure your organizational leaders are stepping up to this and singing in harmony. Now the really hard work begins - cascading your strategy down to the corporate strategic objectives and initiatives to form your corporate business plan. Ensure key success measures are based on OUTCOMES not just milestones and then PRIORITISE. Most organizations don't control the breadth of their strategic intent to enable the right focus for ultimate success."
Learn more about implementing a successful strategy at our Chief Strategy Officer summit in Melbourne, March 15 & 16.