Good Strategies Start with Plain Language Employees Can Understand

Posted by David Grossman on Wed, Dec 01, 2021

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Strategic planning can be an intense process and it makes sense to celebrate when the plan is complete, but that doesn’t mean all the work is done. In fact, having a strategy is really just the first step. What you do with that strategy is what makes or breaks a business.

Of course, implementation is key, but there’s a step in between that is all too often overlooked and under-appreciated: communicating the strategy. This means making sure everyone is literally on the same page in understanding the components of the strategy and how to implement it.

All too often, strategies contain words or concepts that take on as many meanings and interpretations as the number of people who read them.

An Example of a Common Strategy Term with Multiple Meanings

Take the word “growth”, for example. It’s a common term used in just about every strategy (for good reason). But what does growth really mean in your strategy? Is it incremental growth, organic growth, growing the pipeline, growing the global footprint, growing the number of employees, growing through acquisition, or something else?

Your answer will make a difference in how people think about growth, and the actions they take as a result. You want to ensure you’re driving the actions you want, which in turn lead to the business outcome you want.

Define Each Concept in Your Strategy

Take a cue from the trusted dictionary and literally define what each of the concepts means in your strategy. Share the definitions with your leaders and employees. Take the time for real dialogue with your teams (that way, you’ll know if they’re on the same page as you or if they need more clarification). Get them to internalize the strategy so they know how it connects to their job.

Define your strategy—literally:

  • Be global: Ensure the core terms you use will work globally; strip away jargon or buzz words.
  • Be all-encompassing: Define all the important terms even if they seem obvious to you.
  • Be precise: Use clear and specific language in defining your terms.
  • Be real: Describe how you’re thinking about the business today and where you want it to go as if you were talking directly to a front-line employee.
  • Be visual: A picture is worth a thousand words. Graphic representations of your company strategy offer employees something tangible that they can reference again and again when thinking about what’s most important in their work or how their jobs fit into the bigger picture.

I’ll never forget a meeting with the top 10 executives of a company. We were there to talk about communicating their new strategy to employees. Part way through the meeting, the CEO realized his own leadership team was defining core elements of the strategy in different ways, including as it applied to the business model, franchising model, and current approach to create loyal customers.

We took a step back and got everyone aligned on the key terms and how to define and talk about their business. It became a defining moment for the leadership team because even the best communication plan can’t engage employees if leadership is sending different messages.

How might you benefit if you took a step back from your strategy to ensure alignment?

—David Grossman


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Tags: Internal Communication, Communication Skills