April 3, 2023
Maximizing Strategy Rollout with Your Company’s Top Leaders
Written by: Jason Greenspan
Think about the last time you went to a leadership meeting to hear about a new strategy, direction or business plan. Did you leave that meeting feeling optimistic, energized and accountable for what was presented? Or did you come away from the experience feeling apathetic, skeptical and that the new plan was more of the same?
Unfortunately, the latter is the case for most strategy rollout or refresh meetings today – even at the leadership level. That’s because more time and attention is given to building an agenda to “tell and sell” versus creating an experience that brings attendees along on a journey.
That’s, in part, because sharing decks full of strategy slides – often done by well-intentioned consultants – is an easy approach. It takes work that’s already been done and fills up the hours of a meeting. It allows the company’s leadership team to check off a box and say they’ve engaged their top leaders in the direction of the business.
But we know there’s a better way – one that concurrently informs, involves and inspires leaders on the path forward, and moves them from bystanders of change to inspired catalysts.
We’ll share some thoughts on how to do that in this blog post along with some examples of how we’ve successfully accomplished this.
Benefits of Creating an Experience Around the Strategy Launch
When done well, a leadership team meeting with the top 100-200 senior leaders is the perfect moment to focus on a strategy launch or refresh in order to energize an organization’s leaders and jumpstart implementation.
In the best cases, doing this well creates highly committed leaders, and this foundation will set the rest of the organization – and ultimately the rollout of the strategy – up for a successful journey.
There are few moments more important than the launch or refresh of a strategy – when the organization’s leaders are both brought under the tent and teed up to help ignite the rollout to the broader organization.
A meeting of this sort – done well – will expand thinking, create alignment on the opportunity and evoke a special energy needed to sustain momentum long after the meeting is over.
Let’s look at each:
- Expand thinking: In today’s business environment, success is predicated on leaders understanding a multi-dimensional – and sometimes competing – view of the environment, business, competitors, customers and employees. That means we need to provide leaders with the widest aperture possible and do so in a way that expands their thinking and lets them draw their own conclusions and implications. This very setting of context from multiple viewpoints allows leaders in the room to not only learn something new but also trust what’s to follow. And: it best prepares them to answer the critical “why” questions their teams will have upon rollout.
- Create alignment around the opportunity: It’s no longer enough to share a set of slides that articulate the path forward. The days of “telling and selling” a strategy from a three-inch binder are long over. If we bring leaders along on the journey prior to the meeting, strategy rollouts become a culminating moment allowing ample time to build belief in the purpose and vision of the organization, ignite energy around the ways we’ll compete and win and ensure connection to the outcomes and metrics critical for success.
- Evoke special energy: Leaders need to leave key moments informed of the future direction and – this is a critical component – equipped to be evangelists for the strategy. They need to believe the strategy is achievable and internalize it well enough to both interpret the strategic story and create connections across the organization. To not only see themselves in the future but help employees do the same.
3 Core Elements of a Successful Strategy Launch Meeting with Top Leaders
While the design of a strategy rollout with leaders is incredibly unique to the situation at hand, there are some general elements we see as consistently important.
- Inform – the core of a strategy launch is the content itself. There are four key aspects to keep in mind: purpose, context, strategy and roadmap.
- Purpose: The beginning of any good strategy launch event (or any important meeting for that matter) needs to visit the purpose of the organization and put the day’s discussion into a broader context tied to business outcomes. This reason for being or the need leaders fulfill – done in a way that evokes emotion – helps attendees see a broader connection to what they’re about to discuss.
- Context: Good meetings spend ample time setting context on the environment, competitors, business, customers and employees, which together paint a picture of the need for change. And not just from one vantage point, but many, and often not one at a time but in an integrated way. Accomplished effectively, this integrated context provides a multi-dimensional view of the issues and opportunities – ensuring that the group’s thinking diverges before eventually converging when the strategy is covered. This critical step of opening minds ensures everyone understands all the elements that make up today’s reality and creates a common view of the situation despite everyone coming to the meeting from a different part of the business.
- Strategy: Good strategy rollouts and moments cover the core areas that will differentiate the business from the competition and create a further advantage as well as how the vision and strategy will impact all key stakeholders.It’s important to point out that the best meetings stay focused on four or five key strategic choices – as less than that risks being too high level and not offering enough substance, and more than that begins to signal a lack of focus and too much content to absorb. We’ve seen many meetings with 200+ slides and nobody remembers what was covered at the beginning by the time the slide show is complete. Of note, strategy presentations don’t have to be boring. A visually driven presentation is infinitely more memorable and drives far greater comprehension and retention.
- Roadmap: Finally, the best meetings lay out a roadmap for what success will look and feel like upon completion of the strategy, and then work back to focus on what must happen in the early years to achieve this success. But as important as getting the “initiatives” right, is ensuring the roadmap integrates all the pieces and parts of the journey. While it’s intuitive to the senior-most leaders, the roadmap must show how all the change levers – including the very personal human ones – work together to drive the ultimate outcome. This helps contextualize where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re heading. Finally, it’s worth noting here our strong belief that who shares this content and associated stories is as important as the content itself. As is often said, the messenger is the message, and credible speakers who create authentic connections increase the odds of the content being remembered and embraced.
- Involve – the best meetings don’t just meet the moment by informing leaders about what’s covered above. Instead, they also involve the leaders in helping shape the strategy in advance of the meeting as well as provide input as the meeting progresses.
- Co-creation: While contrary to intuition, the best strategy rollout events don’t surprise attendees via a dramatic unveiling. That’s because leaders should have been brought along on the journey prior to the meeting, and in fact, gone through a process to co-create the strategy and/or help refine core elements. We’ve worked with clients across many industries on strategy co-creation, and the theme we hear often is: “That was the most anti-climactic rollout… in the best kind of way. We see our fingerprints all over the strategy. We feel heard.” This not only builds trust in the process and confidence in the future, but it also ensures leaders view the strategy as “OUR” strategy versus “THEIR” strategy.
- In-meeting engagement: In addition to the pre-meeting co-creation, the best rollouts have purposeful moments for engagement throughout the event through a mix of traditional breakouts as well as instantaneous Menti-like polls and discussion. While one could argue text polls have become ubiquitous since the pandemic, when done right they check for understanding and keep an ongoing pulse of the sentiment in the room. However, the gold standard of engagement remains small group dialogue and other live moments that allow attendees to provide real-time input that alters either the strategy or its implementation, and in the process, models the behaviors necessary for the ultimate success of the strategy. The best meetings we’ve led allow participants to fine-tune the strategy, diagnose and close the gaps relative to the current versus desired culture, and/or talk about the behaviors necessary for winning in the future. Put simply, the dialogue is not only actionable but signals that the leaders in the room have a direct stake in the strategy’s success.In addition, the most memorable and successful strategy launch meetings create a meaningful experience for attendees from the moment they arrive and are infused with purposeful and strategic moments of engagement, team building, fun and more. Each element of the meeting connects back to the core meeting outcomes.Altogether, this equips leaders to feel connected to and authentically own the change and be the hosts of its eventual rollout.
- Inspire – the traditional view of meetings and big moments is that they must be chock full of inspiring videos and sizzle that makes people feel good about the business and brand. And while that’s certainly important, we’d argue that the best meetings inspire and empower attendees to create energy around the new strategy following the event itself.We know from experience that approximately 1/3 of leaders will do this well, 1/3 will do so in an average way and 1/3 will leave the meeting without doing anything different. This leads to a high risk that the brief spike in increased engagement will result in business as usual within a quick period of time.To avoid that, the experience must allow attendees to be the ignitors of change. That means:
- Creating the space for leaders to be vulnerable, tap into their purpose and build empathy
- Engaging them in an exciting view of the future – one where they could see themselves
- Involving them in building the story in the meeting versus handing them a page of talking points
- Helping them interpret what the strategy means to them and their teams in a way that will solve the challenges they’re experiencing
- Providing them with what they need to build the capabilities of their teams and the organization at large
- Strengthening their network of peers so they feel connected and supported on the journey – a bond that often is remembered for many years following the rollout
How The Grossman Group Can Help
We partner with CEOs, leadership teams and functional chief officers – from strategy, supply chain, communications, operations, HR, marketing and more – to shape and activate enterprise-wide and functional strategies that drive transformative change.
This includes building a strategy co-creation process, designing meetings that inform / involve / inspire leaders to launch the strategy and build high-performance teams, and supporting the rollout of the strategy across the enterprise… all with the goal of accelerating company performance.
The Bottom Line
A traditional meeting and mindset just don’t work when it comes to effectively rolling out a strategy, having it resonate with leaders, generating buy-in and sparking excitement for the future. While the design of a compelling strategy rollout is unique to each situation, we know the meetings and big moments must create an environment that informs, involves and inspires leaders – and does so in a way that equips them to be the ignitors of the change.
But even then, remember that strategy can’t be rolled out with a “project management” mindset. That discipline is certainly important when it comes to execution, but key strategy launch events need to equip leaders – through the right experiences and insights – to shift from being the “emcee” of talking points written by someone else to being the “host” of the strategy rollout.
When that happens – when the strategy moves from "THEIR" strategy to "OUR" strategy – you will have leaders who are truly optimistic, energized and accountable for results.
Would your organization and leadership team be better set up for success through a strategic strategy co-creation process and support for launching the strategy in a memorable, actionable and high-impact way that ignites activation throughout the organization?
If so, reach out. We’d love to learn about your need and explore how we might leverage our experience on your behalf. Contact us today.
Jason Greenspan is Senior Vice President & Head of Client Service at The Grossman Group and combines an extensive communication background with strategy expertise to drive large-scale transformation in big organizations. His current and past clients include General Mills, Molson Coors, Navistar, Stanley Black & Decker, Tyson Foods and United Airlines, among others. Prior to joining The Grossman Group, Jason spent 20+ years at the McDonald’s Corporation working with C-suite leaders.
Connect with Jason on LinkedIn here.
Tag(s): Activating Strategy, Future of Work
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