Leaders often look to us at Frankli for advice on how to make improvements across performance and engagement, and we always start with the same question: Where are you at with your strategy?
All the practices we advocate - be they daily rituals like regular 1:1 meetings, or major mindset shifts like focusing on outcomes instead of inputs - are proven to drive high performance and engagement, but only if the company strategy is in good shape. By this, I mean that it’s well-informed, actionable, and simple enough to effectively communicate to every single person on the team.
If, at this point, we identify that the existing strategy needs work, I suggest a two-step solution:
- Review the strategy, doing the work required to get it into good shape
- Communicate the strategy throughout the organisation
So let’s look at both of these in greater detail.
Step 1: Review your Business Strategy
This is all about kicking the tyres on your strategy. Often the people working in the business and with customers every day are best placed to do that, so involve as many members of the team as possible.
- Is this plan going to deliver your target results?
- Is your plan going to beat the competition?
- Is it speaking to the customers’ needs and pain points?
- Who or what are you displacing in the market – including the status quo!
- Do you have the resources to execute this strategy?
- Is the strategy clear and concise?
- Is the strategy flexible enough to serve the business, even in times of rapid change?
- Has employee experience informed the strategy, or is it merely an afterthought?
If your review throws up flaws in the strategy, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Only when you’re totally happy with the plan should you move forward with Step 2.
Step 2: Communicate your Strategy to Employees
You’re happy with your business strategy, but the work’s not done yet! Your strategy needs to be widely and repeatedly communicated or “cascaded” across the organisation.
Here’s how we suggest you go about this:
1. Understand the importance of cascading the strategy
In my experience, leaders and managers can sometimes be a bit intimidated by the idea of a strategy and, as a result, communication is too often left to a few individuals like the Founder, the CEO or the small team who, perhaps, had written the strategy.
I think this is a mistake. It’s most powerful when every Director, Manager and Team Leader is actively cascading the strategy. It needs to be a frequent, everpresent part of every team’s ongoing conversations. Strategy in action, you could say.
2. Simplify the message
The strategy you need to communicate may be somewhat complex, but the key points should be easy to understand.
Visuals can be really powerful here - one of the most useful exercises I had to do as part of a great strategic skills course was to create and produce a creative, visual A1 poster that summarised the entire strategy. It was an excellent challenge that forced focus and distillation of the priorities while enabling more “human” communication across the organisation.
3. Develop a focused set of OKRs
Your OKRs (objectives and key results) distil the strategy into small, manageable and measurable tasks that you and your team need to complete in order to deliver the plan.
Remember that the OKR framework is not a substitute for a clear business strategy, but a means to plot the path to success and measure progress. OKRs sometimes get a bad rap, with some teams labelling them hard to follow, but, more often than not, it’s the lack of a clear strategy that’s actually to blame. We’ve got lots of helpful resources that will help you effectively execute the rollout of OKRs across your teams here.
4. Keep checking in with all involved
Regularly check that the strategy is still the right one - are there any changes to be made? I suggest a quarterly check-in, but depending on what’s happening in your market, it could be more or less frequent.
Checking in that the strategy is actually being executed feels like stating the obvious but that’s where the rubber hits the road. How are you measuring the progress against the goals or key pillars of the plan? Are there any roadblocks? Are resources correctly allocated to ensure execution?
Bringing your strategy to life is a bit like driving a car for the first time. It's clunky at first, with a few stop-starts, and then, before you know it, the business will be flying along at 100 kms per hour. Your teams will be planning and executing with superb clarity and alignment, and delivering that invaluable high-performance competitive edge. What’s not to love?