September Is The Season of Strategy: 

How To Perfect and Communicate Yours

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Written by: Julie Williamson, PhD
Estimated reading time: 3:12 minutes

 September is a common time for companies to work on strategy, making it the perfect opportunity to reconsider how strategy is developed, communicated, and brought to life across your organization.

In our Dynamic Strategy™ work at Karrikins Group, we often meet with organizations and speak with mid- to senior-level people about their company’s strategy. After all these years, it’s still shocking how often we hear things like:

Strategy? What strategy?

We don’t really have a strategy here.

We’re too busy fighting fires to think about strategy.

I think we have a strategy, but I’m not really sure.

Yeah, we have a strategy, but no one does anything about it.

And of course, there are the people who just dismiss our questions with a laugh and a shake of their head, sometimes with an eyeroll for emphasis.

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Then we speak with executives in the same company, tell them what we heard, and watch them lose their minds. They insist that there absolutely is a strategy—everyone knows what it is, they’ve been told 100 times. They pull out PowerPoint decks, point to emails that have been sent, and recap town hall meetings they’ve held. It isn’t too uncommon for these executives to conclude that if people don’t know about the strategy, that’s on them for not paying attention.

In fact, a few years ago, we conducted a survey in a client organization where we asked just over 100 people who were within four levels of the CEO to describe the corporate strategy. 86% of respondents answered with some version of “I don’t know what our strategy is.” The CEO was shocked with the results because he was confident he had communicated this with everyone.

If that sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. The gap between the people who set the strategy and the people who are expected to deliver on it often feels bigger than the Grand Canyon.

As energy goes towards developing a new direction, people start to hear about ‘strategy offsites’ and ‘strategy consultants’ regularly on internal calls. Some resources might be redirected to work on top-secret strategy projects. The wonderous new strategy is often unveiled to great fanfare with a big presentation. And then, it disappears into the abyss as the day-to-day work takes center stage every day.

September is a common time for companies to work on strategy, making it the perfect opportunity to reconsider how strategy is developed, communicated, and brought to life across your organization.

If I could wave a magic wand and get executives to do three things differently around strategy, here’s what it would be:

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1. Talk, don’t tell. Have real conversations with people about what the strategy is and how it impacts decision-making at all levels. People don’t connect with abstract concepts like strategy without the context that comes from dialog.

2. Be ruthlessly realistic. Don’t shy away from what it will take to deliver and what will get in the way. Help your people navigate the challenge of taking on new ways of working while still delivering on today’s goals.

3. Share your story. Connect people to the strategy through what is going to be personally hard for you. What passion project of yours will get deselected? How will you need to lead differently? What are the situations that are going to be hard to navigate?

Strategy only means something to an organization when it’s brought to life by leaders who use it regularly to make decisions about the business. More importantly, it’s only meaningful if leaders take the extra step of making those decisions visible to colleagues and sharing how the strategy is guiding their decision-making process.

It takes an investment of time and energy to create this kind of context and connection. But it pays off. When people can place themselves in the strategy and see how they contribute to it, they ultimately drive better, more aligned decisions and behaviors that accelerate progress towards your strategic goals.

Original Article Featured on Forbes: September Is The Season Of Strategy: How To Perfect And Communicate Yours

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