Posted on | October 9, 2012 | Comments Off
I was delighted to see that my publisher has been busy and that Communicating Strategy is now available on Amazon Kindle.
So that means you can buy “Communicating Strategy” as a Paperback, e-book (secured pdf) or Kindle edition.
Posted on | September 14, 2012 | Comments Off
What are the risks of getting your strategy communication wrong?
Here are my top three:
- We think have communicated the strategy when we have not. … So, nothing happens.
- People do not understand ‘why’ things have to change. The thinking behind the strategy is not explained…. The wrong things happen.
- And the biggest risk: The strategy does not change beliefs and behaviours, merely words and actions (for a short while)…. Behaviours stay the same, as does performance.
Here are just three of the common problems we see with poorly communicated strategy:
- No clear diagnosis or explanation of the problem the strategy is designed to solve. Without this, a change in strategy just feels like ‘yet another new initiative’.
- Glib statements: Phrases such as “Improve customer satisfaction” provide no guidance as to appropriate behaviours, where limits lie, and how to think about the problem for yourself. I am sure you have avoided these.
- The imperative for change is not backed up with proof of you being serious about change. This is one of the critical behaviours of successful CEOs who turnaround an organisation’s performance by changing the deeply embedded learnt behaviours.
The key is to break out of the ‘Communicate you strategy’ mindset: instead, to enter the ‘Socialise your strategy’ mindset. We could talk about what that means when we meet.
We have helped many Chief Executives in organisations as diverse as NHS WDCs, PCTs and SHAs to start-ups and large corporate. Most importantly when communicating changes in behaviours to delivery performance and results.
If you are serious about socialising your strategy and making sure behaviours actually change, simply give me a call or send an email to arrange a meeting. If nothing else we can discuss the characteristics of Chief Executives who have successfully socialised their strategy and whose strategy has changed deeply embedded learnt behaviours.
Posted on | May 14, 2012 | Comments Off
So you told them about your strategy, told them again, and then again once more for good measure.
But here is the rub – they still don’t get it. Their behaviours, language, actions still are not reflecting the new behaviours, language or actions that you were hoping for.
Now I could trot out clichés about the biggest mistake in communication is thinking that you have already communicated. However all that would happen is that you would tell them again. Now how is that going to help. It that worked they would have got it the first time.
So what do excellent executives do at this point?
They focus on something completely different. They think about “socialising their strategy”.
Now just for a moment think what that means? You purpose is not simply to communicate your strategy. You have to socialise it? It has to become part of the social fabric of the organisation. It becomes a way of thinking and acting. It becomes how people talk about it.
Imagine the strategy being discussed, debated and explored on Facebook, Linkedin or next to the coffee machine. Imagine people posting their thoughts about it on their websites. Discussing it with their friends.
Imagine you wanted to change a your neighbourhood? How would you go about it? Imagine you wanted to change the way people interacted? What would you do?
Socialising your strategy is a shift of emphasis and a change in the way people think.
Socialising strategy demands that yoiu do something deeper and more significant than merely talk.
Socialising strategy requires a more thorough, intensive and even obtuse approach to getting the message out.
Socialising strategy causes executives to change how they think about the problem.
Just try it for a while – I think you will be surprised what a difference it makes.
Posted on | April 15, 2012 | Comments Off
I suspect you have sat in the reception of an organisation and looked at their nicely framed organisational values and mission statements on the walls. Just about every organisation has them, on their walls, in their corporate brochures and on their website. You may well have been in organisations when the mission or values statements are unveiled. You may well have joined an organisation that already had them.
Have you ever wondered how they got there? Have you wondered how they were developed? Have you ever wondered what they mean?
Let me introduce you to “the 1006 word” problem.
How are they developed?
I have been privy to many of these discussions about organisational values and their mission statements. They take many forms. In many cases the management team have decided they needed a new mission statement or their organisational values need re-stating. Sometimes they will take some time to develop them. Other times a Chief Executive will declare what they are. Most often they the team will develop them through a series of meetings or workshops. They will have long discussions and debates about the purpose of the organisation, what is important and what they want to be.
After a while, and good deal of discussion, they will have boiled down their thoughts to about 6 words. It might be 8 or 10 words. It does not matter. In essence the mission is stated in a succinct (and hopefully memorable) way. organisational The values are stated as either short phrases or perhaps a word supported by a short sentence.
It is these short statements that are cast in stone, framed and placed on the walls. They are told to their staff. They are repeated endlessly. They are cast in stone, not to be questioned.
The boiling down process
These mission statement and organisational values are the essence of a discussion. They have been boiled down. They are the result of long discussions, thoughts, arguments, positioning, thinking through alternatives, drafting and re-drafting. They will have debated where they have come from as an organisation, where they want to be and what they represent. They might even looked at other organisations for inspiration. They will certainly have done some soul searching.
The management team will have had at least a 1000 word discussion about the phrases. More likely they have had a 10,000 word discussion about them.
And this is the problem…
YOU HAVE NOT!
You have not been privy to those discussions.
You did not have time to consider them.
You did not discuss them with your colleagues, look at the organisation, explore the options.
You were not privy to the nuances and subtleties that went into the wording.
You did not have the 10,000 word discussion. You did not even have the 1000 word discussion. You have the six words.
What are the implications for Executives and managers?
The implication for managers of the 1006 word problem is this. You have to communicate the debate and discussion as well. You have to help people have that discussion for themselves. You have to get the thoughts, principles, ideology, thinking and beliefs that support these statements into peoples’ bones, into their hearts, into their minds.
This means you have to share the 1000 or 10,000 words with them as well.
Otherwise you just have something that was developed amongst consenting adults in private. In essence, Jargon. It will only become meaningful when the conversations are had by the organisation.
So get out there, have those conversations. And if you need help developing the mission or values, having a rich debate or socialising the thinking through the organisation, then give me a call.
Posted on | April 9, 2012 | Comments Off
Having recently being involved in the due diligence phase of an acquisition process, it was interesting to think through the communication from the seller’s perspective and the perspective of the people employed in the plant that were were trying to acquire.
This particular plant (I cannot give any details) was a subsidiary that the selling company decided it wanted to either close or dispose of. At the start of the process the managers in the plant knew that this was what was planned.
However what to tell the staff? Simple answer – tell them the truth, as far as you can.
Let us be frank, people are intelligent, and the rumour mill will work far faster that you do. So you can assume that they have worked out what is going on long before any formal announcement. Also they will see teams of people arriving at the plant, disappearing into board rooms and, if they have any sense as a potential acquirer, getting a detailed tour of the plant. People will naturally ask, who are they?
It is pretty obvious to any half awake intelligent employee that something is going on.
However there is a catch – the due diligence process. As seller you do not wish to play your cards too early, nor do you wish to disclose who is bidding in a way that would potentially leak to other players. (The fact that we were intelligent and could ultimately guess is irrelevant). We were even waved through gates without signing in and were greeted at reception without putting names or companies in the visitors book – an obvious place to look if you want to find out who visitors are and even who came to see the plant previously.
So, what to tell staff.
I think it is clear – you have to tell them what is going on, without naming potential bidders, and inform them of the process, time scales and decision points. Let’s be frank, if this is an industry sale then someone at the plant knows someone in a bid team somewhere. Nevertheless you still need to keep the story clean, open, but tight.
You are creating uncertainty, even though you know there is a certain number of options. It is uncertainty that causes problems with people speculating. Even if you explain uncertainty, people will appreciate it.
Remember that these are human beings – people with families, children, careers, liabilities, mortgages, etc.
So, you need to brief at the start of the process. You need to brief at key events during the process, and when a deal has been negotiated, then brief people.
As it turns out our bid was unsuccessful. The seller turned it down. We don’t know the fate of that site now, now the people who work there. But I do hope that the existing managers have updated the people at the plant what is going on and given then an explanation and described the new future. It is the least they should do.
Posted on | October 12, 2011 | Comments Off
So it is now day three of the great blackberry outage, and what do we know?
I know emails come to my desktop but not to my blackberry. Then suddenly, 4-8 hours later I get a burst onto my blackberry. Not good when I am out and about.
Well if you go to the RIM website you are greeted by offers to select a smart phone. Perhaps their news and media area is better. No. The latest news is that “Taiwan Mobile and RIM Launch BlackBerry 7 Smartphones in Taiwan”. I was amused to be asked to fill in a pop up asking for feedback as I left. Well that would be a bit pointless. Ok, blackberry.com? Nice advert, but no messages. Support, contact us and blackberry help and little use. No information there. I tried my service provider O2 and their dedicated blackberry website. Again no messages, and nothing on the support page. Come on O2, you have a role in this as well. Putting a link at the top of the page to the latest iphone release is not the answer.
Where am I getting my updates from? BBC, Forums, ZDnet, and other people who are monitoring teh network. But not from Blackberry.
Update: Day four RIM founder, Mike Lazaridis, eventually posts a video on youtube apologising and explaining that they did not know when the problems would entirely be resolved. http://youtu.be/zQ1esvGae_s
But what were we expecting by day 3? What do I know. A Core switch has broken. So, lets get this right, blackberry are blaming some technology, when in reality several mistakes have been made: It was not tested properly by someone, fall-over and contingency was not tested properly by someone, the new switch is not yet installed by someone.
The thing is we can blame technology, computers and things, but in the end we need a face. Actually at the start we need a face. Someone who says, “We have screwed up and we have our best people on it”. Even a video saying sorry and here is the latest status.
Because strategy communication is about people talking to people. This is as true in a crisis as it is in any other time. My Professional Speaking Association colleague Alan Stevens will tell you that you need to get in front on the camera and talk to people. I want to know you are dealing with it, from you: not from a third party.
So what should they have done?
1) Talk to users directly, through their website, twitter, linkedin, even via an email
2) tell us what is actually happening. Most of Tuesday it was simply a Monday issue. Now we are on Wednesday.
3) Roll out the pre-prepared contingency plan and communication plan
4) Be honest, with a Human face. If the internet age and the cluetrain manifesto has taught us anything, it is to be human and have a conversation.
It is true that in times of crisis, communication with the outside world is often the last thing you want simply because you are focussed on fixing the issue. But someone should have a role of being that outside face, whilst others fix the issue. Even if you do not know yet, tell us when you might know. We want confidence that things are happening, not uncertainty that leads to rumour. The iphone and andriod people are wringing their hand with glee. If RIM, as several commentators say, are losing market share and failing to protect it well, as well as having internal shareholder angst, they still need to be open and talk to their millions of users.
Poor show RIM and Blackberry. By not talking to us, there is the danger we shall no longer talk to you.
Posted on | September 28, 2011 | Comments Off
…and what we can do about it.
How do we make sure that our mission, vision and strategy are understood? Are sticky, and stay in peoples’ minds?
In the book, Made to stick, by Chip and Dan Heath, there is a lovely example of how to create stories that are concrete for people.
The problem they highlight is that much language is abstract, ad I would add, especially in management. Of course, ironically, management is also quite an abstract word. For instance if you are told to manage better, you have almost no idea what specifically is meant? What specific new behaviour is the person looking for? You don’t have a chance. Expressions such as “world class customer service”, “being number one in the industry” and “Engaging the customer” are all just as abstract.
Chip and Dan Heath, use a great example. They ask the reader to first spend 2 minutes writing down as many things that are white as they can. Try it.
Then they ask you to do a second exercise. They ask you to write down as many thing as you can that are white, within your refrigerator.
They point out that many people find the second task easier, even though the fridge is not the most common place for white things. This is because the task is more concrete, and being concrete mobilises the brain. I suspect that if you were successful with the first task you hones in on something to start with and worked from there. You made it concrete before you started listing things.
You can do the same with your mission or vision or strategy by created what they call a “shared turf”, what I would call “common ground” or simply making things concrete. I see this a lot with customers as examples. What you do is to tell the story of the mission vision or strategy with reference to something, or someone that is easy to relate to. One car hire company chief executive told his call centre staff to imagine it was their grandmother on the end of the phone (It was appropriate in their context and industry). A Chief Executive I interviewed last week used an individual’s customers’ journey to engaging them to tease out what a new approach meant for the organisation and how it needed to respond. In another case the example of a project with a particular organisation was used as the concrete example of how the big management consultancy was to change the way it thought about engagements. In every example the wider mission, vision and strategy is being explained through concrete examples. Concrete examples that are easy to relate to.
One of the points of this approach is to give people a tangible experience of what “good” or “Management” feels like. If you start to treat customers on the end of the phone “Like your grandmother” you start to build up experiences and a common experience of what that means. People can relate to that. Starting with Excellent customer service gives people no concrete reference point nor any shared experience. It can mean too much to any one person, let alone a team or an entire organisation. So you can see how stories help this process.
What can we do about vague mission, vision and strategy statements. Immediately follow them with examples, stories and reference points that provide that concrete common ground. That way people can start to build up their understanding of that new way of working and share it amongst others. They remove the vagueness for you, once you give them the fridge from which to work.
Posted on | September 23, 2011 | Comments Off
Why do many (corporate) mission or vision statements omit the obvious?
TO MAKE MONEY
“To create a return on the capital invested in the organisation by the owners and funders.”
Are their mission or vision statements pandering to a different audience?
Are they really what the owners investors think?
Are they some sort of manager aspiration?
It seems to me to be the elephant in the room in these discussions about mission and vision…..
Why are people, nay organisations, not honest about this!
Posted on | August 3, 2011 | Comments Off
Whilst researching my next book, I was discussing with a Chief Executive how he communicated the culture his organisation.
He explained that they published the revenue, margin and profit from every deal on the wall. Everyone knew what the overheads were so that they knew how many deals covered their expenses for the month. Everyone could see the cash position so they knew the the implications of giving any credit terms to a major customer. Every month they all say down and discussed the organisation’s finances and cash position.
In essence, he deliberately created financial literacy and awareness in the business. He made everyone aware and so responsible for the finances.
This is not the first example of owners exposing the organisation’s finances to their staff, that I have come across in my interviews.
Contrast this with most organisations: You join the company and the finances are never mentioned. You probably do not even know the costs of the department you are in, let alone the margin or contribution. You might get an annual profit figure or turnover figure. Unless you are in sales, you are probably not looking at turnover (and in some cases not looking at margin or contribution).
It is as if it is all a secret.
What is going on here?
In these businesses, you are being treated as an employee. In this Chief Executive’s Business, you are being treated as a part of the business, a member of the business, responsible for the business.
This is a dramatic mind shift in how you treat people.
- As a manager or executive, just try the difference: “I employ people” vs “I have people in my business”
- As someone employed in a business, try “I am a part of this business” vs “I am an employee”
Notice the difference.
What would happen if we asked people to behave as if it were their business? What would happen if we exposed the finances to people and explained what things costed and where the costs went.
What would happen of the public sector thought of themselves as “in the business of public sector service provision”? Would it change the way the cuts are explained? Would it change how people felt about the cuts that are being made at the moment?
And why does this not happen in larger businesses? Just because you are in a large organisation, or a department that supports other departments, does that mean you should not be aware of what it costs and the value you should be providing?
How would it change how you communicate strategy, improvements and change?
Are you employing employees, or bringing people into your business to be a part of your business? I will let you decide.
Posted on | July 15, 2011 | Comments Off
What have we been discussing?
Communication of strategy is not just about talking. Its about people being different. Having different needs. Thinking in different ways and having different views of the world. You can hear it in their language, see it in their behaviour, and sense it in their actions, emotions and persona.
Its about how people rationalise things: You all know a “But”er. No matter what you say, they will say “Ah, but…” and discuss the exception. They intrinsically agree with all the positive things, but never say so. They go straight to the exceptions and differences. They are a real frustration to the “matchers” who look for similarity in things – “Isn’t this just like the old strategy”. You know the conversations. But to a “But”er, the conversation is tedious, “We all agree on that – let’s sort out the issues and exceptions”.
Some people are toward people and look to the future – “Won’t it be great when as achieve this”. They really frustrate and get frustrated by the away from people who say “Yes but how will we get out of this/stop doing this/ win more customers”.
Some people are “big chunk” and take the helicopter view, whilst others are “small chunk” and drive into the detail. “I can really see how this will change the way we do business”. “Yes, but what about the way they work in customer service”
It’s the same with strategy. The executive team have spent a good amount of time gathering facts, developing hypotheses, thinking things through and done all these things amongst themselves. It’s too easy to try and short cut the approach for the rest of the organisation – Fanfare… Here it is and this is where we are going now.
It is much more about planning how the message will be communicated. Not just to who, but how, in a way that will touch their emotional senses, the way people think and the way they work.
Communicating strategy is about communicating:
• The where?
• The why?
• The how?
It is about communicating them in a variety of different ways that touches the many different ways that people think and behave in your organisation.
It is about communicating the messages and the actions: Where to focus attention and how high to jump.
It is about giving everyone a sense of purpose so they can think “How can I contribute to the strategy?”
Most importantly it is a continuous process. Strategy formulation does not stop with the business plans. You need to sense what is going on, inside and outside the organisation and react to those signals. To listen to the feedback, learn and change the message or do something different if it is not working.
So strategy communication is just like any other effective communication. It’s a two-way process that requires rapport, listening skills and the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.keep looking »