Several years ago, I was asked to host a conference for a prestigious organisation based in the UK but with a global reach. The CEO and their leadership team had each prepared a presentation outlining their take on the organisation’s strategy. I can’t remember exactly how many slides their were in the collective PowerPoint decks, but it reached into the mid-hundreds.
Those attending were expected to listen passively to presentation after presentation, containing thousands of bullet points and a staggering volume of business numbers.
In the planning stages, I asked a simple question that changed the shape of the event and saved the attendees from a conference educed coma.
“If this event is hugely successful, how will you know?”
Outcomes-based strategic communication
This outcomes-based question is as straightforward as it is powerful. When we shift our communications to be outcomes-based rather than content-based, we get a very different result. This is especially important when creating an aligned view of organisational strategy.
In this case, the CEO was crystal clear. They wanted the broader leadership community to feel engaged in the strategy, have total clarity on their individual contribution to the achievement of the strategic goals, and confidently communicate the strategy’s relevant aspects to their team members.
When I pointed out that hosing a passive audience with PowerPoint slide after PowerPoint slide for two days would drive them further away from the outcomes rather than closer, they agreed to turn the whole event on its head.
Creating a shared view of your organisation’s strategy starts with clear communication outcomes, but that is just the starting point. The next step is even more at odds with the traditional rollout process.
Creating emotional connection to your strategy
Rarely are emotion and strategy mentioned in the same sentence. But considering state as part of your engagement process is an enhancement that is seldom used and hugely powerful.
Once you have defined your outcomes, the next question you should answer is, ‘what emotional state would best support the achievement of these outcomes?’ If I reflect on the CEO’s outcomes in the earlier example, the emotions are quite obvious; engagement, clarity, and confidence.
Sometimes your outcomes might require a different cocktail of states. The strategy engagement process I was involved in required a sense of pride about what the organisation was working to achieve and a slight sense of nervousness about what could happen if the team didn’t work together to achieve the strategic goals.
Creating the experience
You will probably have noticed that I haven’t mentioned anything about the content of any communication so far. In my approach to strategic communication and alignment, only once the outcomes and associated states are defined do we explore what experiences we should create to drive those states and achieve those outcomes.
I am not saying that content isn’t important, but it is worth remembering that any information that we want people to have will be available online or in presentations that they can access at any time.
The real magic in ensuring that people have a shared view of your organisation’s strategy is that engagement comes not from consuming information but from creating value, meaning, belief and action.
If you can help your people to care about the strategy and to see how they contribute to its achievement of it, then the creation of a shared view of that strategy across your organisation will happen organically.