Aligning Employees on Strategy – The Art of Strategic Dialogues

Why do strategies fail? Apart from making wrong choices, one topic stands out: failure to engage teams and help them understand a new strategy. Strategy communication is so crucial, yet few companies truly nail it. 

Before you can link individual roles, responsibilities, and targets to the strategy, people need to understand what the strategy means for them. The famous WIIFM – what’s in it for me, both from a rational and an emotional perspective. 

Create a go-to strategy communication manual

Ideally, you have created a one-source-of-truth, a document with key messages addressing different target groups, depending on whom you want to reach with your communication. I call this piece an Organizational Intent Document. It holds all aspects of your identity, from strategic to cultural elements. This document is your go-to when preparing to engage your teams.

Dialogues about strategy shouldn’t be one-off events

I can only stress the need for clear, transparent, and consistent communication throughout the organization. Share the rationale behind the strategy and how it aligns with the organization’s identity. This is not a communication one-off. Rather a way to engage teams and make identity and strategy a priority, and everyone’s ‘thing’. 

Use every opportunity to communicate, every day – even if you feel you communicated enough. Try to over-communicate, and you might just hit the right level of communication. 

While almost every interaction is a chance to communicate

Here are a few particularly relevant opportunities: 

  • Individual check ins
  • Regular team meetings
  • Team development events
  • Dedicated strategic dialogue sessions (see more below)
  • Town hall meetings
  • Skip level meetings
  • Team dinners and other social events
  • Training sessions

Here’s a tool that has proven helpful for my clients – and I hope it’ll help you as well: 

Strategic Dialogue Sessions 

A strategic dialogue session is a vehicle to generate conversation, debate, and engagement in the topic of strategy. It is also a way to ensure you have not overlooked anything, and that you are open to being challenged by differing views and ideas.

How it works:

Once you have communicated the strategy in ways that help your teams gain a solid understanding, facilitate a conversation using these example questions: 

  • Where do you see our team contributing to the strategy already today? 
  • In which ways do you feel our team can best contribute in the future? 
  • What else could we do to support the strategy? 
  • Which areas of the strategy can we impact the most, and how? 
  • What unconventional ideas do you have to make our contribution visible?

Start here, and let the team take over gradually, addressing their questions. Make sure you facilitate conversations that create clarity and add more understanding. These dialogues are about helping your teams understand. Let them ask questions, listen.

Use jargon free language your teams understand. If you don’t have an answer, be honest about it, and tell them when you will come back with an answer. 

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Main image by Dušan Veverkolog