So what is it that makes understanding business strategy so difficult and confusing for people? If a business’s strategy is so fundamental to it’s growth and indeed survival surely it should be crystal clear for everyone who needs to know about it.
So, who needs to know and fully understand what the strategy is about and what it means? Think of all the stakeholders involved in your business whether you are public or private or listed or not-for-profit. If you list someone or a particular group as a stakeholder then they need to understand your strategy. Does the way you communicate your strategy differ depending on who you are dealing with? Well, it ought to but it must say the same thing – different audiences need different styles of communication.
If you list someone or a particular group as a stakeholder then they need to understand your strategy
Don’t be tempted to bring in an outside organization to produce your strategy for you. It’s only you and your people who know everything there is to know about your organization; where you want to get to and the way you intend going about it. There are many consultancies out there who have a great deal of expertise in this area given that they see many businesses but if you do want to engage one of them make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and use them to help facilitate your strategy development process.
Once your strategy is nearing completion you should be able to test it for usefulness. It should be readable and understandable to all stakeholders and it must hold their attention. If it looks as though you will end up with a huge strategy document full of management cliches that no-one really understands but sounds good then you know that somewhere along the line the development process has gone off track. Take the opportunity to correct it before going public both internally and externally and make sure you can answer the ‘What does that mean?’ question for each element of your strategy.
Your strategy should be readable and understood by all stakeholders – it must hold their attention
A good strategy is one that is implementable and furthers the growth of the business, it’s not just a glossy that sits on the low tables in reception. Having said this, in order to assist in the furthering of growth it is as much about communication as anything else. If people in your business don’t understand it then there is no way you can hold them to account if their actions and decisions are not aligned with the strategy.
A good strategy is as much about communication as anything else
Two simple checks of whether your Strategy is effective
- Communication is key – Can you explain your Strategy in words of one syllable to others including board-members, co-workers, investors, suppliers, journalists and others. It’s not their fault if implementation is not as expected or if confused messages get out if the Strategy wasn’t simple enough to understand.
- Implement and Refine – A great Strategy is only great if it can be implemented when needed. If your development process takes months and months and the big announcement is delayed so that you can publish large and complicated strategy documents then chances are the strategy will already have passed its ‘sell by date’. Better to develop – implement – refine on a regular basis rather than spending 12 months or more coming up with something that is perfect for last year. If your strategy needs to be refined then refine it and implement it, don’t wait around for an annual review.
Having an understandable strategy that people can implement within a business seems like a simple thing to aspire to yet all too often the development of the strategy becomes an academic exercise that few can comprehend. There is nothing wrong in business with explaining things in easily understandable language and the more you do so the better the chances that your people, customers and investors will know what you are talking about.