HAVE YOU CONSIDERED? Uplifting Strategy

We have great strategic plan but nobody seems to get it. lot of time and energy has been put into developing it and we have spent quite lot of money on preparing communication plans and documentation. But when I talk to people in the organisation they don’t seem to understand what we are trying to do. Is this usual and, if so, how do people get round the problem?

It is not unusual for managers to become frustrated with the take-up of important messages that they want the people in their organisation to understand and commit to. For example, when an organisation develops strategy this will often involve the management team who are excited by what they plan to do and are fully committed. They meet over period of time, debate concepts, test their thinking and then finally document the plan. In doing so they will often not only build strategic plan but also determine the behaviours that are needed in the organisation to ensure it is fully capable.
A management team that has worked long and hard at building plan can easily become frustrated when the rest of the organisation doesn’t immediately see the value of what has been done. However, they are failing to see that they have been through quite lengthy process themselves. The rest of the people in the organisation haven’t had the benefit of this process and therefore are not able to just read the plan and accept it. They need more.
A starting point for success in communicating strategy, or any important information, is to consider developing “lift speech”. Imagine you have just got into lift and are going to go up four floors. As you get in someone else you know gets in, looks at you and asks, “What does your organisation do?” The idea is to have prepared statement that encapsulates the critical message that you want the person to hear. For example, someone might say to me, “What does NZIM do?” I would immediately say, “Our main aim is to help build management and organisational capability in New Zealand. We do this by delivering over 300 training courses per year and organising networking events for members.” The other person is left with the critical information I want them to have. The benefit of this is that you have delivered clear and focused statement that is short and easy to grasp.
If the management team define similar “lift speech” to communicate their new strategy they can quickly spread the word in casual conversations with people across the organisation. This works very effectively as people will take their cues from the behaviour and actions of the management team members. They hear simple statement and with that comes understanding. Once they understand they are able to think about it and start to commit. This will not go the whole way to resolving your strategy implementation issues but it is well worth considering as starting point.

We hear lot about how the younger people of today have different values and drivers. Generation X is ambitious and self driven and Generation Y wants to have good work-life balance. Has there been an impact on the way today’s younger managers behave?

Recently I was judge in the New Zealand Institute of Management Young Executive of the Year Awards. I was very impressed by the skills and attitudes demonstrated by the nominees. It was challenging task to shortlist candidates and then to choose an overall winner.
During the process I noticed series of themes that all of the candidates appeared to demonstrate. Given that they were all 35 or younger it seems that this is good indicator of the behaviour of current young managers. The first theme they demonstrated was that they were prepared to take the initiative when required and this created leadership direction which others could see and get involved with. Another theme was the nominees had all experienced responsibilities outside of their own areas of professional discipline.
They also demonstrated strong project management experience with notable successes. They were involved in the application of new technologies. This ranged from wireless-based information systems through to leading-edge production technology.
Another noticeable theme was their focus on both the financial and the people aspects of the business. Not so long ago the focus would have been on finance and systems improvement. It seems that the shift to people management recognises the fact that most organisations today can only truly compete through engaging their employees more fully in the business and creating an environment of innovation. Further, the nominees demonstrated that they led by example and were willing to readily move outside of their comfort zones. This type of behaviour tends to create the opportunity for innovation and learning. They also clearly had good grasp of the core business drivers for their own business and understood how their business worked overall.
Underneath this it was clear they were very passionate about what they were doing and were confident and committed. They also had excellent communication and influencing skills. Finally, each one of these Young Executive nominees had clear vision of where they were heading, not only in their own careers, but also in their lives. Overall it appears that these young managers were demonstrating the core competencies of management to high level. The key generational difference detected was their focus on both financial outcomes and achieving engagement of the people in their organisations.

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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