In last week’s blog, I outlined a challenge that a current client is facing in terms of rallying his organization around an existing vision and strategy. As we established, the organization needed to figure out how they could balance the need for leaders to establish their vision while at the same time, gaining commitment from more of its employees. A number of guiding principles emerged from that discussion are worth sharing:
- Leadership has an obligation to define the current reality of the business –challenges and opportunities, strengths and barriers – and to “chalk the field” for the future through the vision, strategy, and targets. If leaders don’t define “where we’re going,” how can they expect the rest of the business to determine “how we get there”?
- Leaders must involve a broader group of leaders in how the business will reach the future state and execute strategies through the next levels of leaders. These people must change from mere translators of strategy to ambassadors for the future state. The top leaders who defined the future state must take this next group on an accelerated version of their own journey so their involvement is focused on the right areas and content. Certain questions require answers that add depth to the strategy and broaden the rank of strategic architects. These are the questions focused on obstacles and barriers, the role of the broader group of leaders in deploying the strategy, and the connection between vision, strategies, and targets.
- These “strategy ambassadors” must deploy the vision and strategy and create the needed understanding, buy-in, and involvement. This understanding comes from allowing access to the same information that the strategy architects used to arrive at their own conclusions. The buy-in comes from the process of cascading the messages into the business and the opportunities for involvement created through the ongoing planning and executing at the team level.
Ongoing leader-led action planning at the team level sustains the energy and, more important, helps the organization to deepen and refine the activities needed to achieve the vision and future state. This process can create opportunities for leadership to communicate progress and affirm their commitment to the future state. Effective processes allow teams to confirm what is working, identify gaps in performance and results, define and prioritize obstacles, and action-plan against the most critical barriers. As you might imagine, our client realized there was no silver bullet for simultaneously establishing a compelling vision and engendering employee involvement for execution. However, by creating a process that allows the business to share content in an authentic manner that trusts the intelligence of the audience and asks the right questions, leaders can build a foundation of engagement that will propel the business toward its future state.