It’s one thing to have a strategy plan for your business, or organisation, or department or team… but it’s quite another to execute that plan through to results. Sadly, many strategies fall down the ‘execution gap’ and are not effectively turned from objectives and goals into operational outcomes.
Of course, we have lots of advice on how to successfully execute a strategic plan – that is what we help our customer do after all 😉 – but before you get into best practice ways to run strategic execution, there’s an important first step to ensuring your strategy plan becomes a reality. That first step is to win the hearts and minds of your people.
Getting your people and teams to buy-in to the strategy is a fundamental requirement for successful strategic execution. A strategic plan is sure to fail if the people responsible for undertaking the tasks necessary to achieve the strategic objectives are not motivated by the vision, do not believe in the plan or just do not care about its success.
You need your people to believe in your strategy: to recognise how it will benefit the organisation and your customers/clients/beneficiaries, how that will enrich their working lives (and even personal lives), and how they are instrumental to its success.
A motivated team member will be a more productive team member, so you need to spend some proper time engaging your people and securing their enthusiasm for your strategy. So, here are our top tips for ensuring you secure employee buy-in for your plan.
Get them involved early-on
Present it right
Keep presenting it
Make the plan accessible
Allow comment and participation
Embed it in the everyday
Show them how they contribute
Train your managers to reinforce the strategy plan
Link your appraisal process to the strategy
Keep everyone updated on progress
Let’s look at each of these in more depth…
While you may not want to open up your whole strategic planning process to the entire organisation – too many cooks and all that – you might want to consider what areas of the process you could extend out to include more members of the wider business.
The more people are involved with the formulation of a plan, the more invested they will be in it. Some aspects of strategy building that are suited to wider participation are defining your company values and creating your vision statement.
Both of these exercises can be conducted in a workshop setting. You can run a series of workshops inviting different people from across the business to each session, and then collate the outputs – spotting trends and commonalities will be useful. Both the creation of values and the vision statement exercise will benefit from this wider input, since they need to emotionally resonate with your people.
How you present the strategy plan to the wider business needs careful consideration. You want their first experience of the strategy to be engaging, interesting and clear, and then you want to ensure the people in your business interact with the strategy on an ongoing basis and in an interesting way.
If we think about that first presentation to begin with… they say first impressions count, so make sure you capture their attention from the off. Clarity should be the focus for the first presentation of the company strategy. No one will buy into a strategy they do not understand. So, make sure you present the plan in a way that avoids confusion and makes it all crystal clear.
With that in mind, think about the structure of your plan. There are a number of different tried and tested ways to lay out a strategy, from the Strategy Tree to a VMOST Analysis. Whatever structure you chose, make sure there is a clear journey from your overall Vision through to a set of specific Strategic Objectives which then filter down into tangible goals and initiatives with particular targets.
If you’re using Lucidity to build and execute your strategy, you’ll have your plan automatically structured in this easily digestible way. If you’re not using Lucidity, consider a similar approach to your structure to ensure you can easily show your people the overall ambition and then make it real and tangible with specifics.
Make it visual. Many people in your business will be visual learners and associating particular graphics to, say, each of your core objectives will aid memory, make it more engaging and help make it digestible.
Think about the words and language you use. Do not risk obscuring meaning with terms and language that is too complicated or jargon filled. Remember, this is about getting everyone in the business to understand what the plan is and to get behind it. So, think about everyone in the business – all the different skill levels, job functions and interests. Don’t have phrases in your vision statement, or labels for your strategic objectives that sound like something out of an MBA textbook. Keep the words you’re using as clear and straight-forward as possible. And don’t have too many! Brevity is important. You want everyone to go away remembering the core elements of the plan so think in terms of short, punchy headlines that will stick in people’s minds.
Frequency is important! Don’t just present the strategy once and walk away – keep showing it, every opportunity you get. Don’t stand in front of a packed room, or present down a video conference line, and consider that job done. People need to see and hear things a few times before it’s committed to memory. And the more your people hear the plan, the more they get used to it and start to accept it.
But, of course, we’re not just after acceptance, we want whole-hearted buy-in and enthusiasm. And for that, it’s best to allow people to interact with the plan themselves, spend some quality time getting to know it, some alone time.
Therefore, you need to make sure people know where they can see the plan for themselves – read the detail, reflect on it, refer back to it whenever they need to.
Which brings us onto our next point…
Do not confine the strategy plan to static PowerPoint decks and spreadsheets saved in different places. Burying the plan on an intranet that’s hard to navigate or in files and folders in multiple locations will act as a barrier for people.
So, keep everything together in one place (so people only have to find one location) and make that place easy to access, ideally cloud-based, so it can be reached securely anywhere by whoever needs to see it.
Remote access is an absolute fundamental requirement these days. You must ensure it can easily be accessed remotely, without a complicated login path and process. If you’re concerned about any security implications, you really needn’t be. If you use the right system (like Lucidity 👋) you can ensure bank-grade security and still allow frictionless access.
Having a digital home for your strategy like this will also ensure that your plan will always be up-to-date. You can be confident that everyone is looking at the same up-to-date version of the strategy with each element presented in a consistent format for easy understanding.
It’s a good idea to invite comment and feedback on the strategy plan. That will encourage your people to take another look, back at their desks, and spend a bit of time reflecting on what it means for them and their area of the business.
Try and open up a dialogue – invite comment, get some discussion going, spark engagement. This can help people feel listened to, involved and invested.
Of course, you don’t want to imply that you’re not confident in the plan or that it’s not well considered, solid and set, but you don’t want to appear closed-minded and unreceptive to feedback or ideas.
And, importantly, don’t just appear to be open to feedback or suggestions…. Actually do give sensible suggestions the consideration they deserve. You might find some valuable insight and ideas you hadn’t thought of. You may uncover some hidden strategic talent within your organisation.
Think of it as a L&D opportunity for everyone in your business. You are encouraging them to engage with the strategy and giving them a chance to try out or hone their strategic thinking skills (and if you ever want to show people how they can develop that skill further you can point them to our guide on How to Think Strategically ).
Not to keep harping on about Lucidity here, but we do have a communication feed built around your strategy plan which is perfect for promoting just this sort of engagement 😉
Buy-in isn’t just about some initial enthusiasm and high fiving during the company meeting when the plan is first presented, it needs to be about winning people’s longer-term commitment and focus.
You want people to maintain that engagement with your strategy plan even when they are back at their desks weeks after that meeting happened. For that to happen, you have to make the strategy real for them – it has to kept front-of-mind and have some impact on their everyday tasks.
On a simple level you could decorate the working environment with visuals and headlines from the plan. Paint the icons and titles of the five or so strategic objectives on the walls – maybe one in each meeting room. You could print the vision statement on the office stationery, splash it all over a Zoom background possibly. The idea here is to get it into people’s eyeline while they go about their tasks.
But to take this further, the real key to imbedding the strategy into the everyday working lives of your people, is to have your task management process link back to your strategy. This way team members can see a direct path from the task they are working on that day to the strategic goal that impacts and the strategic objective that helps achieve.
That approach to task management, with all tasks being related to a goal or initiative that sits under one of your core strategic objectives is the best way to show everyone in your organisation how they contribute to the plan – they can see it there for themselves on screen.
Contribution is one of the most important factors for securing buy-in. Your people need to feel part of this strategic drive. You want all team members to feel involved and part of a shared vision and collaborative journey to success 🙌
So make sure you cover how each area of the business contributes to the overall strategy in your bigger presentations of the plan, then run the more detailed task management and projects with a link back to the goals and objectives. But also ensure team and individual contribution is reinforced verbally in each team meeting, 1-2-1 and day-to-day encounter.
And for that to happen, you’ll need to think about our next tip…
To achieve that strong link between everyday tasks and the strategic plan, you’ll need to have your managers reinforce that contribution at every opportunity. It’s worth running all your manager’s through some sort of training where you outline how to do that and make your expectations of them clear.
You could set an objective for each manager to have their team members all be able to say what the pillars of your strategy are and articulate how they contribute.
Your managers should encourage all their team members to prioritise based on what has strategic importance. Managers should be telling their team to focus on what will make the biggest impact to the strategy plan to grow the business.
The Strategy should be reinforced in every 1-2-1 meeting between manager and employee, doing things from reviewing the whole plan together to structuring the meetings around each core objective.
You need your managers to be motivating their teams day-to-day based on how they are driving the plan.
And don’t forget the ‘why’. One crucial element of this manager training is to make sure they all know why. Why is the overall vision important? Why is this the best way to achieve success? Why should they care? After all, buy-in is all about the why – truly securing buy-in means having your people believe in the why, not just remembering the how.
Once you've shown people how they contribute to the plan, make sure you put your money where your mouth is and actually base your appraisal process on that contribution. Have the company strategy cascade down to become the basis for each employee’s personal objectives.
And since we’re talking about buy-in here, consider your approach to reward and recognition around the strategy. From formal, higher-value performance based bonus schemes that reward significant contribution to the strategic plan, all the way down to spot-awards of token prizes when someone has worked hard to support an important initiative.
One important way to win people around to a strategy plan to is show how it is working. Celebrating small wins and showing progress will help the believers stay engaged and enthusiastic and can also start to win-over those who need a little more convincing.
So regularly share updates and wins. Not just in big quarterly meetings, but also on a smaller scale, more frequently.
Whatever your chosen internal comms tool is, make sure you use it to share strategic updates. From individual tasks being completed, to goal milestones being hit, to full targets being met. The small wins to the big successes.
Consider email updates – both newsletter-style regular communications on how the plan is progressing and shorter, real-time notifications that a milestone has been hit or a task completed.
Ideally, you’d want this to be automated to save time and resource, and to ensure it actually happens. Hey, guess what, Lucidity can help with that!
So, those are our top tips for getting everyone behind the strategy and working hard to make it a success. Good luck with winning the hearts and minds of your team.
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