There is so much data analysis and information sifting during strategic planning processes, we can forget that to gain momentum for execution our great strategic plan. For a plan to be well implemented it must be well understood and embraced widely. To do this leadership teams must integrate their strategic goals and planning assumptions into an exciting and compelling story of future success. Are you ready to spin your tale?
Everyone has seen a video clip of the iconic CEO on a huge stage (casually dressed thanks to Steve Jobs) with beautiful, high resolution photography of products or branding images mesmerizing you as he or she slowly lays out a story about the birth of this great new thing and the ambitious plans for how it will “change the world”. Great corporate mythology spun right in front of your eyes. Amazing!
You don’t have to be that good, but you do need to make sure that you can tell an elegant, complete and compelling story of the future. Storytelling needs to be a part of your strategic management tool kit.
To increase understanding and alignment of your strategic plan, your strategic plan story must:
- Bridge where you have been, to where you want to go and you must layout clear milestones along the way so that your audience doesn't have to fill in the gap to fear that you have created a big gap with the new strategic direction. We call this an Air-Sandwich.
- Engage with your audience’s deeply held beliefs about the future and have strong practical elements that anchor your story to these beliefs. This will sway the skeptics in your audience. Make sure you can get them thinking... “Huh, I see where this is heading…it could work.”
- Be repeated over and over and over again. It takes time for new concepts to be fully digested. You should expect that the first time a new audience hears your new plan they will be looking for the answer to one highly important question: "How does this impact me?" Often the answer to that question is hard to find in a high level strategic plan presentation, but they will be listening for it anyway. This means they have hardly heard what you have said. So, be prepared to communicate your new plan as often as possible.
- Connect with today's challenges. Use operational problem-solving conversations to connect to your new strategic goals too. At production meetings or management roundtables if something under discussion relates to a core element of your new plan, tell them how. Even if in your plan it will take months or years to fully address the situation, still connect the dots of the strategic thinking to the current business realities. This will help those focused primarily on the day to day relate to the new strategic plan in a meaningful way.
- Tie current accomplishments or performance metrics to the new strategy or strategic goals whenever possible.. When your wins today set you up to take the next steps outlined in your strategic plan, say that. This will help deepen the awareness of the momentum you are leveraging to win in the future.
If you are in a position of leadership, take the time to craft your epic story and find ways to weave it into your communications whenever and where ever possible. You will get momentum behind it and see it manifested in front of your eyes.