If you thought creating a new strategy for your business was tough, that's probably the bad news-because you've only just begun. While you and the rest of the leadership team have been busy creating alignment, creating the strategy, and deciding who you want to be when you grow up, here's the reality: the hard work really starts as you deploy this new strategy across the organization.
Why is the deployment and execution of strategy so tough? Because most new strategies bring conflict adversity, and change out of necessity.
If the strategy truly is different, it's probably going to make more than a few people a little uncomfortable. And, you'll likely have to deal with some conflict among your peers that will likely trickle down to the rest of the organization.
While leaders can usually agree intellectually at a high level, the devil is in the details. At the next level where the conflict and behavior live, getting a group of leaders not just to reconcile what they want to achieve, but to agree upon the course of action needed to get there, is no easy task.
When it comes to strategy deployment, leaders are in a tough position that is counterintuitive to what they think they're supposed to do. Typically you make a decision and deploy it. However, strategy execution isn't so simple.
First, leaders must align on the new set of beliefs and then agree upon how they need to run the business differently to bring those beliefs to life through aligned priorities, behaviors, culture changes, etc.
In large organizations this means getting a lot of important people to come together as one. While this might seem a little daunting, don't throw in the towel. This proven three-phase approach can help you and your leadership team launch your strategy in a way that resonates and lasts. But we didn't say it would be easy.
Phase one: Be the change
When it comes to a new strategy rollout, the biggest complaint heard from the troops at most organizations - regardless of the industry - isn't about the strategy itself, but rather skepticism that leaders will actually change their behaviors to bring it to life.
Sadly, most leaders admit to being good at "creating the presentation deck and hitting send." The reality is that a mere email blast or all-company presentation is not enough to inspire people to act, and a PowerPoint is certainly not impactful or engaging enough to get people on board with big change.
The first thing leaders need to worry about is themselves. You need to figure out how to be the example you want to see in others. In this phase, you must exhibit your commitment in an authentic and believable way.
You should be the very first ones supporting the new strategy by changing your beliefs, behaviors, and processes so everything is in concert with the new strategy. You will have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Phase two: Don't communicate. Illuminate.
There's no denying you've worked hard on the new company strategy. In fact, you've spent so many hours working on it that you, and the rest of the leadership team, can easily state the strategy verbatim. However, you have to do more than just state the mission to your people.
Bring the meaning of the strategy to light by creating actual examples of what it looks like and how everyone can contribute. Visual tools like videos, stories, pictures, and games can go a long way in helping people grasp what's about to happen and how their role will change.
Literally showing people the way will change the whole experience for them and for you because most people need to see an example of the behavior or process change they need to display - a tangible way to grasp the difference between "what was" and "what now needs to be."
The last thing you can do is assume that people will make this leap on their own. It doesn't mean they're all idiots because they can't seem to figure out what you're telling them. It means that if you want it to happen in the right way, you need to paint a clear picture so there's no room for interpretation.
Phase three: Change mindset
Among the biggest challenges for leaders of strategies is changing their mindset on the strategy execution process. They have to eradicate the idea that strategy is either pass or fail. In reality, it needs to be viewed with a rigorous mentality. There will be frustrations, setbacks, roadblocks.
You don't go into a new workout or meet a fitness goal expecting to get it exactly right the first time you exercise. The other challenge is that leaders can't expect the strategy to be accomplished overnight. It needs to be viewed as a three-year challenge.
For example, let's say you've decided that by the time you turn 50 in three years, you're going to participate in an triathlon. Yet you're not a good swimmer, you haven't ridden a bike since you were 14, and the furthest you've run to date is a 5K. So clearly, this is going to be a challenge.
Nevertheless, you approach it with the mindset of creating a rigorous workout mentality. You recognize that it requires a clear approach, a set of steps to achieve that goal and milestones to achieve along the way.
The only way to build capability in a fitness program or in strategy execution is to do it over time through a series of successes and setbacks, while learning from those mistakes along the way. It's not pass or fail.
When you see your people slowly moving from an attitude of cynicism and skepticism to being interested in exploring what you have to say, and ending up as your advocates, then you will know you've done it right!
You will start to see business outcomes that you may have once thought were not possible. Your turnover will be down because people will truly want to be part of what you've got going on. Performance will skyrocket and you will find yourself amidst a group of enthusiastic, engaged individuals working together toward a common goal that they not only understand but also believe in.