Business leaders must address customer, competitor and industry dynamics more rapidly than ever before. To keep pace, many executive teams cast new visions and strategies for their businesses … then ask the organization to “skate to where the puck is headed.”
After all, that’s what it takes to compete in the modern world, right?
True. To compete in today’s business environment, organizations have to be extremely agile and adaptive.
However, there is one caveat.
You can’t let your vision, strategy and external story get too far out in front of your organization.
What this means is, business leaders must remember … there are two parts to every strategy and story.
Sure, there’s the market-facing strategy and story you share with customers, partners and investors that are designed to pull the organization forward and capture new opportunities.
But there is also the “operational” strategy and story that must be shared with employees. The story that bridges where you are today and how you are going to realize the vision you are chasing.
This is the critical step in the “change process” many executives forget about. They under-estimate the impact a shift in their vision/strategy and story can actually have on the mindset, behavior and performance of their workforce. Then, when new strategies and stories are launched, executive teams wonder why everyone isn’t re-energized. Why the organization isn’t embracing the change and all the greatness that will come as a result.
Well, the main reason is because the external strategy and story has not been “translated” into an employee-facing story that answers the most critical questions …
What’s in it for me?
What are you asking me to do differently?
What is going to change … what is not going to change?
How is this going to impact my role now and in the future?
What’s our game plan/timeline for getting there?
What does success look like in 12, 18, 36 months?
Simply put, you need to share a well-defined and clear story with your employees about how the vision/strategy is going to be “operationalized” across the business.
We see it happen time and again. The strategy and external story get way out in front, and large segments of the employee population are left behind asking, “What does all of this mean?” When this happens, employees get confused. They become apprehensive. They start to question if they even have a role in the story being shared in the market. All of these things drive up voluntary attrition and customer confusion, and they ultimately drive down organizational performance.
It happens when new product or service offerings are introduced; when organizational transformation initiatives are launched; when executive teams reset the go-to-market vision, strategy and story.
Now, we aren’t advocating that you slow down. We aren’t even saying you shouldn’t ask your organization to “skate to where the puck is headed.” But what we are saying is that you can’t forget the other part of the story. The part your employees need to hear, understand and embrace if you are going to operationalize change and capture the opportunities you are chasing.