When I work with clients to help them execute their strategies, one of the most important issues they seem to face is getting staff buy-in to the new strategy. I often hear the question: What do we have to do to get staff buy-in to this new strategy?
Like any experienced consultant, my answer is usually: “It depends.” It depends on your organizational culture. Is this an organization in which people are used to being told from on high what the strategy is and then they go out and execute in lock-step? Or, is it a culture based on consensus, where everyone has the need to ruminate, provide input, and discuss every last detail?
Communicating Your Strategy Is the Most Important Job
If the former is the case, you probably just need to do an effective job of communicating the strategy to staff. Communicate in more than one way because the odds are that not everyone reads every email, bulletin board posting, or table tent in the cafeteria. And, communicate often. For those sending the message, it often seems like overkill, but if the odds are that no one reads everything, the odds are also that everyone reads something. This way you’re bound to reach everyone a few times. Also, make sure the message is concise and not just in text. That’s why strategy maps are great tools for communicating strategy – they use words and pictures to convey the meaning.
If your organization’s culture is more consensus based, that usually means everyone feels the need to have their say before they are on board with any new strategy. In this case a great way to get them on board is to get them involved in developing the strategy. Let’s be clear here, I am in no way advocating letting the inmates run the asylum. Leadership teams are put in
place to lead and that includes developing an organization’s strategy and making sure it is implemented.
Managers Should Develop the Metrics, Rationalize Initiatives
However, there are points in the development of the strategy where you can get other levels of the organization involved. If your senior leadership team developed the key strategic objectives, but you are going to use metrics or indicators to track your progress, have managers at the next level down lead this process. They are closer to the front lines and probably have a better idea of what measures will work. This process also often leads to minor revisions of strategic objectives, which will help give them ownership of the process.
Mid-level managers can help with aligning your initiatives to the strategy. They usually have the best knowledge of the projects going on throughout the organization so they are best positioned to see how they align with the strategy. They can also engage in a gap analysis and rationalization process to come up with new strategic initiatives and eliminate duplicative or non-strategic ones. Again, this participation in the strategic planning process helps them take ownership of the strategy.
All Staff Need "Line-of-Sight" to the Enterprise Strategy
Finally, all staff can go through the exercise of looking at their organization’s strategy and articulating two to three ways in which they can directly contribute to it. You’d be surprised how with a good strategy, everyone should be able to find a way in which they contribute. Enabling employees to have this “line-of-sight” from what they do to the overall enterprise strategy is critical to getting even the lowest level employees on board and excited about your strategy.