In retrospect, the irony makes it almost amusing. My team was tasked with rolling out a series of communication boards across our business unit and due to a breakdown in communication during roll-out, we suffered a false start. Those employees that needed to be engaged to make this roll-out successful weren’t effectively made aware of the benefits of this new tool and the associated changes to their routines, and as a result we were playing catch-up from the very beginning.

When implementing a change of any type, particularly a set of strategic objectives around which the organization needs to rally, properly communicating this throughout your organization is imperative. This post will describe the process for effectively communicating these objectives, and is the sixth post in an 11-part series describing the trajectorE Navigation System (tENS), a 10-step process for executing strategic growth & improvement projects.

Effective communication is a prerequisite for leadership, particularly in the context of leading change. Objectives, decisions and strategic plans are of no use unless they are properly communicated to those that need to implement them. There are thousands of little decisions made at all levels and in all areas of an organization so everyone needs to know the direction the organization is taking if these decisions are going to be all pointing in that same direction. This doesn’t happen by accident. Many leaders believe or assume that decisions and direction will magically permeate throughout an organization however in my experience this is not the case. Research backs this up as well; according to Forbes only 14% of employees understand their organization’s strategy.

The best way to ensure the effective communication of strategic objectives is to develop and execute a communication plan. A typical communication plan will define the objectives, audience, medium, timing and key messages to ensure consistent and purposeful communications. You may think that a communication plan is unnecessary paperwork, however as with any plan it isn’t the plan that matters as much as the planning process itself.

If we had taken the time to properly plan our communications when rolling out those performance boards, we would have realized that to motivate their consistent use on a daily basis (objective), we needed to engage the teams who were going to use them (audience) in person (medium) at their morning meetings (timing) to explain the intended benefits and how they could be used (key messages). Following that process would have increased their adoption rate, which would have led to the business benefits they were designed for.

A former colleague of mine frequently said that “high frequency, low amplitude [upsetting] communication is the best way to implement change.” This is to say that getting a group to change their behaviour is more likely if they hear a consistent message from a variety of sources over time as opposed to someone making one large declaration and then expecting people to change.

Conclusion

When implementing strategic initiatives, communication is possibly the most important piece of the puzzle, however unfortunately it often doesn’t get the attention that it deserves. The best way to ensure the effective communication of these initiatives is to develop and execute a communication plan that forces you to think through the process. Careful thought and effort on this aspect of implementation will increase your probability of success.

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