In this series of four articles, we are introducing the seven stages of the recently accredited Intrafocus Strategic Planning Process (SPP), which has been endorsed by the CPD Certification Service.
After moving through values, objectives and KPI setting, it’s time to focus on strategic projects and the importance of strategic communication.
Projects and actions
The strategic process described so far takes us up to the natural process of creating actions and projects. Actions tend to be implemented to correct an issue, and strategic projects are identified to deliver desirable changes or improvements.
Business decision-makers tend to like ‘quick win’ remedial actions for obvious reasons – they offer an instant and potentially large impact and tend to be low in cost.
Strategic projects tend to have a larger budget and timeframe because they are in place to initiate a more profound change. In fact, they will drive the changes that will enable objectives, KPIs and targets to really make a difference.
The good news is that it is relatively simple to identify strategic projects using the solid strategic foundation created thus far. As your decision-makers have progressed through the SPP, they will have been naturally thinking about the work that needs to happen to stimulate changes. In fact, we find that when leaders begin to list out projects, they struggle to stop!
This stage should be slightly more detailed than the Post-It labelling exercises we suggested in earlier stages. Describe projects, quick-wins and general nuggets of activities that need to happen. Then, select the most important ones, using paired comparisons or even simple voting. We tend to use a matrix of scored selection criteria which promotes impartial ranking. The sorts of selection criteria you might consider include strategic benefits and the various costs of implementation and ongoing operation. By prioritising the most important projects, questions around funding and resourcing can also be considered as part of the decision-making process.
When your key projects have been identified, your project manager can then move ahead to plan the detail and implement a best-practice PM process for effective management.
At this point, it’s time to move to the phase that executives either get really excited about – or dread; business communication! Once the strategy is agreed and approved by stakeholders, it’s time to cascade it through the business. This will be done in a different way by each organisation, according to factors such as the geography and nature of its workforce, its resources and channels and whether the business is regulated or unregulated. However, here are some tips for success which apply across the board.
1. Assign Ownership
Every strategic objective, KPI and task in your business must have a named individual owner and not a departmental owner. Where people are given ownership, communication happens because they want to see, deliver and share their success.
For a business strategy to stay ‘alive’ and be embraced by all people within the organisation, it must be communicated regularly, consistently and in a compelling, engaging way that stimulates action.
Plan your communication activities well in advance. Consider a range of channels that match different learning styles, preferences and accessibility, including digital and face-to-face. Factor in methods to gain a feedback loop from your audience and to stimulate a two-way communication exchange. This will help you to refine what you do and continuously improve.
Your communication plan needs to consider different tiers of the audience and the messages that they need. Create regular strategic comms milestones as part of regular business communications and provide key messages and templates centrally, that make it easy for your managers to carry out team briefings and updates.
3. Apply marcomms principles
When communicating via marketing campaigns, marketers will segment their audience and tailor messages accordingly, using storytelling principles where possible for engagement and emotional resonance. Apply these principles when communicating internally for an effective internal communications campaign. Content can be repurposed for different groups, but key messages and the level of detail are likely to change. As an example, a presentation made at the executive level will be very different from a team brief made to frontline workers in an operational team huddle. Whilst your messages will stay consistent, your delivery style, methods and format will change.
Use local champions to give your messages life, personality and local context. Make use of your subject matter experts and employees who are recognised and respected at work. Seek out volunteers who are keen to get engaged in the business strategy. For example, you could provide centrally prepared team briefs for local team representatives to deliver at team meetings as part of their own development. This will also create a sense of local ownership and interest across all tiers of the organisation, and bring teams together behind the strategy as they begin to feel involved in it.
The Intrafocus Strategic Planning Process
You will find full details on each of the accredited Intrafocus SPP in our programme, which includes a detailed workbook, presentation and strategic plan template. Everything that you need to progress your organisation’s strategy from start to finish is provided, and our team of experts can also attend your business to host guided and facilitated strategy workshops as required. Please contact us via our Strategy Workshop page to find out more.