Once the organization's strategy has been set, the team will follow along right? Not necessarily. So often everyone goes back to work and the implementation of the strategy doesn't happen. I've found three gaps that, if closed, will help ensure implementation at the team level.
Gap #1: Lack of engagement.
The Fix: Engage each team with its own Mission Statement.
Often a team mission is a necessary but overlooked step. The team is rarely involved in setting the strategy, even if consulted along the way. And, the organizational strategy is often too broad to provide teams with the focus and inspiration required at their level. They need to have their own mission to truly align and then to clarify roles, responsibilities and accountabilities to ensure positive results. This takes extra time yet it saves time as team members become committed to implementation.
Gap #2: Inappropriate communication mechanisms.
The Fix: Team Leaders dialoguing and translating strategy.
It's important to change the way we communicate about strategy. Too many times we gather our teams into a large assembly or town hall to deliver messages about our strategic direction. We hope for quicker uptake with this approach and assume we've reached everyone efficiently and effectively. Although useful as a start, teams need to hear the message delivered to them from the person they trust most which is the individual they report to directly. They must also have the broader message about strategy "translated" into specific behaviors that affect their own working environment. This requires that each leader spend considerable face time dialoguing with the team and individuals on the team to ensure the strategic direction is translated into the right behaviors for implementation.
Gap #3: Collaboration across teams doesn't happen.
The Fix: Plan for and reward across-the-organization alignment and collaboration.
Consistency across leaders is important for effective and speedy implementation. Once the strategy has been developed, there's a tendency to think the work is done. Yet, it's just getting started. An organization's leaders must align around consistent messaging and agreed upon implementation behaviors to make it work. Otherwise several different versions of how to implement the strategy may result and employees will sniff out even slight inconsistencies. Competition across teams will begin to take over, instead of collaboration toward the same goals. Taking the extra time to plan the "messaging" and how leaders of the organization will demonstrate alignment across their teams will position your organization favourably when it comes to implementation. Leaders will rarely take time to do this unless organizational rewards support collaboration at the team leader level. Without it, silos develop and ideas and resources are not shared. True alignment saves time and money and collaboration can lead to enhanced productivity and innovative thinking.
By Shawna O'Grady
Shawna O'Grady, Ph.D., is an award-winning Professor at the Queen's School of Business and well-known for her effective approach to building teams and high trust cultures. Shawna consults widely in the areas of human performance, team development, and organizational development. She is co-author of the best-selling book Border Crossings: Doing Business in the U.S. about Canadian and U.S. retailers' successes and failures entering each other's market. She also teaches at Cornell University, and is a regular speaker on the Queen's Executive Development Programs.