A Reason To Care
This article is the fourth part of a series that explores five ways to become a strategy superstar, recently featured in the Hartford Business Journal.
An immense amount effort goes into developing organizational strategies that have the potential to affect the lives of many people. So why do we communicate them using charts, graphs and bullet points that only describe business objectives. Not exactly a way to spark meaningful engagement. What if every strategic initiative were an opportunity to go beyond business outcomes and include things that are deeply and personally meaningful to you and your strategic team? My experience says it can be, and should be.
Having a reason to care about your strategy matters
For a strategy to be successful, it is vital that your team is inspired to execute it. People engage in things that matter to them and want to see how their contributions make a difference. When there isn’t a compelling answer to why a strategy matters, you miss the greatest opportunity to capture the imagination and ambitions of your team. We call the answer to that question a Strategy Purpose Statement.
Connect, validate and strengthen
A strategy with a purpose beyond business objectives will go a long way toward enrolling others in its success. But that's just one of the benefits. The process of creating a Strategy Purpose Statement will help you build deeper connections with your team as well as strengthen the foundation of your strategy. This is because the way you get to a purpose statement is by revealing what is important to your team and finding a way to calibrate the strategy to include those things.
Start by asking the right questions
Coming to a Strategy Purpose Statement is a function of gathering thoughtful feedback, beginning with your strategy team. This following set of questions is designed to provoke your team to share what matters to them. Bring the team together and ask:
- Does, this strategy matter to you? If so, why? If not, what’s missing that, if included, would make it more relevant?
- If successful, what impact do you think it could have beyond the business outcomes already defined?
- What difference could that impact make for you, our company and our community?
Reveal the big idea
Capture the ideas that result from the conversation, look for patterns in the responses and synthesize everything down to a key theme or concept that resonates with the team. That idea should answer the question: What is the essential reason for our strategy's existence? The language should be as simple, compelling and understandable as possible. A framework for a Strategy Purpose Statement we use is: The purpose of this strategy is [to do or provide something] that allows for [some greater possibility].
Recalibrate your image of success
A clear purpose for your strategy often reveals other possible outcomes to include in your description of success. Go back to the shared image of success you have created and ask your team, given the new purpose, what results would need to be seen to call the initiative successful. Add the answers to your image of success.
This conversation is only as good as the facilitator's ability to listen and capture generously the essence of what every team member has to say. Playing this role is difficult, if not impossible, especially if you are responsible for the success of the strategy. For best results, consider having a third party facilitator guide the conversation and help create the statement.