After the undeniable asset of your organizational culture (mature people functioning in high-trust relationships), strategy may well be your next-level competitive advantage.
Leaders, heed this advice. When you announce a new strategy (product launch, go-to-market, acquisition, alliance, etc.), acknowledge these components:
- Strategy doesn’t happen in a single meeting. To quote Karen Dillon in How Will You Measure Your Life? “Strategy is not a discrete analytical event—something decided say, in a meeting of top managers based on the best numbers or any analysis available at the time. Rather, it is a continuous, diverse, unruly process.”
- As a leader, you don’t have all the answers. Don’t act like you do. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and people can sniff out the differences much faster than you think. New issues, challenges, and ideas will emerge faster than you can digest them, and as they do, everyone will need to adjust—including those whose egos are invested in the original (possibly abandoned) strategy.
- When you’re announcing the new strategy to your organization, acknowledge that it’s a learning process. Talk about it transparently. Show confidence in what you know and vulnerability in what you don’t. Repeat and then repeat again. Keep telling people what you know and what you’re learning and why you’re changing/improving the strategy.
- Declare your intent. Whatever it is, people will assume good intent when you ask them to. Acknowledge that every process won’t be perfect, on your end or theirs. People crave leaders with humility and abhor leaders with hubris.
- Sincerely encourage everyone to share their learnings. Perhaps designate a person, office, or system for easy feedback throughout the organization. Show appreciation for every submission. Establish a process for funneling the insights to those who can assess them for possible adoption at the executive/launch level.
- Update everyone with a known cadence. Not daily, but as consistently as your culture allows or requires. When people have access to news (good and bad), they won’t make stuff up. Absent news, people go sideways—quickly. That’s your fault, not theirs.
- Embrace the inherent challenges with deliberate and emergent strategies. Be nimble enough to listen for insights that may contradict your leanings and public proclamations. But not so nimble that you become the leader who always agrees with the last person you met with.
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