The one thing that is constant in business is change. Gone are the days when strategy was decided for multiple years and the implementation took years to complete. The speed of business in this digital age determines that companies need to constantly re-evaluate their strategy and mobilize their teams around these new strategies.
Companies might have strategies around innovation, transformation, social impact, diversity and more. What leaders at all levels in companies have struggled with is involving employees in the gap between strategy and execution. These are due to a few reasons:
- Employees are too busy with their day to day activities to worry about what is coming
- There are only a very small group of people involved in strategy and it requires extensive training and communication to get more people involved
- There is no incentive for employees to be involved earlier in the process
Although there are good reasons why there is this gap, there are also good reasons why this gap should be closed:
- Increased adoption and success rate of strategy due to employee buy-in and participation
- Increased employee engagement and advocacy by being part of the decision-making process
- Increased retention rate as employees feel ownership in company strategy
So then what is the formula for bridging this gap between strategy and execution?
Employee mobilization, involvement and, engagement around company’s strategy is a proven method in helping companies close this gap. Actively involving employees across levels in implementing the strategy can make a huge difference.
Why mobilize employees?
Employee mobilization ensures active participation and drives the focus on a single goal at various levels. Secondly, it gives employees a sense of pride as well as ownership to making the strategy their own, thus having a vested interest in its success. Thirdly, it combines the creativity from employees across the organization and helps bring diverse and new ideas to make the implementation customized and individualized to various parts of the organization.
How to bridge the gap between strategy and implementation?
Step 1 - An employee centric strategy implementation - Involving employees can bring life to your strategy. For example, a software product company wanted all their stakeholders to be part of their SaaS strategy. They created various contests to get developers, advisors, wellwishers and friends mobilized around fun initiatives like photo contests, idea generation, bug identification contests. They had small incentives had motivated their constituents and it resulted in reducing their produce life cycle by half. Involvement across geographies by the entire organization created the motivation and mobilization across the company towards a common objective.
Step 2 - Customize the asks to your employees - The way to have to your employees disengaged in any initiative will be to to keep it as generic as possible and have a central ask of your employees. Instead, make it personal for your employees by customizing a large initiative to what a specific group of employees cares about. For example, mobilize Enterprise Resource Groups - make it personal for them to give feedback and ideas based on their interest and passions and give them recognition for that. This also help monitor progress better and make it easy to see accomplishments.
Step 3 -Get the entire workforce involved - This ability to customize initiatives to employees will make it possible to mobilize the entire workforce to participate and get involved in various ways in making the company’s strategy a reality. It also serves as a measure to to understand and adjust people strategies in various parts of the company.
Step 4 - Evaluate, calibrate, celebrate - Use incentives to encourage actions and behaviors. Continue to evaluate what works and what doesn’t work, continue communications with employees on how their inputs and contributions is shaping the company’s strategy. Celebrate small successes. Continue building on these successes to keep the employees involved and energized around these major initiatives.
In conclusion, bridging the gap between strategy and execution requires a lot of small steps involving a lot of people, keeping open communication, demonstrating results and successes and continuing to iterate towards a common goal.