Strategic planning objectives have to be about much more than the financial impacts and considerations. Often they depend as much on an organisation’s culture and leader as the amount of money they can put forward, an issue that becomes clear when we look at success rates for strategic initiatives.
According to The Katzenbach Center, just 54 per cent of change management initiatives are successful, a significant warning to those who approach the process with any degree of complacency. This is why I always reinforce to leaders that strategic initiatives are actually part of a much wider change management process.
Prioritise the real issues
The top reason that these strategic initiatives fail can simply be put down to change fatigue. There are too many issues – all of which are considered important – and no obvious level of prioritisation for people to follow.
This is not just an issue for the CEO to keep on top of either, as simply dictating orders isn’t going to be enough to overcome the fatigue some people feel when they’re forced to continually evolve in the workplace.
Communication doesn’t guarantee engagement
The value of communication to strategic initiatives can’t be overstated. Most people know that leaders communicate plans and objectives to foster engagement, but not all realise how far they’ve actually got to go to ensure their employees have a genuine connection to these messages.
It’s not enough to just think of communication initiatives and related rewards as the keys to engagement – it’s the culture that’s the most important. If leaders are embedded in the organisation’s culture and understand what it means to employees, they can make messages much stronger, and much more relatable. It’s a connection that’s essential to ensure everyone throughout an organisation buys into what a leader wants to achieve.
Consider a change management team
For major projects, it might even be worth employing a change management team. That’s something that needs to happen at multiple levels of an organisation, and before anything actually begins to happen. Again, they have to be much more than just talk to ensure they actually make a difference for other members of the organisation.
Senior people, especially those in the change management team, need to very visibly act out the sort of change they want to see in an organisation. That has to flow down through an organisation too. While it can start with a CEO, middle managers also have to exhibit the same enthusiasm for these new initiatives. This links to the idea above of going a step further to ensure people are engaged. It’s not what leaders tell employees that makes a difference, but what they show them through their actions and behaviours.
Don’t forget about human beings
It’s easy to get too caught up in the structural elements and implications of a strategic initiative and forget how important people and their emotional connection to the organisation are. It’s something I’ve seen in an organisation I work with that relies on the services of around 3,000 volunteers.
Volunteers show up because of their emotional connection to an organisation’s cause, so leaders need to buy into that to connect with the workforce and enact change. It’s a lesson that applies to paid staff as well, as their emotional connection to their role is just as important when leaders are trying to make major changes.
By: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Richard Appleby