Driving clarity and understanding throughout the organization at all levels is essential to translating plans to action and executing against those plans.  Here is how you work to make that happen.

Following on the last post about utilizing an effective planning process, the leadership team should understand the strategies and action plans because they have been involved in developing them.  Most other employees, however, will not have been involved and it is unlikely that they will be clear on that direction and what is required of them to get there.

…most employees do not understand what a strategic plan means in terms how it affects their day-to-day activities.

The disconnects get worse the further the employees are removed from that decision-making level.  Unfortunately, many of the people who will be critical in accomplishing the tasks to achieve those goals are far from that decision-making level…the shop floor, if you will.  The cascade of information to all levels is generally not managed and monitored well.

Too often leaders feel that publishing the vision and a few strategies on the corporate website, announcing them at the beginning of the year in a town hall meeting, and hanging posters of them in the lobby is enough.  It isn’t.

What people read or hear from you is the summation of a lot of thinking and analysis.  They hear the end result of all that analysis.  They hear a conclusion and do not see all the steps that went into getting to that conclusion.  They have not been involved in all the discussions and cannot make the leap from issue to answer.  Most importantly, they do not understand what those strategic plans mean in terms of day-to-day actions for them.

As a leader you must drive the effort to understand the direction and take action at all levels in the organization.  This is, to a large degree, a communication process.

This communication process needs to be well planned and executed.  It should take many forms…sometimes large groups…sometimes focus groups…it should be reinforced in individual performance reviews and goal-setting…and it should be supported by multi-media presentations so that it gets through to as many people as possible.  It must be repeated to remind everyone of the goals, the actions to get there, and the progress being made.  Remember, most of the people in the organization only hear about this subject when you, the leaders, talk to them about it, which is generally not often.  It is easily forgotten which causes people to lose sight of their priorities.

I make it a point to conduct quarterly town hall meetings at every site in my organization.  At those meetings I remind everyone of the direction in which we are going as an organization, and I explain to them what it means.  I tell them what actions we will take to get there.  Most importantly, I tell them what it means that THEY must do every day to contribute to achieving those goals.  I make it a point to put it in terms that are relevant to them and the tasks they perform every day.  In addition, as I walk around the organization I talk with employees at all levels and ask them how are they applying our strategies in their everyday work.  Those discussions always lead to clarifying questions and a better idea of how they can do their jobs in a way that better supports our strategic direction.

A word of caution…Do not assume that your leadership team is cascading the information down to all levels.  In my experience I have found that that is not good assumption to make.  Check it.  Be sure it is happening.  Ask the people on the shop floor.

Remember, a key element of motivation is clarity.  People are motivated simply by being clear about what is expected of them…”What does this mean for me?  What do I have to do?  How are we (how am I) doing against those goals?”

Tell ’em…and tell ’em often!