It’s hard for people to execute a plan if they don’t understand it. But many executives fail to make their strategies explicit, leaving employees grasping for straws when it comes to comprehending the impact of their daily choices and activities on the company’s goals and direction.
So why are executives often resistant to disclosing their strategies? One of the biggest concerns is the risk of competitors stealing their “secret sauce.” But, as I discussed in my recent Harvard Business Review blog “It Doesn’t Matter If Competitors Know Your Strategy”, this concern is missing the point: You have bigger things to worry about if your employees are kept in the dark when it comes to your strategy and its implications for priorities and resource allocation.
Competitors aren’t the only concern when it comes to articulating a strategy. Some executives also feel their strategy is so embedded into the company that it doesn’t need to be stated. But this disables companies from testing the effectiveness and continuing relevance of a strategy as market conditions change. Finally, with the influx of information and the rapid pace of change, many executives feel shaping a strategy simply isn’t worth the time or energy. However, if you don’t choose your strategy, then in any competitive market, your customers or competitors will choose it for you.
To be successful, it’s necessary to ensure your employees fully understand your strategy and what you hope to achieve in the year ahead. Then you must translate a strategy into actionable behaviors to ensure employees are able to carry it forward. After all, business is a performance art: Saying is not the same as doing. But if you can’t say it, clearly and concisely, your people will only have more trouble implementing it, efficiently and effectively.
Frank Cespedes is the MBA Class of 1973 Senior Lecturer of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He has run a business, served on boards for start-ups and corporations, and consulted to many companies around the world. He is the author of six books, most recently “Aligning Strategy and Sales: The Choices, Systems, and Behaviors that Drive Effective Selling,” and many articles in Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, California Management Review, and other publications.
Follow Frank on Twitter @fvcespedes.