“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw
At Clarus, we always include strategic communication support as part of our work with clients because time after time we have seen that how our clients talk about their initiatives can significantly ease or hinder accomplishment of the outcomes they want to achieve. This is particularly true when it comes to implementation of strategic plans. While hour upon hour (and dollar upon dollar) are devoted to the development of strategies, goals, and objectives, many plans fail due to a simple lack of sufficiently frequent, broad, or effective communication.
Strategic communication during planning takes many forms and serves many purposes. At the onset of a planning project, communication with stakeholders – a group we define broadly – is critical to expressing leadership’s commitment and to achieving buy-in from those people whose efforts will be key to building and implementing the plan. As a plan is developed and implementation begins, strategic communication helps keep focus on the priorities of the plan. Without frequent, on-point communication, it is all too easy for the details of the day-to-day workplace to pull attention away from plan priorities. Later, as the organization moves deeply into implementation, communication can focus on highlighting successes and on explaining the likely detours that occur as new opportunities or unexpected obstacles arise.
What do we recommend our clients consider in developing their communication? First, let stakeholders know why a planning project is being initiated. What is happening in the environment internally or externally? What challenges or opportunities exist? Share information about the planning schedule and key milestones and, when the plan is complete, talk frequently about its priorities and goals. As well, talk about the changes that will be required during plan implementation, and the things that will have to be done differently as the plan comes alive to help engage those who haven’t been integrally involved during the plan’s development.
The bottom-line is that successful implementation often boils down to how well – and how often – leadership communicates the vision and strategy outlined in the plan.