“Back to the Future: Seven Timeless Lessons for Organizational Success” by Dr. Chris Bart, FCA

LESSON 5. Constantly Communicate the Strategy (and what It means) To the Troops

Even after setting priorities, avoiding distraction, and satisfying multiple stakeholder needs, most senior managers are still reluctant to discuss their goals, strategies, and expectations openly and frequently. Some believe their staff will simply figure it out, akin to asking troops to charge into battle without knowing the risks, the face of the enemy, or understanding the mission objectives.  Other business leaders feel they only need to communicate their objectives once without reminders, a practice that prompted former General Motors CEO Roger Smith to confess the following prior to the end of his career with that company:

“If I had an opportunity to do everything over again…I sure wish I’d done a better job of communicating with GM people.  I’d do that differently and make sure they understood and shared my vision for the company. Then they would have known why I was tearing the place up, taking out whole divisions, changing our whole production structure.  If people understand the “why”, they’ll work at it….I never got that across.”

As any high school teacher or junior sports coach knows, repetition of the lesson and repeating the drills drive the message home.  In business, open and frequent communication of goals, strategy, and expectations is critical for keeping an organization focused on its priorities.  At the minimum, it reminds senior management itself about what it is trying to accomplish.  So, follow the KISS principle: “Keep it simple and straightforward”.  If the company is focused, doing so should be relatively easy.

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