Communicating your strategic plan is crucial for successful roll out and sustainability. Â This module offers insights into communicating the strategic plan to your organization. It also describes how to go about implementing the communication plan.
Why Do You Need a Communication Plan?
You have a strategic plan you’d like to implement. You put a lot of work into it and you feel fairly certain that the results will achieve the business goals. You may also know that only 63% of financial potential of a business strategy is realized due to defects and breakdowns in the implementation phase. That does not take into consideration that many strategic plan implementations fail all together.
One of the biggest troublemakers in rolling out the strategic plan is the implementation phase itself. Just think about it. There are objectives that need to be achieved, milestones, and all the work needed to meet the demands of each milestone. And because the work is messy and the modern workplace is ever changing, those in charge must remain alert and flexible to obstacles that inevitably need navigating. They must also be able to think on their feet in order to quickly take advantage of new opportunities that avail themselves before everyone else realized that something potentially disastrous happened.
All of this means that you not only need a well conceived, testable set of operations dedicated to fulfilling the strategic goals, but also a communication plan that gets everyone onboard to the extent possible, and allows flexibility to manage changing environmental demands to keep them onboard. So what are the characteristics of a communication plan that gets people onboard and maintain their commitment?
Planning the Communication Strategy
Here is a set of practical questions to answer you will need to answer first:
- What is the concern that the strategic plan is designed and developed to address? What you want to consider here are the importance, urgency, and magnitude of the concern that the strategic plan addresses. You want to make them clear in your initial communications.
- Who is most affected by the strategic plan in terms of outcome and implementation? This is your target audience. Getting clear about the Â audience will focus your attention on their specific needs.
- Who are the major decision makers involved in setting the strategic plan goals and implementation? Show how they are onboard in your communications.
- What is the overall goal that the strategic plan is expected to achieve? This will provide your audience with a roadmap of the rollout of the strategic plan with an outline of the resulting changes in the organization over time. Your goal here is to relieve their anxiety to the extent possible because change always increases stress.
- How will the organization be different for members with the planned changes? You want to focus on how their work lives will be better once the changes are in place.
- Whose knowledge, attitude, and behaviors must be changed to realize the strategic goals? What do you know about their knowledge, attitude, and behaviors? State what will change for them and what is in it for them to make the necessary changes.
- Who and what are the best resources for affecting the changes in members’ attitude, knowledge and behaviors?
- What are the barriers to fully onboarding the audience? What are the benefits of getting them on board?
- What are their characteristics? How do they spend their time at work? What are the demographics that characterize them? What and who most influence them in the workplace? What and who will motivate them to change?
- Make the message memorable.Â Make it uplifting by connecting to their emotions.
What are the Characteristics of a High Impact Communication Strategy?
- Create the message: Develop a clear and concise set of statements about what the strategic plan is and what it can achieve. Use the KISS rule (Keep It Short and Simple).Â Focus on specific challenges, opportunities, and achievements. Make the connections between the strategy plan and the organization’s health in the strategic plan communication message.
- Start with the management’s commitment.
- Partner with the leader and management in communicating the strategic plan, its objectives, and value.
- Use several communications channels to get the word out about the strategic plan.
- Make clear expectations of organizational members in terms of how they will be involved and how to prepare.
- Offer several communications channels for questions, comments, and venting.
- Measure progress in the strategic plan and inform the organization of progress.
- Strive for early successes and seek partnerships. Departments and units will have uneven commitments initially. Partner with the one that is making the most progress.
- Use successful people and units as models when communicating progress. Offer awards/rewards for risk takers and early starters.
Measure the effectiveness of your communication strategy.
Here is a checklist:
__ Description of the communication plan.
__ Communication objectives
__ Main messages to convey
__ Description of each target group (leadership, management, line workers, vendors, etc.).
__ Communications channels (e.g., CEO video, email, website, newsletter, staff meetings, postings, etc.).
__ Budget for communication plan and activities
__ Rewards and recognition list
__ Evaluation of communication strategy
Use the above checklist to make certain that you are covering all of the bases.
A poorly conceived roll out strategy can limit the promise of even the most well thought out and carefully planned organizational change strategy. It takes time and effort to develop a plan that effectively implements the change strategy. How you communicate with members of the organization to get them onboard and sustain their willingness to go along with the changes determine your success and their satisfaction.
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[ii] Based in part on Making Health Communication Programs Work: A Planner’s Guide, Office of Cancer Communications, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (1992).