Research by Harvard Business Review suggests an amazing 95% of employees stated they did not understand their organisation’s strategy.
Articulating a strategy and being explicit about how the work of employees contributes to it, is not just important for your business, but also for your team.
If your colleagues can’t connect the actions of the workplace’s present to its longer term goal, they can quickly become disconnected from the business’s vision and from its future.
This reduction in their motivation and their productivity might even risk them leaving your agency.
Still wondering whether a strategic goal is necessary for your business? Read on for our explainer.
Dream Team Work
The ultimate goal of any given team’s manager is to have their team lift the trophy at the end of the season.
This requires strategy.
What happens if the team is only focused on winning the game in hand. Or, even just scoring the next goal, or gaining possession of the ball?
If the team is solely focused on the task-based present, are they aware of the long-term vision? And, if not, how are they connecting the tasks they undertake with that strategic goal? The answer is, they’re probably not.
You must give PURPOSE TO THE PRESENT, toward a shared vision, one that investing in will benefit each team member and the business at large.
Take the analogy of football.
Only 0.03% of guys who play football do so in the Premier League. So, for most players, the game looks like casual Sunday League fixtures rather than pay per view high-stakes play-offs.
But aside from the obvious disparity between the leagues in terms of finance, visibility and, undoubtedly, skill, there is another crucial difference: FOCUS.
We’re not suggesting that Sunday League players are not motivated to win. Of course they are. That’s their focus. They’re focused on the next tackle, the open net, on winning the game.
But they have no real strategy to do so – and are encouraged by the shouting crowd and enthusiastic manager rather than any long-term vision which will reward them.
Motivation in the short term of a match, is different to motivation in the long term of a season.
And there’s no context for the sweaty efforts on the pitch; no explanation of how to perform to achieve a longer term goal.
Us vs. Them
In the successful big leagues there is a dual focus: on the match, and also on implementing a clearly communicated wider strategy.
The vision – maybe winning the league, maybe avoiding relegation – determines every decision: from the choice of manager, to the training regimen; from the wages, to the team culture. This then determines the tactics for each game. How to play against a given opponent is relevant to the overarching long term strategy: attack and go for the win, or sit back and look for a draw…
Evidence of how shared purpose drives success, can be seen all over the footballing world.
Take the David and Goliath tale of Leicester City’s Premier League win in 2016. Although myriad factors led to them lifting the trophy, with odds of 5000/1 at the season’s start some part of their glory comes from their sense of investment as a team in their shared intent. (Putting these odds into context, the bookies thought there was a higher chance – 500/1 – of seeing the Loch Ness monster.)
Whether the bonds forged between the players happened as they dressed up as ninja turtles for their Christmas party, or as a result of the pizza that manager Clausio Ranieri bought them if they got a clean sheet, their camaraderie counted.
And what happens without an inclusive environment which builds team purpose and team identity? Again, football has the answer in the form of a warning: the alleged player revolt against Jose Mourinho at Chelsea at the start of the same season.
Without the clarity of a team’s goal, we see frenetic activity, but not truly productive long-term outcomes, and we risk team dissolution.
- Where is your agency going, what’s the goal?
- Do you have a clear actionable plan of achieving it?
- Are your employees aware of this destination, and their role in the plan?
- Do they see how their work contributes to these goals and how reaching this end-point, or target, will ultimately benefit them?
If you’re doubting any of your answers to the above, we challenge you to think more like a top-league football club:
- Be clear and explicit about where your agency is going
- How you are going to get there
- Keep reminding your team of this vision
- Motivate your team in the context of where you are going rather than the context of the day to day.
Coming up with a strategy and direction is key – and you’ll get nowhere without them. But turning those ideas into an implementable plan, with everyone on the same page and integrating it into business as usual, is the real challenge.
And if 48% of leaders spend less than a day a month reviewing strategy implementation, who is ensuring the team’s efforts are consistently focused in the right direction? And how are you tracking your progress?
Creating space to review strategic decision-making is crucial to reaching your goal (explore our tips on Time-boxing to support you with this) — if you don’t know what’s going on, you can’t take corrective action, and you will veer off course. And, as all football fans know, it’s the manager who eventually takes the fall if the strategy fails.
OUR TAKE-AWAYS: set the strategy, communicate it so your team pulls together to succeed, to thrive, and build in time to hold yourself accountable to managing its implementation.