A study by one of my former professors at London Business School found that “Only 55% of the middle managers we have surveyed can name even one of their company’s top five priorities.”
This creates a major problem. You may have a perfect strategy detailed and tested, a strategy that will lead you and your organization to an exciting future, and despite having just the right answer, have clarified what you should stop doing and start doing instead … your people have little idea of what your strategy means. So they keep repeating what they have been doing for years.
This brings us to the fifth and final step in our IDEAS process – SELL. The effort of selling your strategy, to employees, investors, and partners, is where the rubber meets the road.
We have found three key steps you want to take to get everyone on board:
- Analyze your stakeholders.
- Craft an engaging narrative.
- Design a strategic framework.
Analyze your stakeholders
Not all stakeholder matter equally. Some employees, departments, investors, or partners will quickly embrace your new direction, others won’t care, and others might actively resist the change. Of those, some have the power to advance or hinder your progress, and others don’t.
When Microsoft first launched the Xbox, for example, they recognized that game developers were a key stakeholder on which the Xbox’s success would hinge. They might build the world’s best gaming consoles, but if they couldn’t bring great developers along for the ride, consumers would ultimately reject their attempt without good games to play. So, game developers were high-power stakeholders who would naturally want to embrace the new opportunity, if Microsoft could sell them on the Xbox’s potential.
Hardware manufacturers were equally important but would resist getting on board with a new gaming console no matter what. Game consoles are innately low-profit. You give them away in order to make money from selling games. No one wants to manufacture razors if they cannot also profit from the razor blades. No one wants to manufacturer printers if they cannot also sell printer cartridges. Recognizing they would never convince a high-quality manufacturer to produce Xbox consoles, Microsoft took the step, for the first time in their history, of manufacturing the hardware on their own.
Take the following steps to assess your own stakeholders:
- Brainstorm the stakeholders you will need support from to implement your strategy.
- Assess their incentives to determine whether each will be an early advocate, a resister, or in between.
- Assess the power each has to support or block your strategy.
- Then decide which stakeholders are most critical to get on board.
Craft an engaging narrative
Think of your strategy as a narrative that invites people to be part of it. Like any good story, you have a beginning, middle, and end. If you draft out a compelling, exciting, promising, urgent tale that makes people take notice and jump in, you will build traction far more quickly.
A great framework to help you design such a message is one that I learned while at McKinsey. We call it the GAME framework (Goal, Audience, Message, Engagement). To apply it, look at each of the key stakeholders you identified in the prior step and, for each, ask yourself:
- Goal: What goal do I want to achieve when I share my strategy with this stakeholder? Specifically, what do I want them to do or believe? For example, you might want your salesforce to stop selling your legacy product and start selling the new offering; Microsoft wanted game developers to start building awesome games for the Xbox platform.
- Audience: What do you know about the stakeholder? What are their issues, concerns and interests? Do they think short term or long term? Are they moved by facts or emotions? Your salespeople, for example, might be motivated by commissions, your employees by a sense of hope, your investors by returns.
- Message: Then step back and ask what your message points should be. I like to think not about what the strategy should say, but what they will be telling themselves about this strategy. For example, you might want salespeople to be telling themselves, “This is going to be easy to sell.” Microsoft wanted game developers to be saying, “This is going to give me access to a massive platform of gamers.”
- Engagement: Finally, think creatively about how you will engage each stakeholder in your strategy. One client we worked with decided to conduct a series of town-hall meetings. Another decided to create a screensaver that displayed the strategy on every computer screen in the company.
Design your strategic framework
Humans can only remember up to seven things at once. Since your stakeholders certainly have other things to think about, they may only reserve one of their seven memory slots to your strategy. If you ask them to remember too much, they will probably forget your strategy entirely. So, you want to capture your strategy in a simple, easy-to-remember framework, ideally with a concise, compelling name.
I recently got a chance to work with Kellogg’s, which has developed a compelling depiction of its strategy that they call “Deploy for Growth”. They take their priorities and map them into one overarching framework which, coincidentally or not, looks a lot like a rocket-ship.
Best Buy, one of the few retailers that has found a way to compete with Amazon, similarly captures its multi-prong strategy in one holistic view under the title “Renew Blue”. “Blue” here refers to the blue shirts Best Buy employees wear and speaks to their view that their people – knowledgeable, passionate technologists – are the company’s key differentiator to Amazon’s faceless algorithms.
To develop your strategic framework:
- Collect the 3-7 key strategic themes of your strategy.
- Brainstorm potential metaphors with which to depict these (a house with pillars, a rocket ship).
- Pick a depiction that best communicates your strategy.
- Think of a concise, compelling name (ideally no more than five words long).
Selling your strategy
If your people don’t understand your strategy, they will keep doing whatever they want to do, making the wrong choices and following the wrong priorities. So if you fail to successfully communicate your strategy, you essentially have no strategy at all.
To avoid this, simply take three steps to SELL your strategy:
- Identify which stakeholders matter most.
- Define a compelling narrative that will help them do or believe what you need them to do or believe.
- Package your strategy into a framework that people can easily remember and share.
If you work through all five points of the IDEAS process – Imagine, Dissect, Expand, Analyze, and, finally, Sell – you have a much greater chance of finding an innovative, disruptive strategy that can deliver radical results.
LEARN OUTTHINKER IN 9 LIVE SESSIONS WITH KAIHAN
Take a deep dive into the Outthinker process over 9 live sessions with Kaihan through the Gazelles Growth Institute.
Companies that apply the tools delivered in this course accelerate their growth rates by 120%, expand their profit margins, and prepare themselves to thrive in the faster-paced, digital 21st century.
Based on rigorous research of the strategic concepts applied by well-known military victors, athletes, and today’s most disruptive companies, this course condenses millennia of strategic knowledge into a compendium you can apply in your own organization immediately. It gives you and your team a proven system to harness strategic creativity, and inspires action with stories of Outthinker companies successfully reshaping their industries, including Apple, Google, Rosetta Stone, Tesla Motors, and many more.
Starting on November 2, Kaihan will be working through the Outthinker process with a closed group of students.
KEY LEARNING OBJECTIVES
- Imagining and creating your strategic vision
- Analyzing your current strong leverage points, as well as weak ones
- Brainstorming and developing countless strategic options
- Utilizing a logical approach to sorting through ideas to focus on the best ones
- Aligning your key stakeholders to your message and goals
- 9 live discussions with Kaihan Krippendorff
- 9 weeks totaling 3+ hours of pre-recorded video content
- Outthinker workbook to guide you in implementation
- 36 Stratagems Selector to identify your winning moves
In addition to taking participants through the IDEAS framework, he’ll provide real world examples and practical applications that have created breakthrough results for companies around the world.
This course is a perfect opportunity for business leaders who want to fully implement Outthinker into their strategic plan and would like Kaihan’s guidance in doing it.
Space is limited. Find out more at Gazelle’s Outthinker Course.