A good strategy engagement event gives leaders and managers in your business the chance to get to grips with the new strategy. It helps people understand what is changing, why it is changing and what their part is in execution. The Executive team are often several steps ahead in their understanding of and commitment to the strategy and are ready to execute. This impatience to get delivering is often the context in which a strategy engagement event is designed. I urge Executive teams to get the proper return on the investment in a strategy engagement event by doing what it takes to get people wholeheartedly owning the strategy for themselves. This includes time to really understand the strategy, prod it, poke it, discuss it and work out my part in it BEFORE I make action plans and commitments. Here are some dos and don’ts from my experience.
Don’t start by writing the PowerPoint deck
Do start by defining the outcomes you want. What do you want people to think, feel and do as a result of this event?
Don’t communicate in bulletpoints
Do communicate in stories. Bring to life what is changing, why it is changing and what you expect from your people as a result. Engage hearts as well as minds
Don’t let a committee design the event. You will get a hotchpotch of activities that people have seen before but that don’t hang together
Do put a small design team together with experience in this area and give them direct access to the CEO plus some participants to test things on
Don’t let the CEO’s desire to have people sign pledges in blood at the end of the event put you off
Do remember that people deliver actions that they have processed and owned not what they’ve been asked to commit to under duress
Don’t let participants off the hook of actually participating.
Do design an event that requires active participation, thinking, collaboration and leadership. Demonstrate what you want from people back in the business
Don’t Don’t let the Exec team wing it
Do require Exec members to rehearse together, paying close attention to how they are coming across as a leadership team. They should rehearse not just their presentations but how they will come across during group activities and even coffee breaks. Demonstrating togetherness, humility and listening will help participants process, question and ultimately own the strategy without fear of recrimination. Being absent, on the phone, defensive or critical will have a huge negative impact on engagement.
Don’t cram your people into airless rooms then ask them to step up to the plate
Do consider the effect that light, space, air and music can have on human mood and resourcefulness
Don’t do a one off event and then forget about it
Do learn from the event and position it in a series of interventions that will support strategy ownership and execution over a period of time
Don’t be disingenuous with your people.
Do check in with your intentions. If ownership and leadership of the strategy is what you want then take note of the above and put in the effort. If unthinking compliance is what you want, best be honest about it (but beware of the bedfellow of compliance – passive resistance).