The Advisor’s Corner – Why Is My Organization’s Vision Unclear To Employees?

Question:

My subordinates frequently asked for opportunities to speak with our business unit’s vice president in order to gain a sense of what she sees as the organization’s overall vision and what she feels is going well and what could be improved upon. Since the company’s vision is commonly held by all members of the leadership team, including myself, why then do my subordinates continue to request these types of meetings with the senior executives?

StrategyDriven Response:

We find the circumstances described all too frequently at the organizations we have worked with. In our experience, the most common causes include communication voids and conflicting messages.

Many times, employees will seek information from other sources when information they perceive as important does not reach them. These communication voids may exist for any of a number of reasons including:

  • the organization does not have a vision statement or a cohesive, observable direction contained within its published documents such as its business plan or annual report
  • the communication is not made
  • the channel through which the communication is made does not reach the employee or employee group
  • the employee does not routinely use the communication channel(s) through which the information was promulgated
  • the message’s importance is unclear at the time of the communication and subsequently the employee does not remember the information provided
  • other more important information was simultaneously communicated obscuring this particular message
  • the employee is bombarded with a high volume of information and the message is subsequently lost
  • the employee does not view the source from which the information came from as being credible (This is a particular problem as it indicates that you, the boss, are not a credible or believable source of information and direction.)

In other instances, a lack of alignment exists between the various vision communications made to the workforce. Under these circumstances, employees will tend to seek direct communication of the vision from increasingly senior managers within the organization; believing only the message from the top to be valid. This challenge may be caused by occurrences such as:

  • the vision communication presented by the employee’s immediate supervisor is unclear or appears to conflict with that of other information sources
  • general misalignment exists between various vision communications including written, verbal, and observable
  • in the absence of a vision statement, the collection of organizational objectives and initiatives do not readily present a cohesive, observable direction
  • decision-making authority and influence is maintained at a high level within the organization such that credible direction setting is only viewed as coming from executives and/or senior managers
  • the organization’s performance measurement and rewards systems appear to be misaligned with respect to the organization’s stated vision and mission

Clear communication of the organization’s vision begins with sound strategic planning and the translation of that plan into quantifiable, measurable actions to be performed on a day-to-day basis by the workforce. The following StrategyDriven best practices highlight how best to achieve this portion of the process.

In addition to these activities, we recommend there be frequent communication and reinforcement of the vision with direct reports. Communication should be made repeatedly through diverse channels to ensure all employees are reached and the message’s importance clear. Reinforcement should not only take place during the annual business plan roll-out but should also be incorporated into employee goals as well as being a part of routine one-on-ones, feedback, and coaching.

Vision communication should take place such that subordinates view the direction as coming directly from his or her manager. It is only when a manager clearly communicates the vision without deferring responsibility for its development or authority for its implementation to senior management that employees will view him/her as having credible authority to direct their actions. If, in the manager’s experience, circumstances are likely to arise where it will appear that his/her directions will conflict with those of senior management then he/she should take the steps necessary to gain executive buy-in and commitment prior to communicating the vision to subordinates.

Final Thought…

The StrategyDriven website was created to provide members of our community with insights to the actions that help create the shared vision, focus, and commitment needed to improve organizational alignment and accountability for the achievement of superior results. We look forward to answering your strategic planning and tactical business execution questions. Please email your questions to [email protected].

The Advisor’s Corner – How Do You Sell a Major Change?

Question:

Feedback indicates my company’s current leadership training program, though inexpensive, yields little to no value. My research shows that an alternative training program has produced superior, measurable results at other organizations. How should I go about selling my manager and the organization on the need to change from our current training program to this alternative one?

StrategyDriven Response:

Decisions to make significant changes are not often made quickly. Rather, these decisions are made after receiving input from affected stakeholders and subjecting each available option to a thoughtful cost versus benefit evaluation. With this in mind, it is easy to understand why organizations often use business cases to facilitate the decision-making process.

Well constructed business cases often require significant personnel and financial resources to develop. Considering the complexity and significance of the circumstance presented, we believe your first step should be to gain authorization to expend the resources necessary to research and develop the business case for the proposed change in the leadership training program. Once developed, your well structured business case, clearly presenting the costs and benefits associated with each alternative, will help you secure the management decision you seek to revise the organization’s leadership and training program.

Final Thought…

We suggest your business case include not only the two options presented in the initial question but also any additional alternatives presented by the responsible manager or other members of the organization. Leveraging their knowledge and experience may help you identify other worthwhile alternatives that would otherwise not be considered.

The StrategyDriven website was created to provide members of our community with insights to the actions that help create the shared vision, focus, and commitment needed to improve organizational alignment and accountability for the achievement of superior results. We look forward to answering your strategic planning and tactical business execution questions. Please email your questions to [email protected].

The Advisor’s Corner – Guaranteed Future?

Question:

Can a good strategy define a company’s future?

StrategyDriven Response:

Strategic certainty does not exist. Organizations should, however, leverage a good strategy to establish the vision toward which executives and managers focus employee efforts. Vision combined with excellent execution that reinforces desired behaviors generates a high degree of organizational alignment and accountability that in turn propels the organization toward a more focused and committed, if somewhat uncertain, destiny.

The StrategyDriven website was created to provide members of our community with insights to the processes and actions that can be taken to create the shared vision, focus, and commitment needed to improve organizational alignment and accountability for the achievement of superior results.

StrategyDriven Contributors look forward to answering your strategic planning and tactical business execution questions. Please email your questions to [email protected].

The Advisor’s Corner Introduction

The Advisor’s Corner expands on the strategic planning and tactical business execution dialogue between StrategyDriven contributors and our websites visitors. Postings in this category reflect questions asked by StrategyDriven members and guests and the advice provided by one or more of our highly experienced business professionals. Additionally, StrategyDriven members are provided the opportunity to share their insights and experiences by way of comments and feedback to the individual postings.

All visitors to the StrategyDriven website are encouraged to submit their questions to The Advisor’s Corner by email at [email protected] or by using the ‘Email The Advisor’s Corner’ link located on the right sidebar on the StrategyDriven website. If desired, questions may be submitted anonymously to maintain confidentiality.