Translating strategy from the top of an organization to the bottom is not a new challenge. From pivoting priorities to launching new values or implementing new business processes, leaders have grappled with the challenge of aligning across the levels of an organization for years. The shift to hybrid working environments exacerbates the challenge. Now more than ever it is imperative for leaders to clearly communicate their strategy to make sure that people, processes, and projects (sometimes referred to as the braid) are aligned.
Leaders need to focus on three key ideas when translating strategy in a hybrid work environment: alignment, accountability, and visibility.
The first step to effectively execute strategy in a hybrid environment is to ensure there is alignment across teams and the organization. This is more difficult when people do not work in the same physical location where they can easily benefit from informal communication and check-ins. One of the best ways to create alignment on a hybrid team is through communication. Insight Experience's Strategic Communication Model highlights four key areas leaders should heed when communicating to create alignment:
The strategic communication model focuses on providing the right content and context of the message. When reading a communication, employees working remotely or hybrid will ask:
- Is it clear why we are doing what we do?
- Do we understand how our work fits into the broader strategy of the organization?
Beyond content and context, it is imperative for the message to be consistent with critical business objectives as well as consistent over time. When reading a communication, your hybrid employees will ask:
- Is this message consistent with what I’ve heard before?
- Is this message the same as what others hear across the organization?
Effective communication also requires appropriate empathy and energy. When reading a communication, your hybrid employees will ask:
- Does our team get the recognition we deserve?
- Does the tone of the communication match the message?
- If bad news is shared, does the leader express empathy for those impacted?
Finally, accountability ensures that there is an understanding of who does what and by when. When reading a communication, your hybrid employees will ask:
- What are my next steps?
- What happens as a consequence of success?
- What happens if I miss my goals?
Effective communication aims to answer all these questions. Through the answers, a team will have a clear idea of how a leader sees their work fitting into the broader context of the organization and a vision for how the work will ultimately get done. When teams are not co-located, being intentional and creative about strategic communication is an essential leadership lever for impacting team dynamics and business results.
Once there is alignment among a team, the next step is to create clear accountability to ensure that work gets done on time and in a high-quality manner. In a hybrid format, teams have less insight into what others do (other team members, teams as a whole, and business units). It is vital to ensure that teams work on the right projects — and get them done.
Once you’ve built alignment around the projects and initiatives you launch, building accountability requires appropriate antecedents, behaviors and consequences for getting the work done and driving results.
Antecedents, which create expectations, distinctly outline roles and work to establish the commitments of the individual or team. Consequences, which often occur after events, work to reinforce positive behavior or change negative behavior. Interestingly, most organizations excel when it comes to antecedents and are highly effective at identifying owners and commitments, but they falter when it comes to consequences. Studies have shown that consequences have four times more of an impact on behavior than antecedents and that positive consequences are more effective than negative consequences.
To help shape accountability on your team and in your organization, lean into positive consequences and recognize strong results. Some examples of positive consequences to try with your hybrid team are:
- Inclusion in important meetings.
- Group recognition in team meetings.
- Promotions or raises.
- New and interesting assignments.
- Access to additional budgets, resources, or training.
Leaders who can effectively creating accountability and define clear antecedents and consequences can amplify the productivity of the team as all team members are aligned and have clarity about what exactly is expected of them.
Finally, once you’ve established the alignment of your team and established clear accountability among team members, it is important to make both of those things visible to the organization. One of the most important steps in making work visible is to understand who your stakeholders are.
By working with your team to create a stakeholder map, you provide a tool to understand the stakeholders who are involved in the doing of the work; stakeholders who may be impacted by the work of your project, either upstream or downstream; and stakeholders who have influence over your project outcomes and could be a critical ally in driving success. Once you’ve identified your stakeholders and understood their interest and investment in your projects, leverage the strategic communication model from the alignment stage to craft the appropriate stakeholder updates. These stakeholder updates will be even more critical in a hybrid environment in which more informal water-cooler types of project updates are significantly less frequent.
· Hold frequent updates
· Schedule meetings to ensure they can be there
· Involve in decisions
· Identify an individual to provide personal updates
· Solicit feedback
· Invite to briefing sessions
· Include on bulletins and broadcast emails
· Ask what information they want to receive
· Respond to requests
· Understand interests and involve proactively when needed
· Send regular emails
· Tell about key decisions
· Invite to briefing sessions
As a leader, if you can successfully articulate the alignment of work to the broader organization’s strategy; reinforce that alignment with clear accountability among your team members; and make the work visible across the organization, then you are well on your way to effectively translating and executing strategy in a hybrid environment.
For more about an Insight Experience's Executing Strategy Leadership development program and business simulation, where we explore various leadership models and dive deeper into the models referenced above, click here.