Do You Translate Strategy for Each Audience?

Have you ever sat through a presentation by a senior executive that contained information of great significance to those in the room – like the imperatives for the company, and therefore for their jobs continuing to be needed – but which went completely unappreciated? I’ve certainly seen corporate leaders sweep in, race through thirty charts peppered with financial terminology in which the audience has no grounding, all the while droning about “driving world class value-added performance to the bottom line” or some-such.

I’ve asked employees coming out of such meetings what they thought, and often they have simply concluded that it wasn’t for them.

And more than once, the presenter has then come out saying “That went well!” So much for aligning employee behaviour with strategic goals.

A business competes in at least three markets: the market for customers/clients, the market for talent, and the market for investment. Each needs to hear something it can buy into. And crucially, the participants in each market comprise  different audiences, with different values, needs, interests, priorities, background knowledge etc. What excites one may create a flat response in another.  Ideally perhaps, employees should be able to understand the kind of presentation you would make to an analyst, but it’s not a safe assumption that they will.

Early in The Performance Papers, I introduce the visual above, and suggest that:

“Any business leader has got to be able to articulate three compelling stories, and then be able to turn those three stories into reality. The stories are:

  • The customer (or client) story – which vividly portrays your promise to those people who will provide you with revenue.
  • The talent story – which mobilises the commitment of the people who will enable you to make good on your promise.
  • The investment story – which attracts and convinces those people who will provide the backing for your business (in whatever form or mixture, whether from a boss, a corporate centre or external investor) and want to understand their likely return.

It’s amazing how much mental clutter you can clear if you think about your endeavour in these terms.”

Try this: picture a front line employee, a customer or client, and an investor. In each case, how would you communicate your strategy so that they understood what was in it for them to engage with the business? In each case:

  • what would you emphasise?
  • What would you leave out?
  • What would you assume could be taken for granted?
  • What would you take time to explain?


© 2012. Andrew Bass. All Rights Reserved.