growth

Here’s a way to make all your employees strategic thinkers

Engel Schmidl /

It’s not uncommon for a management team to lock itself away, develop a new strategy, present it to the rest of the company (with a big fanfare), and then be frustrated when nothing deep within the business actually seems to, er, change.

The employees on the other hand are curious about what happens when the management team go away for their strategy offsite, are interested to hear what the bosses present at the whole-of-company get together and then they wonder why nothing within their part of the business actually, er, changes.

And that’s when you end up with a cranky management team that thinks that the employees aren’t pulling their weight; and grumbling employees who wonder why the management team never do all the stuff they say they are going to do!

The truth is that most employees think the “strategy stuff” is just for the management team, so the challenge for you is to change your employees from bystanders into activists.

One of the best ways to do this is to pick a very specific part of the strategy and get the employees to articulate how they are going to contribute to it.

A fun way to do this is in the daily huddle (the quick five-minute team catch-up which you do every day).

Let’s say you are Zappos and one of your values is “Delivering WOW through service”. Every day in the huddle, you would get your employees to say how they “delivered WOW through service” yesterday. Because employees know that tomorrow they are going to be asked what they did today, they make a strenuous effort to find the opportunity to do it!

You can pick a new element of the strategy to focus on every week or month. I wouldn’t go less than a week, as I find employees need to have found at least five examples before the concept is embedded in their mind; and much more than a month and people lose interest in the novelty of finding a new way to show they are doing it.

This is such a simple technique, but it works exceptionally well. You can try it on anything that you want to get happening throughout all the levels of the business, and you’ll be amazed by some of the stuff that employees find to do!

Julia Bickerstaff’s expertise is in helping businesses grow profitably. She runs two businesses: Butterfly Coaching, a small advisory firm with a unique approach to assisting SMEs with profitable growth; and The Business Bakery, which helps kitchen table tycoons build their best businesses. Julia is the author of How to Bake a Business and was a partner at Deloitte. She is a chartered accountant and has an economics degree from The London School of Economics (London University).

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