“A company without a story is usually a company without a strategy.”
—Ben Horowitz, entrepreneur and investor
Steve Jobs bounces onto the stage and grabs the slide changer from his colleague with a friendly “Thanks, Scott.” He’s looking thin and grey, illness having taken its toll, but his energy remains boundless. It’s the 2011 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, and Jobs is about to announce a change in strategy for his company. The 1,000-plus crowd cheers as he steps into the spotlight and then falls silent, hanging on his next utterance.“About 10 years ago, we had one of our most important insights, and that was the PC was gonna become the digital hub for your digital life.” With these words, Jobs begins his strategic story.
Most people don’t know the strategy
A 2011 global study of 450 enterprises found that 80 percent of those companies felt they were not doing their best to communicate strategy to their people. It’s the dirty little secret shared by so many companies: Ask any employee—including members of the executive team—about your strategy, and they’ll lunge for a document that tells them what it is. It’s rarely embedded in their minds and, as a result, the espoused strategy does not influence day-to-day decision-making. Given the effort applied to strategy development, there is a massive disconnect here. The opportunity to reconnect a firm with its strategy lies in how this strategy is communicated and understood.
There are a number of ways of conveying your organization’s strategy. A popular approach is to craft a beautiful-looking PowerPoint presentation and email it to all your team leaders, with instructions to present it to their teams. The head of strategy for one of Australia’s iconic brands once told me he happened to sit in on one of these talks and witnessed a team leader presenting a slide pack.