Elements of Strategy, Part 7: The Icing on the Cake (Meta Strategy)

This is our final installment in the Elements of Strategy series. Hope you enjoyed it.

The toughest part of creating a strategy lies in what isn’t communicated: the meta strategy. This is the plan for getting your strategy through the hoops and loops it needs to pass, in order to stand a chance of being adopted. Every strategy is an exercise in internal communications and guerilla marketing: can you “sell” the strategy and the need for it? Here’s a checklist of things to consider on the way to drafting your meta strategy:

  • Building awareness
    • Why are we doing this?
    • Why are we doing this now?
      • Is there a sense of urgency? If not, why should anyone care?
    • What happens if we don’t do it?
      • What are the lost opportunities? What are the risks?
    • What happens next?
      • Once you’ve got people on board, what needs to happen to push your strategy forward?
    • How will this affect me? What do I need to do?
      • People need “skin in the game” to care.
  • Road blocks
    • Who’s likely to stand in the way of adoption?
    • What’s motivating their opposition?
    • What could you show that’s “in it for them” to get them on side?
      • Barring that, what would they need, to want to buy in?
  • Advocates
    • Who are they?
    • How can you leverage them?
    • What’s in it for them; is there a quid-pro-quo involved?
  • Key messages
    • What do people need to hear, to make them care about your plan?
      • Is that different from what they need to hear, to actively get on board?
    • What messages will they pick up and carry with them into future conversations with others, that will help evangelize the strategy?
  • Levers
    People don’t embrace change lightly, but there are many levers that can help move them.

    • Security: how will this strategy make our company (and by extension our jobs) more secure?
    • FOMO: will we miss out on valuable opportunities if we don’t adopt this strategy?
    • Envy: what are our competitors doing? Are we lagging behind them?
    • Pride: how will this make us (me) look good?
  • Marketing materials
    • Visuals: each one is worth a thousand words.
    • Institutional language: are you speaking it?
    • Leave-behinds: cheat sheets and other sharable “reminders.”
  • Quick wins: will you need to show some, to gain momentum?
  • The cult of the consultant: can you leverage the social proof provided by experts outside your organization to provide validation for your ideas?

In the end, the best thing you can do when trying to “sell” your strategy is to remember one of the key tenets of communication: narrative. People may not remember a presentation, but they’ll always remember a story you tell them. If you can tell a compelling one about the threats your organization is facing, the limited window it has in which to react, and how what you’re proposing will help win the day, your strategy stands a fighting chance of being implemented.

Happy strategizing.

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