Strategy development is a core task for Chief Communication Officers (CCO’s). And this task has never been more challenging. Our volatile, high-demanding world requires a new approach to strategy development. Communication professionals need to embrace complexity. Acting swiftly, thoroughly, interactively has become a critical success factor. Time to say goodbye to linear strategic planning. Asap.
Has strategy development ever been as important for CCO’s as it is today? It certainly is an integral part of the modern Chief Communication Officer’s toolbox. Making strategic decisions is vital to helping realize organisational goals, manage complex issues, drive change, position corporate leaders, engage stakeholders and so on.
Making choices is a permanent state of affairs
Developing effective strategies can put CCO’s on the path to becoming a trusted advisor and a valued member of the dominant coalition. Not only the outcome of that strategy development process matters. Also the process itself.
This process too often is complex and labour-intensive. However, this does not excuse anyone who has mapped out a strategy from the obligation to be able to explain it clearly.
Check your most recently developed strategy: Are you able to describe in 2 to 3 minutes what you want to do, why you want to do it, how you will do it, and who/what you need to get it done? No? Trust me. Your strategy probably needs some work.
Strategy development is about essence. About making choices. Hard choices! The context in which (connected) leaders need to perform is changing so rapidly, the need to make choices is pretty much a permanent state of affairs. This has immense consequences for leadership style and strategy development. The least thing you should do as CCO is say goodbye to linear communication plans. Asap!
Agile strategy development: four starting points
It is about time to use a more agile way of strategy development. And embrace 4 starting points:
- People over processes: Forming a group of skilled and motivated people is vital. In fact, I strongly believe that people trump process.
- Respond to change rather than follow a plan: It is a waste of time to put effort into every tiny detail. Vision and ambition are vital, but more operational choices need to be challenged over and over again. Plans should never be too detailed, and only oriented at the most important decisions made.
- Cross functional collaboration rather than silo behavior: The majority of communication and reputational challenges we are facing nowadays require intensive collaboration. Developing strategies in splendid isolation is a no-go. Strategy development requires cross functional collaboration. Teaming is everything.
- A one-pager over a bulky report: Why torture professionals and make them read bulky plans? Or even worse, why give professionals the thankless task of writing those documents? Top management only cares for vital information: “What are the communications objectives? How will the company benefit? How are we going to realize these objectives? And what will it cost?”
The Communication Strategy Framework
These 4 starting points helped us develop a new, more practical approach to strategy development: The Communication Strategy Framework. Betteke van Ruler and I introduce this Framework in our new book The Communication Strategy Handbook. The Framework recently got covered in the latest edition of Communications Director magazine.
Professionals have to continually adapt to changing circumstances while staying in command. Our Framework is all about reflecting and adjusting. Strategy requires ongoing maintenance.
The Communication Strategy Framework consists of eight building blocks (see figure 1) and guides professionals to ask and answer the right questions. At the right time. The Framework forces you to connect vision with context. And it triggers professionals to evaluate what the organization and its top management really needs.
In our Framework context is key and focus the name of the (strategy) game!