Should the Strategy be Communicated? How Much? To Whom?

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Karl Christensen
Strategy Consultant, Mexico

Should the Strategy be Communicated? How Much? To Whom?

Communicating strategy involves much more than talk. There are numerous pitfalls or issues which must be resolved for the strategy to be effectively communicated. For example, in some instances executives argue with good reason that to fully communicate the organization´s strategy is to court (Editor: ~attract) disaster. Thus, one CEO has a five year strategy which, when it is fully implemented, will mean severe disruption to a major subsidiary. He does not want to rock the boat prematurely. An energy company thought it wiser not to publicize its strategy because it would become a sitting duck for regulatory agencies.
Such reservations have merit. Discretion may indeed be the better part of valor. Fully communicating strategy may not always be in the best interest of the organization, especially where that strategy is sensitive. Each situation has its own constraints, There is no one formula guiding how much strategy to communicate. However, where limitations are put on communications, those limitations must be carefully considered. They may not only handicap a manager´s ability to keep decisions consistent with the overall strategy, but they may erode commitment to the organization.
Regardless of where you are on the strategy-communications continuum, from significant discretion to full disclosure, critical issues about communication must be allowed to surface and be resolved. What should be communicated about the strategy and where and when should it be said? How much should be said and to whom? Stockholders? Middle Managers? Supervisors? Employees? Union Leaders? Customers? Government? What forms should the communication take? Who should do the communicating?
These questions seem relatively straightforward, but recall the situation mentioned earlier in which a corporate strategy meant severe disruption to a major subsidiary.

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