Does it have any real value?
When Policy Plays Principle!

The disastrous consequences of mixed messages!

As I have always stressed, there are two distinct parts to strategy. There’s strategy development and there is strategy implementation. They are two very different things, but you can’t really have the one without the other.

Mixed message_000003871853XSmallIt’s all very well for executives to sit in their plush offices and develop strategic plans but those plans aren’t worth a can of beans if they are not carried out. And of course, it is the rest of the organisation that does the carrying out! In fact executives generally play little or no significant part in implementation. That is why it is imperative that the strategy is effectively communicated through all levels of the organisation.  How else can you expect to achieve strategic integrity – the perfect fusion of strategic planning and strategy implementation?  

Strategic integrity naturally necessitates consistent communication with a constant message and behaviour that reinforces that message. Yet how often do you find personal interests and short-term gains that run counter to this? And at what cost? The fact is that if behaviour does not mirror intention you are unable to avoid the tag of hypocrisy. Needless to say organisational hypocrisy is lethal to strategic integrity. Why? Because non-aligned behaviour creates mixed messages and mixed messages breed confusion and inconsistent behaviour, and that inevitably erodes performance and the bottom-line.

Way back in my career, when working for a premier life insurance company, I had the experience of a CEO stressing the need to cut costs. He even went so far as to circulate a memo, under his own signature, that we could no longer request – and Stationary could no longer purchase – pencils with erasers on the end! Coinciding with the refurbishment of the executive suite at a cost of millions, this did not go down well with employees and, with trust destroyed, the culture collapsed and there was a mass exodus of the best people!     

Unfortunately, it seems that lessons are never learned and that history repeats itself, in all walks of life. Recently I have witnessed our local school “being forced” to lay off teachers in order to cut costs. Yet it is spending a small fortune on refurbishing a house on the property for the head teacher to move into rent free; as well as paying for an overseas speaker to be the guest of honour at the annual prize-giving. Unsurprisingly the question on everyone’s lips is, “How many teachers is that?” The dichotomy is so great that it has totally destroyed morale, and the hard-won school-pride, built over decades, has been completely destroyed. Disengaged employees,teachers and staff, are all updating and disseminating their CV’s and, instead of reducing costs, are spending wherever they can without even bothering to “shop around” for better prices, with the idea that they won’t be around for much longer.  

So stop and consider what is going on in your organisation. Are you giving out mixed messages? And, if so, do you have any idea of what the consequences are?


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