Communicating the Plan

Tom Waits shouting into a giant megaphone at a concert

I wrote about communication tactics before, but that set of tips is more about status updates. Communicating a strategy is the next level up.

Communication of the plan is not completed until the recipient is telling you the plan in their own words.

Repetition is the key to this process. If you don’t feel like a broken record, you’re probably not being heard. I also mix media to make it less boring. In addition to my mission statement, catch phrases, and elevator pitches, there’s a document and a slide deck for everything important I’m trying to communicate. Few people ever read the document, but writing it is crucial for me to get things straight. The deck gets seen a lot as a rule.

There’s a distributed versus in-office angle to consider on this process. In an office-based culture, there are fewer scheduled meetings and more reliance on ad hoc; in order to be effective you have to be seen. By being present and available when questions arise, you get opportunities to deliver your pitch and course corrections. Without that shared meatspace, you have to manufacture connections. Lurking everywhere in Slack (or email lists back in the day) is a baseline, but don’t be afraid to use meetings. Accept any invite to talk to any group, present a slide or two of your deck and answer questions. If you’re not getting invites, ask for them – you should be talking to sales leadership, field engineering leadership, marketing, and R&D at the least, and some people in finance wouldn’t hurt. Schedule short one on ones with anyone involved or interested in your project, and deliver your message. “I just want to tug on your coat about something, did you know what the strategy is?”

As a leader with a strategic goal, you might imagine that you are a general with an eager army awaiting your guidance. Nothing could be less helpful. It’s much more relevant to imagine that you’re a street vendor hawking a new product, because you are selling an idea that requires investment and change. People first hear what they expect, then they hear something that won’t work, then they hear the idea, and then they hear why it could work.

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