Have you heard the statistic suggesting the average human’s attention span had fallen from twelve seconds in 2000, down to just eight seconds today? The punch line was that we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish. The scientific integrity of the underlying data has since come under scrutiny, but there seems to be little doubt that, in our social media-driven, always-on world, it’s become increasingly challenging to focus on any given task for a significant period of time.
Execution, however, relies heavily on strategic focus — ensuring everyone in the organization, from top to bottom is aware of your strategy, fully understands it, and determines how they can contribute to its successful delivery. In order for this to occur, you need to guarantee all teams are concentrating fully on strategic priorities, day in and day out. But here’s the problem. We’ve both worked with companies that, in addition to sharing strategy with their workforces, also bombard them with core competencies, values, strategic imperatives, standards, and many other seemingly important accouterments of corporate achievement. If I’m an employee, to which of these do I align my actions? They all “seem” important, they’re in binders on a shelf after all. So, what do I do? This confusion leads, not surprisingly, to redundancies of effort, confusion, and poor results.
If you want to break from the pack, job number one is clearing the path for your employees by creating a differentiating strategy and ensuring everyone grasps both its overall meaning and its implications for them. Here are some ideas to help you along the way.
- Conduct an audit
Besides strategy, what other “critical” messages have you shared with your team. Catalog them and critically review each. Do they align with one another? Are all of them truly necessary or do they simply produce confusion? If they aren’t helping you on the execution front, do yourself a favor and toss them on the junk heap of well-intentioned but ultimately unhelpful ideas.
- Have fun with it
Some organizations will take the opportunity to transform this corporate pruning exercise into an entertaining ceremony. We know of one company that created a roaring bonfire fed exclusively with any unnecessary and contradictory directives from leadership.
- Use the oldest trick in the book
And that is repetition. Once you’ve pruned the terminology tree, focus on one thing — your core strategy — and share it with people over and over and over again. We’ve heard CEOs of successful companies say they were almost physically ill because they repeated the elements of the strategy so often. However, that’s the commitment required to ensure your precise message is getting through to an often tragically distracted workforce.
It’s getting harder all the time to grab someone’s attention and hold it for any reasonable amount of time. The competition for cognitive real estate is immense and powerfully armed with dopamine-driving clickbait, startling statistics, and endless kitten memes vying for our mental bandwidth. Sorry for the cliché, but now more than ever you must be sure your communication is targeted to the information your teams really need.