Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Impact of a Poorly Communicated Strategy

Reading “Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?” made me stop and think about my company.  I can recite our company’s core values and “catchy” buzzwords, but I really had to think about our strategy.  Right now, I suppose our focus is to be cash flow positive, but that was just the flavor of the year and dictated by the board.  I think our overarching goal is to become the nation’s leader in natural gas exploration and production, but it’s not quite clear to me how we are going to achieve that goal.  I think right now, our strategy is to do whatever means necessary to remain operational and not go bankrupt like many of our competitors.  At this point I think our strategy seems to be more reactionary than proactive and long term.  We are responding to the downturn in the market, and doing our best to stay afloat. 
We have gone through significant staff reductions and following each reduction our CEO and or executive management have had company-wide meetings to discuss the “state of the company.”  Each of these meetings left us feeling unsure about our future with the organization and the direction in which we were heading.  Most of the meetings were filled with cliché catch phrases and overly optimistic claims about our future.  While I understand management wanting us to feel confident and reassured, I think many of us would have preferred the truth, or a more explicit explanation of the strategy of the company.  Instead of hearing how our shareholders are confident in our abilities, I would have preferred to hear about what we are doing during the market downturn to continue working towards our goal of becoming the nation’s leader in unconventional exploration and production.  Through our simulation exercise last week it became clear that while you have to adjust your strategy in response to the market, it is important to try to remain consistent in your execution.  My organization has made many short sighted decisions in order to meet the short term goals that may be steering us off course.
As the article states, it is important to have a very clear strategy with defined objectives, scope and advantage.  I really liked the point of anything will get you to your destination if you don’t know where you’re going.  It drives home the importance of knowing your ultimate goal in order to shape your strategy.  I’m sure the executive leadership at my company is very aware of the overall strategy and have key benchmarks for success.  Perhaps I am not in a position where it is critical for me to know much more than we want to be a leader in producing gas, however I think they would attain greater employee buy in if we were all better informed.  Sometimes the actions the company takes leave us all scratching our heads, further damaging our faith in the organization.  If we understood the specific targets executive management is aiming for, we would understand certain decisions and be more vested. 
In my conversations with my superiors, many of them are unclear about the focus of our work and the direction we are heading.  It’s one thing if I’m not completely clear on the company’s strategy, but if lower to middle management doesn’t know either, that seems problematic.  As the article states, it’s important to have a clear strategy that is communicated across the entire organization.  It seems to me that this is even more critical during times of hardship, such as the energy industry is facing now.  As the organization is trimming its workforce and spending, it is even more important to have everyone on board to continue pushing the organization forward. I think this is where being a publicly traded organization creates problems.  The executive leadership may have a plan in place, however they are beholden to the shareholders and often their plans get changed due to pressure from the board.  Having to answer to a board provides yet another challenge in strategy development and execution.              

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