My last post focused on the importance of placing talent above all else. Investing in human capital is neither cheap nor easy, but everything else flows from it. And once you’ve made the investment, you’ve gotta remember that your people are absolutely indispensable.
You will likely identify many potential external stakeholders whose support is essential to your success, but those who will be most important are those you sit next to.
Organizations invest great effort in trying to persuade external stakeholders like donors, press, corporate partners, etc. of the merits of their idea, usually more than they invest in persuading their most important constituency: each other!
Don’t expect that this can be accomplished by e-mail. Serious strategies to solve previously unsolved problems are almost by definition likely to be complex. As the physicist Richard Feynman said to reporters who asked him to explain his Nobel Prize for quantum electrodynamics in ways they average person could understand: “If I could explain it to the average person, it probably would not have won a Nobel Prize.”
After all of the hard work that goes into developing a strategy, it is often assumed that everyone understands and agrees with it, or more important, understands it the same way. But that is rarely the case.
Such unity and alignment does not just happen by itself. We invested a tremendous amount of time in ensuring that the same words meant the same things to our executive leadership team and then to other layers of our staff:
- Did we all mean the same thing when using the words “end”, and “childhood” and “hunger”. It turns out that we didn’t.
- And how were we going to measure our success? By government statistics, our own field reports, internal or independent evaluators? Turns out we all had different ideas about that too.
- How would we resource and pay for our efforts? Often the different opinions were strongly held and forcefully asserted. So we had to avoid the very human temptation to evade or paper over them, and instead confront them, patiently battling it out behind closed doors.
That process continues to this day with staff meetings, internal trainings, and then “road shows” to personally share our ideas with key stakeholders and influencers outside of our headquarters.
How can you convince others of the credibility and criticality of your strategy – others who will not spend a fraction of the time on it that you have spent – if you haven’t convinced each other? No one is more invested in your success than the colleagues who sit alongside you.