Why CCO’s need to embrace a more agile way of strategy development

We are very much aware of the fact that strategy development is a core task for Chief Communication Officers (CCO’s). But this task has never been more challenging. We are living in a volatile, high-demanding world. And this requires a new approach to strategy development. Communication professionals need to embrace complexity. Acting swiftly, thoroughly, interactively has become a critical success factor. Time to say goodbye to linear strategic planning. And we need to say goodbye as soon as possible.

Has strategy development ever been as important for CCO’s as it is today? It certainly is an integral part of the modern Chief Communication Officer’s toolbox. Making strategic decisions is vital to helping realize organisational goals, manage complex issues, drive change, position corporate leaders, engage stakeholders and so on.

Making choices is a permanent state of affairs. This has immense consequences for leadership style and strategy development.

But making choices is not that easy. You cut of possibilities. And making the wrong decisions can have enormous consequences. However, developing effective strategies can put CCO’s on the path to becoming a trusted advisor and a valued member of the dominant coalition.

And do not forget: not only the outcome of that strategy development process matters. Also the process itself.

This process too often is complex and labor-intensive. However, this does not excuse anyone who has mapped out a strategy from the obligation to be able to explain it clearly.

Check your most recently developed strategy: Are you able to describe in 2 to 3 minutes what you want to do, why you want to do it, how you will do it, and who/what you need to get it done? No? Trust me. Your strategy probably needs some work.

Agile strategy development: four starting points

It is about time to use a more agile way of strategy development. And embrace 4 starting points:

  • People over processes: Forming a group of skilled and motivated people is vital. In fact, I strongly believe that people trump process.
  • Respond to change rather than follow a plan: It is a waste of time to put effort into every tiny detail. Vision and ambition are vital, but more operational choices need to be challenged over and over again. Plans should never be too detailed, and only oriented at the most important decisions made.
  • Cross functional collaboration rather than silo behavior: The majority of communication and reputational challenges we are facing nowadays require intensive collaboration. Developing strategies in splendid isolation is a no-go. Strategy development requires cross functional collaboration. Teaming is everything.
  • A one-pager over a bulky report: Why torture professionals and make them read bulky plans? Or even worse, why give professionals the thankless task of writing those documents? Top management only cares for vital information: “What are the communications objectives? How will the company benefit? How are we going to realize these objectives? And what will it cost?

Don’t be the rabbit caught in the headlights

I see, hear and experience organizations struggling with strategy development. Of course, many CCO’s are already doing the right thing. They have already adopted a more agile way of strategy development a long time ago.

Others behave more like rabbits caught in the headlights. They see the world is changing; however it seems that they chose to sit and wait. Their teams still produce weighty plans, often in word, very often developed in splendid isolation.

Dear CC, ask yourself this question. Are you proud of your most recently developed communication strategy? Are you also proud of the strategy development process? And does your CEO feel the same way? If so, well done. Kudos! If not, take some to reflect. And ask yourself: what should we do differently next time? Perhaps the four starting points in this blog will help you answer that question.

Good luck making wise decisions.

Frank Körver.

Partner at consultancy firm Wepublic. His focus: reputation, communication, strategy, and leadership. Frank is co-author of the Communication Strategy Handbook and the Dutch coordinator of the EACD. His blog is called www.connectedleader.blog.