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Why Your Organization Needs a Common Language Before You Implement Strategy

By Anthony Taylor - March 22, 2022

SME Strategy is a strategy consulting company that specializes in aligning teams around their vision, mission, values, goals and action plans. Learn more about how we can help align your team with our strategic planning and implementation services.

Hi everyone, Anthony Taylor here. I'm the Managing Partner at SME Strategy. We facilitate strategic planning sessions and help teams get aligned towards their one destination. And one of the critical components is having teams aligned on common language and common understanding of important words.

So, as you think of you and your team, as you move forward towards your one destination, where you trying to get to, it's important that your team is using a common language and has a common understanding of what important words mean. Otherwise, there's going to be frustration, there's going to be uncertainty, there's going to be a lack of clarity. And people are going to have different expectations as to what things mean, and what the impact is.

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So what is a practical example of that? One of the most common ones that we see with organizations are the difference between goals, objectives, and KPIs. Now, I'm not going to get into what they are in this video. But if someone has a different understanding of what a goal, objective or key performance indicator is, then they're going to have a different expectation of what they need to do to move it forward. This typically happens because they've gone through years of training and development at different companies that they have worked with. So they have a different understanding and application of the word.

Similarly, when people talk about mission and vision, they kind of conflate the two, and different people leave with different understandings of what that is. That's within the strategic planning context. If we think about it within your organization, and bring it down to the operational side of things - let's say you're talking about a document, okay? One person might have one name for a document, somebody else might call it something different. Well, if different people have different ideas as to what the same thing is called, or different things are called, then there's going to be frustration. "I thought you were talking about this, and I thought you were talking about this".

We were leading a session the other day, and a group was talking about their business lines and what they offer, and they were going back and forth. "Are we talking about this? Is it including this much? Is it this much just focused into here?" So being able to not brand something, but really put a specific name around important things, is going to help your team move forward and get over misunderstandings faster.


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So as a team, if you're ever going through the process and you're finding you're getting stuck on a word or something.. "Oh, I thought you meant this. No, I actually meant that." It's a good opportunity to stop the conversation and put a definition on this word. When I say this, I really mean this. Are we all on board with that definition? Do we all have the same understanding? So that way, when you go into future meetings, or even later in that conversation, you can say "I'm bringing up X. And I mean this" - just a double check. What it'll do is speed up the pace of your team being able to work together, especially as you're merging different teams, especially as you're working cross functionally.

Different people have different understandings and different perspectives on important words in your organization. So being able to get alignment on those is critical. As you move forward with your team, being clear and explicit on what language means is going to help you move faster through your implementation, align expectations, and help your team get aligned faster.

So I hope you enjoyed today's video, be sure to like and subscribe if you did. And I'd love to hear from you. If you've gone through challenges or problems with misunderstanding of common language, what you did, what the example was, and how you overcame it.

Everything is conversation, we go through the range of different important topics. One person might see something as an opportunity, while somebody else might not. So how do you get alignment with that? You really just need to talk it out. So hopefully this gives you a framework that you can use as you talk through important words with your team.

If you're having challenges and you're looking for somebody to support you with moving through that, be sure to reach out to us. You can click on our services page, or you can visit us at smestrategy.net.

Thanks so much for watching. Once again, my name is Anthony Taylor. I'm the Managing Partner at SME Strategy. Hope you enjoyed today's video and we'll see you in the next one.


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