Strategy Without Tactics is Futile
by Helen Wilkie

From time to time there seems to be a flurry of studies and surveys on effective communication in the workplace. As a communication specialist, I'm always eager to read these studies, but am often disappointed with what I see. That's because they all seem to be about communication strategy.

  • We must put in place strategies to get our message out to our various publics.
  • We must have a communication strategy so that our image and reputation will be disseminated in the way we want it.

It all sounds so one-sided, and even worse, so one-dimensional. According to my Oxford Dictionary, "strategy" is a military term defined as "generalship, the art of war; management of an army or armies in a campaign; art of so moving or disposing troops or ships as to impose upon the enemy the place and time and conditions for fighting preferred by oneself."

That's all very well as far as it goes, but there are two problems. First, if your soldiers don't have the necessary skills to move the army along, they will never reach the strategic position in the first place. Second, if they don't have the appropriate fighting skills, they won't know what to do once they are in position.

In order to make use of a strategy, you need the other half of the equation: tactics. The same dictionary defines "tactics" as "the art of disposing military or naval forces in actual contact with the enemy". In other words, once your strategy is in place, you must use tactics that will convert your plan into results.

In today's complex, many-faceted workplace, too many laudable communication strategies fail, or at least achieve limited success, because of lack of attention to tactics. By tactics, I mean the way we use applied communication every day to get the work done. As I often tell my audiences, this is not about a system - it's about the skills of those using the system. If the soldiers are not trained in the skills they need to get to the place of engagement as well as to fight the battle, then where is the value of a strategy?

In workplace terms, if employees at all levels don't have the skills to transfer information through presentations, through person-to-person discussion at meetings, through articulate discussion with the media, through the written word in all its forms, to interact with colleagues, customers and other stakeholders - then even the most ambitious strategy is doomed to failure from the start.

Effective workplace communication takes two components: the will and the skill - and one is of no use without the other. Your sales force may be very willing to sell your products, but if they haven't been given the necessary skills they'll starve. Newly promoted, enthusiastic young managers may well have the will to excel in their new responsibilities, but without the necessary training how will they have the skill to run effective meetings, motivate their people or lead winning teams?

Soldiers must be trained to carry out military tactics; employees must be trained to communicate effectively in all workplace interactions.

This is why applied communication is "The Hidden Profit Center". Find those places in your organization where communication is breaking down, and take a close look at what that costs in monetary terms. Identify the missing skills and supply the training necessary to provide them. After a predetermined length of time, quantify the savings in time, opportunity and people: that's your Hidden Profit Center, and you'll be amazed at how enormous it can be.


Helen Wilkie is a professional keynote speaker, workshop facilitator and author, helping companies save their money and people save their sanity through better communication. Her latest book is "The Hidden Profit Center a tale of profits lost and found through communication." For more articles and other information, visit http://www.mhwcom.com. While you're there, sign up for Communi-keys and receive monthly communication techniques directly from Helen.

Many more articles in Communications in The CEO Refresher Archives

   


Copyright 2005 by Helen Wilkie. All rights reserved.

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