All projects have a vision, even if it is never written down.
The vision is what you want the project to achieve.
It speaks to the need to see the change and to know what is coming.
Or, to say that in a less management-speak way: a project vision is a statement of what the end result will look like.
Defining the end result is relatively easy for smaller projects. You can say that you’ll launch a new product, update a process, introduce new procedures or policies.
On a strategic project, the end result is often vaguer. It’s often some kind of transformative business change that will lead to improvements across a number of areas like customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, financial results and culture.
It is worth adding a caveat to that: some strategic project may have very simple visions.
I once worked on a project to change the ERP system of a company. That was hugely strategic for the business at the time, but had a very clear end goal and a vision we could communicate in a few words – and everyone understood it.
Let’s assume that you already have the vision for your project. Whether it has been simple to define or a long journey through countless workshops and brainstorming sessions, you’ve got a vision. You know where you are going and what the end result of this change will mean for the business.
So how do you share that with other people?
The Challenge of Sharing the Vision
Great communicators know that there is more to getting your message across than standing up and saying it once. There is a reason that the mantra for giving a presentation is ‘tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you’ve told them’.
People in the organisation come and go over time. Strategic projects often see staff turnover, just because they tend to take longer than other projects the company is doing because they are larger and more complex (again, that isn’t always true, but it’s fair to assume that many strategically-important projects do fall into that category).
You can’t simply share your project vision once and expect it to embed and permeate throughout the organisation.
Methods to Share the Vision
You need to share the vision for your strategic project many times. And you should do it across many different channels.
People take in information in different ways. Typically, people need to hear information a number of times before it starts to feel real to them. If you are dealing with organisational change, it can be helpful to reiterate the message over and over because people may be worried about what it means for them, so they won’t take in the whole thing the first time.
Here are 5 ways that you can share the vision. Pick and choose which you think would work best in your environment, or do them all!
1. New Starter Inductions
If your project is truly strategically significant, everyone needs to know about it. Talk to HR about including information about the project in new starter inductions. You could create a handout or slide deck to be shared with new starters. This only needs to include the headlines for the project and what it means for staff.
It’s also useful to tell people where they can get more information, so if they are directly affected by the change or want to know more, they have somewhere to go.
2. Management Briefings
Take advantage of the fact that most businesses have management briefings from time to time. Whether that’s a Town Hall style meeting or an all-hands conference, there are opportunities at work for everyone to get together.
Try to get your project on the agenda for these. Even a 10-minute update helps keep your project front and centre and on the strategic radar.
There are other ways that you can use briefings to your advantage. Prepare a management presentation pack for team leaders to share with their teams. This could include information about progress updates on the project, for example. You could update the pack regularly and also tailor it to different areas so that each business division got information relevant to their teams.
3. Web Communications
Make use of the company intranet and website pages to communicate the vision for your strategic projects.
If you think there would be public interest in what you are doing, create a micro-site or webpage on your public website to share the news. This can really help set the tone for internal communications as well. For example, many software development companies share their product roadmap and the release of new features. While they wouldn’t want to publicly share anything that would be groundbreaking in their industry for fear of losing that competitive advantage, there is information that can be shared publicly about the direction they are taking for the product.
Equally, you can create an intranet site or page on your collaboration tool to share information internally about the project. The tone and language used all go towards reinforcing the vision, plus it gives you a platform to share that message multiple times.
Every communication online should be underpinned by the vision. If you have your vision as a kind of project strapline, you can build it into the design of your internal comms. For example, quoting it in your project newsletters that you then share online too as a PDF file.
A humble poster is a powerful tool! A few well-chosen words can tell people a lot about where the project and the business are headed. If your project is strategically important and has a wide impact, you can use posters as a way to get the message across.
Think about other visual communication options as well: you might not always need it to be a poster. Many reception areas have video screens. Perhaps a rotating presentation might do the job and be more ‘modern’ than a poster in the staff rest areas.
Video is perceived to be hard to do, but actually, you can get a lot of return from a video. It’s a good way of making sure that the same message is heard by everyone, regardless of where they are in the organisation. If you struggle to keep your project team on brand with messaging, video might be the answer!
Video is powerful because it combines a number of elements. You can interview key stakeholders about what the project means for them. You can show the product being built or demonstrated.
Your internal comms team may already have people on staff who could produce the video for you or be connected to cost-effective agencies to do the job of recording and editing. Given the budget on many strategic projects, this may not turn out to be as expensive as you thought – and it gives you a communications tool you can use across many channels during the life of the project.
Whether you choose to do big presentations or regular newsletters, both or neither, the important thing is to find a cadence for communication that helps you reinforce the vision for your strategic project. Take every opportunity to keep reminding people of what your project is all about, and you’ll find that eventually, it seeps into the culture of the organisation.
What’s your favourite project communication method? Let us know by tweeting us @2080StrategyEx. We’d love to hear your thoughts!