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Strategy & Tactics: internal communications + social media

Now indeed, I thought Steve Crescenzo posted a good piece this week on the thorny internal comms question of whether ‘Strategy or Tactics?’ Question: Should you be a ’strategist’ or a ‘tactician?’ Answer: Yes & a fine answer, because as Steve rightly points out we need both. I think it’s essential to never forget that tactics are essential. Take for example a game of chess…

Perhaps only at the very highest level when both players are equally matched does strategy finally decide the outcome. However, most games of chess are not won through strategy, they are won through tactics (or, as some might argue, through whoever makes the least mistakes). And whilst the strategy might be to control white space or to lure an opponent to over extend their attack so as to compromise their defences, it’s the singular combination of tactical moves, culminating in forks or pins and the rest, that decides the final outcome.

Now of course the chess player has one significant advantage over those deploying a strategy via tactical means and that is that they are a singular person – there should be no disconnect between the two. This as perhaps we all ought to admit is not always the case in the corporation. Indeed I’ve heard it said that making that connect between the actions of an individual on the ground, impacting in part by tactical messaging, to follow and enact a strategic path; is, if not the Holy Grail, at least a fine and noble embrace of internal comms.

I saw this on a project once. We surveyed the field sales guys on internal comms, messaging and channels and found an interesting and very salient fact. The message got through ok, the comms channels worked but the sales guys didn’t really know what to do with the message – ‘what can I do with this, how does it all connect up, what can I take to my customers?’ were their common laments.

What we were seeing was a disconnect between the delivery of the strategic message and it’s interpretation. The tactic of delivering it was working well, it was just that people didn’t understand what it meant or what to do with it.

Now I’ve heard people such as Bill Quirke talk about this as something that can be addressed by ensuring that middle management are able to relate, respond and translate  the message into something more meaningful and useful at the specific instance. This of course is a more than useful approach, but it’s one I would argue, that is labour, time and resource intensive. And there is a way that can support and reinforce this approach whilst reducing cost and increasing scope and that is to use social technologies to connect up the delivery of the key core message.

The idea here is to ensure that there are collaborative spaces at the intersections where the message is delivered, be it e-mail, live meetings/town hall, the intranet based channels, video or a face to face; in the form of team lead blogs and responses, discussion forum threads and editable shared documents. The idea here is that these social elements are located in the heart of the intranet at the very points where the strategic message needs to connect with what needs actually doing to deliver it.

The aim here is that this collaboration layer allows people to engage with the strategic message, to ask questions – and get answers, to discuss between peers and experts and to learn what works and what doesn’t. The result is to transform the well delivered but potentially fallow message into something with fertile resonance, a strategy that is social and tranformative both in terms of how it gets used and also in how it in itself gets transformed too.

In a future post I’ll look at what this social intranet looks like.

Chess image from

2 replies on “Strategy & Tactics: internal communications + social media”

Russel: As an avid chess player myself, I LOVE the analogy. And
using the intranet to do your best to ensure consistency of message
is critical. Because you’re right . . . the hard part of being a
communicator is that you could have the BEST strategy and the BEST
tactics and STILL fail, because the message breaks down somewhere
down there in the bowels of the org. chart. Great post. Steve C.

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