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Work Smarter, Not Harder

Topic: Ensure that strategic planning is communicated properly to align effort and obtain results


As we move towards the end of the calendar year, there is a feeling of momentum as organizations and municipalities are finalizing their budgets and aligning their 2023 goals to the long-term strategic plan. Everyone involved in this process is exerting high effort and energy, and this type of planning and forecasting work tires the executive functions of our brain easily. This exhaustion is why we want to ‘check the box’ once we complete our budgets and goal setting and declare that point the finish line. Unfortunately, if we stop our efforts at that point, we are missing a critical component of success.


Before a plan can be executed, the teams who will execute the plan must understand the plan. The time and effort put into creating a plan can easily be negated if those executing the plan have no idea how to adapt their day-to-day routine. We need to communicate the plan in a language that everyone understands, and the good news is that this is not difficult to do.


Tip #1 – Don’t use the same language that you used to create the goal


When we complete strategic planning, we are using our analytical side of our brain. However, our decision-making functions and day-to-day habitual actions are completed by other sides of the brain. In fact, our brain only can picture the concept of numerical values up to 5…after that, our brain categorizes the number as ‘a lot’. This means that we can’t use the analytical side of our brain to create messages to communicate the goals, and the messages we do create need to be concrete, specific, and appeal to motivation.


Tip #2 – Talk about the ‘why’, ‘what’, ‘whom’, and ‘when’


We have all been in situations where teams play the game of hot potato with the strategic goals because of ambiguity around these factors. Structuring your messages around these four key concepts will help reduce the risk of this situation.

  1. Why – Why is this goal needed, and how does it tie to a motivating platform? Does it build a strong community, improve the customer experience, or honour history and culture? Explaining the why of a goal in a way that motivates and engages employees emotionally ensures they are aligned and committed.

  2. What – Describing simple concrete actions that teams can complete to adjust their day-to-day work to support the goal will reduce the guesswork and align effort.

  3. Whom – Who are the specific teams who will be responsible, accountable, support, consulted, and informed? A RASCI* matrix can help identify this.

  4. When – Identifying key milestones points throughout the year spreads out the effort and reduces the year end push to accomplish the year’s goals.

For example, if your goal is to reduce operational cost by 10% for the year, your key messages might be:

  • For every dollar that we spend, we will purposefully find a way to save 10 cents. That 10 cents will help reduce the tax cost next year for our residents, which supports them as they manage their expenses in a time where the cost of living is increasing.

  • Team A will work with our suppliers to identify ways to reduce cost. By Q1, they will have met with all suppliers and request new pricing. By Q2, we will implement the updated pricing.

  • Team A will ensure Team B is notified of updated pricing so that Team B can monitor expenses.

  • Everyday, you can support this goal by taking a pause before you make a purchase to rethink whether that expense is required, and if there is a way to obtain that service or product for a cheaper rate.

Tip #3 – Lean on the perspective of others


You have spent your effort in planning and forecasting for 2023. Your brain is tired, and the last thing you want to do is create these messages. On top of that, since you created the goals, you already have a level of understanding that is different from others and impacts your communication approach. Maximize your efficiency by leaning strategically into others to support you to craft and validate the messages. By picking a trusted subject matter expert from each team to create and validate these messages, you can ensure your communication will be effective.


It's the time of year to work smarter, not harder. By leveraging others and adjusting your communication plan, you can ensure that the hard work put into planning is then transferred into action and results.


Chantel Butt is dedicated to helping professionals lead themselves and their organizations through transformation. As the CEO of Covalency Coaching & Consulting, she works with individuals and organizations to capitalize on the opportunities within change through change management and leadership/professional development.


* RASCI = Responsible, Accountable, Supportive, Consulted, Informed. This helps identify roles for each group affected by a decision.

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