Strategy is essential to an organization’s success. While it’s critical, most organizations aren’t good at it. In a recent survey, less than 50% of CEO’s said their organization was good at executing strategic initiatives. In addition, only 33% of employees consider themselves actively engaged at work. With this low level of engagement, it’s no wonder that so many organizations fail to execute the strategic initiatives that will drive the future of their businesses.

Having a solid strategy is only the beginning.

I developed Fulfilling Strategy, a system of principles, processes, and tools designed to help leaders create the alignment, capacity, and engagement required to execute strategic initiatives even during changing market and business conditions.

One of the key tenants of Fulfilling Strategy is that strategy must be meaningful to those responsible for executing it. Too often, the strategy never leaves the grips of the C-Suite.

In this post, I’ll share a process of translating strategic initiatives into something meaningful to the entire organization. Following this process will fuel your organization’s capability to execute its most critical strategic initiatives.

Make Strategy Meaningful 

Most organizations are good at developing strategic initiatives but not making them meaningful to the employees responsible for their successful execution. Not surprisingly, 80% of employees do not understand how organizational initiatives apply to them. It’s futile to expect exceptional performance under those conditions.

People want to know the work they do matters. When work matters, people care about doing it well. You must help them draw the link between the critical, strategic initiatives of the organization and their daily work to create team engagement and buy-in.

The Process of Making it Meaningful

The infographic to the left provides an overview of how you make strategy meaningful to your teams by Translating Strategic Initiatives. This process encourages strategic-level discussions layers deep inside the organization. It also fosters alignment, ownership, and sheds light on the most crucial work to be done.

For each strategic initiative, Leadership creates meaning by answering the question, “Why is this initiative important to us?”

I’m not talking about financial numbers or KPI’s. You’ve got to go deeper to make it truly meaningful. Ask questions like:

  • What does achieving this objective allow us to do?
  • How will our organization be better off when we accomplish this goal?
  • How will we be able to serve our customers better?
  • How does the initiative support our company’s Purpose?

Most organizations don’t take the time to explain the “why,” but this step is vital. Providing a thoughtful “why” for each critical strategic initiative creates clarity at the team level and makes it easier for them to determine the most important thing they can do to impact the goal.

With this clarity on the key initiatives, teams can meet to translate what this means regarding the team’s responsibility. Teams answer the question, “What’s the most important thing or things our team must do to advance this goal?” The purpose is not to create an action plan. The objective is to promote an understanding and a foundation for fostering individual ownership of the initiatives.

Once the team’s role is established, the individual team members can develop the most important thing or things they need to do to ensure the team is successful. This step is magical because it directly connects the organization’s most important goals and the individual’s role and responsibilities.

Strategy is now meaningful.

When people can see the link between the critical, strategic initiatives of the organization and their daily work, they engage and have the buy-in required to execute the organization’s most crucial goals.

Idea to Action

At times, it can seem that groups inside an organization have competing agendas. You can utilize this translation process as a unifier, as a way to rally people around essential, shared goals. When teams understand the roles of others within the context of the bigger, strategic initiatives, they develop a more profound, shared understanding and respect for how each other contributes to the higher goals.

Here are some other ideas for using this translation process:

Connected Teams: Conduct a review session between teams that work together regularly, like Marketing and Engineering. Have each group share their strategy translation information and discuss how they can support each other better and overcome obstacles.

Disconnected Teams:  Conduct a review session like the one above but select teams that rarely work together. Create new connections and a better understanding of each team’s role in the bigger picture.

Guiding Priorities:  Use this tool to prioritize quarterly team goals and action plans. Have teams review this information monthly and quarterly to refocus and hold each other accountable for the most crucial strategic work.

Creating a solid strategy is not enough to ensure organizational success. Communicating the plan isn’t enough. Strategy must be translated into something meaningful before employees can find their ownership in its execution.


We hope you enjoyed this blog post. We are excited to announce that Adriana McLane will be speaking at the NAW Large Company CEO Roundtable which will be held on September 21 – 22. This Roundtable is reserved for CEOs/COOs of distribution companies with annual revenue between $100 million and up to $1 billion. If you haven’t already, please register today so that you can not only hear Adriana but many others on this year’s program!