Team blog

Keeping your Team Onboard your Category Journey

Written by Jonathan Simnett

We’ve talked about in our podcast `The Difference Engine`, on the importance of getting board alignment, and the need to establish clear leadership roles in the team, early in the Category journey.

While we advise keeping it tight, at Strike time, everyone has a role to play in the Category journey so it’s essential your entire company is onboard from the beginning if you are going to maximise the impact of Category Design for the business. So what are Categorical’s top tips for achieving this?

Don’t assume

The next-to-worst thing a leadership team can do is to assume your employees will understand why you are embarking on the Category journey. The absolute worst thing that you can do is to believe that they will instantly agree with you that the strategic plan is a `great idea`.  Also, that they will realise it is a strategic direction not just a marketing campaign and that they will want, in fact, need, to commit wholeheartedly to it to build their career with your company.

Don’t assume either that despite clear and timely communication you will get quick and clear feedback on the initiative. At best, it will take time and will need to be extracted.  At worst people could be working to passively or actively sabotage your efforts.These are the `Zeds` and they will need to be dealt with.

5 points for engagement 

What are the 5 points you need to bear in mind when engaging your team on the Category journey?

  1. Understand the need for an internal communications plan in place from the outset and, crucially, write it down and get it agreed. 
  2. Assemble a small and agile Strike team to work with the board leaders – keep it tight for confidentiality, to bring focus and to move fast.
  3. Maximise impact by briefing the whole company just before each public strike with a “Burn The Boats’ event. The CEO must lead the meeting – on no account should it be delegated to marketing. Be open – use an `ask me anything` approach.  This is important because it will give you early clues about who is on board and who isn’t – the potential Zeds.
  4. Monitor and engage with the naysaying Zeds. Give teams and individuals Category-related tasks to flush any tenacious Zeds out and challenge them. Identify Zeddy behaviours – passive aggression is a sure sign, as is stubbornly continuing to use old decks or individuals making light of your plans and presentations to their colleagues.
  5. Report back fast on successes and challenges of first Strike to the entire company and move swiftly on to the second and further Strikes. The importance of this approach is emphasised in  Episode 11 of The Difference Engine by Pat Morrissey – CCO of HireVue and serial Category leader.

Keys to success

So, in any successful category journey it’s vital that you have to have parallel programmes of internal and external communication – addressing both your employee and customer base – and that these compliment each other in terms of timing and content

Make sure everyone knows what their role is, but maintain levels of confidentiality as leakage can adversely affect the impact of each Strike. Be very careful to identify and deal with individuals who are not engaging with the Category process. Target and persuade them. If they refuse to adapt, don’t be afraid to part ways

Find more discussion on how to take your team with you on the Category issue and many other contentious Category issues on The Difference Engine podcast at

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