Strategic Vision? For Employees, Sometimes It Gets Lost in Translation

If your employees aren’t executing the strategic vision your leadership team worked so hard to create, it could be because it’s getting lost in translation due to “Bad Lip Reading.”

Here’s what I mean: I recently was working with a leadership team going through major changes in response to major marketplace shifts. They had created what they thought was a clear vision and started sharing it with employees.

Months later, employees still reported being unclear about the big picture. They didn’t understand where their organization was headed, their role in making it happen, or its implications for them.

How familiar does this sound?

Communicating the vision more clearly

The goal of the retreat was to come up with a clearer, more understandable way of communicating the vision.

Ironically enough, during one of the breaks a couple of the members of the team started watching one of my favorite Youtube videos from the Bad Lip Reading people. Several of us stood behind them watching and laughing. Those who had never seen these videos laughed in disbelief.

I say it was ironic because the Bad Lip Reading videos are such a perfect metaphor for what happens in so many organizations. The leadership team shares their strategic vision with employees and thinks they are delivering a coherent compelling message. But what they believed was said clearly, gets lost in translation. The message employees hear is very different from the message that leadership intended to send.

Is this what goes on in your organization?

Either employees simply don’t understand the vision — and all they hear is “Blah, blah, blah” — or they misinterpret what is being said, usually with a “the sky is falling” twist.

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The result? Employee morale plummets while they muddle around not doing the things that will make the vision a reality.

As you watch this hilarious and somewhat bizarre video, I want you to have in the back of your mind how it might be a metaphor for what is happening in your organization — and the price you are paying for it.

Taking the next step

How might this be happening in your organization?

Do your employees report being confused about your vision or do they simply act in ways that indicate they don’t understand it?

How about if you ask some employees what they think your vision is and see how well they understand it?

David Lee is the founder and principal of HumanNature@work and the creator of Stories That Change. He's an internationally recognized authority on organizational and managerial practices that optimize employee performance, morale, and engagement. He is also the author of "Managing Employee Stress and Safety," as well over 100 articles and book chapters. You can download more of his articles at HumanNature@work, contact him at, or follow him on Twitter at


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