The Importance of Strategy Alignment
“The most empowering condition of all is when the entire organization is aligned with its mission, and people’s passions and purpose are in synch with each other.” – Bill George Peter Sims
Do you know what happens when your vertebrae are not in alignment? Not only does this misalignment affect your entire back, but also your hips, shoulders, knees, and neck. Do you know what happens when your car is out of alignment? Your tires wear unevenly, which can affect your steering and even your brakes. So what happens when your business is out of alignment? Here are a few potential results of misalignment:
- The executive team and the rest of the organization understand the strategy differently.
- Leaders in the organization implement the strategy differently because they interpret it differently.
- The established metrics (if there are any) are measuring things that don’t necessarily pertain to the real strategy.
- The organizational structure and the activities within those structures that feed information to the metrics are working under the misconception of implementing the strategy.
- The lower in the organization you get, the more confused people become because no one seems to know what the strategy is or how to implement it.
All of the aforementioned results affect the business processes, the systems supporting the processes, and eventually the entire culture of the organization.
Very few think about this kind of misalignment. At times, there will be symptoms of problems throughout the organization, but no one will recognize the root cause so band-aids are used, which stops the bleeding but doesn’t resolve the overall problem.
Secondly, people within the organization may not even see the overall problem because they are right in the middle of it trying to implement the very strategy that they don’t even fully understand.
So what do you do?
First, realize that this can happen to a company with 10 employees just as easily as it can happen to a company with thousands. Same principals, but perhaps easier to identify and fix. Here are some suggestions for identifying and dealing with misalignment within your organization or business:
Get outside help – Being in the problem makes it difficult to identify and ultimately resolve the problem. It’s the same for a small business owner who is trying to run the business while they are smack dab in the middle of the business. They can’t create or implement the strategy because they spend most of their time putting out fires. Find someone who can provide an outside, unbiased assessment.
Ask the right questions – Asking people if they know the strategy of the company is not enough. They may indeed believe that they understand the strategy. A good follow-up question is, “How confident are you in that answer?” Another is, “How confident are you that your team knows the strategy?” Additionally, you need to ask questions not only pertaining to knowledge of the strategy, but also those areas that are supposed to be supporting the strategic implementation.
Ask the right people – Asking the executive team will not produce the full story of what’s going on throughout the organization. In order to be able to identify whether everyone not only understands the strategy of the company, but also whether their day-to-day operations are actually supporting the strategy can only be identified by those who are actually in the trenches. The perspectives of the executive team, the management, and the staff all need to be solicited.
Identify the “Whys” of the misalignment – Identifying whether there are misalignments throughout the organization is only the first part. Identifying why there is misalignment will take a deeper analysis. It could be communication, misunderstanding, politics, etc. The only way to fix the misalignment is to understand the root causes of the misalignment.
Look at all the pieces – As stated earlier, it is not only identifying the knowledge of the strategy that is important, but also those areas supporting the strategy. For example, here are some areas that need to be considered: identifying the right management leadership to implement the strategy, ensuring you have balanced metrics of the operational activities, ensuring you have the right organizational structure and activities, ensuring you have the right employees and that they are being used effectively and efficiently. Finally, identifying a thorough knowledge, understanding, and acceptance throughout the organization of the company’s value proposition.
Resolve starting at the top – Although it is extremely important to involve the entire organization, it is imperative that you start at top. If there is not an understanding and a confidence within the executive team as to what the strategy and the value proposition is for the company, then moving throughout the organization will be an exercise in futility. Align at the top first, then the management level, then the troops.
How can you implement a strategy for your company if not everyone knows or agrees with what that strategy is? How long have you been assuming everyone is on board with what the strategy is supposed to be? Are you confident that everyone on your executive teams knows the strategy? Are you confident that they are all working toward implementing the strategy the way you believe they should? Are you confident that everyone on your executive team knows the company’s value proposition? Do you and your team know why customers buy from you as opposed to your competitors? How confident are you that everyone on your team would answer that question the same way?
Misalignment of your strategy not only affects your finances, but the overall health of your entire business. Consider utilizing a Line-of-Sight™ assessment to help you identify possible strategic misalignment throughout your organization. It just might save your company. The only way you’ll know is if you find out!About the Author — Ron Feher is the Chief Improvement Officer at WhiteRock Business Solutions where he helps turn small business strategy into reality. He is an executive advisor with The BoardRoom (executive think tank), strategic partner with Prana Business (Line-of-Sight™), certified professional analyst with TTI Success Insights®, and specializes in improving all aspects of business operations including executive coaching, employee assessments, business planning, and day-to-day operations improvement. Ron does Career Coaching as an outreach (#givingback) to the community. WhiteRock is located in Orange County, California and can be found at www.whiterockbusiness.net; or contact Ron directly at firstname.lastname@example.org (949-466-0943). #lineofsight #strategy @RonFeher