Have you ever considered what keeps most organizations from achieving their goals?
Is it a lack of vision? What about an inability to attract and retain the right talent? Or not keeping up with technological advances?
While these things are all critical to an organization’s success, where most organizations fail is at bridging the gap between strategy development and its practical, day-to-day implementation.
Many organizations invest a lot of money in strategic plans. They painstakingly develop strategies that makes sense for their markets, industries and customers. But what they don’t consider is the alignment required inside their own organizations to execute on those strategies.
Think about all the cogs in a machine working together to produce results – that’s alignment.
Organizational performance requires the alignment of business strategy, culture, and leadership practices. Once an organization has defined its mission, vision, and strategic objectives, a supporting culture must be established to reinforces those outcomes.And it’s up to leadership to ensure that all facets of their organization, including processes, structures, behaviors, and competencies, are properly aligned with overall strategy.
For example, if you have a very innovative strategy focused on new products and disrupting the market, yet you have a very conservative culture that doesn’t permit risk-taking or experimentation, then you’re going to struggle to implement that innovation strategy. Or if you have a very service-centered strategy that’s all about building relationships with customers, yet you have a very operationally efficient culture, then those two things are going to grind on one another and you’re going to struggle. You must have alignment within your culture and your strategy in order for both of them to be successful.
Another place where organizations stumble is the misalignment of leadership.
In other words, leaders are unwilling to model what’s required by their strategy. If you have an operationally efficient strategy, yet the leaders don’t like following processes, aren’t disciplined, and want things to be excessively relaxed, then there’s no way everybody else in the organization is going to execute well on that strategy. They’re going to follow the model that the leaders present. Having aligned leadership that models what you want in that strategic plan is imperative.
Finally, it’s incredibly important to make sure that processes ultimately align with leadership, culture, and strategy.
Processes can contradict what’s in a strategic plan. They can contradict what’s in a culture and what the leadership requirements are. For example, if your hiring practices don’t match what your strategy is or what your culture requires then you’re going to struggle finding and keeping the folks that you need to be successful.
Operationally efficient strategies require operationally efficient people. Innovation strategies require creative people who pride themselves on taking risks. And customer service strategies service-oriented people. Make sure your hiring processes are attracting the right people into the door and your compensation strategy keeps them there. Incent, reward, and encourage the behaviors that support your strategy.
Everything from performance management to who you hire and fire to leadership development — all of those things and the processes that underpin them can either support what you’re trying to do strategically or undermine it.
So, when you’re approaching strategic planning and strategic execution for results, creating alignment is one of the most important things you can do in order to see that strategy succeed. Because even the best strategies fail with the wrong people, the wrong plans and the wrong alignment.
Today more than ever before, organizations are operating in a highly complex environment where the pace of change is constant and accelerating which makes formulating a consistent strategy very challenging and executing that strategy even more difficult. At InnerWill, our approach first and foremost is to create alignment. An aligned organization gets things done faster, with less effort, and with better results, and is more agile and responsive to changing business conditions.
In a vuca world of work, how do you craft strategy that aligns with organisational purposes?
Great question! In some ways, it depends on the industry–those built on rapid innovation have to develop strategies with very short time frames, those who are built on operational efficiency over time can have longer time frames. Some ways of addressing VUCA is to have a very intentional experiment–learn–innovate strategy, that is designed to go fast, try some things, figure out what works, and then make big bets. Another thing that is helpful is to build adaptability into the organization itself–from a leadership and process perspective. If senior leaders are not curious, and avid learners, and interested in continually improving, any organization will struggle to adapt it’s strategy. If the organization is overburdened with process and bureaucracy and layers, it will also struggle. Thanks for asking! Tom