We define strategic alignment as the point at which your organization’s resources, investments, decisions, and actions work cohesively together to achieve your corporate priorities. Alignment is all about leaders creating synergy, long-term organizational health, and high performance.
In effect, strategic alignment occurs when every part of the organization is working together to implement the “intentions” that define the strategy in a way that makes sense to leaders, teams, and customers.
What Difference Does Alignment Make?
Our organizational alignment research spanned eight industries, over 400 companies, the insights of academic experts, and our three decades worth of hands-on experience. What we found was that highly aligned companies not only grow revenue 58% faster and are 72% more profitable, but they also outperform unaligned organizations at these rates:
- Customer Retention 2.23-to-1
- Customer Satisfaction 3.2-to-1
- Leadership Effectiveness 8.71-to-1
- Employee Engagement 16.8-to-1
Clearly, strategic alignment makes a huge difference in a company’s success.
So, How Do You Achieve Strategic Alignment?
We have broken down the process of achieving strategic alignment into three basic steps:
- Get Leaders Aligned On The Strategic Priorities
Whatever your game plan for success, it must be understood, believable, and implementable enough by all key stakeholders — staring with the leadership team. Why? Because successfully implemented strategies require an unwavering focus, deep commitment, and sufficient resources.
Not until the leadership team is aligned can you ensure buy-in from all levels of the workforce, create the right behavioral motivators, and track the success metrics to be sure you stay on track.
You will know you are on the right path when your leadership team can clearly articulate the strategy, have confidence that it is implementable in your unique culture and marketplace, and believe that it can be successful.
- Actively Involve Key Stakeholders
While many executive teams invest in strategy retreat facilitation to get on the same page, they often mistakenly think that the next step is smart strategy communication. If only it were that easy.
In the field, strategy execution has very little to do with communication compared to active engagement and involvement. In fact, recent research by Bain confirmed what we have seen in our 25+ years in the field. The active engagement of stakeholders during the strategy design phase has the highest correlation to strategies being successfully implemented — not communication strategies and campaigns.
While we believe that the executive team must set the over-arching strategy and priorities, we also believe that teams need to design and own their unique plans within the overall organizational context.
Open discussions and rigorous debate should occur until every level, function, and team has a clear line of sight and believes that their strategy and the overall strategy is clear, believable, and implementable enough to succeed.
You will know you are on the right path when every employee knows what is important, why it matters, and how their role directly contributes to success.
- Reinforce What Matters Most
Once people agree upon the WHAT and the HOW, now comes what many change management consulting experts call “the real work.”
To us, the real work starts with transparency and a culture of accountability from leaders. Leaders should make strategic plans, progress, and challenges visible to all key stakeholders. Open discussions that invite questions and challenges should be frequent.
High levels of transparency and accountability create the foundation for employees to have a sense of ownership and to feel truly empowered to make important strategic decisions within their sphere of control.
Then, leaders must consistently model, reward, and reinforce the desired attitudes and actions.
You will know you are headed in the right direction when behaviors, success metrics, and reward systems help — and do not hinder — consistent strategy execution across the organization.
The Bottom Line
Are you doing all you can to mobilize your workforce to all pull in the same strategic direction? If not, it is time to get aligned.
To learn more about getting aligned, download Organizational Alignment for Leaders – The Key Ingredient for Higher Performance