What Is Strategic Alignment?
Strategic alignment occurs when your business strategy is clearly articulated, fully understood, and consistently executed across your organization. The steps to create strategic alignment set you and your team up to be collectively firing on all cylinders. Strategic alignment is also a prerequisite for creating an aligned culture and a high performing workforce.
Strategic Alignment Accounts for 31% of the Difference
Our organizational alignment research found that strategic alignment accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing companies and teams. Highly aligned companies grow 58% faster and are 72% more profitable while outperforming unaligned companies at these rates:
Yet, IBM found that less than 10% of well formulated strategies are effectively executed and our own research finds that employees rate corporate strategies half as clear as their executive teams rate them.
4 Steps to Achieve Strategy Execution and Create Strategic Alignment
1. Get Leaders on the Same Page
The executive team is ultimately responsible for outlining clear and compelling choices about where to play and what actions to take. Done right, a successful strategic plan sets a company up to perform beyond just the sum of its parts. Before you can expect your teams to consistently execute the strategy across the company, your leadership team must collectively agree that the strategy is clear enough, believable enough and implementable enough to be success.
2. Actively Involve Next Level Leadership
To achieve true strategic alignment, next level leaders (those one level below the executive team) need to buy into and commit to the strategic direction. To achieve this, they must be actively involved in the strategy design process. After you get the executive team on the same page in step #1 above, we recommend getting honest and straightforward feedback from next level leaders regarding what they need clarified, added, changed, or deleted in order for the strategy to be clear enough, believable enough, and implementable enough to move forward in unison.
Then have a healthy discussion with next level leaders about the changes you did and did not incorporate into your strategic plan and the rationale behind your thinking. Do this until everyone is ready to march to the same game plan for success.
3. Show Line Managers and Individual Contributors How They Contribute to Success
Line managers and employees will be far more invested in the strategic plan for success if they understand where they fit in. From the cafeteria worker who knows that a healthy and appealing meal sends employees back to their jobs well-nourished to the accountant who understands that accurate and timely reporting accelerates decision making, each employee plays a part.
Make sure everyone understands the overall strategy and then help them to define their specific goals, roles, metrics for success and unique contribution. What will it take for your team to achieve its goals? What will provide a sense of meaning and pride in doing their job in an outstanding way? How should we recognize those who go above and beyond so others are motivated also to do their best?
4. Keep the Plan Front and Center
Your communication around the strategy should be clear, consistent, and ongoing. Every meeting should discuss strategic links, highlight progress, raise any issues, and solve emerging problems before they get too big to handle. The plan and progress should be visible to all employees, through emails, one-on-one discussions, company newsletters, social media, whatever means you have at your disposal. Be creative and be transparent.
The Bottom Line
Are you at risk of being among the 9 out of 10 organizations that fail to effectively execute their strategic plans? Create strategic alignment throughout your organization by involving your employees from the start and encouraging them all along the path to success.
To learn more about how to create strategic alignment, download Three Big Mistakes to Avoid When Cascading Your Corporate Strategy
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