3 Research-Backed Steps to Align People with Strategy

Align People with Strategy A long line of business people, one after the other

Align People with Strategy
Unless you have clearly articulated your business strategy and your employees understand and embrace it, your people, and your organization, are poised to under-perform.  Our organizational alignment research found that the ability to align people with strategy accounts for up to 60% of the difference between high and low performing organizations in terms of:

  • revenue growth
  • profitability
  • customer loyalty
  • leadership effectiveness
  • employee engagement

Unclear Strategies Lead to Unclear Decisions and Disengaged Employees
Do not count your organization among the almost 70% of companies where the strategy is unknown or misunderstood by the employee population.  Can everyone from your executive team to your front-line workers tell you simply why your business exists, what makes it unique and where it is headed? If not, you have some strategic clarity work to do.

The Consequences of a Misunderstood or Misaligned Strategy Are Real
A lack of a clear business strategy directly affects:

Business Actions
A clear corporate strategy guides how employee time should be spent. It helps in prioritizing. Without a well-known strategy and universally-accepted plan for action, everything slows down.  If employees don’t know how what they do fits into the overall goals of the company, they are likely to work at cross purposes.

Each action they take should push toward the coordinated goals of the business.  Teams that report high levels of disengagement or that work in unproductive silos are often clear warning signs of an unclear or mistrusted strategy.

Business Decisions
With no clear guidelines on what matters most to the company’s future, decisions may take you in the wrong direction. If, for instance, your strategy is growth, a decision to spend resources on a improving cost controls may not be as wise as investing in sales, recruiting, on-boarding scaling internal systems.

3 Research-Backed Steps to Align People with Strategy
To outperform your peers, you must align people with strategy.  Here are three research-backed tips about how to get your people lined up with the strategy so that your organization is pulling together in the intended direction:

  1. Be Crystal Clear
    The first step as a leader is to be sure that you and your leadership team are crystal clear on the strategy for success.  Invest the time and energy required to agree upon what makes your business and your organization thrive. Define your strategic drivers, target clients, value proposition, key strategies, success metrics, and first steps in your plan.

    Without a clear strategy, strategy execution is just wishful thinking.

    You will know that your strategy is clear enough when the majority of employees can articulate it, are executing it, and believe that it makes sense.  Until then, you have work to do if you want to fire on all cylinders.

  2. Communicate and Cascade the Strategy
    Communicate your vision and the critical few strategic moves that will best help you realize it. Test to see that your employees are not just nodding their heads to agree with you but that they are able to use the strategy to help make the right decisions for the business.

    To increase your chances for success, actively involve each each organizational level in the strategy design process as much as you can.  At a minimum, get their feedback on the areas that are not sacrosanct and actively involve them in designing how their team will directly contribute.

    The more you empower people to make the strategy their own, the more they will commit to its success.  Do not be afraid to “go slow to go fast” when it comes to strategy design and involvement.  It will pay off.

  3. Encourage, Measure and Reward Strategic Adoption
    As employees take the necessary strategic actions and moves aligned with your strategy and culture, be sure to recognize them in a timely and meaningful way. The same is true when people disregard the strategy and culture.  Make sure that there are fair, proportionate, and timely consequences.

    The right performance management system is more likely to encourage people to adopt the right actions and avoid doing the wrong things in the wrong ways. Let people know how the strategy is progressing and focus on inspiring them to help achieve what matters most together.

The Bottom Line
Your strategy must go through your people to be fully executed.  If your people are not aligned with your strategy, your chances of meeting your strategic goals are diluted.  Do your people understand, believe in, and fully commit to your key strategies?

To see if your strategy is clear enough for success, download 7 Proven Ways to Stress Test Your Strategy

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