Strategic alignment, while clearly not a hot trending topic, is actually the key to exceptional strategy execution
How do we get our organization to execute our strategies….consistently and effectively in a way that delivers the results we want? You can create great strategies, brilliant innovations, ideas to out position the competition, memorable branding, raise your standards, better ways to serve your constituents and more. These are all change initiatives because they are asking the organization to do something different than it was doing before.
Poor implementation appears to be widespread
The research shows that companies are far better at creating excellent strategies than they are at executing them. Consider these findings:
- One study showed that 80% of firms had the right strategy but only 14% of them implemented those strategies well. Ouch!
- Another study found that on average companies only deliver 63% of the financial performance their strategies promise. Double ouch!
- A review of a large number of studies on strategy implementation showed that 50% to 80% of implementation efforts fail.
All those great ideas don’t mean a thing unless you can get everyone and everything in your organization aligned with where you want to go and how you want to get there. The level of alignment between your strategies and your organization is the final equalizer… how well you run through a gauntlet of seemingly insurmountable obstacles to produce exceptional results.
I didn’t choose the word gauntlet lightly. In fact, that probably doesn’t even do justice to just how difficult it is to align where you want your organization to go with the actual organization. Alignment is not one of those hot buzz words you often hear about. Google hot topics and trends in business for the last 30 years and you won’t find alignment mentioned. Some of those topics do have merit and actually are a part of effective alignment.
Strategic alignment integrates all your people and all you do
And there’s the catch. We tend to focus on the parts and pieces as if one of those is suddenly the holy grail of great performance. Then we move on to the next. That’s why few organizations actually convert today’s hot trending solution into long term improvement. Alignment rides above all of these because it encompasses how you integrate everything you do and the way you do it.
This results in the entire organization becoming focused like a laser on consistently and efficiently executing strategy. The concept of alignment treats all the people, parts and pieces that make up an organization as being connected to each other and affecting each other. The organization is one system, one living organism.
Culture…today’s hot trend to make your business more successful
Culture is this year’s hot trend. We’ve been helping organizations create, improve and embed cultures for over 25 years. Yes, the culture of your organization is critically important. But creating a sustaining culture is not a paint by the numbers classroom exercise. And culture can’t stand on its own as a panacea for other shortcomings. It’s not a magic wand. It’s simply one important part of an effective organization.
You might think that having a strong, vibrant, embedded culture is the greatest thing since the invention of peanut butter. There are some people who talk as if it is. Yes, it can be a very powerful force in getting everyone to do things in a certain way with a certain attitude.
But what if you decide to make a substantial change in your strategic direction? Is that the right culture to support the new direction you need to pursue? Cultures are neither good nor bad. You simply have to align the right culture with your strategy to achieve the best execution. Either the culture supports your strategy or the culture will force your organization back to its old strategy.
Culture is one of many elements that must be aligned with strategy in just the right way. Executing strategy is aligning everything, not just improving your culture.
Alignment and culture is all about leadership
Then consider what makes a culture work. What causes all those employees to have a shared value system and perspective that is self-reinforcing? It still comes back to effective leadership at all levels. A company that has a lot of average to mediocre leaders in its ranks is not going to have the type of culture that can move mountains.
You embed and sustain cultures through effective leadership. That leadership has to be fully aligned with the strategy so the culture they reinforce supports where you want everyone to be going.
Ultimately alignment is about aligning all your people with your strategies and that’s about leadership. It takes effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of the organization to get your employees on the same page with enthusiasm. And that’s only the first of many crucial gauntlets you have to cross to create strategic alignment.
Just doing that is tough enough. This means you actually have to have effective, trusted leaders in every management and supervisory position in your organization. You can’t do a first class job of implementing a strategy with only a few key people being effective leaders. It’s takes everyone at every level to make that happen. The CEO can’t implement a strategy all by themselves (though some have tried!).
You know the old saying. You are only as strong as your weakest link. In executing strategies, you are only as effective as your weakest leaders and managers. Everyone with a management title is a link in your strategy execution effort. All you need is a weakness in one area be it quality, service, marketing, finance and so on for your strategy to end up producing lack luster results and a poor return.
Is everyone on your management team a Level 5 Leader?
If you are going to create true strategic alignment so you can produce superior results and sustain those results over time, first you have to be honest about where you are at right now. On a five point rating scale where 5 is great, 4 is good, 3 is average, 2 is below average and 1 is poor, rate each individual who has management and supervisory responsibilities in your organization on how good of a leader they are.
What percentage of your entire management and supervisory team is a 4 or 5? What percentage are 1’s and 2’s? What percentage are average? Remember, you’re only as good as your weakest link. Those ratings tell you how well or poorly you will most likely execute your strategies. Of course, there are many other issues that also affect strategic alignment which must be considered. But looking at the rest will be futile until you have a leadership strategy that insures everyone with a title is a 4 or 5 leader.
Imagine how well you would execute your strategy, the incredible results you would produce, the exceptional return you would deliver if everyone on your management and supervisory team were a Level 5 leader. Just imagine. That’s the foundation for truly effective strategic alignment.
Schedule a phone conversation with Don Shapiro, President of First Concepts Consultants, to answer your questions and explore how this discussion could help your organization.