October 22, 2021
Jackie Tucker Gangnes

5 Ways to Achieve Strategic Alignment

8 minutes

If you heard that 90% of executives fail to meet their business goals would you be surprised? Learn how to take your strategy from momentary pizzazz to the powerhouse behind your organization’s success.

What is Strategic Alignment?

What’s the strategy? You’ve probably asked or been asked this many times. Having a strategy is no novel concept.  Having a strategy in place is the foundation for transformational change. It acts as the North Star and provides a common goal for your organization. Business strategies receive the lion’s share of executives’ attention, but even the most robust strategy is useless unless supported by appropriate organizational capabilities: the execution.

Any strategy has little value until it’s implemented. What follows next is the crux of why that top 10% hit their goals. Enter, strategic alignment.

Strategic alignment happens by design and it’s often the missing ingredient for your success. According to Creately, “strategic alignment is the prudent arrangement of the various internal and external elements of an organization—from its business strategy to its organizational structure—to best support the achievement of its long-term goals and purpose.”

By analyzing and aligning various elements from your organization, from business strategy to its architecture, you can best ensure your long-term success. High-performing organizations are often the most aligned, engaged, prepared, and change-ready.

We’ll dive into ways to achieve this, but first, consider your organizational architecture and assess whether your model meets your business needs.

Why is organizational architecture important to understand and get right for your organization? Because efforts to communicate strategy, create interconnections, support and momentum won’t reach their potential in a mismatched organizational structure.

From the traditional bureaucracy model (take McDonald’s as an example) to the—often referred to as “more innovative”—network model (take popular clothing brand H&M), alignment of your organizational architecture matters. If you have strategies around efficiencies with a model that represents a flexible network, this may not work. It could be great for creativity but not a fit for efficiency. Often a major leadership challenge, it’s important to clarify your organization’s architecture to ensure your model meets your business needs.

Strategic Alignment = Team & Organizational Success

Strategic planning plus implementation excellence equals strategic alignment, which can positively influence your organizational alignment. Yes, read that one again.

Let’s focus on “implementation excellence” for a moment. Think about the people that make up your organization across business units, departments, and teams. They’re your most important asset, and they need reassurance they’re a priority. Implementing any strategy begins by educating, involving, and aligning the people responsible for executing it. People will be more connected to something they are a part of and believe in. If you’re struggling with team alignment in your organization, check out our insightful article on 5 Ways to Achieve Team Alignment in Your Organization.

post-it notes on a board, employees at a table team building.

It should become clear that strategically aligned organizations have a better chance of success in today’s challenging business environment. Strategy, organizational capabilities, and architecture must be in sync.

“In an aligned enterprise the whole is worth more than the sum of the parts,” according to Oxford Professor Jonathon Trevor in his YouTube video explaining how to lead strategic alignment.

5 Ways to Achieve Strategic Alignment

Strategic alignment is a business investment that can positively influence organizational alignment; improving efficiency, effectiveness, and profitability.  See how your organization stacks up against the following:

1) Align and unite your leadership team

In today’s world, a leader needs to be able to fly high and land softly, meaning you need to think both conceptually with a bird’s-eye view across the whole organization and practically with the ability to help the rubber meet the road.

4,000 managers found that only 28% could correctly list three of their firms’ top strategic priorities.

Lack of strategic alignment often starts at the top, negatively impacting leaders at all levels getting “on board.” An MIT Sloan School survey of more than 4,000 managers found that only 28% could correctly list three of their firms’ top strategic priorities. Many organizations get caught in a vicious cycle that often results in a strategy execution gap.

This couldn’t ring truer in larger siloed organizations where resources are often allocated to a business group’s primary agendas versus company-wide strategic priorities. Without leaders who actively build alignment beyond pockets within their groups, an organization is simply a collection of individuals working toward their self-interest. Inc.com explores this further with 4 Simple Steps to Unifying Your Team.

Person sitting at a desk alone at night, working

And let’s not forget the need to unite the frozen middle management who need to be the agents of any transformational change. Often to change an organization, people need to change their behavior and they don’t like to do that. Yet, engaged in the right way, they’ll be the catalyst for delivering outstanding results.

Bring your leadership groups together to have one coherent framework to discuss the company as a whole, addressing current and future states.

2) Develop and deliver the strategic playbook

According to AchieveIt, the fundamental purpose of strategic planning is to align a company’s mission with its vision. The mission is the starting point, vision is the destination, and the strategic plan is the roadmap that helps you navigate from one to another.

As we navigate a new way of working in the corporate world, the need for a clear vision, values, and goals is more important than ever. These drive alignment and when unitedly supported with actions, appropriately communicated, can be a powerful playbook for your organization.

Change strategist coach Kathy Wilson shares a play-by-play in her “Strategic Planning Playbook.” You can and should revisit your strategic plan to make sure key initiatives and goals remain valid and if any strategy or tactic opposes your organization’s values, then it should be reconsidered.

And remember you can’t assume that every member of your strategic planning team can articulate your mission, vision, and values. Keep them current, ensure they resonate, and that they’re embedded in all aspects of your business.

3) Inspire commitment

When you walk into a high-performance organization, you can feel the difference. People are energized and confident about their organization’s strategy and the changes that are occurring, rather than resigned. This is because they’ve likely been part of the strategic process.

According to the accomplished organizational health expert, Patrick Lencioni, commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in. Gaining commitment from team members is not the same as getting consensus. When you reach a consensus you reach a compromise, which may not get the best result. Commitment comes with clarity of purpose along with trust and appropriate conflict. Even if only one idea is pursued, every team member understands why and supports it—both inside the team and when communicated beyond.

 “Buy-in is much easier if your employees participated in developing the strategy,” explains Robert Bradford in how essential buy-in is for your strategy, echoing the need for commitment.

Happy, smiling employees who are interested and involved

Everyone needs to feel included and motivated to work towards the intended goal. So, it’s in your organization’s best interests to get as many people as practical involved in the strategic planning process. For those not intimately involved, finding ways they can contribute to the strategic decision-making (ask how they’re going to deliver on strategy, don’t tell) from the bottom up will help create connection, understanding, and less resistance when strategic plans and priorities are introduced.

Different levels of your organization require different channels for feedback and input, everything from executive leadership meetings to manager and employee 1:1s.

4) Bring the designers and deliverers together with cross-functional collaboration

You have a strategic plan, you’re clear on your organizational architecture, your leadership team is aligned, and on-board, and the strategic playbook is at play. Now, have you thought about untapped possibilities within a cross-functional collaborative environment?

In a cross-functional collaborative environment teams from different business functions and groups come together to support a common strategic goal or priority.

Truenxus breaks down cross-functional collaboration challenges and solutions and explains why it’s worth the investment to bring teams together and can lead to innovation, increased efficiency, and engagement—Not to mention more alignment across different business functions as a result of awareness and involvement.

5) Don’t set and forget

Have you had a strategic priority that made the rounds and then something life-altering like a pandemic hit? Ok, it doesn’t have to be a pandemic but even a change in senior leadership, product or service, etc., can cause a strategic priority to change or be housed for a while. While planning, did you outline a process to adapt in the wake of change?

Strategies should be evolutionary, not revolutionary. They’re big picture and often carry long timeframes. Inevitably things change along the way.

Employees sitting on chairs in a circle engaged in conversation and planning

The ability to be agile with flexible work models is a good starting point for evolving with the times. It’s prudent to outline a process for re-evaluating and re-aligning your strategic plan right out of the gate. This way, everyone from the intimately involved planners to those that weigh in from the frontline will be comforted by the process to reassess risks, challenges, potential opportunities, and future goals.

Washington State University reiterates that strategic planning should not be viewed as “a one-time project that produces a milestone document of its best thinking at the moment,” to achieve its vision.

Accelerate Strategic Alignment with Collective Intelligence

Peter Drucker says, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This implies that no matter how effective your strategy, culture will determine your success. Are you tapped into your culture and aware of where you measure up against the “5 Ways to Achieve Strategic Alignment” above?

No matter your organization’s size, whether it’s 10 people or 10,000+, don’t underestimate the power of collective intelligence when it comes to improving your strategy, driving better alignment, and organizational performance.

ThoughtExchange can quickly help you gain unbiased, critical insights by bringing people together. Have a minute more to spare? Check out this very short video explaining how today’s leaders are using the ThoughtExchange platform to give them significant advantages when it comes to using the power of the collective to inform decision-making.

Get in touch to see how we can help you access time-saving insights that can significantly improve your strategic alignment efforts.

Jackie Tucker Gangnes
Born in Kettering, England, Jackie has spent most of her adult life in Vancouver, Canada. Her natural flair for creativity in all forms of communication led her to a 15 year career spanning marketing, brand strategy and internal corporate communications. She is passionately invested in personal wellbeing and sharing her experiences with others, writing about gut health to world spa experiences. Jackie believes that your relationship with yourself is the foundation and cornerstone to everything else in your life. Combining her passions, and between raising two kids, today she writes for the curious mind, exploring different thoughts, ideas, and perspectives on what makes us human, and what fuels us to thrive.

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