What is strategic alignment? If you’re making goals for your business, you may have been told to identify your ‘why’.
Why are you in business, why are you sacrificing time and money for success, and why do these products and this audience matter to you?
There’s a simple reasons behind this.
When times get tough, it may be tempting to throw in the towel. When you hit a rough patch, it might seem easier to rationalize why it makes sense to quit.
On a more practical level, defining the ‘why’ means you’ve defined the problem your organisation sets out to solve. That means, delivering on your ‘why’ means you deliver on solving a customer problem. Getting away from this is the beginning of mayhem.
This is advice often given to people who are starting a new exercise regime. Losing five pounds for a certain event isn’t enough to stick to a lifestyle overhaul in the long term.
The same is true for your business ‘why’. If it’s powerful enough, like impacting the lives of domestic violence victims or helping mothers feel better about themselves, you can stick to it.
Keep reading to find out where strategic alignment comes in.
Isn’t strategic alignment the same as a mission statement?
It’s a common misconception, but the answer is no.
Mission statements are long winded, idealistic and in almost all situations overly verbose paragraphs of corporate fluff & bubble.
To be frank, a mission statement not that useful. It is a somewhat outdated corporate tool from the 1980s.
We’d prefer to see a business gain clarity in purpose, vision, customer, strategy & value proposition.
Strategic alignment is how concrete action items (goals) execute to your purpose and vision.
Every step, task, meeting, and business decision should point toward executing this larger strategy by bring clarity to vision through goals.
Does it ever feel like you’re doing work that doesn’t matter like it won’t change anything? Chances are, that task may be strategically unaligned.
It provides a reverse domino chain. It starts from the top-down, moving from mission to strategic alignment to daily tasks.
Better still, overtime as your team become more mature (growing up the leadership curve) this domino chain can actually start to shift from only top-down to bottom-up as everyone understand the purpose, vision and strategic goals of the organisation.
Why does strategic alignment matter?
When coming up with a business plan, it’s easy to feel intimidated. After all, most business strategy advice doesn’t sugarcoat it: there are a million ways to fail.
However, many of these failures can be traced back to the fact that many business strategies don’t account for strategic alignment. When building a strategy, it all starts with identifying goals, outcomes and tasks.
Every team member, from the CEO down to the intern, should have these.
For the company, an overarching strategic goal needs to be established periodically. Of course, this can change over time! In the height of disruption this could quarterly, or this can be the annual goal.
It is important to remember, purpose and vision rarely change but goals do. It’s not the way the wind blows, but how you set the sails. The market will change, cultures change and with that you will need to ‘trim your sails’ – reset goals to deliver on your purpose and move towards your vision.
This means making sure everyone knows the strategic goal, their managers and team goals and what their goal is to help the team deliver.
How strategic alignment informs action
When it’s time for the proverbial rubber to hit the road, strategic alignment needs to produce revenue for the company. Often, a big complaint regarding new processes or idealistic initiatives is that they waste time.
If the process doesn’t inform action, it’s useless. Fortunately, that’s not a problem when it comes to implementing strategic alignment. The practical day-to-day lives of each department are informed by this.
For instance, sales and marketing departments exist to produce revenue, raise brand awareness and connect with customers. If they know the company’s broad business strategies, the angle of their pitch will change. The angle they take to write ad copy will change.
It also helps practical operations. As they develop best practices for the businesses, adjust processes, and allocate resources, they need to know the grand target that they’re shooting for.
On a larger scale, people who are responsible for creating new services and products for customers have to be driven by a larger strategy.
Otherwise, their creation will be haphazard. Without any greater plan, it’s impossible to scale effectively while delivering to customers.
Strategic alignment in the real world
How do other companies successfully execute the constant cycle of strategic alignment? Sometimes, it can be helpful to look at strategic alignment examples for inspiration.
Consider Google’s purpose, which is organizing the world’s information and maximising access and usefulness. This is huge, but consider how it plays out in day-to-day life.
Some of Google’s services include Google Drive and Google Photos. Within both of these services, you can create folders or albums. You can share photos or documents with others, edit them, and even print them out.
This is organizing information and maximizing access, all in real-time. Consider how this greater mission plays out strategically. When Google offers upgraded storage solutions for a higher price, they’re maximizing the usefulness of their storage for you.
Every day in the life of a Google employee, whether they are customer service or a world-class engineer, points to this organisation of information. It’s a lofty goal, but Google is a lofty company.
Developing a plan
Sometimes, you need a second pair of eyes when trying to revolutionize your company’s strategy. Often, you’re too close to see any gaps that could jeopardize your new plan.
When developing a strategic plan, it’s important to take three steps.
First, conduct an audit. This involves processing all data, from your customers and your team, to reveal gaps.
Use Waymaker’s diagnostic to get realtime insights from your team on gaps for growth.
Then, start brainstorming ideas. These ideas can fill in identified gaps or develop new initiatives. Then select between one and three ideas that shift the needle in your organisation in the most dramatic ways.
Delivering on goals
Now, it’s time to take action with strategic alignment by delivering on those ideas. Each team member sets goals that align with moving the needle on those 1-3 ideas that you decided on earlier. Once you’ve accomplished these steps, it’s finally go time.
Of course, you’ll need to course-correct and adjust over time, that’s why Waymaker is one-cloud solution, not a one-page solution.
Download this free and practical eBook on goal setting to learn how to set and align goals that win for your team.
People need to be able to work anywhere, anytime on any device and your strategic plan needs to update as they work.
If this is something that you’re struggling with, we’re here to help! We’ve worked with brands to identify gaps, adjust their goals, and help them win and scale-up past competitors.
Start a free trial and create your first goal and we’ll help you get started on Waymaker.io