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What is strategic alignment? And, the simple steps to master it.

by | Feb 6, 2021

The startling insight is this, the vast majority of leaders fail to meet their strategic goals.

 

Research puts this somewhere between 70% (PWC) and 90% (The Economist) depending on your brand management consultant.

That means they fail to execute on their strategy, failing to deliver the fullness of a vision and almost certainly working within an environment that is unclear, dysfunctional and frustrating.

Something is terribly wrong with our general ability to set, plan and deliver goals.

Or, it’s actually a lot harder than we all want to admit to set, plan and deliver goals.

I think it’s more of the latter and a bit of the former.

It’s hard because in my experience, many management teams forget that the minute a plan is put into action, feedback loops kick in from the market, employees and stakeholders. The ’system’ we set the plan in has changed and our plans don’t always survive contact with a changing world.

The Prussians are perhaps the modern godfathers of military strategy. Field Marshal Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke puts it this way;

“No plan survives contact with the enemy”.

Waymaker exists because we have seen countless times in the marketplace;

  1. The outcome is more valuable than a plan.
  2. Plans should change because the world changes around us.
  3. Learning how to change plans whilst still working towards and achieving our desired outcomes is the key to success.

Adaptive planning is the key which unlocks strategic alignment.

Strategic alignment is not everybody knowing the exact steps but everybody knowing where the steps lead and how to build the right steps.

Our intelligent strategy software equips and empowers leaders to diagnose, plan, deliver and embed a continuous improvement management system into your organisation.

Using Waymaker creates strategic alignment by following adaptive planning principles.

Adaptive planning is when we hold tight to the destination but hold less tight exactly how to get there.

It is the key to strategic alignment.

Let’s clarify some basic terms.

 

Vision

A picture of the world around us at a point in the future when we have consistently achieved the organisation’s purpose.

 

Strategy

The position we need to be in the market and the skills, systems and activities that get us, or keep us there.

 

Plan

The set of actions we need to do to achieve our strategy (Strategic plan).

 

Alignment

When our people, their skills, the systems we’ve built and all their activities have a fit because they lead us to the vision.

 

What is strategic alignment?

Strategic alignment is when all aspects of our organisation are working together towards the strategic outcome in order to fulfil on the vision of the organisation.

Therefore, strategic alignment is executing our daily activities when;

  • We all know where we are going and why
  • We all know whom we serve, their problem, needs and wants
  • We all know why our product or service will win in the market place
  • We all know how to create commercial value
  • We all know how to find, win and keep our customers
  • We all know how to find, grow and lead our teams
  • We all know the skills and systems we need to build to achieve all of the above over time to ensure we get to where we are going.
  • And, we are all constantly tweaking the answers of all of the above based on what’s happening around us.

 

Strategic alignment in a nutshell is when an organisation’s business strategy aligns both internally and externally with its vision, market, strategy, business model, customer experience and employee experience.

Strategic alignment is a team sport.

However, strategic alignment is more than knowing the steps in a plan.

As leaders when can either tell people what to do or we can teach people how to do it.

Intelligent organisations equip and empower their people to know what to do and how to work out what to do if what to do is not right in the moment.

That’s decentralisation, empowerment, trust, wisdom and good leadership.

It’s good business sense.

So, strategic alignment is when we all know where we are going, what the next step of the journey is and how to know how to take the steps after that.

To paraphrase a common saying; “I can carry a man for a mile, or I can teach a man to walk and he can walk for life.”

Here’s the problem and why we built Waymaker.

Many, many of our old ways of running organisations in the 20th century are built on ‘command and control’ structures. The “Ivory Tower” kind of model that works really well in the industrial era with humans in a factory but not very well in the emerging economy of the 21st century.

Gary Hamel, a management innovator without peer according to The Financial Times, wrote in The Future of Management;

“Over the coming decades, an accelerating pace of change will test the resilience of every society, organization and individual. Luckily, perturbations create opportunities as well as challenges. But the balance of promise and peril confronting any particular organization will depend on its capacity for adaptation. Hence the most important question for any company is this: Are we changing as fast as the world around us?”

That was written in 2007 and in 2021 never a truer word was said.

The 21st century has blown open the need to update our business operating systems to adapt to rapid technology shifts, unforeseen geo-political movements from health, social unrest, financial disruption and/or worse still military interruption.

Or more simply; new competitors, significant changes in society, health pandemics, financial crises and wars (military or cultural) cause our usual plans to be thrown out the window.

“No plan survives contact with the enemy”.

If the above impacts have not affected you, your family or your business in the last decade you’ve been living under a rock.

If you are still writing a plan on a page, then you’re using a methodology written before the ubiquitous internet and the minute you, your team, or the world around changes that page is out of date.

If you are still trying to balance a scorecard, then you’re probably spending more time trying to hold spinning plates than executing with daily success. Sometimes you need to lose a quarter to win a year.

Or, if you are trying to diagnose, plan and deliver without the use of technology (albeit tech is sometimes distracting) then you are unable to decentralise and empower leaders to work anywhere, anytime yet stay aligned.

 

How to master strategic alignment

Waymaker enables organisations to bridge the gap between the vision, strategy and day to day activities.

Waymaker is the platform to lead leaders in strategic alignment. (You can try for free here.)

The adaptive key in Waymaker is the business improvement cycle. A 90 day cycle of short term quick wins built around the world’s best practices of innovative management.

Learn the business improvement cycle in which you diagnose, plan, deliver and embed the things that matter most in your organisation.

Show the way to your team, use Waymaker as a strategic system, train the next leaders in the business improvement cycle, hold them accountable and help them win.

There is something wonderful when an organisation pursues strategic alignment.

The alignment breeds focus, clarity and unity.

Results are just something that happens to those people who do the right things.

That’s why we say, Waymaker is the way to make business improvement, business as usual.

 

By <a href="https://waymaker.io/author/stuart-leo/" target="_self">Stuart Leo</a>

By Stuart Leo

Published on February 6, 2021

Stuart is the CEO & Founder of Waymaker. Stuart is a passionate believer in helping people find their organisation's true north and giving them the tools to get them there. When not exploring new ideas in leadership and management, Stuart is with his family exploring the beautiful regions, islands and coast of Australia.

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