The Blueprint for Strategic Alignment

Ever feel like your team is not hearing you? You turn around and either they are squabbling about who gets their share of limited resources, or they are off in their own space ‘working really hard.’ Unfortunately, you just can’t tell how all that work is driving your strategic agenda. All those countless meetings were supposed to have cemented the strategy for your team, or so you thought. You even brought in a consultant who built a great binder that sits crookedly on your shelf, gathering dust and a constant reminder to the time and money spent for little return.

A recent Forbes article reported:

  • 65% of organizations have an agreed-upon strategy.
  • 14% of employees understand the organization’s strategy.
  • Less than 10% of all organizations successfully execute the strategy.

Imagine if your team was truly aligned around what the strategy is, how it will be executed, who will be accountable for what, and which investments are needed to close execution gaps. Your team can finish sentences for one another, rather than rambling on about their ‘hidden’ (or not so hidden) agendas. They have performance metrics which drive collective results, not reinforce silo agendas. They each know their role, what they are accountable for, and how to work together towards the leader’s agenda.

Most importantly, your team knows exactly what to do when you are not around. No debate. No waiting around for the boss to return. No confusion. No risking the wrong decision.

An Operating Model creates this alignment. It is not a 300-page consulting masterpiece. It is not a binder that sits prominently on a shelf representing the thousands of dollars spent on fancy graphics. Rather, it is the blueprint that everyone from the top to the bottom uses to execute against.

Simple? … Well not so much. Executive meetings can quickly spiral into unproductive, confusing, and completely ineffective discussions when leaders try to create an integrated blueprint. It can be like herding cats. Worse, the resulting ‘Operating Models’ seem to come in different flavors:

  • The Vision Board: a bunch of disconnected goals that don’t build on each other and might actually pull your team and resources in opposite directions.
  • The Numbers Game: organizations that scramble to meet quarterly fiscal goals since they are so wrapped up in ‘making the numbers’ that focusing on long-term sustainability and profitable growth are lost.
  • The Crapshoot: the plan that focuses heavily on outcomes but doesn’t have enough substance around the process to enable a team to execute.
  • Aspiration: leadership comes together and proudly creates a compelling strategy with little or no plans to actually execute it, and without clear objectives or measurable metrics.
  • Just Do It: the CEO has a clear strategy in their head and directs their team to go do the ‘right’ thing. The team is left to guess and ‘do’ work, with no alignment or direction.

Having had our share of senior leadership team ‘discussions’ and meetings with CEOs who firmly believed that if you tell people the strategy they will execute, we have come to realize that there is typically no shared definition of what an Operating Model is or how it will be used to create alignment and drive outcomes. It’s one of those concepts that seems to mean different things to different people. We’ve studied the outliers; those who are creating sustained growth with minimal friction and here’s what we think is the simplest, most elegant, and effective model.

Alignment BlueprintThis approach starts with establishing the direction of the organization (strategy), how you will compete (differentiation), define what success is (strategic objectives), how you will deliver to your customer (experience) and finally, what are the critical capabilities that are needed to execute your strategy.

This is a lot to bite-off, but it represents the essential elements needed to define where you are going, confirms that you can be successful, and determines what is needed to be successful.

With the capabilities outlined, determine the investments that are required to make your organization fire on all cylinders. Finally, on the HOW to run the business, ensure that the right people (talent) are in roles which make them feel part of the organization (structure) and drives aligned action to shared business goals.

The process experts are then unleashed to optimize how work is done and the technologists provide the automation to enable the business. With this framework in place, monitor the performance with metrics that measure progress in delivering strategic objectives.

Imagine if each manager / leader had the same picture and was aligned around what was important, who did what, and how as a team they were going to run the business. Everyone from the Sales & Marketing, Product Development, Operations, and even the supporting functions of HR, Finance, IT and Legal would be in lock step. That is what being part of a winning team is all about!

  • No confusion, no infighting, and accountability even when no one is looking
  • No fighting over scarce resources
  • Resource/investment prioritization is clear
  • People know what to do when the boss is not in the building
  • Issues are resolved without being delegated upwards
  • Everyone is on the same page
  • When we miss one metric, everyone jumps in to support others

Every employee becomes a leader – operating collaboratively with crystal clarity and with full accountability even when no one is checking on them. This eliminates ambiguity in the workplace. Everyone from the CEO to the most recently hired intern understands where the organization is going and clearly knows how their work / actions contribute to business success. Everyone is constantly asking “what am I doing, and what are we doing” to collectively achieve our goals.

At LeaderShift Insights™ we work with leadership to create the alignment needed to execute your strategy. Our clients include the Mayo Clinic, State Bank, Cox Media, BCBS Illinois, Oracle, Johnson & Johnson, Home Depot, J.M. Huber, Ingredion, and many more. Call us. It’s what we do!