Diagnose just about any organization of more than seven people and you’ll discover that some form of dysfunction is already present. Think of how fast organizational dysfunction can grow in larger organizations and how the systems start to create a life of their own, especially if there is no strategic execution management discipline and no one is accountable for the integration of all the business processes. Like other dynamic systems, an organization performs best when all its processes, metrics and policies are functioning well and moving towards continuous improvement and aligning with the needs of the market. Organizational alignment means linking the core business functions, processes and behaviors of the people in the enterprise so they work in harmony to deliver results.
To move an organization towards the elusive (and ever changing) state of alignment, we have found that you first need to get clearer about where the enterprise is going, what it needs to do to get there and how. This includes understanding the current reality of the organization. In many ways, this current reality assessment, is difficult to do. While the mission and brand vision define what it looks like to succeed, the organization’s strategy and culture provide the plan and rules of the game. Strategy encompasses the goals and objectives the organization must accomplish and the portfolio of projects, daily activities and resources that will enable it to reach the finish line. Culture embodies the behavior of the teams and individuals and the organizational values and current management systems that guide those behaviors. Defining organizational clarity at all of the interfaces in the system precedes organizational alignment. Getting clarity is the one of the most important functions of a management team.
Building the Strategy Execution Road Map
Once organizational clarity is improved, the next step is to determine where more alignment is needed to integrate strategy and culture with decision structures throughout the enterprise. A powerful tool on the path toward organizational alignment is developing the strategy execution map of value-creating activities. This holistic view of the system enables the organization’s leaders to analyze and link strategy to the current reality. By assessing the linkages of internal business processes and external outcomes and identifying key constraints through a strategy execution map, this communicates strategic execution requirements to the organization’s employees and puts focus on the key initiatives that drive performance. A disciplined, holistic approach such as the Strategic Execution Framework, defined in Executing Your Strategy, helps decision makers translate strategy into action and build a framework for ongoing performance measurement toward strategic objectives.
Alignment is the foundation for building an overall strategic execution framework. The strategy, culture, processes, leadership, people and resources of the organization are the “gears” of the organization. Get them aligned and you’ll have the power to spend the bulk of your organization’s energy to produce results and overcome organizational roadblocks to go the distance.
Alignment as a Process
The alignment process isn’t a one-time accomplishment. As markets, customers, goals and strategies change, leaders need to realign, often during periodic planning activities and hopefully guided by a performance reporting system that is providing the focus areas for improvement and enhancement. Any organizational alignment improvement initiative must be planned as a project; we call this working “on” the business, as we explain in our book Executing Your Strategy. If the change is significant enough, there may be a transformational project needing serious attention and resourcing outside of current portfolio work.