For many businesses and organizations, the challenge is not in formulating good strategies, rather, it is in executing their well-crafted strategies.
Of course, this does not imply that bad strategies do not exist. They do. Business literature is filled with many stories of organizations that went bust because they got so good at implementing bad strategies.
Although reasons for poor strategy execution are many, one of them is poor organization alignment.
Think of your organization as a chain link system with disparate parts functioning as links and working together to achieve the stated objectives.
These links are both internal and external to the organization.
If one link is broken or weak, then the strength of the entire chain link is compromised. In this case, it will not help you to ignore the weak link and focus resources and effort on some of the links.
After the enterprise strategy has been developed and value proposition defined, and approved by the board, aligning the company’s headquarters, business units, support units, external partners, and boards with the strategy is critical.
When the priorities and activities of your internal teams and external partners are aligned with enterprise strategy, it creates additional sources of value.
Unfortunately, aligning disparate business units to create value at the enterprise level often receives less attention than creating value at the business unit level.
There is more focus on business units, with their distinct products, services, customers, markets, technologies, and competencies.
And this lack of alignment results in poor strategy execution results.
In a rowing race, alignment stands between victory and defeat. Rowers in concert push against the water with oars in turn generating enough force to move the boat.
Oars aligned at the same angle, enter and exit the water at the same time, the same force being exerted with each oar stroke. If one of the oars goes in the water even a microsecond late or early, the boat will experience tilts, turns, and drag.
A rower is therefore taught to focus and ensure each stroke is in line with that of the rest of the team.
A small difference in alignment between the crew would mean that the team would not perform at its highest potential, and likely would lose the race. The longer the race, the more costly the compound effects of misalignment over time.
In business too, people, processes, technology, systems and culture ought to be aligned to drive strategic success. If disparate business units are managed somewhat separately, the organization can get stuck in a low-effectiveness state.
To unstuck yourself from misalignment, first identify the bottlenecks and address them directly. Don’t tip-toe around the issues. It takes leadership and willingness to absorb short-term losses in the quest for future gains.
Thus, leadership has a critical role to play in managing tensions between the need for decentralized autonomous action and the need for centralized direction and coordination.
When no one is responsible for overall organization alignment, the opportunity to create value through synergy can be overlooked.
Whenever plans are changed at the enterprise or business unit level, executives likely need to realign the organization with the new direction.
Ensuring organization alignment is not a once-off exercise. This must be managed as a continual process. Continually search for ways to make the whole more valuable than sum of its parts.
Plus, it’s not enough to talk the talk. The alignment strategy must be complemented with an alignment process.