The market environment within which all businesses operate changes constantly. Each business organization must be prepared to change as well, either reactively or (preferably) proactively. When all organizational resources are aligned with strategy the organization is better prepared to utilize resources efficiently and effectively to adapt to changing circumstances. This is particularly true with social resources (people). If people are not fully aligned with strategic direction an organization has a tendency to become unfocused; struggling with conflicting priorities and mismanaging resources. Effectively establishing that strategic direction, however, requires more than the completion of a written plan document, no matter how well thought out that document may be. Effective strategic alignment requires the careful blending of well–defined organizational goals with operational procedures and personal skills to achieve efficient and effective work flow. Before creating a strategic direction it is most important that leadership has a clearly defined and well communicated vision for the future of the business. The formalization of an effective business strategy begins with visionary executive leadership. Visionary leaders are not prophetic; they simply understand the importance of exercising forethought, which they know to require all of the following: a willingness to carefully and objectively consider the business environment as it exists today the anticipation of the continually evolving needs of their customers, and those of their customers’ customers consideration of the needs and aspirations of all parties having an interest in the future well-being of the organization a thorough understanding of necessary internal organizational competencies, and how those competencies relate to the demands of the marketplace an ability to visualize internal organizational change as a process of ongoing, managed innovation When the vision has been established and articulated, the interests and aspirations of all parties identified and understood and organizational competencies recognized, the strategic direction can be defined, and specific goals and actions identified to affect the required organizational change. Given the likelihood of limited resources, leaders must identify realistic actions required to affect the envisioned change. In order to manage the change process personal responsibilities must be assigned, specific tasks created, resource requirements formalized, metrics defined, and a timetable developed. All of these must be communicated throughout the organization in a fashion that is both easily understood and commonly embraced. The implementation step is where organizations frequently fail when attempting to realize strategic goals. Effective implementation requires a high degree of personal involvement on the part of leadership. All social resources in an organization must be encouraged to actively participate in the effort to achieve strategic goals. To accomplish this, the “people” portion of the organization has to be both motivated to change, and, directly involved in the change management process; working together to common purpose. The goal is to get employees interested; get them “in on the action”. Active-participation and resultant learning are at the heart of successfully managed change. When people are actively involved in the change process they become more interested, more willing and more efficient. The effective strategic alignment of social resources serves to harness the energy of everyone in an organization and ensure proper focus on common goals. That alignment requires serious attention at the executive level. Organizational leadership must work continuously to ensure that “best practice” social resource efforts are in place to achieve and maintain such alignment. Consider some “best practices” as described below:
Define the Organizational Competencies required to achieve Strategic Initiatives Design organizational roles and responsibilities around those competencies. Determine which competencies the organization possesses, and which must be developed or acquired. Create corresponding job descriptions.
Align Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting, and Hiring with Strategic Direction The best candidate for your organization is one who meets strategic job qualifications and fits in the best with your culture.
Align Employee Development Efforts with Strategic Competency Requirements A robust approach to personal development is absolutely vital to support your strategic goals. The best development efforts align personal (and group) improvement practices with business needs; assessing the market situation, translating that assessment into organizational requirements, and measuring the behavioral and economic results of the improvement efforts.
Align Employee Performance Management Tools with Strategic Goals A well-conceived and properly executed performance appraisal system includes the establishment of very clear goals and the identification individual responsibilities in support of strategic direction.
Ensure Personal Accountability Specific individuals need to have oversight responsibility for each step in the change management process. These individuals must provide regularly scheduled progress reports with supporting metrics and recommend changes to original tactics when warranted.
The effort to achieve organizational alignment is, of necessity, an ongoing process due to the continuously changing business environment we all face. In the strategically aligned organization all members have a clear understanding of the relationship between resource allocation, business process and strategy. Collective efforts are focused and well-coordinated, redundancy is eliminated, and capabilities maximized; all leading to a sustainable competitive advantage in the ever-changing marketplace. This process of alignment must be dynamic. A change anywhere in the organization can have unplanned consequences elsewhere in the organization. An organization’s strategic direction must therefore be reviewed on an ongoing basis, and adaptable to meet the demands of a changing environment.