Get in Align(ment): Connecting Your People To Your Strategy
This time of year, clients come to us frustrated that their strategic plans fell short and they want our help finding a better way to set their team up for success for the new year. Many times, as we objectively analyze their strategic plan, we find that “the plan” is fine. In fact, excellent. Where we find that most plans fall short is in how people are (or are not) aligned to the execution of the strategic plan.
There is “strategy” and there is “execution of the strategy.” And sometimes, these two don’t intersect. They are truly two different—and critically important—drivers of your success.
In the article, “The Office of Strategy Management,” by Harvard Business School and data collected by Bain Consulting, it outlines this exact point: how strategy formulation is so often disconnected from strategy execution. The survey reveals that in a global sample of 1,854 large corporations, 90% failed to achieve profitable growth. The reason? While most companies have a strategic plan, most fail at the execution of that plan.
Some key issues revealed in the survey include:
- Many organizations don’t have a consistent way to describe their strategy. It gets created, formally presented, and then filed away never to be seen again. To be successful, the plan must be communicated in an effective way that translates operationally.
- Sixty percent of companies don’t link their current strategic priorities to their budgets and financial forecasts. If budgets are not aligned to strategy, then the funds needed to successfully implement the tactics outlined in the plan won’t be available…and won’t be executed.
- But what is most devastating? 95% of employees surveyed do not understand their company’s strategy. How can employees be expected to execute a plan they aren’t aware of or don’t understand? This statistic harkens back to the importance of communicating a strategic plan in a way that everyone in the company can understand.
So, with a focus on the execution of your strategic plan for next year, we encourage you to focus on three elements: communication, clear alignment, and metrics of success.
After strategy is designed and set, communication is your entry point for talent alignment. Many times, there is a specific group or team who helps build strategy. This might be your executive team with the board of directors, a select number of people in leadership, or even a task force. We usually forget that the rest of the team is pretty much in the dark on the final and approved plan—or even how you got there. This is why we reinforce the need for ongoing, crisp, clear, and detailed communication. And not just a proclamation, but true and thorough communication: the vision, the possibilities, the importance each person plays in the plan, and even how you will celebrate along the way. This needs to happen often. When everyone knows where the ship is heading, they can not only prepare for the journey, but envision (and get excited about) the role they will play in its success.
Next, ensure everyone’s roles are clearly defined so they have a very specific part of the plan in their jurisdiction and area of impact. In Q4, our team is back-to-back working with clients to not just help them build strategy, but align how each member of the team creates impact. What are the daily, monthly, quarterly, and annual behaviors and actions that will lead them to success? This should only be a handful of items (no more) that are the most significant ways they make impact. These items should help guide their focus, decisions, and workload/balance every day. This focus also becomes the coaching guide for that team member to celebrate success or get back on track, if needed. Something to note here: This is NOT their job description, traditionally filled with skills, education, and tasks…those elements are not Strategic Plan Drivers. They are just interesting. Not useful.
Finally, set metrics of success so each individual can actually track the behaviors and actions they initiate each day and can see how those behaviors translate into movement along the path. This also creates ownership that doesn’t wait for the end of the quarter or the year for them to know if they are on track, off track, or need help, coaching, or resources. Design measurable benchmarks for each team and individual within the organization to then tie that back to the strategic plan, along with a clearly identifiable timeline. This creates ownership of role. Not to mention how rewarding this is when someone can actually track their actions to the overall success of their company. Now that’s a powerful employee engagement lever.
Do you want your strategic plan to succeed for 2019? (Who doesn’t?) Align Your Talent: communicate, establish and reinforce role clarity, and continuously track metrics of success. Here’s to a great Talent Aligned 2019!
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