Why Alignment Could Be the Key to Unlocking your Organization’s Potential

“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” H.E. Luccock

Being able to articulate a clear strategy is one thing and yet, the organization’s ability to execute a strategy, is an altogether different, usually more challenging matter. We know that many senior leaders agree.

Contrary to the central premise of many strategy studies, usually, it is not the vision or aspirations of a successful company that allow it to stand out (and these goals are often remarkably similar, irrespective of organisation size, geography or industry sector). What sets the top performers apart is the ‘how’ – the way they organize and operate to make their aspirations a reality.

“There are few original strategies in banking. There’s only execution.” Sir John Bond

The answer usually lies in the organization itself and in the way that everything works. However, this is often a complex challenge to deal with because of the involvement of various internal structures, frameworks, operating practices and functions or departments, sometimes with different perspectives, objectives, and priorities.

The key to success is organizational alignment and this is even more important in the new paradigm of the Values Economy, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, robust alignment will be recognised by all stakeholder groups and widely lauded with all the positive impact this can create, but, on the other hand, any gaps between what the organisation says it is and the way its employees make decisions and behave will be exposed with potentially fatal consequences.

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion.” Jack Welch

But alignment is rare, and nine out of ten companies fail to execute their strategic vision. Ninety five percent of employees, on average, are unaware of or do not understand their company’s strategy. How do you think these companies would sound if they were an orchestra?

What is alignment?

In its simplest form, alignment means ‘functioning as a whole’. Organizational strategic alignment means lining up a business’ strategy with its culture across the organizational functions, departments, and operating units (horizontally) and from the boardroom to the frontline (vertically). To assist vertical alignment, SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL supports progressive leaders to consider any business objective from end to end, broken down into the areas of strategy, management, and delivery. In other words, what is the strategic objective, what management processes need to be put in place, and what is delivered ‘on the ground’?

The alignment approach also needs to extend externally beyond the organization, to align with its users, local communities, marketplace, and customers. The approach to alignment is a process that requires careful, detailed management to align the vision for the company with that of its leadership goals, different departments, culture, and individual employees at every step of the business planning process – from creation to execution.

“Clarity = speed” Ken Perlman

Most executives today know their organizations should be aligned. They know their strategies, organizational capabilities, resources, and management systems should all be arranged to support the enterprise’s purpose. The challenge is that executives tend to focus on one of these areas to the exclusion of the others, but what really matters for performance is how they all fit together.

Consider McDonald’s. What does it take to be able to serve over 1% of the world’s population — more than 70 million customers — every day and in virtually every country across the world? Fanatical attention to the design and management of scalable processes, routines, and a working culture by which simple, stand-alone, and standardized products are sold globally at a predictable, and therefore manageable, volume, quality, and cost. Maximizing economies of scale lies at the heart of McDonald’s product-centric business model. Efficiency is built into the design of its winning organization in the form of formalized hierarchies of performance accountability, a high division of labour, routinization of specialist tasks, and teamwork at the point of sale. McDonald’s has been the market leader in its sector for decades.

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Stephen Covey

The role of organizational culture cannot be underestimated in importance and organizational alignment is more than a process map. Values alignment, specifically, is a fundamental principle of the SERVICEBRAND approach and it could well be the bedrock, the foundation, upon which all genuinely successful organisational change depends.

For more information about making the necessary changes in your business or advice on other important topics like building your brand’s values so they mean something, get in touch with us at SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL

I) Sir John Reginald Hartnell Bond (born 24 July 1941) is a businessman who has served as chairman for HSBC, Vodafone and Xstrata https://www.strategy-business.com/article/14114?gko=183ff accessed 20 April 2020
II) https://www.prweek.com/article/1522440/oxfam-sex-scandal-wiped-400m-brand-valuation-report-reveals accesses 14 November 2019
III) John Francis Welch Jr. (November 19, 1935 – March 1, 2020) was an American business executive, chemical engineer, and writer. He was chairman and CEO of General Electric (GE) between 1981 and 2001. https://hbr.org/1989/09/speed-simplicity-self-confidence-an-interview-with-jack-welch accessed 20 April 2020
IV) Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton (2005) The Office of Strategy Management, Harvard Business Review October
V) Senge, P., et al. (1994) The Fifth Discipline Field Book Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization. Currency Doubleday, New York.
VI) Ken Perlman is one of today’s best-known clawhammer banjo players and an executive consultant.
VII) Stephen Richards Covey (October 24, 1932 – July 16, 2012) was an American educator, author, businessman, and keynote speaker. His most popular book is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
VIII) Christopher M. Branson (2008) Achieving organisational change through values alignment, Journal of Educational Administration May 46(3): 376-395