Alignment Series #1: How to align people with strategy

Posted by Lori Michele Leavitt in Leadership, Transformation & Strategy | No Comments »

Strategies change.  At least they should – in order to even just keep up with the change around us.

This series addresses Alignment.  How can you align your people with strategy?  How do you know when strategy must change? (even when it hasn’t been a year)?  How do you re-align people when strategy must change in a way that changes their daily work?

Let’s talk about the first step – aligning people with strategy (when the strategy does not require significant change in roles or the work people do).  

The methods leaders rely on today support incremental changes in strategy, typically updated once per year.  For this first step, we’ll presume that’s sufficient.

To align people with strategy, following-through on these three actions will create the desired outcome:

  1. Communicating clearly and continuously (feed-forward and feed-back);
  2. Setting well-defined, prioritized and measured key objectives; and
  3. Providing ready access to decision-support.

Communicating clearly and continuously is critical to aligning individuals with strategy. This includes clear and current role descriptions, with a connection of each role to strategy.   A leader can assess if they are communicating enough not only by progress, but also if they find they are being mimicked (if you catch people mimicking they way you communicate purpose, values or strategy, don’t be annoyed! This means they’ve got it!)

Prioritize the objectives that are communicated and measured. Define one to three priorities for your strategic shift; having too many “priorities” scatters focus, and rarely achieves the desired results.

Decision-support at the initiative-level (where what needs to get done, gets done) is also important, and often over-looked. Create clarity around how problems will be discovered, communicated and solved.  This requires trust, and is at its most effective when every person knows their manager has their back and wants them to be successful. Communication between individuals and managers can ensure that decisions are made, and resources are allocated smartly – and aimed at keeping execution on track with strategy.

Finally, who you are aligning with your strategy matters. You may find that the people who took you to where you are today are not the right people to execute the new strategy.  Ask questions about alignment, such as:  “Is each member of our leadership team committed to the strategy?” and “Are our people willing to change in ways that this new strategy requires?”

Next up:  #2 How do you know when strategy must change? (even when it hasn’t been a year)?  #3 How do you re-align people when strategy must change in a way that changes their daily work?

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