Consider Aligning on 5 key points before getting down to executing your strategy.
Alignment suggests that as leaders we have completed the painstaking process of developing strategy that makes sense for the market and our place in it. We may wish to be “first at something” and play in a market without viable competitors. However, markets are dynamic, and choice is plentiful, placing greater importance on getting our strategy to fit our reality.
1. To what are we aligning?
It starts with a subject; Framing the conversation and narrowing the topic to the key subject at hand requires that each participant agrees with the premise. Developing a new product line? Forging into a new geographical market? Divesting a business? These and other critical topics require your leadership team to debate and to eventually align on.
Take-away; “Don’t shortcut a critical process; building alignment is also building a team.”
2. What choices have we made that require alignment?
Most companies don’t suffer from bad ideas. Great ideas are plentiful. Execution of great ideas isn’t.
Alignment asks that as leaders we have made choices on what to do (and what not to do) based upon analyzing markets and our own capabilities. This requires leadership “truth telling,” the sign of a healthy leadership team.
As CEO, decide how honest the leadership team is with each other about what counts in the minds and behaviors of your customer:
“Can I trust your company to provide me with a great product and service offering on a continual basis?”
Leadership teams that continually align around principles of service, and can challenge each other in healthy manner, are likely experiencing greater trust than those that aren’t. Healthy teams aren’t accidental.
Take-away; “Build team trust as plentifully as you build customer relationships.”
3. Align around a basic economic principle; matching supply and demand.
Whether we are experiencing great demand due to unique product and service experiences that we are offering, or whether we are competing in a heavily commoditized space, we’re at our best when we sell and service “the way we said we would.” Simply put, all our functions need to be aligned to ensure that we meet and exceed our customers’ expectations. This is where strategy and execution need to coexist daily. For all our good intentions in a strategy session, the results show up when we “get down to execution.”
Take-Away; “Resource planning is directly tied to your execution. Treat it with respect.”
4. “Yes, but i thought you meant this, because I meant that” ….
How many times have we seen leaders demonstrate confusion by taking and communicating seemingly different positions on key strategic initiatives? When our messages appear conflicting, our outcomes are unpredictable. Sure, markets change, but our commitment to alignment as a team often gets sideswiped by dual messages.
Take-away; “Never take clarity for granted.”
5. We aren’t required to agree with every decision taken by a team, but we are expected to align.
This seems to be the most difficult point to live by, because we often experience internal conflict because the decision doesn’t match our viewpoint. In fact, great teams are very diverse and have the benefit of enjoying opposing points of view. Helpful to leaders to is consider whether their views are being heard, and the level of influence they are wielding. Many decisions occur through co-creation and we may not always appreciate how many iterations a team went through to arrive at a decision.
Take-away; “When we align, we align. We do so in words and actions.”
When alignment is present: We communicate as one team.
This sounds reasonable, but its more elusive than we think. We need to be very diligent as leaders about we’ve agreed to, since we are all expected to communicate from a point of view of alignment.
Before we look for misalignment at the middle management level, we need to take a mirror to our behavior as leaders first. Doing so will not only improve our likelihood of success, but is a critical step in “getting down to business” — Execution of our strategic plan.