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  • Writer's pictureTjaart Minnaar

Why getting back to the basics is key to successful strategic alignment

Picture this: your business strategy is well crafted, and the senior leadership team is excited to put it into action. You’ve laid out the plan, established clear goals and then… no traction. Despite your best efforts, lower down in the organisation, nobody seems to be on the same page and employees' behaviour and performance do not reflect your intent.

A group of employees climbing a mountain

The challenge

In today’s fast-paced environment, strategic agility and alignment are more important than ever. It’s the key to translating your strategy into action and achieving sustainable results. But it’s far from easy to achieve and remains a persistent challenge for many organisations.

The pressure to deliver results often drives behaviour that is short-term focused with an overload of plans and initiatives that are constantly changing. This leads to large-scale confusion among employees at the lower levels who are most often the implementers. The assumption that the basics are already in place is often the root of the problem. Leaders at the top assume that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities and that there is coordination and communication between teams. This, however, is not the case and agility can only be achieved from a strong base where the basics are in place and working.

According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, the top barriers to strategic alignment include conflicting priorities, lack of clarity around goals and insufficient communication and collaboration between teams. This confusion and lack of coordination results in conflict between functions and a lack of execution in teams.

The solution

To overcome these challenges, businesses need to view strategic alignment as an organisational system rather than a manager's skill set.

Four steps to creating alignment

  • Get everyone on the same page

All employees need to understand the ‘WHY’ behind the business and have a holistic view of the direction the company is striving toward To do this, it’s important to define a simple yet compelling purpose that is underpinned by your organisation’s values and strategic intent. This purpose and vision should be translated into a 1-page strategy map that clearly outlines ‘where we are going’, ‘what’s important’ and ‘what we stand for’. This creates the hook and line-of-sight against which all scorecards are aligned.

  • Cascade strategy through performance scorecards

At each business level, scorecards should be defined with the tactical and operational objectives that align with the overall strategy and outline the performance and behavioural outputs required. Include “Brilliant at the Basics” as a standard focus on scorecards at all levels. Accountability should follow the objectives and measures, with ownership defined at each level and how employees need to ‘show up’ in terms of living the values. Using scorecards across all levels sets an agenda, creates focus and communicates the importance of alignment throughout the organisation.

  • Dialogue and problem-solving aligned to organisational structure and core business processes

Your business performance is only as strong as the weakest link in the value chain. Implement a design of functional and cross-functional (Value chain) structured team meetings to ensure the right people discuss performance (execution of the strategy at their level) as well as the behaviour (values in action) that will drive performance. This becomes the base of team alignment, performance management, and a very effective change management platform.

To ensure alignment is maintained, encourage multidirectional communication across the organisation. Regular, structured team meetings can be an effective tool for setting goals, devising action plans and reviewing performance. Using an effective team performance methodology or framework, such as TeamConnect, can ensure that these meetings are focused, productive and ensure execution. This enables leaders of teams to become more effective in their roles, spending less time on daily operations and more time on the people and culture processes – walking the floor, engaging their people and removing obstacles – that will enable their teams to deliver on the operational results.

  • Continuously keep people abreast of how ‘we are doing’

Establish a regular communication channel from the CEO’s desk to connect senior management with everyone in the business. When consistent messages come from leadership, it shows that the executive team is aligned. In one of the companies we work with, the CEO shares weekly videos filmed on his cellphone, discussing business results and recognising teams.

Regular and transparent communication on the progress of goal achievement is key, whether it’s good or bad. It fosters a collaborative, authentic and psychologically safe environment, which is crucial to team performance and execution.

  • Recognise and celebrate role models and business successes

Use recognition as a tool to inspire positivity, engagement and collaboration. Align awards and rewards with results and incentivise the right behaviours through financial and non-financial rewards. Celebrate those who model the values and contribute to success. By recognising their achievements, you’ll get more of the right behaviour. Celebrate business successes at both the individual and team level to build momentum and healthy competition. Recognition is easy, cheap and often underutilised, but it can make a big difference in driving alignment and performance.

This combination of unified direction and alignment to common goals creates focus and is a key enabler in translating strategy into sustainable results.

How can we help?

Built on 30 years of experience, our High Performance Formula is an effective and easy-to-use model that can be tailored to meet your needs. A strong focus on strategy and execution, combined with our tried-and-tested programmes and processes, helps our clients build a high-performing culture and take their business to the next level.

TeamConnect is one such solution. Comprising structured team meetings and on-the-job coaching, this simple team performance methodology creates an agile network of teams focused on executing common goals through effective functional and cross-functional teamwork.

For more information, talk to us.


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