How to Align Your Strategy, People and Culture to create Team and Business Success

How to Align Your Strategy, People and Culture to create Team and Business Success

How to Align Your Strategy, People and Culture to create Team and Business Success

Often if you ask managers what their company vision and strategy are, they may struggle to tell you specifically; they may be able to quote taglines, but can often be unclear on the overall company goals.  Similarly, if you ask team members what their own work objectives are, they may not be able to recite them all and/or may point you in the direction of their organization’s online performance management system, despite craving clarity regarding their precise role and responsibilities and how they personally fit in with the overall vision and strategy. 

Alignment is regarded by most global business leaders as the key to a healthy culture and overall company success; however, alignment of the company strategy, mission, values, beliefs, behaviours, objectives, people and culture is not easily attained by many organizations.  Additionally, many employees carry out their own tasks in ignorance of how they contribute to the overall firms success, which can result in higher levels of disengagement and attrition.  Most people have heard the story of the motivated janitor at NASA, who, when asked what he did, replied ‘I help to put men on the moon.’  He felt empowered and knew how his role contributed to the success of the team and organization and was therefore highly motivated and felt valued.

Similarly, most business people will have also heard the expression ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ which is attributed to the late management guru, Peter Drucker, and was popularised by the COO of Ford Motor Company, Mark Fields.  At Ford, Fields replaced a culture which was characterised by distrust, fear and betrayal (needing to lay off 30,000 employees) with one of creativity, innovation and responsibility.  Conversely, we’ve seen the demise of some mega brands, such as Hewlett Packard, IBM and Xerox, who failed to innovate, diversify and align their business objectives with an agile strategy. 

Having a vision and strategy may be keys to business success, but  organizations and teams must also be agile and strategic enough to be able to adapt their ‘game plan’ to changing requirements and competitors.  Look at Sales teams, who can sometimes treat all prospects the same; a Sales pitch may work well on one potential future customer, but fail with another.  Similarly, who hasn’t heard the cliché that ‘there is no I in team,’  but try telling that to a Sales person whose individual target will earn them significant amounts of commission, whereas a combined individual and team target may create greater business success.  Similarly, any Matrix Manager in a project team will also know how difficult it is to motivate team members for whom they have dotted line responsibility and have little or no ownership of the overall project deliverables. 

So how do you create alignment of your strategy, people and culture?

1. Have a clear vision and mission, for example, to be the number one in your sector by 2025, by creating the cheapest or best quality widget on the market.  Ensure everyone is clear on how their role and work projects/tasks contribute to achieving the vision.

2. With clarity around the organizations’ purpose, leaders and managers can then make key judgements regarding the value and priority of projects and work assignments.  In turn managers should continually ask themselves ’What am I here for?  What are the key tasks and actions I need to complete in order to deliver on the strategic objectives?’  They then need to review the overall purpose and responsibilities of each role and how these also align with the vision and strategy. 

3. All KPIs and targets should link back to the company vision and strategy and ideally, where possible, these should be agreed with team members, as opposed to them being imposed from management.  Each employee can then identify how their skills and work tasks are contributing to the survival and success of the organization, for example at John Lewis and Waitrose, where this translates in to excellent brand value and customer service.

4. In order to create a culture that reflects the company vision and strategy, and considering the old adage of ‘what gets measured gets done’, any performance evaluation should focus, not only on how the employee is performing against competencies and targets, but also on how aligned with the strategy and values the employees’ tasks and outputs are.  This ensures that the performance of every individual is aligned with organizational success. 

5. Managers should also regularly review processes and procedures, budgets and incentive schemes to ensure these are aligned. 

6. One factor that is continually overlooked in an organizations’ strategic planning and processes is the actual customer!  In order to be successful and stay ahead of the competition, companies need to align their vision, strategy and values with customer requirements and constantly ask: ‘What do they want?  How can we over-deliver on customer expectations?’    

7. One of the best examples of non-alignment is a company that measures its employees in number of widgets produced or calls made, ignoring key factors such as quality and safety, which often leads to costly wastage, high volumes of customer complaints and an erosion of the consumer and employer brand.  Any measures and targets need to align with the vision and strategy.  

    It doesn’t take long for the use of incorrect metrics and/or non-alignment of company values to derail an organization.  In global corporates when the vision and strategy become blurred, are not communicated to team members, and silo-working on non-aligned projects becomes the norm, the company will often begin to lose brand value and market share.  Whereas successful organizations and teams will frequently have a simple mission statement, an ambitious but clear vision and strategy, and managers and team members will have a defined list of aligned priorities and objectives, which are regularly reviewed in order to deliver the strategy and create success. 

    During Team Away Days and Strategic Offsites that we run for our clients, we not only assist them in developing and honing their vision, mission, and strategy, but also support the senior team in ensuring their people and objectives are aligned. 

    'Since the merger we hadn't realized that we were so involved in firefighting (real and metaphorical!) that we'd lost sight of our main purpose and end game.  Thank you for your assistance in bringing us back to the basics - our clear vision and revised strategy.  Alignment around these has led to some great success and improved morale.'  CEO

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