The Important Work of Strategic Alignment

When giving an assessment of an organization for its upcoming strategic planning efforts, I was asked what advice I would give the leader as the organization moved forward. After thinking a bit about the organization, I was at a loss for anything specific.

I really didn’t know the inner workings of the organization, having only watched them from afar and having dealt with some of their constituents. It is a solid, well-led organization that is meeting the needs of its customer base. What I did recommend was the process of a thorough examination of their personnel structure and organizational structure.

Strategic alignment is the process of bringing the actions of an organization’s business divisions and staff members into line with the organization’s planned objectives, and it is critical for success. The ability of organizations to achieve their strategic goals will benefit from performing a comprehensive strategic alignment to help assure that its divisions and employees are jointly working toward the company’s stated goals.

Author and consultant William Schiemann states that only 14 percent of the organizations he polled report that their employees have a good understanding of their company’s strategy and direction. He might have part of the answer, and shares that fact and some of the causes in Performance Management: Putting Research into Action. Of note:

  • 65 percent of organizations have an agreed-upon strategy.
  • 14 percent of employees understand the organization’s strategy.
  • Less than 10 percent of all organizations successfully execute the strategy.

Those are some pretty stark statistics, but I’d have to agree that, based on my experience over the years, the numbers are accurate. Most employees and stakeholders may be able to rattle off the mission statement and maybe even the vision, but how many know the strategic goals of the organization? And for the leader of that organization, is the organization correctly aligned to carry out those goals? Are skilled people where they need to be, and are the finances set up to support new initiatives? Do you have a plan to articulate your strategy?

For leaders looking to close the alignment gap in their organizations, Schiemann recommends seven key steps:

  • Develop a clear, agreed-on vision and strategy.
  • Translate the vision and strategy into clear, understandable goals and measures.
  • Include and build passion for the vision, strategy, and goals among those who are implementing them.
  • Provide clarity regarding individual roles and requirements and link them across the organization.
  • Make sure that people have the talent, information, and resources to reach the goals.
  • Give clear, timely feedback on goal attainment.
  • Provide meaningful incentives to encourage employees to develop or deploy sufficient capabilities to achieve the goals.

I’m going to write on each of those steps over the next few weeks as I work through the process myself!

– Joel Westa


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3 Responses to The Important Work of Strategic Alignment

  1. Phillip Nash

    Many thanks Joel. This is an aspect of our operation we are starting to really focus on. We have a good vision and mission but we need to get some real alignment from all participants and flesh out our strategy and goals. Your series will be very helpful.

  2. Deborah Benson

    Thanks Joel, these are very practical suggestions. I agree completely but would urge schools that before any of this is done, Christian schools aught to pause to make sure they are aligned in vision with the Scriptures – a vision of Christ, a sublime mental image of the glorious fullness of Christ that continually and fearlessly grows and reaches for His likeness, both in all the details of life (content) and in all the ways of being (process). If Christ Himself is not the vision, it matters very little which practical strategy is chosen – at least in terms of spiritual life and health. Before practical alignment – make sure the main thing is still the main thing.

    • Joel Westa

      Thanks Deb-
      I’m all about the main thing being the main thing, and you’re absolutely correct—that for our Christian Schools, our vision must be aligned with the vision laid out in the scriptures. We must be distinctively Christian before anything else!

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