The work performed at the top of an organization to create strategy and related goals is intended to influence behaviors that drive results throughout the entire organization. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for the primary impact of the strategic work to remain at the senior management level. It’s a bit like having a car with a finely-tuned engine but no wheels to help it move forward.
Despite the importance of driving the strategy and goals to all levels of the organization, the messages about how the strategy relates to execution typically become more and more unclear and confusing the further down they go.
Takeaway: Strategy and goals should influence everyone’s behavior in the organization! Effective communication is critical.
The responsibility for creating clarity around what the overall organization’s strategy means at the business unit, team, and individual levels is a shared management responsibility. Management also has the responsibility for ensuring that the strategy is well-executed. However, misalignment and disconnects commonly occur between strategy and execution. There are many dynamics within fast-paced, changing organizations that contribute to this lack of alignment; however the biggest obstacle appears to be "a lack of understanding." Why is this? Repeating the company strategy is easy enough, but limited positive impact results when the strategy is not translated into relatable actions for those who are expected to execute…at every level of the organization. When managers involve their people and teams in these discussions, SMART goals can be identified and documented that connect everyone’s activities and contributions to the strategy. It also improves employee commitment through the ability to connect goals with results.
Takeaway: Passing goals down without creating meaning and alignment causes frustration for everyone and negatively impacts employee engagement and business results.
So how do we overcome these hurdles? Managers can facilitate the planning and alignment process by asking three questions:
1. How does the broader strategy affect our unit?
2. What must our unit (and we as individuals) accomplish?
3. How will we accomplish it?
It is the manager’s responsibility to help translate business strategy and goals into meaningful objectives for their team. Through this process, a shared language and framework for how to think and talk about alignment occurs among the team/department, enabling them to match their behavior to a set of commonly understood goals and actions.
To create focus on the critical goals of each individual unit and the overall organization, apply the following questions as a litmus test to each of the goals:
- How well is the goal aligned with the company’s strategy?
- What is its economic impact?
- How will this goal contribute to company performance across all key metrics?
- How will it satisfy stakeholders (e.g., customers, vendors, employees)?
- What is my/our level of passion, talent, and energy for achieving this goal?
- Do we have the resources to accomplish it? If not, what do we need?
Takeaway: Planning backwards focuses on results and helps you ask the right questions early in the process.
If people throughout all levels of the organization don’t understand how the company is unique and which opportunities they are to pursue at what time, then how can they make the correct decisions for the tough choices that they have to make every day? Knowledge isn’t power. Applied knowledge is power. Put the right information in the hands of the people who need it and be supportive of their activities. Their execution and effective accomplishment of objectives will go a long way in helping the organization achieve its goals and bring its strategy to life.