Leaders are Failing at Alignment Around a Strategy
What is the priority for CEOs and business leaders?
What are they in a position to uniquely deliver to the company? What does everyone in the business look to the leader to do?
Develop and implement the business strategy.
There are other critical jobs for business leaders, including:
Build organizational culture
Manage and develop talent/team
Connect with and engage the various stakeholders
Develop personally as a leader
But strategy development and implementation is the critical component of successful leadership. Especially today when strategy must be fluid and flexible to meet the rapidly changing conditions in the world and the marketplace.
Yet, there is a problem.
CEO Magazine “recently conducted a study of more than 100 senior executives in five companies ranging from $15 million to $2 billion in sales, employing between 20 and 20,000 people.”
Not a huge sample size for sure, but the results were surprising.
Executives showed a very low level of agreement on strategy: 20% or less.
Stated another way, executives had an 80% disagreement rate about their company’s strategy.
Inbound Organization is about aligning the entire organization and making sure that everyone is on the same page about strategy and their team’s role in executing it.
The article runs through an example of using customer focus to unite everyone around the strategy.
I would argue that the alignment is before strategy and relates to the mission and vision of the business.
Suppose your business does not have a clear mission and vision of who you help and why the strategy will not drive alignment. Each corporate group will have its view of what they are trying to accomplish, and leaders will be herding the proverbial cats. Alignment comes when everyone knows the target audience and what you are doing to help them.
Once the mission and vision are clear, and everyone is bought in, the strategy becomes the guide for the work being done.
My guess is that with many of the companies that are in the 80% not aligned on strategy, there is some conflation of strategy with goals.
Early in my career, I asked the owner of the medium-sized manufacturing company that I worked for what the vision was for the company. His response was, “I want us to be a $100 million company”. There was nothing about who would buy that much stuff, why they would buy, and what difference that goal would make to anyone other than him.
$100 million in sales is a goal, not a strategy.
That company went out of business well before reaching that goal. And the main reason was that the leaders forgot that they were not in the product business but in the outcomes business. Once their products did not deliver the outcomes customers wanted, the bottom fell out.
“Inbound strategies are based on helping buyers achieve their goals. An inbound strategy is an attitude and mindset that centers on developing the best employee, partner, and buyer experience possible.” Inbound Organization, Wiley 2018
Companies with customer-centered missions and visions will inherently align internal groups with the specific strategies required to succeed with the target audience.
Strategies can and must change regularly to meet the needs of evolving customer expectations.
A mission and vision centered on the customer will align everyone and give your strategy the highest chance of success.