Strategy Matters

Strategy Alignment, why it really matters now

In 1990, during a particularly ‘tetchy’ debate on ‘why do we have a consultant helping us with strategy’ the MD asked of his board…

‘Please write down the key objectives our business needs to deliver in the next 2 years’

From 12 directors a total of 22 different objectives. That was why we were there.

The company, one of the largest hotel operators in the world.

No need to use a plethora of adjectives to describe the changes that we are seeing around us at the moment – (and that is without the largest challenge that mankind has faced – which we will need to address once Covid is in the rear view mirror). Hence the need for every organisation to re-orientate itself, re-evaluate its purpose, vision and implement its chosen strategy.

This is the role of the board – ensuring that against a backdrop of opportunity and risk that change and challenge brings, the organisation not only has a clear strategy, but that all resources are aligned – focussed ‘laser like’ on the delivery of their part of the strategy.

I once had the pleasure of attending a Kaplan and Norton seminar on the Balanced Scorecard – the approach that leads to the creation of a powerful and sustainable strategy. It was Robert Kaplan that used the analogy of light to describe what a board should strive to achieve when aligning resources (people) to a strategy. Diffuse light such as a fluorescent tube will never travel as far as a laser, same energy input, output however, the distance travelled is dramatically different it’s all down to leadership.

Once you have created your strategy and these are best kept short (some of the best are condensed to a single page – commonly a ‘map’) – easier to understand, explain, retain and amend. The value of a strategy is only realised if it is used. If it is the focus for setting structure, investment decisions, budgets, communications, objective setting (divisional, team and individual) and remuneration then it becomes a powerful tool to move the organisation towards its intended future. Of course, ‘if you do not change course, you will end up where you are headed’ Lao Tzu.

You could test the degree to which your organisation is aligned; the MD of the Hotel Operator (a clever and insightful gentleman) used to greet the Kitchen Porters and Cleaners as they clocked on at 0430 with coffee and toast – and had a chat. He discovered what they thought about the business and what they were being encouraged to focus on (or not) – and how they knew (or didn’t) know how they were contributing to the success of the hotel.

He also took the time to speak with customers to get their perspective of what was good, not so good with their experience. You could tell he enjoyed his role.

You could also ask your board what the key strategic objectives are. If you have alignment in the board, you have the foundation of a focused organisation. If however you do not enjoy that degree of focus – now might be the right time to think about the steps that must be taken, else end up where you are headed.

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