In today’s hyper-connected world, employees are making their voices heard: They want to join organizations that stand for more than financial success. They want to align themselves with a corporate culture that fits their own beliefs and values. A place where they can bring their best selves and contribute in ways that make a difference. An organization’s core values have become a competitive differentiation when these values are clear and modeled by leadership.
With this context in mind, ask yourself, how effective is your organizational strategy? As an experienced leader, I have led an annual strategy development and financial planning process for the past 15 years. In my experience, the process is flawed. Significant effort is expended to develop strategies, goals and objectives, yet insufficient effort is spent to ensure management buy-in, alignment and company-wide communication. The single most relevant data point to support my experience is that 70% of change initiatives fail to deliver the intended impact. Over 50% of these initiatives do damage to the organization. Here are a few reasons.
1. Lack of buy-in
The single biggest reason why strategic plans fail is lack of buy-in. Ask yourself if the first time your team hears about the plan is when it’s finished.
2. A lack of honesty
Too often leaders fail to be honest about the organization and its ability to change. Vulnerability is a legitimate obstacle that plagues management teams in two ways: Honest with themselves about the magnitude and pace of desired change. Honest with their employees about what’s new, what changes, and what goes away.
3. Lack of Alignment
Communication alone is not alignment. Alignment is achieved when every person in your organization is able to express how their job duties fit into/contribute to the achievement of the organizational plan. The ideal state of alignment is achieved when employees can describe their impact – internally and externally.
4. Lack of Specificity/Accountability
Developing the strategy and organizational goals are usually not a problem – but clearly structured plans of execution with well written objectives and leading indicators of success are more challenging.
5. Failure to Celebrate
A twelve to thirty-six month plan may seem daunting unless your team feels accomplishment along the way. Celebrate early and often. Celebration promotes alignment.
6. Legacy Culture
Closely associated with reason #1, a legacy culture represents a significant risk to the execution of strategic plans. Resistance to change is an emotional response to actual or imagined threats to an established work routine. The irony of this argument is that leaders focus their time as follows:
The aforementioned data reveals that what is frequently missed is an examination of organizational culture – defined as “how the work gets done.”
Though there is no single, perfect, cookie cutter method to ensure that your culture and organizational strategy align, there are some critical pieces that should be considered.
Start with the understanding that a well-defined, established corporate culture will provide the framework for your organizational development and strategic planning. Allow this culture to guide your planning process.
What type of culture must exist in order to drive the behaviors you need to succeed? Think of culture as the filter through which your strategy must be executed.
What can you do to start changing your thinking and approach? Try these few steps:
Gain a realistic view of your culture.
Leadership must assess the organizational culture in a quantitative and qualitative manner. Evaluating how the works gets done today offers perspective of organizational strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. It provides a view of what your company can realistically handle and allows you to build your plan around that knowledge.
Examining who you are as leaders.
An organization’s long term success relies heavily on leadership, its ability to embody/implement company culture and to lead the company toward its strategic goals. Are you and your senior leadership team “awake?” If so, are you “courageous?” You will need both to successfully address organizational culture and strategy.
Plan where you are headed and how you will get there.
Developing your strategy will guide your organization in reaching its goals and objectives. Take the time to develop organizational priorities, themes, and accountability as well as a process to manage those priorities.
Once your strategy is developed, test it out. Create a series of “What If?” scenarios to get a feel for how well your strategic plans are suited to real life situations. Are your plans realistic? Use this information to re-work and tweak your strategic plan, then test again.
Sustain your progress!
It’s great to pull all these pieces of the puzzle together, but you need to plan how you will keep them all afloat. More importantly, you must then follow through.