By Mark Jeltema - San Diego Consulting Group
The Aligned Company – Part 1
One of the joys of working in business strategy is the fact that while there are commonly accepted methods and tools for building strategic plans they must be adapted to the unique aspects of your company. It is like a fantastically complex puzzle that is constantly changing its shape and success criteria.
In order to succeed in this arena of constant change you need to have an adaptable team and work diligently to bring the business into alignment. This my definition of an aligned company, where every aspect of the company reinforces the other to move in the direction desired.
One of the key advantages of an aligned organization is its self-repairing, people are invested in the company and work to help it succeed. This is the kind of magic spoke about in successful startups, high performance teams, and long-lasting relationships.
To achieve an aligned company the following components are needed.
Clearly articulated culture, vision, and mission
This seems simple but your vision and mission statements need to reinforce the culture. This is critical to your business success. If people cannot understand how their work is supporting the vision and mission or what is expected in your culture, then the company becomes directionless. To craft and communicate clear vision, mission, and culture expectations you need to put yourself in the perspectives of those receiving the message, be they a front-line manager or customer service representative, then answer the burning question of what does this mean to me.
The layers of strategy for the company need to be architected by those that intimately understand the market and business capabilities so that they are achievable but also challenge the company to reach to succeed. Then most importantly translated into an understandable format that everyone can get behind. I believe the best format for communicating a strategy is to boil it into a small series of goals tailored to the roles that are consuming the information. This will be expounded on in future posts.
Leadership and people
People are what make your business work, both on the leadership and execution sides of the house. Understanding both the prevalent leadership styles and personalities of your key people is critical to aligning the company. Given the spread in generations in the workforce today I subscribe to a combination of methodologies based on having clear and open, if occasionally uncomfortable, communication between leaders and employees. To summarize statements made by Ray Dalio, everyone can provide their opinion on any direction or decision the company is making, but don’t confuse the ability to comment with the authority to make the decision. This topic also will be further discussed in future posts.
Once you understand and have aligned the vision, culture and strategy and the right people in place does the company structure allow your people to achieve them? The structure of the organization needs to consider the desired culture, strategic goals, and the people that are falling into it. Having the right or wrong structure can empower or hinder success. So many companies and structures I have seen are attempting to solve or drive cultural behaviors or address a mismatch between leadership and culture.
An example is the flat organization, removing all layers of management between the senior leadership and the people. This is attempting to give people ownership over their area of expertise and solve the I don’t want to be micromanaged problem. What it does is push the responsibility of management onto senior leaders or ad hoc leaders that fill the gap without formal authority. The reality is most people want to have someone they can clarify direction with and help guide the group towards the goals. Not tell them how to get work done. An aligned company can provide this through the higher layers allowing everyone to focus on executing rather than micromanaging wrong expectations.
Product and market fit
Finally having a product and clearly defined market will supercharge the organization. With the right layers above even mediocre products can succeed but a great product with a misaligned company will falter every time. The great thing is if the company is aligned, they will work to build the best product and serve their customers regardless of where the product is now.
The challenge of aligning a company is that through growth, people and market changes, and the natural evolution of the company things strive to spread out of alignment. To combat this natural tendency the company must reinforce its core culture. For example, is the Johnson and Johnson credo, read at the beginning of every meeting constantly reminding people of how to align the company to its vision and purpose. Something that has kept the company going for over 125 years. It is the responsibility of every leader, formal and informal, to drive alignment towards the core.
To make each of these area’s successful is a blog in its own right, keep tuned for deep dives into each section.
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If you need help aligning your company contact the San Diego Consulting Group today.