Top leaders interpret your strategy differently. In the latest of our “Strategy and Leadership Alignment” blog series, we discuss a top objective we hear CIOs and their business counterparts identifying for strategy-to-execution projects: leadership alignment.
In our first post, “Strategy and Leadership Alignment: Why a Good Strategy Goes Wrong,” we shared common pain points we often hear from clients expressing how different interpretations of their strategy result in misalignment in leadership. Below are some examples. Do any of these resonate with what you see, hear, or feel in your organization?
- We need alignment on where we are now and where we want to go as a company. Our leaders each have a different idea in their heads of what the future looks like.
- We need focus. Action is good, but the execution falls apart when our department silos drive actions in different directions, causing spin.
- Our initiatives fall short. We may hit milestones, but our outcomes lack the value we targeted for our customers and our business.
If any of these resonated, the good news is you are not alone. Clients in banking, healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, software, and more struggle with misalignment across leaders.
When solving execution challenges, we often find the elephant in the room is an unintentional chasm between organizational silos, especially IT and their business partners. What is the root cause of this problem? They do not speak a common language.
Let’s explore why.
Determine the Break in Leadership Alignment
First, as humans, we have different communication styles, as we shared in our second post, “Strategy and Leadership Alignment: Choose Your Words Carefully.”
Second, leaders know different parts of the business. IT knows the power of their technology platforms, and the business knows the innovation needed to delight their external and internal customers. They develop and use terms differently from their functional lens.
An MIT Sloan analysis of 124 organizations revealed that only 28 percent of executives and middle managers responsible for executing strategy could list three of their company’s strategic priorities.
5 Steps to Create Alignment in Leadership
There are five key steps you can follow to create a common language in your organization. These work for any communication chasms across the company.
1. Describe desired customer outcomes simply.
Bring leaders together to describe how they believe internal and external customers will experience their future state. The key? They must use sixth-grade-level language describing what customers will see, feel, think, or do differently in the future so everyone has a common understanding.
2. Define what the company does and the value it delivers in common terms.
Understand and document your value streams and the capabilities that enable them to create a common language about the work you do as a company across your leaders and teams.
3. Prioritize together.
Ensure your prioritization is not only bottom-up or top-down but creates visibility across the organization with clearly identified dependencies and sequencing. Strategy execution breaks down when departments depend on common capabilities to be successful. You must bust through silos to empower decision makers and ensure progress.
4. Support mindset shifts.
Actions matter more than words – do what you say and make it visible with impactful change management. People in your organization drive your strategy forward.
5. Iterate your strategic plan, execution processes, metrics, roles and responsibilities, and more as you learn.
Build a governance structure for your strategy and business architecture, not just your initiatives.
Unintentional leadership misalignment can lead to challenges in executing a company’s strategy. To address this, organizations must strive to create a common language across different functional areas, starting with what your customers will see, feel, think, or do differently in the future. By following the five key steps outlined in this post, you can bridge the communication gap and achieve greater alignment in your strategic priorities, leading to better outcomes for your customers and business.