Strategy and Alignment: don’t hang up a banner
When it comes to informing staff about a new strategy and encouraging alignment with it, some companies appear to rely on a bizarre waterfall analogy to describe a kind of internal email megaphone or Stalinist building decorations.
So beware of companies whose sites boast long posters or banners hanging off external or internal walls with punchy corporate exhortations. This is not alignment. In fact it suggests a lack of it. Companies may have perfectly crafted missions, visions, values that describe whom they think they are but this is internal advertising, not alignment.
If a company has a sound strategy based on the union of customer desires and company output, it must then face the challenge of aligning its employees with the strategic direction of the company. This can be difficult for a variety of reasons.
Senior management has a touching faith in the ability of a message to be accepted quickly while it is communicated in stages to a workforce, and the fact is that the force of the message reduces considerably as the strategy rolls out, trickles down, cascades, or whatever it is management imagines it is doing: a top-loaded message can mutate and curl as it makes its way down through various layers of management, often losing coherence and even meaning at each level.
Employees often can’t see the benefits that appear to be obvious, and especially when management fails to connect desired behaviours with recognition and reward. The workforce may be unaware of the factors that can create misalignments, even as they unconsciously participate in generating them.
Very few people, left on their own, can work out how their individual job descriptions relate to the overall strategy, no matter how obvious it is to those involved directly in the strategy formation.
So if you want to grow your company according to a plan, develop a strategy organically and consult widely and deeply as you are doing so. It will take time. It cannot be done suddenly or yesterday and it can’t be done on a wing and a prayer, still less a bravely fluttering banner.