Strategy and goals should influence everyone’s behavior in the organization!
The work at the top of the organization in creating strategy and goals is intended to influence behavior that drives results. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for the primary impact of the work to remain at the senior management level. It’s kind of like having a car with an engine and no wheels. Despite the importance of driving the strategy and goals deeper into the organization, the messages as to how the strategy relates to execution typically become unclear and confusing the further down they go.
Passing goals down without creating meaning causes frustration…
The responsibility for creating clarity around what the strategy means at the business unit, team and individual levels, and for ensuring that the strategy is executed is a shared management responsibility.
There are many dynamics within fast paced changing organizations that contribute to the lack of alignment. However, the biggest obstacle appears to be “a lack of understanding.” Why is this? Repeating the company strategy is easy enough, but without translating strategy into relatable actions with those who are expected to execute at every level of the organization, has limited impact. When managers involve people and teams they lead in these discussions, SMART goals can be written that connect everyone’s contributions to the strategy. It also improves sustained commitment through the ability to measure ongoing results.
Planning backwards focuses on results…
Managers can facilitate the process by asking three questions:
- How does the strategy affect our unit?
- What must we accomplish?
- How will we accomplish it?
Through this process a shared language and framework for how to think and talk about alignment occurs among the team/department enabling them to match their behavior to a set of commonly understood goals and actions. To create focus on the truly critical goals to your team and the company, apply the following questions as a litmus test to each of the existing goals:
- What is its economic impact? – How will this goal contribute to company performance?
- Is it aligned with the company’s strategy?
- How will it satisfy stakeholders?
- What is my level of passion, talent, and energy for it?
- Do we have the resources?
If people in the organization don’t understand how the company is supposed to be different and what opportunities they are to pursue, how can they make the tough choices that they have to make every day? (Porter, 1980)