We can have the best strategy in the world. It will however remain fiction until line managers and frontline employees start working on it.
So knowing whether people are actively carrying out relevant activities is critical. It allows leaders to intervene where roadblocks exist and make corrective adjustments before problems impact the bottom line.
The problem with Goals as alignment indicator
The most common way leaders align their activities to the strategy is by aligning their teams’ goals to top strategic objectives. Under this approach, alignment is assessed by whether a team’s goals contribute to the strategy.
There are however two flaws with this approach to diagnosing alignment:
- Goals don’t safeguard against distractions: Team goals are top of mind when first set, but are often forgotten as leaders fail to provide reminders, praise individuals making progress on them and reprimand undesirable behavior (as advocated in the One Minute Manager). Day-to-day fires and distractions tend to slowly shift manager attention away from their strategic goals. So whether goals are successful at strategically aligning teams is dependent on the discipline managers exert in keeping their teams focused. With only 8% of leaders being good at both strategy and execution, the odds are stacked against human discipline to keep teams aligned, focused, and undistracted.
- Goals take a long time to measure, delaying corrective action: Keeping teams focused on strategic goals demands regular progress reviews. Constantly assessing whether team members are going in the right direction. Unfortunately, many progress indicators take a long time to show. Not all goals are as easily trackable as the number of sales calls made in a week. Often with change management projects, the only measure of progress is whether a specific milestone is hit or not. As result, problems and distractions go unreported between monthly or even quarterly meetings. This allows teams to ignore strategic goals and work on irrelevant priorities. When problems are reported, it’s often late in the game, requiring herculean effort and the unwanted attention of top management to fix.
Measure alignment via Activities
A more effective and timely measure of alignment can be found in reviewing whether team members are working on strategic activities. What percent of time was dedicated to advancing strategic goals and what percent to distractions this week?
To quantify alignment, leaders can assess their team’s Strategic Alignment Score. The simple version of the calculation is as follows:
The Strategic Alignment Score provides an early warning system on whether progress is being made on strategic initiatives. It allows leaders to intervene and take corrective measures before team members take on too many distractions.
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