Posted by: integraladvisors | August 1, 2012

Strategic Planning 101

As I mentioned in the previous blog post on Organizational Alignment, companies have three main tools or methods available to them to achieve a greater degree of alignment between the goals of the organization, the capabilities of the management team and the aspirations and needs of the employees…while taking care of the all important customer.

The first of these tools is strategic planning. In plain English, strategic planning is the process by which the organization does the following three things:

  • It figures out where it is today (current reality)
  • It figures out where it is going in the future (desired future)
  • It creates the plan (strategic plan) to achieve that desired future

Sounds simply enough, doesn’t it? I wish it were that easy.

Most organizations fail at strategic planning because they make the mistake of treating it as an event rather than an ongoing process.

Organizations that take the time to engage in a comprehensive strategic planning process on a regular basis achieve better results.  They also often find that while there are several paths they could take, it is more important to pick one and execute on that path than it is to endlessly debate the alternatives and do nothing.

In addition to the three main components of strategic planning that I mentioned above, you also have to determine the following:

  • Vision: The vision of an organization is the exciting and ennobling image of the future that its leaders paint for the employees and enlists them in achieving that vision by appealing to the shared aspirations of everyone in the company.
  • Mission and Values: If the vision is what the organization is trying to ultimately accomplish, the mission is why it wants to achieve that vision. The values of the organization refers to the way in which it will conduct itself; the principles that guide it in how it treats its employees, customers, and community.
  • Strategy, Initiatives and Roles: The strategy defines how the organization is going to accomplish its vision. It should consist of a set of concrete action items or initiatives, which get the company from its current state to the desired future. In addition, clear role definition is an absolute requirement. More time and energy is wasted as a result when your team and leadership are unclear about their own role or the roles of others.
  • Balanced Scorecard: The balanced scorecard (as pioneered by Kaplan and Norton) is the dashboard or vital signs monitor that records whether the organizations is actually achieving its goals. In addition to financial metrics, a balanced scorecard should include customer, operational, and employee centric metrics, giving the organization a 360-degree view of the performance: acting like a compass and gps at the same time.
  • Operating Plan: The operating plan is the final deliverable of the strategic planning process. It is the tool that is used on a day-to-day basis to define and manage the company’s initiatives. If someone is not actively managing the operating plan and ensuring that progress is being made, the organization will not achieve its vision and objectives.

In the next blog post I will be discussing the second of the tools or methods the organization has available to it to create alignment with my thoughts on Team Building 101. I look forward to hearing from you.

Posted by: integraladvisors | July 13, 2012

A Delicate Balancing Act: Organizational Alignment

Every organization faces a delicate balancing act: How do you align the objectives of the organization, with the capabilities of the management team, and the needs of the employees…while taking care of the customers?

It is the most common question I have wrestled with over the last 20 years as I have worked with hundreds of organizations to help them achieve the results and sense of well-being they desire.

Where there is alignment – things work well: stuff gets done and folks feel good.

Where there is not alignment – things don’t work well: stuff does not get done and folks feel lousy.

The three main tools or methods that organizations have available to them to create this desired alignment is Strategic Planning, Team Building and Leadership Development.

In its simplest terms – in order to have alignment – you need the following:

  • The organization needs to know where it is today and where it is going in the future; it needs a vision and a plan to achieve that vision.
  • The management team needs to get along and have the ability to lead the organization toward that vision by executing the plan; there needs to be a shared sense of trust, respect and collaboration.
  • All employees need to feel valued and excited about coming to work; there needs to be genuine growth opportunities and recognition for all employees.

This is a delicate balancing act that is easy to understand but difficult to attain.

My experience has taught me that most organizations fail to achieve the necessary degree of organizational alignment because they make one (and usually both) of the following mistakes:

  • They overly focus on one of the three areas (strategic planning, team building, or leadership development) to the exclusion of the others, rather than treating them as an integrated whole.
  • Whatever effort is committed to achieving organizational alignment is treated as an event rather than an ongoing process.

The first mistake results in the “balloon syndrome”; you squeeze a balloon in one area and the air (the problem) pops out somewhere else. For example, what is initially believed to be a team issue is really an unresolved strategic direction and leadership issue.

The second mistake results in a lack of persistence and consistency, or what is referred to as a lack of “constancy to purpose”. Once-a-year, or sporadic attempts to address organizational alignment fail, in many cases causing more harm than good because they give the illusion of real change, raising hopes that are ultimately dashed as leadership’s attention wanes.

In future blog posts I will dive deeper into each of these methods of creating organizational alignment and share with you the fundamentals of effective strategic planning, team building and leadership development, so as a business leader in your organization you can begin the journey of achieving your personal, team and organizational goals; the delicate balancing act of performance and well-being.