The Complete Guide to Strategic Alignment

Organizations around the world are challenged to adapt to the changing business environment at a breakneck pace. Consequently, having team members who understand and are in alignment with the business’ principal strategy is increasingly more important. In order to stay competitive, organizations must devise viable, creative strategies for business success and growth. Organizations with a strategic plan are more likely to achieve long-term sustained growth and profitability. The plan should reflect and encompass the three essential building blocks of a successful business: people, product and processes. And for corporate strategy to do its job, an organization must maintain strategic alignment throughout every level of the business.


What is Strategic Alignment?

Strategic alignment is the process of working with business units, departments, teams, and individuals to connect their strategic efforts to the organization’s overarching strategic goals, objectives, and actions.

In order to survive and prosper, organizations need to grow and adapt in the never ending cycle of change.  In order to evolve successfully, organizations need a strategy to manage opportunities and risks.    Depending on the speed of change, emerging trends, and innovative ideas, senior leaders periodically formulate or refresh the overarching strategic vision and direction for the business.  This strategic vision should explain where the organization is going and how it intends to get there while managing the chances that lie ahead on the journey.

Alignment begins when senior executives share or cascade the enterprise strategy throughout the organization and engage functional leaders, team leaders, and individuals to help them identify and develop their own goals, plans, and actions.  We like to call it the organization’s GPA.

  • Goals
  • Plans
  • Actions

Alignment means everyone has a line of sight to the enterprise strategy and knows how they fit and why they matter in the overall strategic picture. Alignment means every member of the organization is synchronized and can make decisions, take action, and allocate resources and energy that is consistent with the strategy.

Gradually, strategic alignment begins to show up in conversations, business practices, daily routines, product development initiatives, and customer relationships. Strategic alignment will have an influence in every activity and become an integral part of the organization’s culture. Amazing things happen when organizations pay attention to the strategic alignment process.

Why is Strategic Alignment Important?

Organizations that are strategically aligned operate more efficiently and achieve better outcomes because people and teams develop action plans that are focused on achieving common goals and objectives. Without strategic alignment, people become confused about their priorities, make fewer effective decisions, and likely engage in more conflict. This eventually leads to fatigue and causes people to lose their passion and motivation to do their best work. People want to be connected to something they believe in. Strategic alignment helps strengthen engagement by:

  • Informing people who develop products and services
  • Providing direction for sales and marketing
  • Helping people on the operation side of the business develop the best practices and allocate resources

In essence, strategic alignment enables every member and team to help the business create value for owners, customers, workers, and community and contribute to the plan to win.

A business is like a machine with a lot of moving parts.  When the parts or activities of a business are aligned, there is less friction and tension.  A business has to be a well-oiled machine in order to be profitable, generate cash flow, invest in growth opportunities, and bring new products and services to the marketplace.  Alignment and coordination are essential to long-term survival and prosperity.  Without alignment, organizations atrophy and create more waste. Left unattended, this leads to less vitality, degeneration, and potential failure of the enterprise.  Organizations that invest some time and energy to achieve strategic alignment create a competitive advantage, achieve greater differentiation, create unique capabilities, and deliver more value for its stakeholders.

The Benefits of Strategic Alignment

Lacking strategic alignment, well-meaning managers may spend countless hours pursuing initiatives that, while they may be good ideas, aren’t the right things to focus on at the time. Even worse, if the strategy of the organization is unclear to employees at the operational level, they may lose faith in the vision, mission, and value proposition of the organization. This loss of connection can squelch their morale and willingness to offer their best to the company, which not only hurts the company culture—it hurts the bottom line. By ensuring that there is strategic alignment in your organization, you can be certain that limited resources won’t go to waste when you:

  • Focus energy in the right areas at the right times
  • Reduce or abolish workplace redundancies
  • Eliminate conflicting priorities
  • Increase team-member coordination, communication, and buy-in
  • Clarify the capabilities and competitive advantages of the organization
  • Provide structure and clarity of purpose for employees
  • Empower all team members to shape the future of the organization
  • Support market maneuverability, a must in a rapidly changing global economy

How to Align Strategies Throughout the Business

Strategy is often thought of as something that only top-tier executives can influence, and while it may be true that “top-down” strategy is most common, we maintain that individuals throughout the organization must both understand the organization’s strategy and create an ancillary strategy for themselves—a supplemental strategy that directly impacts their respective areas of responsibility and strengthens the core of the business. When carefully crafted, these supporting strategies are designed expressly to create added value within different divisions of the business while simultaneously upholding and supporting the corporate strategy driving the company forward.

Where Can I Learn More About Strategic Alignment?

CMOE has been designing leadership-development programs for over 35 years, and never before have strategic ability, strategic forethought, and strategic alignment been more important. CMOE’s Strategic Leadership™ Workshop was designed specifically to address the challenges inherent in creating strong strategic thinkers capable of instilling a sense of ownership in all members of their team and boosting strategic alignment throughout the organization.

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“Leaders have a duty to ensure that his or her resources are used in a way that supports the overarching direction in which the firm is moving.”

~ Stephanie S. Mead, MBA

“Strategy Mosaic: The phenomena that occurs when many small pieces of the master strategy come together to create a masterpiece.”

~ Strategy is Everyone’s Job: A Guide to Strategic Leadership

“Mid-level managers in today’s business environment are required to be more adaptive and proactive.”

~ Strategy is Everyone’s Job: A Guide to Strategic Leadership