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5 Quick Steps to Align Organization and Strategy

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Published:
September 30, 2022
Reading Time:
10 minutes
Leo
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.
First, let’s consider two organizations: A and B.

Organization A was created using the following steps:
  • Step #1: Create a business strategy
  • Step #2: Create an organization around the strategy 
However, Organization B was created using the following steps:
  • Step #1: Create an organization 
  • Step #2: Create a business strategy around it
Which organization do you think will succeed? Well, you’re going to have to read the article to find out. 

In this post, we will discuss the 5 ways that you can use to align your organization and strategy. And, as mentioned already, you’ll also learn what should come first—the strategy or the organization. 

Let the show begin. 

1. Know the Difference Between Competency and Capability

If you want to align your organization with strategy, you should understand the terms competency and capability. 

You see, competency lies with an individual. For instance, a competent product designer can create a new app that goes viral. And a competent marketing executive can strategize a marketing campaign that takes an organization to new heights. 

competency-vs-capability

Capability, on the other hand, is an attribute of an organization. An organization is either capable of executing a certain strategy, or it’s not—simple. Now, to become capable of strategy implementation, an organization needs individuals with various competencies.

So, don’t build the strategy around an organization, but rather build an organization around the strategy. Let’s consider an example to understand this better. We’ve all heard of Amazon, right? Heck, it’s likely that if you’re reading this, you may have ordered something from Amazon recently. Anyway, let’s get down to their business strategy. 

The company focuses on the convenience aspect of online shopping. Customers can order anything—from a laptop to a pair of shoes—through Amazon. To become ‘capable’ of such an amazing feat, the company needs various ‘competencies’. For instance, marketing, product design, UX design, website management, data engineering, and many more. If Amazon's strategy is to sell every product on Earth on its website, the company will need to get competent people with relevant skills on board. Something which they’re doing very well already. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • You should know the difference between competency and capability. Competency lies with an individual, while capability is an attribute of an organization.
  • All team members should know how their job helps the company with its strategy’s implementation. 
  • When implementing a new strategy, leaders should offer assistance to juniors whenever needed.
  • Old organizational culture and values can hinder strategy implementation. This should be analyzed and any barriers must be addressed. 
  • Using change management models like ADKAR, Lewin’s Model, and Kotter’s 8-Step Model can be of great help. 

2. Let Everybody Know About Their Contribution to the Strategy

The term ‘strategy implementation’ may sound like it's only relevant to organizations, not humans. However, in order to align your organization with strategy, you must get every individual on the same page. Whether it’s the CEO or a graphic designer, each team member must know how they’re contributing.

Let’s take Amazon as an example again. Amazon’s strategy is to be a one-shop stop and strive to have every product for customers under one roof. We’ve already discussed that. But this is not a one-person or even one-team job. It will take many teams and cross-functional leadership. That’s why every person on every team must use their skills and competencies to the fullest.

For instance, the customer service team that processes customer queries must know its role in the business strategy. If Amazon wants to be a one-shop stop, then all the customer questions must be courteously and promptly attended to. The customer service team should remember that customers may choose another e-commerce website if they’re unsatisfied. 

Similarly, the website development team must know how they’re contributing to Amazon’s strategic goals. So, they must always ensure that the website is running smoothly, the load time is less than three seconds, and that the website is optimized for mobile. 

3. Leaders Should Be Supportive

For a strategy implementation to go down smoothly, all team members must play their roles well. However, the fact is, not everybody has leadership skills—especially the staff in junior positions. You may say, “All staff must play their role in the company’s strategic success.” But the reality is, it’s a leader’s job to create processes and management structure to make this happen. 

Align Organization and Strategy, 5 Quick Steps to Align Organization and Strategy
So, if employees don’t have the skills or training to contribute to the organization's strategy, leaders should upskill them. And to achieve this, the leadership team must be supportive. A lot of times, employees may not speak up for the fear of being ridiculed or losing their job. Creating a culture of fear is a surefire way to ruin strategy implementation—especially if it’s a new strategy.  That’s why leaders have to check in on staff and make sure they have what they need. Whether it’s training, conflict resolution, or task allocation, leaders must be supportive at each step. 

READ MORE | How to Lead Agile Transformation in Your Company Like a Boss

4. Analyze Organizational Culture and Detect Potential Barriers

If you’re on a mission to align your organization to a strategy that you’re very confident about, wait! You see, a strategy seems exciting on paper every time. It’s like a new journey with unknown outcomes. However, remember that it’s your team that will walk the journey with you. And their values and overall company culture can positively or negatively affect strategy implementation. 

Let’s consider an example.

Company A wants to implement a new strategy: create a new product line every quarter. But until now, the company has sold only one type of product for the past decade. The reason behind this is the company’s values: traditionality, risk aversion, and obedience. 

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Now, that will be a problem if the company wants to align itself with the new strategy. People who are highly obedient may be afraid to release new products every three months. And if the leaders want to stick to traditional products, how can the obedient subordinates question them?

But there is a way to change this. Let’s discuss it in the next point. 

5. Change the Processes and Values That No Longer Matter

As you align your organization to a new strategy, you’ll need to change old processes. When you grow and work on new strategy implementation, you’ll need to introduce new ways of working. This, of course, is easier said than done. But there are several frameworks that you could use to implement new changes. 

The first one is the ​​ADKAR Change Management Model, which is an acronym for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement. As the name suggests, change first begins with creating awareness regarding the change. Then, after creating a desire for change, employees must be given knowledge and training about the new processes. But knowledge is not enough, it’s the ability to use the knowledge that matters. Hence, the fourth step is Ability—making staff ‘able’ to use the new knowledge. Finally, the last step is to reinforce the new ways of working and make them the norm. 

Lewin’s Change Management Model is another interesting framework to use if changes are a big part of strategy implementation. The three steps of this model are Unfreeze, Change, and Refreeze. The Unfreeze stage refers to motivating employees to change by explaining why change is needed and how it can help. The second stage, Change, involves incorporating new operational processes, norms, and values. And finally, the Refreeze stage refers to reinforcing the new processes, and values. 

And that brings us to the end of this article. Truly, aligning your organization to a new strategy may be a daunting task. So, it’s better to build an organization around a strategy instead of the other way around. But if you’re trying to implement new strategies into an already existing organization, remember that change is possible. You can change things, potentially by using some of the aforementioned change models.Need more information on change management? Then do read this article: The Top 3 Change Management Models.. Apart from ADKAR and Lewin’s model, this article also contains Kotter's 8-Step Change Model, which is mentioned in great detail.
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