Is ALL our work driving towards a competitive advantage or are we getting in our own way?
Landing on a Strategy that creates an advantage against your competitors can be a challenge. But the real magic comes in making sure it can be executed and repeated as flawlessly as possible.
Pulling that off requires getting a critical mass of people aligned around the specific activities that will make that Strategy come to life. Sometimes, despite our best efforts…functions, leaders, and individuals can get in the way of that level of alignment.
We like to think of Strategy, Culture, and Brand as three distinct, but interdependent lines. The more you can weave them together and ensure that they (and the activities within them) are heading in the same direction – the more successful you’ll be.
So, we always ask ourselves and our partners, how much are your activities complementing, co-existing, competing, or flat-out conflicting with each other?
Four Co’s of Strategic Alignment
The most ideal of situations is when our activities complement each other – and aren’t just additive but build on each other in an exponential manner. Where are there elements of our Strategy, Culture, and Brand that enhance each other? Do our own values and behaviors within our Culture help to bring our Strategy to life? If the majority of our work complements our highest-level objectives and points in the same direction, it creates less internal friction, and people can get more fully engaged with less translation and oversight required.
Sometimes we have workstreams within our organizations that merely co-exist with our Competitive Strategy. They don’t necessarily do any direct harm to our direction, but they don’t necessarily help either. They just exist in their own swim lanes. This can be okay, depending on the various objectives of the organization – as long as they don’t end up taking away from the company’s potential. For co-existing to work, it’s important to determine where is this particular priority in the context of our bigger objectives? Is this work required for somewhere else in the organization to deliver or will it create a lack of focus?
One step further from ideal alignment is when our activities compete with each other – compete for resources, compete for time, and even compete for the mindshare of your people who are juggling lots of priorities and work to do. Sometimes there is non-strategic work (often with short-term wins) that can be intoxicating. The key question to ask is how much does a perceived win take away from the opportunity to really set yourself apart in your marketplace? Often this can occur when there is a near-term need to trigger a cost-savings or minimize a revenue hit, happening at the expense of confusing our customer perception or blurring the lines of what our brand represents.
As much as we’d hope against it, sometimes the activities within a complex system just conflict with each other. One is rowing one way – against a specific set of objectives, and the other is rowing the opposite. Clarity in strategic purpose, and really ensuring that all people understand and see their way in it, can help to keep these types of things from happening.
Keeping on Track
After the planning sessions, and presentations are complete, keeping the organization focused and aligned becomes the real task in strategic execution. Often, we’re not presented with a clear path – there are lots of home run ideas out there and plenty of work to pursue. Having a framework to be sure that you are purposely keeping your activities in line can help leaders and teams make the most out of their strategic positioning.
Mike is the Co-Founder + Chief Creative Officer at pro-voke.
You can reach him at email@example.com.