How to fail at strategic alignment

Why are companies’ strategic initiatives often unsuccessful? Common reasons for failure include:

•Not paying attention to strategic alignment as a major issue. Organizations must keep their strategies uppermost in their minds.

•Employees assuming the company initiatives are aligned because senior executives developed them. This assumption is not always true. In many organizations the senior executives are not working in alignment with one another and, therefore, their initiatives are not linked. Executives need to confer about tough alignment questions.

•Not focusing on alignment to the external customer. HR and other departments need to think of the external customer’s interests. If all employees focus on the same customer value, the alignment potential has a greater chance of being realized.

•Assuming the power of the design will create compliance. Too many people believe that if an initiative’s design is aligned to the strategic direction it will automatically create alignment in the group. This is not always the case.

•Assuming people are self-motivated to align activities. It is the responsibility of leaders of a strategic initiative to communicate the importance of strategic alignment to employees and to keep it on the agenda. They must communicate consistent messages and deliver them on time as promised (or explain in detail why the messages are late). They also should not be surprised when people resist. People often deny and resist change. Leaders help them by normalizing the change adaptation process. It is also important to properly reward and recognize the behaviours that will focus people on the company’s desired direction.

Adapted from David Weiss’ High Performance HR: Leveraging human resources for competitive advantage.

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