Strategic Alignment: Getting your people going in the same direction

One of the hardest roles anyone has in a corporation today is that of leadership. Like Peter Drucker and Henry Mintzberg, I separate leadership from management. Leadership suggests strategy and change, while management focuses on operational excellence –doing what others are doing , may be a little better—think best practices. What brought upon the insights and surfaced another method I use in my enterprise architect’s tool box, is last night’s read; Deep Dive by Richard Horwath. His book highlighted the previous differentiation between strategic thinking (leadership) and strategic planning (operational excellence).

The insight I came up with was one of, here’s another business buzzword coming, strategic execution. Over the past two decades I watched lots of interesting strategies emerge from the likes of IBM, Samsung, Microsoft, etc. Some had promise, some thankfully died of neglect. When On-Demand came about, I thought it was a great idea, still think so. However, execution of that idea was years away. Not because of technology immaturity, but because of a lack thinking on how to deploy the strategy and the competitive responses it was likely to provoke.

After a strategy review meeting I sat down with the teams to discuss how to analyze competitive response and what they needed to do to get the strategy operationalized or in management consulting-speak strategic execution.

Competitive Analysis is too broad a topic for this post, so I’ll pass on any further discussion here. Executing the strategy or any strategy for that matter is a cross between Strategic Thinking and Strategic Planning. Strategic Planning typically has evoked a set of activities that forecasts based on past performance. (i.e., let’s do what we did last year only better, but we don’t really know how). So the “how” of achieving those insights seems to get lost in the exercise of metric and resource allocation.

The technique I’ve used is a refinement of concepts that Deming taught Japanese Industry; Hoshin Planning or Strategic Policy Deployment. The technique is fairly simple to understand, difficult to master but worth the effort. If you ever wonder why Sony or Honda can get an entire corporation to turn on a dime strategically, this is it.

Hoshin Planning is simply a set of cascading matrices that interlock objectives with strategies to achieve. Each subordinate matrix uses the strategies from above as objectives to be achieved. The owner of the subordinate matrix then determines strategies that will achieve those objectives and determines the strength those strategies have in achieving each. This provides the alignment. Next in creating this strategy execution system is defining the goals and measures for both Strategies and Objectives. Then the matrix structure is almost complete. Lastly is assignment of resources accountable for each strategy and monitoring progress.

This series of matrices enables someone to see where subordinate activities contribute or conflict with overall corporate strategies. When I’ve used this technique I’ve had great success in deploying strategy and changes throughout the organization.

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