How do you Align your People and Culture with the Organization’s Strategy to Create Business and Team Success?

How do you Align your People and Culture with the Organization’s Strategy to Create Business Success?

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Most business people will have heard the expression ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ which is attributed to the late management guru, Peter Drucker, and was popularised by the COO of Ford Motor Company, Mark Fields.  At Ford, Fields replaced a culture which was characterised by distrust, fear and betrayal (needing to layoff 30,000 employees) with one of creativity, innovation and responsibility.  The saying highlights how a company can have the best strategy, but if it’s people are not bought-in to the vision and strategy and their work and objectives are not aligned, the organization can grow in the wrong direction or simply fail.

Alignment is regarded by most global business leaders as being one of the keys to success; however, surprisingly the importance of alignment of the company strategy, vision, values, behaviours, objectives, people and culture is often overlooked by many organizations.  Many employees carry out their own tasks in isolation and ignorance of how they contribute to the overall company success, which results in higher levels of disengagement and attrition.  Most people have heard the story of the motivated and empowered janitor at NASA, who, when asked what he did, replied ‘I help to put men on the moon.’

So how do you create alignment of your people and culture?

  1. Have a clear vision and mission, for example, to be the number one in your sector by 2023, by creating the cheapest widget on the market, to assist people in doing x,y and z.  Then communicate this to all employees, sharing as much of the financials as possible to show how they contribute.
  1. With clarity around the organizations’ purpose, leaders and managers can make key judgments regarding the value and priority of research, projects and work assignments.
  1. In turn managers should continually ask themselves ’What am I here for? What are the key tasks and actions I need to complete in order to deliver on the strategic objectives?’ 
  1. They then need to review the overall purpose and responsibilities of each of their team members roles and how these align with the vision, strategy and company values.
  1. All KPIs and targets should link back to the company’s vision and strategy and ideally, where possible, these should be agreed with team members, as opposed to them being imposed from management.
  1. Each employee can then identify how his or her skills and work tasks are contributing to the survival and success of the organization, for example at John Lewis and Waitrose, where this translates in to excellent brand value and customer service.
  1. In order to create a culture that reflects the company vision, strategy, and values, and based on the old adage of ‘what gets measured gets done’, any performance evaluation should focus, not only on how the employee is performing against competencies and targets, but also on how aligned with the strategy and values the employees’ tasks and outputs are.  This ensures that the performance of every individual is aligned with organizational success.
  1. Managers should also regularly review processes and procedures, budgets and incentive schemes to ensure these are aligned.  For example, rewarding on time departures in a transport company may result in compromised safety and more accidents.
  1. One factor that is often overlooked in an organizations’ strategic planning and processes is the actual customer! In order to be successful and stay ahead of the competition, companies need to align their vision, strategy and values with customer requirements and constantly ask:  ‘What do they want?  How can we innovate to meet their demands?  How can we over-deliver on customer expectations?’ 
  1. One of the best examples of non-alignment is a company that measures it’s employees in numbers of widgets produced or calls made, ignoring key factors such as quality and safety, which often leads to costly wastage, high volumes of customer complaints, and an erosion of the consumer and employer brand, as has happened in the past with many large manufacturing organizations.

The use of incorrect metrics and/or non-alignment of company values can derail an organization fairly swiftly, as in the recent issues with Oxfam and Save the Children.  In global corporates when the vision and strategy become blurred, are not communicated to team members, and silo-working on non-aligned projects becomes the norm, the company will often begin to lose brand value and market share fairly quickly, as well as struggling with employee engagement and retention.


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