What Operational Factors Impact Alignment?

There are a number of day-to-day factors that impact your strategic alignment because they impact the way your people work.  The clearer you are about your strategic requirements on these factors, the better your employees understanding of what they can expect as well as your expectations of them. I am going to examine two groups of these factors.  The first includes Supervisory Relationship and the strength of the Organizational Glue that binds your people to the organization that they think they belong to.

Here’s question:  are your organization’s Supervisory Relationships strong or weak?  Keep in mind that “strong” or “weak” don’t mean good or bad in this context.  Some firms rely on a strong hierarchy and use their organization chart as a tool.  Information, instruction, and direction are passed from the top down.  Think US Army!  That’s not to say that there isn’t room for initiative and individual effort at every level; it merely means that overall objectives are set at the senior levels of an organization and then cascaded to the next level by the managers and supervisors.  Other companies may deliberately avoid having everything done in such a manner, and don’t value strong supervisory ties.  Perhaps Apple or Microsoft started out this way.

As a senior executive, you decide how important it will be for you to have stronger or weaker Supervisory Relationships.  A word of caution either way:  if you rely on strong supervisory relations, you must train your leaders to be very good communicators.  If you do not use supervision this way, your own communications must be strong and consistent because everyone relies on you for their information and direction.

Why wouldn’t “strong” relationships be necessarily “good?”  Some hierarchical organizations don’t reward those who try to think for themselves.  In those organizations, people will hide behind their supervisors with the attitude that “I’m doing exactly what you told me to do” so that they cannot be blamed for anything that goes wrong.  This is usually a good indicator of lack of trust in the company.  When you can’t be sure how honest mistakes will be considered, it’s usually in an employee’s best interest to do exactly as he or she is told.

Organizational Glue is the degree to which people identify with the overall organization, as opposed to their own small part of it.  Do you want your folks to think of themselves as working for the company, as opposed to identifying themselves as members of a plant or department? Where on the Weak vs Strong continuum for this category do you want your people to be?  Often, for small firms, owners will prefer stronger identification with the whole, while very large companies thrive with strong plant or even departmental identity.  Think about what best serves your needs and gets you closer to an aligned support of your chosen strategies.

A second group of factors that impact the people you rely on to carry out your strategies are those that show your management style:  Accountability, Responsibility, and Employee Latitude and Judgement.  Do you keep narrow or limited boundaries in these areas, or do you want people developed to think as entrepreneurs, running their own show?  Most owners and executives want to be somewhere in the middle of these continuums, with each employee empowered to act on their initiatives within clear, overall guidelines that maintain the focus and direction of your overall strategies.

As we’ve discussed over the last few months, there are many factors that make up the mindsets and behaviors that support your strategic drivers, and many choices you or your executive team must make to determine what kind of culture best provides the kind of employees you will need to achieve your strategy.  Do so thoughtfully, then whole-heartedly work to create that culture.  You will be rewarded with performance beyond anything you have seen before.