How important is alignment in executing your business strategy?
"Execution represents a disciplined process or a logical set of connected activities that enables an organization to take a strategy and make it work." - Lawrence Hrebniak It is hard to argue that alignment is not critical or is irrelevant with executing a business strategy. Without alignment all you have is "ivory tower" thinking that may be documented and even communicated but not embraced or adopted in execution / operations. This leaves an organization rudderless, with a vision of the destination and no means to get there. How to achieve alignment and how aligned a strategy is aligned with operations can be difficult to measure. Achieving a high degree of alignment is part science and part art.
The science part involved commonly well understood patterns of alignment including topics like a well-defined business strategy, IT governance, CobIT, ValIT, business cases, ROI, NPV, etc. Delivering on these types of capabilities is more of an execution challenge. The models exist and are shared and commonly available amongst a wide range of organizations in your industry. The competitive differentiator for the science of business alignment is in the execution. It's all about metrics, KPIs, and measurements.
The art portion of alignment addresses multiple items including but not limited to:
- Tailoring specific frameworks like CobIT to the particular organization,
- Determining which metrics/KPIs are most appropriate to measure the degree of implementation of the business strategy,
- Determining which organizational capabilities are most important to implement in phase 1, 2, etc.,
- Recognizing which elements of the strategy are most critical to competitive differentiation,
- Sequencing the strategy into a series of phases that incrementally build customer value, and
- Addressing the human-centric impacts of a business strategy to ensure that cultural barriers are minimized.
Depending on the degree of change represented in the business strategy, there may be more or less emphasis on the art vs the science. The more significant the change, the more critical the art of alignment. Minor "course corrections" in business strategy can be facilitated via the science of alignment, presuming the execution elements are already in place.