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The Complete Guide to Strategic Alignment

Discover the importance of strategic alignment in organizations and how it can drive success and innovation.


By ActivTrak

The Complete Guide to Strategic Alignment

Strategic alignment is an important driver of success for organizations, but research shows only 10% of them have it. Proper alignment ensures every individual, team and department works towards the same business goals and objectives, enhances communication, drives performance, fosters innovations and ultimately leads to accomplishing organizational objectives. Learn more below about strategic alignment and how to implement it in your organization.

What is strategic alignment?

Strategic alignment is the process linking an organization’s goals and objectives with its overall business strategy. Meaning — the actions and efforts of individuals and teams align with a common purpose. 

Synchronizing your organization’s goals with objectives and activities across different departments and levels is the result of strategic alignment. When everyone in your organization understands their role in achieving the overall objectives and has the tools to do so, you’re on your way. 

A unified direction and purpose encourages coordination and collaboration, leading to increased efficiency and effectiveness. Your organization will avoid fragmented efforts and use resources better —resulting in better business performance. 

The importance of strategic alignment

Without strategic alignment, a business strategy is nothing more than a piece of paper. You may have great ideas and achievable goals, but if your team isn’t aligned in how they’ll achieve them, your organization’s performance will suffer. One study from Brunel University London showed that 80% of the difference in how an organization performs compared to others is due to strategic alignment.

Strategic alignment gives your organization a clear sense of direction, allowing you to set priorities, make informed decisions and allocate resources effectively. Aligning individual and team goals with the overall mission creates a shared vision and purpose which fosters a sense of ownership, commitment and motivation among all employees. 

The benefits of strategic alignment

Strategic alignment has profound benefits on an organization’s success including enhanced productivity and performance, higher project success rate, more buy-in, less waste, improved communication and collaboration, and more innovation and adaptability.  

Enhanced productivity and performance

The top benefit your organization will see from strategic alignment is improved employee productivity. When everyone works towards the same objectives, there is a higher level of motivation and focus. Meaning — individuals and teams perform their best and have higher productivity levels and performance across the board.

Higher project success rate

Getting work done may be the first benefit you’ll see from strategic alignment, but having projects completed at a higher quality standard is the next. According to a study from the Project Management Institute, strategic alignment impacts projects by making them:

  • 57% more likely to deliver a benefit to the business
  • 50% more likely to finish on time
  • 45% more likely to stay within budget

More buy-in

When employees are aligned on how their work contributes to the organization’s goals, they’re more likely to be motivated and interested in their work. But strategic alignment also improves executive buy-in by showing leaders how individual projects match with their overarching strategic objectives. This means more executive sponsorship and interest in the daily workings of your business, which can increase employee engagement.

Less waste

When leaders and teams can determine which projects align with organizational goals, everyone can adjust resource allocation accordingly. This means less waste in both resources and operations, including less time spent on projects that don’t go anywhere and lower SaaS costs from eliminating unused tools.

Improved communication and collaboration

Alignment towards a common goal improves communication and collaboration across the organization. Departments are more likely to coordinate better and share knowledge with a shared aim of achieving strategic goals. The result? Smoother workflows, faster decision-making and improved problem-solving capabilities. 

More innovation and adaptability

A culture of strategic alignment encourages innovation and adaptability within organizations. When employees understand the overall strategy and goals, they’re better equipped to identify opportunities for improvement and innovation. Strategic alignment also enables organizations to respond swiftly to market changes and stay ahead of their competitors.

6 ways to achieve strategic alignment

Achieving strategic alignment is a continuous process with the following steps:

1. Start with leadership

Many changes in organizational culture have to start from the top, and strategic alignment is one of them. A survey from MIT Sloan School found that only 28% of 4,000 managers could list their organization’s top three strategic priorities accurately. If your leadership can’t say what you’re working towards, how can you expect other team members to be able to? Bring executives, managers and other leaders together to kickstart your strategic alignment strategy. 

2. Find an alignment model that works

A strategic alignment model (SAM) is a visual representation of your alignment plan to bridge the gap between strategy and production. The SAM is a tool to help you measure your alignment and your progress in achieving your strategic goals. Every successful SAM will contain three main elements: the market system, business system and organizational system. This means different things for different organizations. You’ll need to define your resources and capabilities, including human resources, IT, project management and headcount as well as tools and technology. Then determine which opportunities are available and which risks to look out for. Hoshin Kanri, which originated in Japan in the 1950s, is one of the most popular SAM frameworks, aligning an organization’s strategy like a compass. 

3. Create the strategic plan

Once you’ve determined what alignment model works for you, it’s time to write out your organizational goals. Look at the goals for the organization, and how they relate to sub-goals for different teams. If it’s not clear how everything connects, it’s time to revise those sub-goals. This can mean changing the nature of the goals, or simply adjusting language so it’s more clear how everything aligns across teams and departments.

4. Communicate goals and strategic priorities

Once you’ve revised goals, communicate the strategy to teams, departments and individual employees. This isn’t a one-off process; strategic goals need to be reiterated and referred to often for everyone to stay aligned over time. A good place to start is introducing the strategic plan at orientation for new team members, but make sure there is continuous communication on the strategy in monthly or quarterly meetings. 

5. Work with leaders and contributors for adjustments

Your company’s goals will likely change over time, so you’ll need to tweak sub-goals for everyone to stay aligned long-term. When making updates to goals, discuss with leaders and individual contributors to determine the adjustments needed and how to approach them. Getting their input will help you make adjustments in a more effective way, and it reinforces the changes which prevents people from sticking with old goals and processes.

Achieve strategic alignment with ActivTrak workforce analytics

Gaining strategic alignment means having access to and analyzing meaningful workforce data. Use ActivTrak workforce analytics to establish KPIs and metrics on how your teams’ work aligns to your goals. Get a more complete picture of individual work habits and any possible blockers, as well as organization-wide productivity trends. Schedule a demo today to learn more.

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