The article, “Can You Say What Your Strategy Is” (Collis, Rukstad, Harvard Business Review, April 2008) summarized one of my long-standing management practices: ensuring alignment on strategy.
In my many years of management I have found one true measure of how well my team is doing. If someone from outside my team can ask anyone on my team what our objectives are for the quarter, how we are approaching them, and what the value is to the organization as a whole that is a good thing. If that one person outside my organization can ask the same question of five people inside my organization and get the same answer, that is a win.
As the article states, alignment on strategy allows each member of the team/company to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of accomplishing and fulfilling the department/company strategy. Development of objective, scope and advantage serve to align each and every member of the team. One of the typical things I have discussed with my team in the past, a lesson learned by my first boss, is that there may be a dozen right ways to accomplish something and an infinite number of wrong ways. As long as a member of my team/company chooses one of the right ways, we are good… just don’t choose one of the wrong ways!
In order to test my earlier defined measure of success, that someone external to my team can ask five people on the team what our objectives are, how we are going to accomplish them, and what the value is to the organization is, I will typically ask peers within my organization to query members of my team at random and let me know what their responses are. This is a good method to ensure that we are all on the same page.
I have used this strategy for the past 10 years in my career and it has paid dividends time and time again. I often keep in touch with former team members and I have consistently been told by a very large number of them that the biggest lesson they learned when we worked together was the importance of ensuring that everyone was on the same page. Additionally, many of my peers, over the years, have adopted the same approach simply because it works.
As the article states “the strategy will really have traction only when executives can be confident that the actions of empowered frontline employees will be guided by the same principles that they themselves follow.”