Strategic alignment sounds like a management ‘buzz-phrase’, but actually it’s a crucial part of making sure that you get where you want to be. It means that your day-to-day work, or ‘tactics’, is consistent with your long-term plans, or strategy, and what exactly you want to achieve, your goals. If you feel like you’re not making progress on your strategy, or you are spending every day fire-fighting, that may be because you are not properly aligned.
How to achieve strategic alignment
Peter Winick, Founder and CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage, believes that entrepreneurs and thought leaders need to take time on a regular basis to look at their strategy, and make sure it’s still what they want to achieve. If so, he advises that you then check whether what you are doing day-to-day fits with your strategy. This periodic ‘healthcheck’ will stop you getting out of alignment.
But how do you make sure that your goals, strategy and tactics are all aligned?
Dave Chaffey, a marketing specialist writing on Smart Insights, reckons that the best way is a table with four columns. These set out goals (what you want to achieve), substantiation (evidence that your goal is realistic and achievable), strategies and tactics you will use to achieve your goal, and finally KPIs (how you will know whether you have achieved your goal). This provides a short easy-to-read summary of your fully-aligned strategy, and an easy way to check back later. And of course, if you’re tempted to add new tactics, you need to make sure that they are included in your table, and therefore address one of your strategic goals!
Making it real
It’s all very well talking about thought leadership and strategic alignment, but does it really make a huge difference in practice? Well, one organisation that has found a huge difference by leveraging its knowledge in a more structured way is Blackboard Inc. This is a “global leader in enterprise technology and solutions that improve the educational experience for higher education, K-12, professional, corporate and government organizations”. Working with consultants from SAVO, it has improved knowledge management and handling, as an essential starting point for better alignment.
By bringing together its sales and marketing teams, it has been able to tap into employees’ knowledge and identify the information that sellers needed at each stage. A new knowledge management approach has meant that sales staff save an average of four hours per week looking for information, and can also access information of which they were previously unaware. With everyone having access to crucial knowledge, the next phase is to align tactics with strategy.
Another company that has worked with SAVO is Welch Allyn, a provider of medical diagnostic equipment and digital solutions for healthcare. They had identified the changing role of the sales team as a crucial issue. They have opted for a new ‘three-legged stool’ approach to sales: they are training and coaching their sales team to become ‘challenger sellers’; they have aligned their sales process more closely with buying cycles, and they are using SAVO’s technology solutions to leverage both of these more effectively.
Again, using SAVO’s solutions has enabled Welch Allyn’s sales teams to have faster and more efficient access to data, and often information about which they were previously unaware. It means that a five-minute conversation with a customer can be a high-value dialogue, since crucial information is available instantly, even on a completely new topic. SAVO’s systems are the tools that enable Welch Allyn’s sales team to align their tactics with company strategy, and ensure that all customer conversations are high value.
Thought leadership is one of the most effective marketing tactics available to increase awareness, and therefore a crucial part of any strategy. This review highlights the need to formalise their processes for thought leadership, and ensure that they are aligned to business goals at all stages.
Whether you are an entrepreneur, thought leader or large corporation, there is no doubt that strategic alignment of goals, strategy and tactics is crucial to achieving your objectives. And while it may be easier to manage alignment as an individual than as a large company, there are many examples of companies that have achieved it, drawing on the expertise of others to support them where necessary. If you’re not achieving your goals, why not take time to consider whether you might be out of alignment? It could be some of the most useful time you’ve ever spent.
Image credit: Antje Larsen