Strategic alignment: set your organization on the path to success

Guido Heezen

How can you turn a crisis scenario into a positive working environment that will ultimately allow you to accelerate your business in the near future and ensure your strategic alignment? Even tough times like these will eventually pass, so how can your organization play its part in building tomorrow’s world? The answer? Start preparing for the future now.

Strategic alignment, set your organization on the path to success

It’s vital that all your employees and teams approach their work in a constructive, positive, solution-oriented and innovative way. Having motivated employees who want to engage positively with the company’s mission really makes the difference.

This fact will ring true both during the corona crisis and once it has passed. What you need in this moment is employees who want to continue adding value to the organization and who have the vision to see the new opportunities that this situation presents. And if you’ve already arrived at your new normal, what you want is employees who are fully committed to getting the organization quickly out of the starting blocks and setting it on the path to success.

By now, your organization has most likely moved past the initial shock and chaos. Teams are slowly getting used to the new situation. If you can collaborate during this period to pursue your organization’s mission, set a clear strategic alignment in smart and innovative ways, together you will be well on the way to success.

Strategic alignment starts with keeping team morale high

Your organization will go through a number of phases during this period. It is important to recognize these phases and to make sure your employees also know about them. You will need a different leadership style for each phase, and you will also be asking your employees to shift their focus and commitment to different areas with each new phase.

If you give regular updates on where you are now and where you want to go, your employees will benefit from clarity and direction. Everyone will know with the strategic alignment what is expected of them and also what they can expect from others. This approach will keep energy, motivation and team morale as high as possible throughout all of the phases that will lead you toward your new beginning.

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Phase 1: Chaos

In early March, most governments asked everyone to work from home wherever possible. Events and meetings were canceled. Business as you knew it ground to a halt. People were suddenly at home, with no pre-planning for that. It was a huge shock and there was massive tendency to panic.

At times of crisis, everyone suddenly looks to the boss. So managers had to act, but they also had to keep their heads. Previous crisis scenarios have demonstrated that businesses that essentially panic and rush into wholesale redundancies often need years to recover from the lack of trust generated as a result.

During this phase, it’s important to show what you’re all about, to be clear on your strategy and to communicate frankly. Make employees feel and notice that you care about their concerns and their wishes. Listen to them because there’s a lot you need to know: Can your employees and teams do their jobs well while working remotely? Do your employees know what is expected of them? Are your crisis management and communication strategies working effectively? How are your employees feeling in themselves? What do they need most of all at the moment?

Phase 2: Adjustment

By now hopefully the dust has settled within your organization and people are trying to connect with one another again. It is important to be realistic and honest on this topic.

What can everyone realistically contribute? And when are people available? The personal home situation of each employee is an important factor here. Not everyone will be able to guarantee 100% commitment under these circumstances. You might have employees with young children and no childcare, with partners who work in the care sector. Or they might have vulnerable parents they are worried about. What’s more, parents with school-age children are suddenly having to help with homeschooling, so things are tough: Are they even able to work amidst the chaos?

Everyone must have the courage to be honest about their situation. You must be able to openly discuss matters like this. You must accept that the world has changed and that you will need to find new ways for your teams to work together and demonstrate their commitment. Once expectations are clear, you can reach new agreements about how you will work with each other and determine whether or not those agreements actually work in practice.

Leaders may decide to introduce new ways of working during this phase, either temporarily or permanently. It can be tricky to implement changes of this kind when you’re communicating with people remotely, so it’s important to work in consultation with your employees wherever possible. And make it clear that you’re doing this for the good of the organization. The top priority when implementing new ways of working for a temporary period is effectiveness. You need to work together to determine what actually works in practice.

It has also become more important than ever to regularly reiterate your organization’s mission. It helps if you also set tangible goals for each team so that everyone knows what end result they are working toward to achieve your company’s strategic alignment.

As a manager, during this phase it’s vital that you have a good overview of everything that’s happening. You can do this by keeping in touch with your team leaders and simply by asking your employees.

Phase 3: Innovation

Once your organization has settled into a new and productive strategy for working remotely, you can start preparing for the future. The focus here must be on ensuring that your organization is primed and ready to go once the starting pistol fires and the economy starts to get back on track. How can your organization play its part in building tomorrow’s world? What will this world look like? What do your customers need?

Choose a mutual organizational goal for the post-crisis period — one that you can start working toward now. Make sure that you communicate the goal clearly to the entire organization to ensure your strategic alignment: Tell people “This is what we are going to do. This will set us up for the future.”

Looking ahead to when the current crisis has passed will have a powerful motivating effect on your employees during the here and now.

Set aside your original plans for the year, no matter how frustrating that may be. Focus on that one goal for the organization. What do we actually stand for as an organization? If the organization didn’t already exist, what would be the reasons for setting it up? What is our mission? And how can we embrace that mission, both now and within the new reality being created?

Make sure your teams are made up of the right people who have the relevant expertise and are deployed accordingly. Set goals and assign responsibilities for optimum team strategic alignment.

Be clear about the contribution you expect from each team. Marketing will need to communicate a new message. Services will need to be restructured. You will need to review both your business model and the earnings model. Things will even have to change on the content side.

Innovation can and must continue; you just might be pulling in a slightly different direction now. Determine the priorities and establish a rhythm. Create a step-by-step plan and a timeline. Keep the motor running and, together, you will power ahead.

Strategic alignment to keep your organization energized

The more smoothly you can navigate these phases the easier it will be on your employees to apply and keep a consistent strategic alignment, and the more motivated they will remain.

It’s essential that you shore up your organization’s mission and keep driving it forward. In addition, communicate effectively and frankly with your employees, and listen to them. If you do it well, pride in the organization will increase.

Your employees will know that the organization really stands for something and that through their work they’re making a contribution to society. They will also be less concerned about the future because they will be busy innovating. These are all highly motivating factors.

The art is in keeping your organization as energized as possible throughout all these phases. During these difficult times it could make the difference between going under and getting out of the starting blocks in the strongest position.

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