Know the difference between putting your wheels in motion and actually moving forward.
Strategic alignment, the process of linking organizational strategy to the day-to-day activity of employees, is a concept familiar to many business people. But with so many details to handle (and emails to read) each day, it's fair to ask: How aligned are you with your own strategy?
Here are a few steps to make sure that you're spending your precious time and energy moving toward your goals rather than fruitlessly spinning your wheels:
Formalize Your Strategy -- You can't pursue a strategy if you're unable to articulate one. If you don't have a formal organizational strategy--together with a succinct mission statement--it's time to commit one to paper. Remember that the best strategies aren't created in a vacuum; they require collaboration by people at all levels of an organization, and they need to be revisited on a regular basis. And, they should answer basic questions such as:
Break It Down -- Lofty goals don't mean a thing unless your strategic actions push your business forward, if only incrementally. That means planning--and the more detailed, the better. What are the goals that together comprise your strategy? What interim goals can you set to move toward the more ambitious ones? What steps can you take to achieve those interim goals? Time management systems, such as those explored in David Allen's Getting Things Done and Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, can help you organize tasks in a way that makes prioritizing all but automatic.
Pass It Along -- Just as a strategy created in a vacuum is of little use, aligning only yourself is not enough to move your organization toward its goals. As part of your tactical plan, you must engage employees working at every level, not only via top-down communication, but also by involving them in strategic development and execution. Each manager, and ultimately each employee, should ask herself the very same questions your strategy is designed to answer about customer value, competitive edge, goals and metrics. And each member of your staff should be encouraged to share his or her answers.
And, speaking of questions, take a moment right now to ask yourself: Am I working to achieve my strategy? If the answer is "not enough," what are you waiting for?
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