Sunday, April 3, 2011

Aligning FM with Enterprise Strategy – What Works?

Aligning functional operations and strategy with enterprise strategy first requires correctly understanding what alignment is.  I think the best practical definition I’ve run across is from Y.E. Chan who says,

“Alignment is best described not as a uni-dimensional phenomenon but as a superset of multiple, simultaneous component alignments that bring together an organization’s structure, strategy, and culture at multiple levels, with all their inherent demands.”

Multi-dimensionsal, simultaneous, and I would add, ongoing alignments.  Sounds like a messy process and it sometimes can be.  But there are a number of tactics that will help to make the alignment process successful.

A top down approach with a clear focus on business strategy is essential.   The changes required during serious alignment projects often require top-down motivation to overcome inertia and turf issues.  Senior executives are closer to enterprise strategy and have the ability to exert influence across the organization, and the ability to fund technology and other initiatives. 

The alignment framework must be strategy driven.  It’s all about consistently applying the same key strategies across the organization in a manner that maximizes adoption, market reach and shareholder value.  If the framework is focused on non-strategy issues then the lack of a unifying driver can present obstacles that stymie the effort. 

Operational metrics and customer satisfaction help to drive alignment initiatives.  Metrics to the rescue, again.  It’s hard to align something that you do not clearly see or understand.  Correctly quantifying operations and customer satisfaction provides a way to measure alignment gaps and prioritize projects based on expected benefit and importance to successive alignment initiatives.

Adopt continuous improvement and six sigma as alignment tools.   Hopefully you have already been using continuous improvement and six sigma protocols to optimize your own processes.  Alignment initiatives present the opportunity to take this to the next step, expanding the boundaries around your processes to include outside functions in which there is an important relationship in either direction.

Revisit mission statements to assure relevance and alignment.  It may sound obvious (because it is) but many organizations have not aligned their mission statements to be complimentary of each other.  If these statements are indeed the pointer on your compass to success, then different parts of the organization are moving in different directions at different speeds and with different levels of concern.  Making sure that mission statements express common values and outcomes all the way down the line helps everyone keep their eyes on the same goals.

Make alignment important to everyone.  You think it is now?  Maybe.  Making alignment a reportable element that influences performance reviews and compensation will guarantee it gets the attention you want it to get. 

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