Build the right path – Aligning change to business strategy

Written by Jonathan Paton
25 Mar 2024

Every business needs a strategy. If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you get there?

But as businesses become more dynamic and creative, adapting to numerous customer and regulatory factors; often change initiatives can emerge that seem a great idea – but don’t fundamentally align to the strategic direction of the business. The result is a business busy delivering change, but not getting where it wants to be.

In this blog series, we’ll dig into why this can happen, and tee up some of the approaches for tackling the challenge.

First things first - Where are we going?

A business strategy must be clearly defined and understood by all. Full stop. It’s the branch that everything else hangs from.

Business Exec’s set this strategy based on the long-term goals needed to drive value for the business and its stakeholders. It can steer product creation, market entry, investment decisions, competitive positioning, and numerous coherent directional paths. A well-defined strategy enables the setting of clear common goals, helping everyone in the organisation to move forwards together.

When can problems occur?

Challenges can stem from a disconnect between Exec Leadership’s desired direction, and the business teams tasked with designing initiatives to enable the strategy.

This is commonly driven by misalignment or misunderstanding on what the strategy means - i.e., a strategy centred around fancy sounding words, that looks well-considered, but actually means nothing.

It can also occur in businesses with a long-established workforce, who have a rich background in the industry, which then drives an ‘experience-led’ approach to driving change, rather than a business-strategy alignment to where the business wants to go.

These two examples, particularly in growth focused companies where idea generation regularly sparks change, can lead to a sea of activity and subsequent resource commitment, which doesn’t deliver anything in line with Board or stakeholder expectations.

Aligning energy, effort, and resources to the strategy

In this series, we’ll cover the different ways of tackling this challenge from our transformational experience, all of which depend on the business appetite for change. Examples being:

  • Lean Portfolio Management

Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) is a framework which enables organisations to align the execution of change to the top of house strategy. Born from Lean principles, LPM creates a mindset enabling organisations to balance fast agile delivery, with the control required to run larger functional areas, like operations within a broader organisation.

LPM requires a fundamental approach shift to change delivery across the business, and as such, can take some time to fully embed – which we’ll explore in an upcoming blog.

  • PMO Best Practice

How about improving the processes, and approach, of the existing Programme/Portfolio Management Office (PMO) and Change function? A well-run PMO ensures the full change suite can continuously meet strategic objectives; as well as determining how it all fits together, what enables what else, and which initiatives are priorities. When setup correctly, a PMO is the key ‘gatekeeper’ point between Business Strategy, and the key initiatives that are subsequently undertaken, to deliver it from within the business.

Experience in implementing best practice activities is dependent on the maturity of the existing PMO function but could range from 2-6mths subject to the business need and scale. If a lighter touch approach to getting strategic alignment is needed, rather than a more fundamental mindset shift to change, then this focus area can bring things back on track and set the tone for longer term change inception.

  • Balanced Scorecards and OKRs

Balanced Scorecards and OKRs can enable a clearer alignment of business strategy with the measurements being used to monitor progress. In many organisations, projects are almost always measured in terms of ROI. This means the impact towards strategic direction is often overlooked. Whilst scorecards and OKRs have different approaches, and may be suitable for different organisations, they both look to create business alignment to strategic goals.

When paired with a well-run PMO function, this can deliver positive results in avoiding the creation of ‘pet and vanity projects’.

Where does this work well?

Not all business challenges are the same, but two key factors are needed, whatever approach is delivered:

  1. A coherent, directional strategy, visible to all employees to show how progress is being made, as well as the elements driving it
  2. A considered ‘system’ for how this is factored into business integration – whether this be via LPM, a well-established PMO, or aligned business performance/outcome measurements

How can BFY help

We have a wealth of experience in helping businesses reduce the volume of ‘pet’ projects, and ensure that strategic line of visibility flows through into project delivery.

This includes implementing Lean Portfolio Management, setting strategic direction and how to measure this; or implementing best in practice PMO standards, to enable that business link in delivering the strategy. For more information, please contact Jonathan Paton or Cheryl Richards.

Jonathan Paton

Jon specialises in Customer Operations leadership, customer contact, and operational service delivery transformation/improvement.

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