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Which came first: Strategy or Alignment?

Which came first: Strategy or Alignment?

    Coach Michelle Cubas   More than twenty years working with clients’ strategies as a certified coach has taught me that strategy continues to confuse people. They see strategy in terms of goals and action items—while the strategy is the map with the overall vision. The goals and objectives are the execution tools.

To bring clarity to the concept, I share a dynamic concept that visualizes the strategic planning process—Hoshin Kanri  strategy planning diagrams.

I like the clean, defined approach that calls on distinctions between categories:

  1. Mission vs Strategies
  2. Strategies vs Objectives

Strategies are ways of thinking about what we do. Use words like manage, develop, plan, improve.
Objectives are action steps. Use words like create, enable team, analyze metrics, execute a quality system.
Be sure everyone who touches your business model knows why it exists. A KSI (Key Success Indicator) for strategy is that every chart item has an assigned owner of the objective. They must sign off on it

Another useful example is Ken Favaro’s article in Strategy + Business (“How leaders mistake execution for strategy“) for defining terms. He discusses the Strategy 5 vs The Corporate 5. These are easy ways to upgrade your team’s skills on your next project.

Eagerness and pressure move the American model into action before the entire vision is assessed and reviewed with key questions like these:

Cultural attitudes color our working circumstances. During the 1990’s when Japanese productivity concepts, like quality circles, were introduced in the U.S., several gaps appeared in the Western business model. The lead mistake was the “Ready, fire, aim” model. The U.S. spent 80% of planning time on execution (and fixing missteps) and 20% on planning, while the Japanese model was the opposite. What comes to mind is the old tailor’s adage of measure twice, cut once.

  • Where do we add value to our offerings?
  • In what market(s) do do we need to be?
  • What business are we really in?
  • How many times do we connect with out constituents? (Not just customers, but vendors, alliances, and partners.)
  • Where can we expand our potential?
  • How do we want to be perceived by our constituents?
  • What are the psychographics of our audiences, not the demographics?
  • How diligent do we pursue understanding of them?

Often strategic plans are stuck on a shelf and not referred to after the annual “get together.” Use this opportunity to start a fresh launch on your team. Use part of your team meetings relating how you are on track with the plan. This approach can boost productivity and close expensive gaps and blindspots.

Preserve resources in a “do-more-with-less” environment. I recommend companies experience the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. I served as a Board Examiner for two years with the local quality team. It was an eye opener! My participation was the catalyst my development of created the VMP™ Process . The process is the ideal proactive team builder. It puts all participants together so they can “row” in the same direction!

So why is this important?

Alignment can only occur when there is a structure to order.
Attach purpose to each segment for alignment to have meeting.

Think of alignment as a scaffold. The strategy is the energy that flows through the layers while the ideas and actions reside on the levels. The challenge is to weave them together into a meaningful whole to produce results. The results can be achieved when the clear targets relate to an overarching purpose.

My Challenge to You

Write your strategic key points, send them to me, and I will provide feedback to you when you submit them to

Happy new year! mc


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