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The Difficulty

Several factors contribute to the difficulty organisations face in achieving strategic alignment.

  • The term is easy to intuitively understand but difficult to define with precision. Strategic alignment can be seen as both a state and a process.
  • Organisations are complicated, complex and open systems so it is extremely unlikely that any two situations are identical and very difficult to completely predict the outcome of our actions.
  • Employees often act with incompletely articulated intent and based on highly person interpretations of events and surroundings. This makes diagnosis highly subjective and outcomes even more difficult to predict.
  • We may be applying ways for thinking that are inappropriate. Frameworks shape our thinking by focusing on certain areas or relationships or pointing to aspects that we might otherwise miss. As a result of this, we may be picking inappropriate actions. The use of inappropriate frameworks could lead us to selecting interventions that won’t deliver the outcomes we seek. Finally, we may be implementing the actions in an inappropriate way.

For these reasons, there is considerable risk that typical ad hoc, single step approaches fail to achieve their intended outcomes. A more robust alternative is to take a collaborative, iterative, heuristic learning approach based on a framework for thinking about alignment that is adjusted continually based on observed outcomes. This second approach to intervention is much more likely to deliver strategic alignment on a sustainable basis than the first.