Projects live and die in the gaps between strategy and execution. The more alignment, the better the results.
Unfortunately, most organizations and project teams use a lot of what I call “duct tape leadership” to bridge these gaps.
Teams switch gears to focus on a “new” priority, place holds on other necessary work, push out schedules, “borrow” resources from other projects, and burn themselves out in their efforts to meet deadlines through pure force of will.
The result is risk and fragility — teams that function poorly, projects completed late or over budget, and deliverables that don’t serve the client’s or the organization’s strategic interests.
Fortunately, a little intentionality goes a long way toward solving this issue.
Last week, I talked about the importance of assessing the current leadership environment — Step 1 in the process of stripping out the duct tape and replacing it with a robust leadership infrastructure.
This week, we’ll dive into Step 2…
Aligning the Work and the Mission
No matter how smoothly your team functions, no matter how often they hit deadlines and meet project specifications…
…their efforts won’t matter unless the project actually serves the organization’s broader mission.
Here’s how to create more alignment between the work your team is doing and the strategy they’re meant to be executing:
1. Review the current strategic plan.
Strategic plans should be living, breathing documents, subject to frequent consultation, review, and amendment.
Unfortunately, they’re too often written up and filed somewhere — never again to be consulted.
But to do the right work at the right time — and deliver results that support the broader mission — everyone on your team will need to understand the organizational strategy.
And that strategy will need to be modified and updated as circumstances change.
So, in the coming weeks, take some time to review your organization’s strategic plan.
- Are the original vision, goals, and objectives still valid?
- Do the intended outcomes still make sense?
- What should be deferred?
- What should be added?
2. Next, identify your team’s priorities.
Most organizations have infinite work they could be doing. But a major part of intentional leadership is choosing the right work at the right time.
On a regular schedule, review the strategic plan with your team, with an eye to identifying potential issues or risks.
- What are the top 3 priorities for the next 30-60 days?
- What is the expected outcome of each of these priorities?
- What is the impact of not completing this work?
Once you’re clear on 30- and 60-day priorities, be sure to communicate them to your team and other stakeholders, so everyone is on the same page.
3. Finally, make strategic alignment part of your regular workflow.
Alignment is an ongoing practice, not a one-time event. Schedule a checkpoint review every 30 to 60 days. Use this time to ensure that your strategy is still relevant, make any necessary modifications, and check that your team is focused on the top priorities.
Gain Focus and Reduce Chaos With Clear Team Priorities
Taking time to complete this strategic alignment process might feel like a distraction from more urgent projects and deadlines.
But in the long run, completing regular strategy reviews will help free up time and resources for your organization’s true priorities.
This alignment serves the organization as a whole, by delivering on the projects and priorities that provide the most leverage in the business.
And it also serves individuals and teams, who will gain the understanding and perspective necessary to pick and choose projects wisely, focus their energies on the top priorities, and reserve their resources for the most vital tasks and deliverables.