Why Alignment is Critical to Execution, Despite What HBR Says

The esteemed business publication, Harvard Business Review, publishes an article in its March edition about why strategy execution breaks down. The authors debunk so-called myths about execution including the myth that execution equals alignment.

Now, as a long-time proponent of ruthless consistency and organizational alignment, you can imagine my interest was more than just a bit piqued.

It turns out the authors’ conception of alignment is limited to HR practices such as developing objectives, measures and rewards that are consistent with strategy. Sorry guys, there’s far more to alignment than that.

Organizational alignment is the idea that people, processes, structure and infrastructure all need to be consistent with an organization’s strategy. The right measures don’t keep the wrong processes from failing. The right rewards don’t help if the right boxes aren’t on the org chart. Any critical factor misaligned can cause execution to fail.

The authors go on to identify the lack of coordination across functions or units as a major cause of failure. True. Yet that doesn’t argue against organizational alignment, that is organizational alignment.

So, yes, alignment is critical to execution. And it means much more than simply goals, measures and rewards.

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