How to align when innovation disrupts?

Posted on November 2nd, 2016


Alignment of people in the organization around the core strategic vision of the CEO and his/her top executive team, is thé dominant predictor for high performance and business success. Obviously, the CEO needs to have a sound and winning business strategy in the first place. CEO’s pay good money to McKinsey, Bain, Boston Consulting and alike strategy consulting firms to get to that point. But having a winning strategy in place is no guarantee for success, at all. What distinguishes excellent companies from the rest is not the quality of the strategy, but the quality of its execution. Excellent companies simply do what they say. Throughout the entire organization, at each level, in every team. It requires high alignment, where people connect and share their understanding of the why (purpose), how (direction) and what (goal) of the business strategy.

Alignment makes executive live easy. The CEO no longer has to push his/her business strategy down the hierarchical ladder into the organization. When there is high alignment, the CEO’s strategy has become everybody’s strategy. Only one thing left for the CEO: to let go and leave the strategy to the people in the organization. However, letting go is not easy. It requires leadership. Only certain leaders are capable of creating high-aligned organizations. And leadership has many different manifestations. The one-best solution doesn’t exist. Good leadership in one company does not necessarily qualify as good leadership in another company. The leadership required is defined by the unique characteristics of the chosen strategy combined with the unique characteristics of the current organization. The challenge is to reveal that particular leadership requirement.  

Today, working on alignment is becoming less and less of a choice. It is becoming the only viable option, especially for the bigger corporates. Simply take a look at the younger generations. Command and control? Forget it. It scares the hell out of them. If you want to attract and retain the right people in your organization, the only way forward is to have a sensible business strategy rooted in a relevant purpose, and to allow people the freedom to connect with that strategy and purpose themselves, in whatever way they prefer. Sounds stupid? Simply take a look at Frederic Laloux’s reinvented organizations. Clear-cut examples of high alignment in action. You cannot imagine the energy explosion and performance breakthrough when people start to truly connect, coordinate and cooperate.

During the S-ray Seminar, we’ll interactively explore the dynamics of strategy, alignment and leadership by having an open dialogue among three top executives. Seats at our CEO Roundtable will be taken by: Govert Hamers, CEO of Vanderlande, world market leader in automated material handling solutions, by Tom Kliphuis, CEO of VGZ, the second health insurance company in NL, and by Wolter Odding, Member of the Executive Board of Vitens, the biggest water company in NL. The thing that these vastly different leaders with their vastly different strategies in their vastly different organizations have in common: the search for high alignment. What are their experiences? Does working on alignment affect the way they look at strategy? And what does it mean for their leadership? The CEO Roundtable will be facilitated by Brian Bacon, fellow of S-ray Diagnostics and CEO of Oxford Leadership Academy. Brian is advisor of the board at corporates such as Unilever, Akzo Nobel and NXP. He knows the subject.

This year, the S-ray Seminar is hosted at the How To Get There Summit. At this summit, the entire Dutch innovation community meets: 2.500 participants during the previous 2015 edition. Having the S-ray Seminar programmed as part of this larger innovation summit, gives rise to a particular angle for our CEO Roundtable: “How to align when innovation disrupts?” Doesn’t it seem plausible that ground-breaking innovative thinking especially prospers in times of disalignment? Then how to deal with this need, when accelerated strategy execution requires quite the contrary, i.e. high alignment? Sounds like a very provocative dilemma to explore. Especially for companies like Vanderlande, VGZ and Vitens, each running an innovation-led business strategy.

Great stuff, don’t you think? So make sure you take part in this exploration and join us in The Hague on November 17 at 13:00!

This post is written by Dr. Marco de Haas, Managing Director of S-ray Diagnostics.

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