Strategic Alignment 

Research into 12,500 top teams and 5,000 boards (Kakabadse, 2015) shows that:

  • 34% of top team members are divided on mission/purpose, value and strategy
  • The long-term sustainable future lies with the purpose/mission based enterprise
  • 66% of top teams are inhibited and find it difficult to address uncomfortable issues
  • 85% of Boards are out of touch with no common view on what constitutes competitive advantage
  • 82% of organizations do not engage business unit general managers in strategy development, resulting in half-hearted execution of plans they do not believe in.
  • Where engagement is highest, organizations enjoy predictable gains

A vital requirement for the effective execution of corporate strategy, is that all business units and departments have simple and clear plans which are aligned to the overarching strategy —plans which have the emotional engagement of those who are to implement them.  Is the strategy understood in meaningful terms —are the higher intent, purpose and priorities of work clear?  Are the implications and consequences downstream fully appreciated?  Have current projects and routine tasks been examined in terms of ‘stop, start or carry on’?  All too often, 'change' piles new work on top of current work without really understanding what matters!  What business policies and processes enable or hinder the execution of strategy? Is time, effort, money and emotional energy being expended unnecessarily?

To achieve strategic alignment, we may involve any or all of the following activities depending upon your situation:

  • Consulting needs analysis
  • A top team strategy 'clarification and simplification'  workshop
  • Strategy briefing rehearsals and ‘roadshow’
  • Consulting to establish the work that is actually being done and the progress of projects under way
  • A cascade of execution planning workshops, similar to the top team workshop but at lower levels, to clarify ‘higher intent’ and to align and prioritise activity.

Consulting support of this nature will provide the leadership team with renewed clarity and confidence; and a greater sense of control over the organization's destiny. At lower levels, distributed leaders and their teams will be better engaged with organizational strategy, feel greater clarity of purpose and ownership of plans.  The organization will increase its momentum.


Organization: Designed to Scale and Enable?

How well is your organization designed? Is it really designed to be scalable and optimised to achieve your vision, execute your strategy and fulfil your purpose?  Or has it just evolved — perhaps not in the most considered manner?

Some people equate organization design with its structure describing it as lean, flat or hierarchical. However, the design of an organization is much more than the lines joining boxes on a structural wiring diagram. It involves aligning and integrating an organization’s structure, resources and systems together with the policies and processes through which work gets done, mythologies are formed, behaviour influenced and people enabled. 

It integrates strategic intent and the organizational ‘framework’, with tactical actions; it mainly addresses the ‘Environmental’ element of the ACE conditions for success.

Good organizational design enables both ‘collective leadership capability’ and individual leadership, and results in effective communication flow, increased productivity, faster decisions made by those best placed to make them, shorter cycle times and increased innovation and adoption, and increased attraction and retention of talent. It also cuts costs by eliminating duplication and wasted effort and resources.  It does not allow people to hide nor ‘politicians’ who are good at ‘managing upwards’ to claim others’ credit.  It removes the stress of ‘all the accountability and no authority’— and it has immense potential to influence organizational behaviour and to drive results.

If ‘first principles’ are used in organizational design and taught to executives and senior managers as part of leadership development, then the capability of the organization to continue to apply them as it evolves to face new challenges can be embedded; future change becomes less stressful and more effective — design remains optimal.

We will work with you to help you to:

  • Clarify your business drivers and strategic objectives
  • Clarify the work that actually needs to be done
  • Identify current design-related problems
  • Develop and compare design options
  • Identify and train the right people in your organization to drive detailed design work, cascade plans and ensure implementation
  • Engage key stakeholders and support implementation through thoughtful communication
  • Assist post implementation optimisation and sustainability

This major organization design, development and culture change programme was the subject of a full academic research project which proved its success and a significant return on investment.” Client

I was sceptical about this ‘discipline’ —I thought it would make us rigid and inflexible.  Instead it has been liberating.”  Executive Client.

The Problem With Structure and ‘Target Operating Models’

How often have you heard expressions such as these?

  • He’s not big enough for a job at that level
  • She’s outgrown that job
  • I’m bored, I want a bigger job (meaning more responsibility— not just more work!)
  • I’m accountable for this, but I need ‘outputs’ from him and I’m not getting them.

How many of these symptoms do you recognize?

  • Micro-management, lack of headroom and breathing space (too many layers)
  • Direction (‘vision’) from the top that appears to be ‘meaningless’ for your day to day work 
  • Slow decision-making and lack of integrated, cohesive action 
  • Low staff engagement, lack of ownership of tasks, little accountability 
  • Time and emotional energy wasted in unnecessary meetings 
  • In managing ‘dotted line’ internal relationships 
  • Having to rely on goodwill and influence to get things done

Of all the organizational development ‘disciplines’, in our experience the one that seems least understood and yet is so fundamental to effective decision-making, the integration and alignment of work, and to the establishment of effective working relationships, is ‘organization structure design’.

This is possibly because so many people are obsessed with ‘who reports to whom’.  You may report to many people about many different things, but from a ‘making it happen’ perspective, what matters is that you have one leader who is accountable for your direct outputs and who prioritises your work.

This does not negate matrix management —all effective organizations are matrices— but it requires clarity of role relationships and an alignment of authority and accountability both vertically (in a value adding hierarchy) and laterally (the nature of lateral relationships is rarely considered).


Levels of Work and Decision-Making Accountability

All organizations have a hierarchy of some form and hierarchy is not inherently bad or wrong.  It exists to break down the execution of strategic plans (‘work’) into manageable chunks, which re-integrate on completion to achieve strategic objectives.  In other words, organization design is about ensuring that the ‘right number’ of value-adding levels or strata exist in the hierarchy and clarifying the matrix to liberate people rather than hamstring them with dysfunctional structure which induces dysfunctional behaviour.

At different levels of the hierarchy of an organization, decisions of different kinds need to be made.  Break points may be seen where the decisions made at one level differ by a quantum step from those made in the level above or below; with those at higher levels of accountability having to make ‘bigger, harder’ decisions.

Essentially, what changes by level of work in organizations is complexity (of task and information), one’s out-reach in time (the ‘time-span’ of the role), felt responsibility and impact (especially impact over time).  Among other things, leaders need to have the intellectual horsepower to manage the level of work complexity that they face.

‘Organization’ is about aligning decision-making authority and accountability, and level of work.  It is about functional alignment, and it is about defining role-relationships to clarify the framework for people to work within.  Organization enables the alignment and co-ordination of delegated, prioritised work at different levels of complexity undertaken by engaged people who are clear about what they need to achieve and why, and the resource allocation, freedoms and boundaries that they have to work within, and who have authority to match their accountability (laterally and vertically).

We can help you to get the structure right:

  • To prevent the ‘compression’ and ‘wading through treacle’ of too many levels —where one person is accountable to another at a similar level of work, where two layers of management exist where only one is needed.  Apart from the impact on 'work', this builds in unnecessary cost.
  • To prevent leaders and your business from becoming too stretched and ineffective by being too ‘flat’ —where decisions get delayed or are not taken because leaders have too big a span of control, the flow of work is clogged up, and the organization operates under unnecessary stress.
  • To remove the individual stress of accountability and authority misalignment (the largest cause of insurance payouts relating to work-induced stress claims).
  • To truly empower people.

Sources: Dr Elliott Jaques, 1994, Human Capability (with K Cason) and Jaques, 1996, Requisite Organization.  Also Jeremy Tozer’s discussions with Dr Jaques and Tozer, 1995, Leading Initiatives and Tozer, 2012, Leading Through Leaders.

More research on this subject may be found at the Global Organization Design Society here and The Requisite Organization Institute here


Contact Us

To discuss your organization’s leadership of strategy execution, please contact Jeremy Tozer:

Telephone: +44 (0)208 1446 929
Email: jeremy.tozer @
© Tozer Consulting Limited 2012
Strategy - Mission - Leadership - Execution - Change