The importance of your business strategy—where and how you serve your markets—is clear. What’s not so clear is why some organizations are able to harness their vision to deliver real results, drive innovation and create sustainable change while others fail to do so. What really separates these enterprises? The origin of your success or failures might very well hinge on how you are defining your strategy. According to Ken Favaro, a senior partner with global management consulting firm Booz & Company, too many corporate leaders mistake execution for strategy, which can create a lot of damage. He defines strategy as “the result of choices executives make, on where to play and how to win, to maximize long-term value.”

However, even the most focused strategy aligned with your corporate goals can be sunk if there is a gap between it and the organization’s culture. In fact, Booz & Company’s Barry Jaruzelski, John Loehr and Richard Holman say, “Studies have shown again and again that there may be no more critical source of business success or failure than a company’s culture—it trumps strategy and leadership.” In fact, in their 2011 Global Innovation 1000 study, focusing on strategic alignment and cultural attributes for innovation, they reported that those “companies with both highly aligned cultures and highly aligned innovation strategies have 30% higher enterprise value growth and 17% higher profit growth than companies with low degrees of alignment.”

"Execution requires a comprehensive understanding of a business, its people and its environment. The leader is the only person in a position to achieve that understanding."

Getting your enterprise on the same page is not easy, but why exactly is this the case? The answer might be as simple as American author Anaïs Nin’s observation, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” Therefore, workers see any strategic change based on their personal experiences and beliefs, not necessarily always aligned with the company’s vision. So, how can organizations ensure their employees “get it?” In an effort to analyze this very question, Charles Galunic, an Aviva Chaired Professor of Leadership and Responsibility at Insead, and Immanuel Hermreck, the global head of human resources at Bertelsmann, studied more than 60,000 responses to an employee-satisfaction survey at a global corporation. They found that “top management has a profound impact on how well employees grasp and support strategy—far greater than any other variable we examined, and far greater than we’d expected.”

The leadership role in creating change and aligning corporate culture and business strategy should not be a surprise, though, perhaps, the degree of importance might have been. Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan in their book, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, write, “An organization can only execute if the leader’s heart and soul are immersed in the company. Execution requires a comprehensive understanding of a business, its people and its environment. The leader is the only person in a position to achieve that understanding.” Thus, communicating your strategy and inspiring change should be the top priority for senior management.

Strategy is a powerful word, and with it, invokes ideas of grandeur. Yet, it is often lost in the shuffle of everyday operations. We believe so strongly in the potential for innovation through a closely aligned business strategy with corporate culture that we created our event, the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum, to empower leaders and executives to harness the vast opportunities available here. We hope that our conference in Greenwich, CT, along with all the articles in this current issue, does this very thing.

ALLISON LLOYD is the editor of DOCUMENT, the dedicated document management portal for executives, directors and managers involved with the management, strategy, creation and delivery of communications in B2C environments. She leads the editorial direction for all DOCUMENT Media outlets, including its magazine, website, newsletter and event. Ms. Lloyd is a thought leader and expert in the transactional and customer communications industry.


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