energizing breakthrough performance

It’s Time to Fire Dilbert: Towards Dynamic Strategic Alignment

by Ronald A. Gunn, Strategic Futures principal

The contemporary focus on operational improvements a la TQM and Reengineering can result in "doing the wrong things right." This means that the organization invests its talents, time and money into pursuing perfection for a product/service that has already seen its heyday. Indeed, with today’s ever-shortening product/service life-cycles, pursuit of operational perfection can be futile folly after time has already run out your organization’s offering to the marketplace. If the risk of doing the wrong things right is acceptable to you, then continue to focus only on operational improvement and stop reading now. Add money and Dilbert cartoon strips, then stir with a low-grade fever for as many accounting periods as the cosmos will permit because eventually your luck will run out. On the other hand, if you want to do the right things and are willing to do them imperfectly for a time until you get them right—suffering Dilbert’s scoffing humor—then read on and let’s get down to business! For starters, let’s fire Dilbert whose humor is too often embedded in a feeble need for bureaucratic security, pathological and anal-retentive perfectionism, and too-cute intolerance of ambiguity in an ambiguous age. Let’s instead muster the incandescent courage and imagination that it takes to focus on aligned strategy.

As more organizations show renewed interest in strategic planning, they seek to establish stretch goals to make Big Things Happen. More mention is being made of the term, alignment—by leaders, managers, management consultants and others. The purpose of this brief article is to describe alignment briefly in its key aspects and implications.

Alignment, whether described with gloss and abstraction, or with operational precision, is something that an organization will not achieve overnight. Sadly, too many folks are confusing strategic planning with operational effectiveness improvement gambits, e.g., TQM, Reengineering or Zeitgeist X. Improving operational effectiveness is oh-so-important but it won’t keep you ahead of the pack because the rest of the dogs in the pack are doing the same thing, e.g., reducing error and cycle time, etc. Genuine strategic alignment relates to the transitional scaffolding by which an organization is in motion from some "as-is" condition to some "should-be" future condition. In this sense, the alignment scaffolding needs to provide a modicum of structure and continuity but flexibly so, affording the organization a provisional revolutionary framework of time, space, and disposable concepts and procedures that will take us from here to there.

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