My daughter was a Coxswain for her high school crew club. As Coxswain, her job was to:
Steer the boat to the finish line (vision),
Urge her team forward (focus),
Set the course and navigate obstacles (position to win), and
Keep the team in synch (alignment).
When her crew worked together, when they were in synch, each stroke reinforced the other, creating momentum and building speed. You could really see the power of alignment in the faster boats, as they separated from the rest.
Alignment: The “arrangement of groups or forces in relation to one another.”
When crews (including hers) lost alignment, their speed faltered. It was so painful to watch! However, when their strokes are perfectly aligned their boat moved through the water with ease, smoothly, quickly, one could feel the speed, and it’ was beautiful.
At a recent Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) event, it was no surprise when Ben Humphreys, a Senior Operating Executive at the private equity firm Monomoy Capital Partners, stated, “Alignment between financial sponsors and private equity backed executives is the most crucial leading indicator of a successful investment.”
It is critical that management and investors, he added, have the same vision for the company and how it creates value. “It is incredibly difficult,” he emphasized, “for management and financial sponsors to work together if they have competing visions for success.”
We totally agree. Alignment is a force multiplier, and leadership alignment between investors and top executives, and then with management and operational/functional teams is crucial. But that’s not the only vector for alignment that’s so important. How about direction (vision-focus-action), value (markets-customers-offerings-operations-delivery), and culture (purpose-core values-people-performance-accountability)
Alignment along all these vectors are crucial. But alignment around what specifically?
Why strategy? Because strategy – whether it’s clear-and-compelling or “fuzzy” - creates the singular and overarching corporate mindset of:
Where the firm is going (vision),
What is prioritized (focus),
How it will win (position), and
How well the team needs to execute (alignment).
Strategy also creates the guard rails that steadily reinforce alignment across the company and over time. Alignment occurs more easily as strategic clarity:
Provides the blueprint that keeps the team focused and accountable to one another.
Creates a prism that enables the team to consistently make better make decisions
Creates a process discipline from which the team can maintain continuous alignment around business directon moving
Ask yourself and your team,
How effective is our firm’s vision, focus, and winning thesis of our strategy?
How can we better align our decision-making with our strategy?
How can we better align our actions?
When my daughter had a clear strategy, led its execution, and helped her crew stay in synch, her boat did so much better. You can too.