Use purpose, alignment, and influence to create success.
By Benjamin Boyle, PT, DPT
Formulating a strategy is essential to most human endeavors.
It allows us to identify what we are great at, our essential strengths and our weaknesses, helping us align capital, time, and resources with our purpose and vision for success. Developing a strategic plan for a business or organization might seem daunting, but when you break it down as a process we use every day, it becomes more manageable. Strategy is the process of creating, implementing, and evaluating both our internal and external environments to create and sustain a competitive advantage in our relationships, organizations, and businesses. Developing a successful strategy whether in business or in life involves three essential elements: purpose, alignment, and influence.
Oftentimes when developing a strategy, organizations and individuals start with describing their vision. A vision is a clear portrayal of what we are as an organization and what we will achieve in the future. Understanding the What and How of your strategy are important components of success, but only if they originate and align with your Why.1 The Why of your strategy is a clear understanding and articulation of your purpose—essentially, the fundamental reason your organization exists, which reflects who you serve and inspires action. When an organization has a clearly defined purpose, it can be communicated easily and resonates with the employee, the team, and the individual in a way that inspires action. Thoughtfully answering the following key questions can help you identify and communicate your purpose:
- Why does this organization exist?
- Who do you serve and what are they seeking?
- What is the unique value you provide to those you serve?
- What will they gain from seeking out your organization?
ALIGNING STRATEGY WITH PURPOSE
Aligning your organization with your purpose begins with a vision. Vision is a picture of the future, specifically, where you will be in relation to where you are. It should reflect the desired future position of your organization. A vision should align your customers with your values, and their needs with your services. Additionally, it must align with your employees’ perception of the organization, as they are tasked with executing the steps necessary to achieve the vision. The following questions can help you align your organization’s future with the needs of your customers and identify the role of your employees in that vision:
- What will we provide in the future?
- Who will we provide services to?
- How can I contribute?
- What’s in it for me?
The next step in the strategic process is identifying your mission. The mission guides the analysis, decisions, and actions of the organization and aligns with its purpose and vision for the future. It defines both what an organization aspires to be in the long run and what it wants to avoid in the meantime. It will provide the framework for the objectives and goals of the organization. It is critical the mission of an organization align with the motivations of its members. Hence, an effective mission is predicated on three critical success factors:
Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results (SOAR) is a strategic planning tool combining data about an organization’s current position with the ideas and aspirations of its members. A SOAR analysis differs from the more common SWOT analysis in two ways. First, it draws on experiences at all levels and across all functional areas within the organization. Second, SOAR utilizes Appreciative Inquiry Indexing to identify strengths within the organization,2 focusing on resources in alignment with those strengths and its aspirations to create opportunities for success. Critical questions to answer when conducting a SOAR analysis include:
- What are our greatest strengths?
- What is your organization’s Unique Selling Proposition?
- Will changes in law, policy, or market provide new opportunities?
- Will changes in customer behavior or lifestyle create new opportunities?
- What difference do we hope to make to our key stakeholders?
- What aspects of your organization’s processes will change, and how?
- What results do we expect when we get there?
ROLE OF INFLUENCE ON RESULTS
Despite a well-designed strategy, over 70 percent of change initiatives fail.3 Often the strategic process yields poor results due to an unresolved perceptual difference among stakeholders regarding the direction of the organization. Game theorists suggest a strategy can only be implemented successfully when all stakeholders within an organization utilize the same perspective to achieve a mutually beneficial equilibrium.4 This differing environmental perspective among stakeholders is a common source of disequilibrium among planning and executing roles within an organization. Neglecting to take into consideration the differences in what motivates behavior between these stakeholder groups is a common pinch point between strategy and results. Thus the bridge between strategy and results must include skillfully engaging with people, accounting for their hopes, fears, thoughts, and perceptions of their unique reality. Influencing how people think and feel is critical but not sufficient for achieving results. Results require that individuals actually act and work differently to execute a mutually shared vision. Evaluate your organizational influence using the following checklist:
- Is there a shared understanding of what’s required to achieve our vision?
- Do we actively address doubts and fears that limit an individual’s full contribution?
- Do we seek commitment or compliance when generating energy and personal responsibility for executing change?
- Do individuals understand exactly what is required of them?
- Have we created a feedback-rich environment that supports the individual?
- Is there support in place for developing new skills?
- Is our organization where personal growth is encouraged?
Understanding your purpose, your vision for the future, and the pathway to success are essential elements of strategy. Aligning your organizational and stakeholder strengths will allow you to create near- and long-term opportunities for your organization. Special attention to influencing the perspective of the individual and supporting the behavioral changes necessary of those tasked with executing your organization’s vision is a critical step in achieving your strategic goals.
1Sinek S. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. New York: Portfolio; 2009.
2Carter C, Ruhe M, Weyer S, Litaker D, Fry R, Stange K. An appreciative inquiry approach to practice improvement and transformative change in healthcare settings. Q Manage Health Care. 2007;16:194-204.
3Keller S, Aiken C. The Inconvenient Truth about Change Management. McKinsey & Company; 2009.
4Dixit A. Art of Strategy. Viva Books; 2013.
Benjamin Boyle, PT, DPT, is a PPS member and vice president of Clinical Operations of IRG Physical and Hand Therapy in Washington. He can be reached at email@example.com.