The Early Warning System of Misalignment
On two types of strategic misalignment, "the silent killer" vs. "the wobble."
by Rich Price
Strategic misalignment can present in two ways - as “the silent killer” or “the wobble.” In both cases, it occurs when there is a disconnect between an organization's strategy and its day-to-day operations. But which one an organization has could determine how effectively it can get back into alignment (and how likely it is to survive).
“The Silent Killer”
This describes the strategic misalignment that creeps silently into an organization and, over time, creates massive divergence from the company mission, cultural goals and long-term strategic ambitions. As it takes root, it makes it more likely that the company will see:
- Reduced effectiveness - where teams and individuals are working at cross-purposes, missing opportunities.
- Increased costs - wasted resources, duplication of efforts, inefficient and delayed decision-making.
- Decreased agility - an inability to move with pace and coordination to respond quickly to evolving market conditions.
- Diminished connection to the mission - employees slowly drifting away from the organization’s core promise, beginning to disengage.
The last point is, in many cases, the most insidious. When strategic misalignment is “The Silent Killer,” its hold on an organization can be fatal because, once detected, it may be too late. Consider a long journey at sea. Leaving a port (say, Liverpool), heading west (to, say, New York). Even a few degrees off course could lead you through iceberg-filled waters.
We believe in the efficacy and impact of “The Wobble.” This is the type of “strategic misalignment” that acts an “early warning system.” Picture being on a scooter, riding down hill. Take your eyes off of the path ahead and before you know it, the wheels begin to wobble. The wobble is the “early warning system” telling you that things are about to go quite badly. Bring that scooter back into alignment or you’ll be testing the quality of your helmet and the strength of your bones.
The concept is to create in healthy organizations the mechanisms that replicate the scooter’s wobble — real-time measures of alignment, visualization towards goals, and visibility to where energy is flowing and, if results are not flowing, where new strategies are needed. The benefits of “The Wobble” are clear - see the problems as they emerge, before they’ve taken root, before effectiveness has been reduced, costs have gone up, agility has gone down and people’s connection to the mission has eroded.
It’s this concept that drives our work — enterprise alignment is foundational to achieving your ambitious goals. The shadow side of that truism is that strategic misalignment is the greatest risk to success. But will it be “the silent killer” or “the wobble?”