AS YOU DEVELOP A STRATEGY FOR GROWTH, one of the obstacles you may face is the current structure of your organization. Structures perfectly suited for other times and other places, often persist beyond their usefulness. For structures to become catalysts for growth–rather than obstructions–they must flow from and serve the strategy.
While not the only contributing factor, strategic alignment may increase the potential of your organization to grow and to reach its goals. On the other hand, a structure that works at cross-purposes to the strategy is a sure way to halt any progress toward the goal.
Structure is the connecting link between the idea and its implementation. Structure is the form; strategy is the substance. Structure is the body; strategy the soul. Just as the human body was designed to communicate the soul to its environment, structure should be designed to express the organization’s purpose within its current environment. How does this process take place?
- We look at our purpose. Why are we here? What is our business?
- We look at our vision. What do we want to accomplish? What will it look like when we realize our dream?
- We develop a plan. How do we get there? What are the landmarks along the way toward our ultimate objective?
These elements coalesce to form the strategic vision of the organization. The organization develops a shared understanding of its future size, shape, strengths, particular contribution, and unique personality. This vision is far more than a slogan on the wall; it is the heart and soul of a particular community of colleagues united around a common purpose.
Having chosen a strategy, the organization must then embody that strategy in a structure. Structure can be described in several ways.
- It can be described in a political sense as the placement of power and authority in the organization. This description, focuses on the antithetical forces and power struggles that characterize many organizations.
- Another way to define structure is to look at it as a question of control and coordination. Control is associated with efficiency and stability; coordination with learning, innovation, and flexibility. This definition of structure brings to mind images of an Olympic gymnast who has complete command of her form, yet exudes creative movement.
- A third way to understand structure is to see it as a series of channels through which information flows. Like the life blood that carries the oxygen and other nutrients throughout the body, structure should get the information to where it is needed, when it is needed.
Strategic alignment occurs when all the parts fit, when the body is aligned with the soul and when agreement between strategy and structure sends a clear and consistent signal to organizational members and guides their behavior. Things begin to happen when people share a common vision, especially when that vision is embodied in a structure that expresses the vision.
In spite of the powerful benefits of alignment, however, we have all seen how tenacious old and misaligned forms can be. One of the biggest challenges of leadership is to help organizations break outdated structures so that they can continue to achieve their goals within today’s environment.
What has been your experience in this areas? Have you been a part of an organization that continues to perpetuated outmoded structures? What can a leader do?
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.