Andrea Belk Olson Andrea Belk Olson

Are your Organization’s capabilities aligned with your strategy?

Imagine you’re faced with creating organizational change. You need to do something big and bold to turn around the organization’s downward trajectory. Or you need to catapult growth. You have some great, innovative ideas that you’ve vetted and know they’ll make a positive impact. You have a budget, resources, and a rollout plan. You’re all ready to go – or are you?

One key element to any successful change that many leaders overlook is having an honest understanding of their organization’s capabilities. New ideas come with a bright and alluring sheen that is hard to turn away from. You gain momentum and buy-in to the idea, and it’s incredibly difficult to put the brakes on. Yet the question is, can your organization deliver on the idea?

For example, say a company wants to become “the tech leader” in their industry. They’ve identified that consumers are seeking more tech-based, self-serve options, and they know they are woefully behind their competitors. Seems like, on the surface, a straightforward strategy to tackle. However, their current tech stack is incredibly outdated. The development team is comprised of legacy coders, who have never implemented a major transformation before. The organization as a whole isn’t very tech-savvy and isn’t used to processing changes. This is the problem with the strategy – the organization isn’t up to it.

This doesn’t mean the strategy is all bad or unreachable. Many would argue that lofty strategic goals are a good thing. But just like deciding to become the best golfer in the world, you should first determine whether you have some basic golf talent in the first place. Unless the leader in this scenario plans to uproot the entire organization, churning new people in until completely overhauled, this lofty strategy implementation will be a long and rough road. In addition, the turmoil caused by such a massive change will be a project in and of itself (the caveat is that sometimes a leader will anyway).

So what should be done instead? First, conduct a thorough assessment of your organization’s true capabilities. What are you amazing at? That none of your competitors do or do as well as you. What is something you can capitalize on? What is the thing you can leverage? This is a great litmus test for your strategy. Does your current state – whether skills, culture, infrastructure, and capabilities – realistically has a chance to be able to implement your strategy? If not, is your strategy too far afield or misaligned with the realities of today?

Don’t misunderstand me – a strategy should have room for growth. Yet without having a firm grip on your organization’s real-world abilities, you might be stretching too far. No amount of communications or execution planning will be able to bridge the chasm. The smarter approach is to design a strategy that capitalizes on the best organizational attributes you have today and leverage those with a strategy that can create a competitive advantage that can actually be implemented. Otherwise, you may simply have an aspirational strategy without any basis in reality.

About the Author:

Andrea Belk Olson is a keynote speaker, author, differentiation strategist, behavioral scientist, and customer-centricity expert. As the CEO of Pragmadik, she helps organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to Fortune 500, and has served as an outside consultant for EY and McKinsey. Andrea is the author of The Customer Mission: Why it’s time to cut the $*&% and get back to the business of understanding customers, No Disruptions: The future for mid-market manufacturing, and her upcoming book, What To Ask, coming in June 2022.

She is a 4-time ADDY® award winner and host of the popular Customer Mission podcast. Her thoughts have been continually featured in news sources such as Chief Executive MagazineEntrepreneur MagazineThe Financial BrandSMPS Marketer, Rotman Magazine, and more. Andrea is a sought-after speaker at conferences and corporate events throughout the world. She is a visiting lecturer and startup coach at the University of Iowa, a TEDx presenter, and TEDx speaker coach. She is also an instructor at the University of Iowa Venture School.

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