Updated: Mar 9, 2020
Strategic plans are critical to keep an organization focused. Done well, they provide direction that ensures progress towards the desired vision. Done poorly, strategic plans are just a compilation of actions that document what everyone is doing - regardless of whether those projects are the best use of an organization's time and resources.
Alignment is ensuring that every part of a strategic plan is cascaded, from the vision down to each action step. If every action is completed, your strategy is met. Every completed strategy should reach a goal. When all the goals are checked, you should be at your vision.
You can do this by asking two simple questions: How and Why?
How. Start with your vision. Your vision should be a compelling end state that sets your organizational direction. Then ask, "How?" How do we get there? How do we enact this level of transformation?
Keep asking How until you get to your major goals. Unpack those goals, by asking how - creating effective strategies. How you reach those strategies will become your specific actions.
Why. Everyone is doing important work. Every project and activity has a genesis that can be defended as laudable. But it's easy to get caught up in important activities and not realize that our focus has shifted from the vision. Your project may be a good thing to do, but it's not what you should be doing.
With every activity undertaken, you should ask, "Why?" Why am I spending my time on this rather than another activity? Why is this activity the best way to reach our strategies and goals? Every why should eventually lead you back to the vision. We are doing this activity because it's the the most effective way to reach our vision. If the activity has drifted from being essential to just being good, kill it. Be ruthless. "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all." (Peter Drucker)
Keep asking How and Why as you look at each component of your strategic plan. As you tighten up your activities, you'll have more space to focus on the core areas that will reach your vision. Discard everything else. The momentum that results in strategic alignment is addicting, as your organization achieves targeted goals with expert precision and moves you towards business success.