In Procsi’s “Best Practices in Change Management” 2014 report, research continues to indicate that as a group, middle management are the most resistant to change.
It’s easy to chalk up failure to deploy strategy as the inability to overcome “mid-management resistance to change” (i.e.: it’s our management team that’s the obstacle).
Business strategy drives change to the heart of your management structure, which has been put into place to maintain business processes and standard operating practices (SOPs). If management focus, objectives and job descriptions continue to reinforce the old business model, then management resistance to change is to be expected.
What is Strategic Alignment?
Management structure (i.e.: focus, goals, processes, roles and standards) is a form of control in an organization. Control is necessary to ensure the corporation can operate systematically, with few exceptions, for highest quality, productivity and profitability. This control is a dominant feature of organizational structure and design; when designed well, is embedded in the business and operating environment and provides stability and supports high- performance employees. It’s also embedded in the psyche of well-intentioned middle managers, as it’s a key aspect of their job. Paradoxically, when business strategy directs the need for a new management structure, there is a feeling of loss of control, so they may resist and control the status quo more than ever.
Strategic alignment is a set of proactive steps and best practices that helps to facilitate the “alignment” of your management structure to your new business strategy with less resistance to change.
It is an early phase of strategy deployment and is the transformational stage that often gets overlooked.
Here are some key steps to consider:
1. Engage middle management meaningfully and early in the strategy development process.
- Research correlates resistance to change directly with “less engaged” in strategy formulation. Strategy formulation is made up of phases that provide many opportunities to carefully design engagement of mid-level management in the process. Executive leaders must trust managers in strategic discussions and recognize they provide valuable insights.
2. Shift leadership structure to drive strategic objectives
- In aligning leadership accountability to strategic objectives, the CEO must ensure a successful shift from one leadership structure to another. For example, strategic objectives that require growth from new business segments will require leaders to head up new business units. If the previous growth strategy was geographically focused, shifting to a divisional/business unit structure will require managers to re-direct their focus to develop divisional/business unit growth. Failure to create divisional strategy and management accountability will inhibit the shift in management team behaviour. There is a domino effect of this failure to shift, as it will also inhibit alignment of other departments and internal service teams.
3. Leverage workstreams for business model redesign vs. top-down design
- The workstream approach is an effective way to design a new business model, as it engages management across the organization to develop new SOPs that will operationalize new business practices. The workstream approach also clarifies how specific management roles and accountabilities should shift to deploy the new business model.
4. Formalize strategy deployment through executive oversight of workstream initiatives
- The seeds for management resistance to change are sown the instant executive teamwork unravels. Formalizing an effective executive steering committee to oversee workstreams ensures senior leaders are on the same page and can make timely decisions. It also promotes progress, collaboration and maintains teamwork at the top.
5. Translate long term strategic objectives into annual business plan and management objectives
- One of the most powerful early connections you can make post strategy development is the alignment of annual management objectives with your business strategy. An annual business planning process updated to reflect strategic imperatives for that year and integrated with your budgeting process will reinforce management focus. It also ensures that when management establishes employee objectives they are driven by the strategy of the organization.
If your business strategy is really strategic, then new ways of working are implicit, and creates changes at the heart of your management structure. There are proactive ways for senior leaders to shift management accountability and increase collaboration across your organization to deploy strategy successfully.
Are you concerned about your upcoming strategic planning initiative?
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org who will be glad to discuss how you can ensure your next strategic planning process stays on track.