Get Your Strategy Off the Ground! Lessons in Leader Alignment

on November 15, 2012

I’ve been working with a client for much of the past two years helping their executive team align on a strategy and successfully engage their people and partners to execute it. The organization, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority (SDCRAA), has worked to refine and update their strategy to support their longstanding mission of “mastering the art of airports.” They recognized early on that they needed assistance in ensuring that their strategy was clear, the executive team and board of directors were aligned on it, and that rest of the organization could internalize, adopt, and evangelize the strategy to bring it to life. They also recognized that all of the airport’s partners that interact with the traveler also needed to be engaged; concessionaires, taxi drivers, TSA, baggage handlers, and other airport partners help make up the airport experience, but they aren’t actually airport employees.

Together we outlined a two-phase plan:

Phase 1 –

Clarify and Align

  • Refine and update the strategy to support the established mission statement.
  • Align the leadership team and the organization’s appointed board of director’s around that strategy.
  • Clearly define roles and decision-making rights between the leadership team and the board of directors.

Launch and Deploy

  • Engage the entire organization in the strategy to ensure everyone:
    • Has the same view of what “mastering the art of airports” looks like.
    • Understands the strategy that will bring it to life.
    • Connects their roles and contributions to the success of the strategy.

 Phase 2 –

Sustain

  • Empower and educate managers to consistently connect individual contributors to the team’s goals and link the team’s actions and results to the strategic objectives of the airport.
  • Involve key partner groups in the airport’s strategy and their impact on it.

To accomplish Phases 1 and 2, the successful alignment of the executive team and board of directors was foundational. We took a hard look at the existing state of the organization and its strategy through a series of interviews with stakeholders and partners across SDCRAA. The outcome was to identify any gaps in understanding about the strategy and the goals so that they could be addressed by the leadership team. It also helped them better understand what processes, behaviors, or culture quirks could potentially keep the SDCRAA from accomplishing their objectives. This process effectively showcased clear areas where the executive team and the board of directors needed to make changes.

To confirm that the executive team and the board were in sync, we facilitated two leader-alignment sessions. These sessions leveraged a variety of interactive methods to paint a universally understandable picture of the strategic priorities and organizational behaviors that fed into the development of a clear, shared view of the future that the SDCRAA wanted to build for itself, its stakeholders, and its partners. This starting point in Phase 1 was crucial to ensure that all other phases of this organization-wide strategy engagement process were communicated to the rest of the organization and that every leader was in lock-step about the direction of the company and how it was going to get there, as well as being consistent in reinforcing the direction and outcomes over time.

This is an often-overlooked part of strategy execution – if your leaders aren’t clear and aligned, then it’s nearly impossible for the rest of the people in the business to do their jobs successfully.

Comments

Thinking

Training and Skill Building
Developing Leaders and Managers
Managing Change