Q My company has announced a new strategic direction. The approach seems to make sense, but I'm having trouble figuring out how it applies to my team. What should I do to ensure that our work is aligned with the company's overall direction?
A Break the new strategy into smaller parts to find the best fit with your team's work.
The inner game
Set aside some time to think through the strategy before you try to take action. Start by letting go of any resistance you may feel to the change, since it'll just interfere with your ability to analyze the situation.
Now, look at the specific changes in direction. Your question implies that the changes are broad, but take a second look and map out the past direction and the new direction to be sure that you have a clear understanding. Note aspects of the new strategy that are ambiguous so that you can seek clarification before you try to apply them to your team. In addition, try to understand the reasons that underlie the changes.
Next, establish a clear view of your team's role in the organization. As a support unit, your role is to provide the information your company needs to be successful; however, that could have a variety of specific meanings. List exactly what your team does day-to-day.
Then make a chart that aligns the strategic plan elements with your team's work. There may be some areas that are crystal clear; for others, you may not see an obvious alignment. Don't guess -- just note those that are unclear for further investigation.
Finally, determine the resources you have at hand to work through this situation. Consider people such as your boss, the department responsible for strategic planning, and published sources such as white papers or your company intranet.
The outer game
The first step will be to get clarification where needed, and ensure that you're on the right track with your understanding of the new strategy. Your boss should be your first stop -- he or she should be able to help you or point you in the right direction. Keep in mind that you may be raising some issues that were not thought through, so don't be too disconcerted if it's hard to get clarity. You can still align around those aspects that are top priority and most clear while other parts are sorted out.
Involve your team as soon as you can, laying out your understanding of the strategy. Don't think that you have to have all of the answers; their perspectives on ways to align with the strategy will be more helpful than a point-of-view developed solely by you. If possible, arrange a presentation to the team to help them become more familiar with it.
Check in periodically to see how well you're doing in terms of supporting the plan. Try having each team member take responsibility for tracking an aspect of the plan and reporting back, and align goals with the plan.
The last word
Clarifying the plan and involving the team will help you align with the new strategic plan.