Successful Business Alignment Starts with a Leadership Alignment Plan
How to Create an Effective Leadership Team in Any Consumer Goods Business
Business alignment is crucial to building and growing a successful FMCG business. A well-aligned organisation can adapt to evolution of markets and realign behind changes needed to remain competitive.
We’ve seen this in action recently. Some organisations have battened down the hatches and taken steps to reduce workforce and overheads. Others have taken the opportunity to assess how they do business and improve their capabilities and efficiency to boost performance and profitability.
Another, more common example is when a change in leadership or management takes place. During such change it is necessary to ensure that the executive team is aligned effectively. Only then can you be sure that a new leader will be successful in their role.
The flow of internal alignment
No matter the size of your FMCG business, the flow of internal alignment remains the same, with four interdependent elements:
- The executive team, which develops business strategy, focuses on the big picture, and monitors results
- The organisation, whose structure and processes determine how the strategy is executed
- The jobs, which describe the roles, duties, and responsibilities needed to execute
- The people, which are determined by the skills and experience required to fill the jobs
While success depends upon all these elements working in harmony, it starts and ends with your executive team. It is the leadership team that determines strategy, and it is strategy that determines how the organisation is structured and what working practices it employs.
In turn, these methods of working determine the jobs required, and these must be filled by capable people to deliver the strategy set out by the leadership.
The importance of a leadership alignment plan
When building an executive leadership team, internal alignment is key to whether a role will be successful. You’ll need to understand if a role is necessary (will it help to optimise your team?) and how it fits into your current team to write an effective job description and hire the best candidate.
Overlaps of duties and responsibilities may cause confusion, both within your executive team and across the wider organisation. This can damage morale, affecting individual and team performance which trickles down to productivity and profitability.
This isn’t to say that overlap of responsibilities should always be avoided. It may make sense for shared ownership of decision-making, for example. However, if overlap might cause damaging friction, conflict, or confusion, then it is important that you fully consider how to mitigate and eliminate this. Hence the need for a leadership alignment plan.
The five steps of a leadership alignment plan
Building and developing your leadership team is crucial to your business success. Achievement of your long-term goals depends upon the effectiveness of your leaders and managers to execute your business strategy. Therefore you must be strategic in developing your leadership alignment plan following these five steps:
- Analyse your strategic business goals.
- Determine the competencies required by the leadership team to achieve these goals (needs analysis).
- Conduct a talent assessment of your team.
- Identify the gap between your needs and current position. Can you develop internal talent? Is your need for project-based skills – and can you ‘borrow’ these? Do you need to hire talent from outside your company?
- Conduct a labour market analysis to identify potential candidates for your identified role.
Should your existing team design the leadership alignment plan?
In an ideal world, your leadership alignment plan would be created by your existing executive team. It is an excellent opportunity to voice everyone’s needs and concerns, as well as contribute to the overall success of the team. However, there are difficulties when attempting to construct your plan using only internal resources. These include:
· Individual focus
When leadership change is on the agenda, even high-level executives can become anxious for the future. This can develop into an individualistic approach to needs and wants, with each member of your team focused on their own self-interests. It is important to ensure that efforts are focused on delivering big-picture objectives, with a deep understanding of how each team member affects the whole business.
· Siloed thinking
This individual focus is associated with siloed thinking, in which internalised interests of teams are represented at board level. It’s crucial that focus remains on distinguishing and defining clear accountabilities for execution of the total business strategy, and not simply each silo’s individual contribution.
· Poorly defined roles and responsibilities
When the process suffers from individual focus and siloed thinking, we often find that roles are poorly defined. This leads to confusion of responsibilities. It is rarely productive to allow people to work out their own roles. It creates overlap and confusion, which in turn can lead to conflict, mistrust, and poor performance. This is often the case during organisational change – though it should be the opportunity to refocus roles and responsibilities.
· The blame game
A poorly defined and constructed alignment plan will fail. You’ll hire the wrong person, because the role and how it fits into your team dynamics was not clearly defined from the outset – your alignment plan didn’t do the job it should.
Often this is a problem of the process you have employed. By internalising the entire process, it is easily corrupted by the three previous difficulties we’ve outlined. The ball gets dropped because leaders are overly focused on themselves and their teams. Blurred lines of responsibility lead to a lack of clarity of who should be doing what. Fearful for their jobs, those in your leadership team start to blame each other for shortfalls.
Stay focused on your big picture with external expertise
A well-executed leadership alignment plan will ensure that your leadership team is effective in its major aim of delivering your strategic business objectives. However, it can be challenging for executives to remain focused on the big picture when they are focused on their own roles, responsibilities, and teams.
Often, it is advantageous to bring in external expertise to work closely with your executive team. This will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, bring greater definition to existing roles, and define the role (or roles) for which you need to employ. It ensures that your team alignment plan is enveloped by an umbrella of big-picture thinking.
An effective leadership alignment plan will ensure that your leaders are working together and that their strengths are optimised. It will ensure you identify the exact skills and competencies that you need to hire for to complete your leadership team, and that you won’t suffer confusion, cultural clash, or conflict within the team after a hire has been made.
For the external expertise you need to develop an effective leadership alignment plan when you are considering a senior hire into your team, contact Lime Talent. Your success is our success.