I like the pyramid metaphor. It highlights strategic alignment from strategy at the top to tactics to concrete specific activities. Strategy at the top, tactics in the middle, and concrete specifics as the base. The tactics and specifics are both execution, so there is still the difference between strategy and execution.
Strategic alignment is like silk. It’s hard to describe in the abstract, but you know it when you see it. And you know the lack of it when you see that, too.Tweet
Strategic Alignment Examples
For example: a local computer systems retailer. The strategy is providing a high level of service to local businesses, offering peace of mind in exchange for prices higher than the box stores, generates strategic alignment by beefing up its service capability with training and additional staff, buying some white vans with messaging about installation and delivery, and dedicating space in the store for a long service counter staffed by technicians in white coats. That same business is out of strategic alignment if it does nothing to improve service, doesn’t deliver or install, and hounds customers who are leaving bills unpaid because their equipment wasn’t installed correctly and isn’t working.
And another example: a restaurant whose strategy is great healthy gourmet meals for special occasions is in alignment when the food, the locale, and the service are excellent; the food sourcing is organic, the cooking is new cuisine, naturally light; and the meals are expensive. A restaurant with that strategy is out of alignment if the food is mediocre, or too heavy on sauces and butter; maybe the service is poor, or annoying. Strategic alignment is lacking if it offers drive-through value meals; or it caters to kids under 10.
Strategic Alignment Optimizes Execution
You see from the examples that alignment is about choosing tactics to execute strategy, and specific milestones (tasks, dates, deadlines, responsibilities, metrics, etc.) to execute those tactics. The strategic has to inform tactics and the specific details, or you are out of alignment.