In this episode, Adrian Reed speaks with us about organizational strategy, why it’s important for business analysis, and how to link your efforts to the overall organizational strategy for greater influence and alignment.
After listening to this episode, you'll understand:
- Why understanding organizational strategy is critical
- How to trace your projects back to your organization’s vision and mission
- How to better understand your organization’s strategy and gain alignment
Strategy can become an abused word; something used to make things sound more important. Understanding what strategy is and how it traces back to organizational objectives, you can gain alignment within your project team and move the organization closer to it’s vision.
According to Richard Rumelt, author of the book Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, a strategy is a cohesive response to an important challenge. Unlike a standalone decision or goal, a strategy is a coherent set of analyses, concepts, policies, arguments, and actions that are in response to a high-stakes challenge.
It’s about the thread from the organizations mission and vision to the projects that helps deliver upon the mission and get you closer to the vision. Strategy is what drives everyone in the same direction.
Without clarity into the mission, vision, and strategy, how can we be sure that we’re not working on several projects that are pulling the organization in many different directions?
Often we’re handed a project (or a solution to implement). We need to help stakeholders step back from that solution illusion and articulate the need and expected outcomes. Once outcomes are understood, you can verify if the outcomes are aligned to the strategy, mission, and business environment. If there is misalignment, you should bring this to the attention of stakeholders and the sponsor for discussion.
The Business Analyst is in a great position to be a guardian for strategic alignment.
By applying systems thinking, you can see the big picture of how your organization delivers value and the individual pieces (processes and projects) that contribute to value delivery. You can also see how each projects aligns (or fails to align) with the organizational strategy.
Adrian uses an approach called VMOST to ensure alignment from the organization’s mission to its projects. VMOST is an acronym and stands for Vision and Mission, Objectives, Strategy, and Tactics.
The mission is the organization’s core purpose and the vision is an envisioned future state. The mission likely won’t change whereas the vision may be updated from time to time. The vision and mission help provide clarity and alignment within the organization. However, they’re not directly executable. They need to be decomposed to take action.
The objectives are the measurable goals that move us closer to the mission and vision. Objectives are still too big and aspirational to directly action. Objectives are therefore decomposed into multiple strategies.
The strategy provides direction as to how the organization will achieve the objectives. Strategies are further decomposed into tactics.
The tactics are the actionable projects and tasks that will be done to achieve the strategy and objectives.
Through an understanding of VMOST, you can trace your projects and tasks back to the strategy, objectives, mission, and vision to ensure that they align and question those that do not align. Projects should have an objective or opportunity statement that traces back to a higher level.
Starting off a project with a kick-off meeting in which you explain the project and tie it back to an organizational objective and the company mission is a great way to gain alignment within the project team.
You can also start a project by developing a strategic problem statement such as the one below to get all stakeholders aligned with what you’re doing, the expected outcomes, and how it aligns with organizational objectives.
The problem of ___________ is affecting ____________. The impact of which is _____________. A successful solution would _____________. This aligns with our stated strategy by ______________ and would help us to meet our objectives of _____________.
Listen to the full interview to get all of Adrian’s tips and advice.
Get to know your organization’s VMOST. If you don’t know it, ask. This has many benefits included being seen as a leader and strategic thinker.
Director and Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions
Adrian is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, providing business analysis consultancy and training solutions to a range of clients in varying industries. He is President of the UK chapter of the IIBA and speaks internationally on topics related to business analysis and business change.
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