Strategies which have been developed by professional service firms for areas such as finance, people, marketing, brand or innovation must align with and support a firm’s overall strategy. This alignment is important for both internal (partner and staff) and external (client and other stakeholder) consumption.
Small firms might say this is only for the larger firms, who have separate marketing and HR departments and the like. I disagree. I think every firm should and can develop a strategy around each of these key areas of practice – in many cases it only needs to be a one- or two-pager. The trick then is to align them.
What do I mean by align? It is really just about ensuring:
- other strategies and their key objectives support firm strategy and do not conflict with the main strategy – in fact they should actively support it;
- reality must match the key objectives – are they realistic or pie-in-the-sky? (for instance it is not uncommon for firm strategies or vica versa, people strategies, to make promises in regard to people management which are clearly not supported by the other strategy);
- it should be clear that both strategies are firmly based around the firm’s core values;
- what you promise you will do or will deliver must be seen to happen in practice; (e.g. what you promise about people in your firm strategy must be supported by the people strategy);
- that resources are committed to support each of the strategies;
- as far as possible that all strategies are seen as part of the firm’s overall strategic intent, not as separate unconnected items; and
- that leadership is committed to all strategies and has played a role, if not in formulating/settling each, at least in signing off and checking on the implementation of each.
This alignment is easier said than done: