A major problem in organizations is the incremental misinterpretation of a corporate vision by the cascading hierarchy of executives/managers/supervisors and workers as they attempt to translate a relatively abstract vision and strategy into specific "on-the-ground" tactics for each Function, Department and specific job within the organization. In other words, are the "ground level" tactics an accurate "reflection" of (i.e., are they aligned with) the vision/strategy?
The answers are:
If the tactics are an ACCURATE derivation of the vision/strategy - and if the portfolio "FAILS" - then it was either a bad strategy, there was misinterpretation of the vision/strategy somewhere within the cascading hierarchy of interpretation, and/or people failed to successfully execute the work (at their level) that supported the vision/strategy.
If the tactics are an ACCURATE derivation of the vision/strategy - and if the portfolio "SUCCEEDS" - you assume there's good interpretive alignment between vision/strategy and "ground level" tactics and execution.
If the tactics are an INACCURATE derivation of the vision/strategy - and if the portfolio "FAILS"- then it could be a bad strategy, misinterpretations - or no interpretations - at some/all of the level(s) of interpretation within the cascading hierarchy (including the tactical level) and/or poor execution at some/all levels.
If the tactics are an INACCURATE derivation of the vision/strategy - and if the portfolio "SUCCEEDS" - then it's a bad strategy, there's no competition in the niche or it's luck.
Thoughts on this:
I think, in most instances (and especially in fast moving industries/cultures), there isn't an active attempt - or any accountability - to create and maintain alignment between vision/strategy and tactics; high technology companies with "volatile" portfolios need to continuously align and realign tactics with strategy given shorter product life cycles and increased competition. If done well it's a full time change process requiring active oversight and management.
Most executives/managers bring their unique background of experience to a new company and simply plug-and-play it. There's no attempt to modify/"tweak" it to fit a company-specific vision/strategy - not to speak of culture. I think this is a huge "white space" in most organizations and why very few of them dominate - if they survive - over the long haul.
Alignment's not a new concept, but show me a good working example of where it's working in a fast moving, dynamic organization where continuing change is the default. It's hard work - if it's done at all. It may be done inadvertently, with start-ups/relatively small organizations. But as organizations grow/as portfolios enlarge it becomes exponentially more difficult to put in place and mange over the long term.