Changing the Way the World Thinks about Strategy

In this post, we are discussing how buy-in helps align employees with strategy.  Buy-in is one of the key steps in strategic alignment.  Lets review how we get strategic alignment.  There are five basic steps that you must take to assure your employees are aligned with your company’s strategies.

First, employees must have the conceptual tools required for good strategic thinking about their work.

Second, employees must understand the strategy.

Third, your organizational structure needs to be aligned with your strategy.

Fourth, strategy must be reflected in the structure of individual jobs – especially those in critical areas.

Fifth, you must have buy-in to the strategy.

Five Steps to Alignment

Buy-in for Alignment

Let’s look at the Fifth of these requirements in more detail.

Fifth item: buy-in.

If you have an employee who thinks the strategy isn’t good, you won’t have alignment no matter what you do

The first two items, tools and communication, will go a long way towards getting buy-in.  However, there are people who just won’t buy into some strategies – especially if they are smart. The techie salesperson in the new-user computer store may not buy into the strategy of targeting new users as a market. This makes sense, as the strategy doesn’t fit with the salesperson’s skill set.  But it will create problems for both the employee and the company.

Often, this kind of buy-in problem arises as the result of a failure to fit the job design to the strategy. Occasionally, however, you will find some employees just don’t buy-in to the strategy. In a non-strategic position, you might overlook a lack of buy-in, but this can be a real problem in a strategic position.  It’s always useful to ask yourself if the lack of buy-in stems from a valid objection to the strategy.  If this is not the case, you – and your employee – will be best off parting ways as soon as possible. Such a basic strategic conflict won’t be good for either your company or the employee’s career. Even if the employee performs, not adhering to strategy will cause problems and conflicts which will hinder that person’s growth.

Achieving buy-in is tough, because, unless people come up with the idea themselves, it’s hard for them to buy-in

In addition, it’s hard to get people to buy into a strategy that might not be in their best interest. It is also difficult to get people to feel bought in to a strategy that doesn’t improve their job security. Getting people to buy into a strategy means, in part, you have to get them to believe in it. This means the strategy itself has to have some credibility with your employees. It’s easier to add credibility in a company that spends a little to make employees happier and make working conditions better.

A difficult situation is a company that has a lot of employees at the lower end of the pay scale

Input from these people is critical, and they have a important effect on the way your products or services are created, delivered and perceived. The fact that they aren’t making much money often means that they consider anything management says as suspect. It’s hard for these people to believe that management is on their side.  Ask yourself “Could we pay these people more?”  If you can’t pay more, perhaps you can offer a real and valuable substitute.  It’s easy to get people really excited about strategy if they participated in creating it. Also people may be very excited about your strategy if they understand and believe in the concepts involved.

Buy-in is much easier if your employees participated in developing the strategy

This is one of the reasons why we push for involvement in the strategic planning process for as many people as is practical. There are limits to what is practical.  It’s difficult to have effective, efficient strategic planning meetings when you have too many people as well as when you have too few people.  Find ways for people to contribute to the strategic decision-making process, even when they are not directly involved.

Companies that take these few simple steps to build alignment find greater success

You will find better support for implementation of your strategies and more effective day-to-day use of your strategies when you achieve alignment. This will make the difference between struggling to make your vision a reality and smoothly flowing into the future you have defined.

Note:  This post is the fourth in a series of posts from Robert Bradford’s article Building Support for the Strategic Plan: Aligning Employees with Strategy originally posted in Compass Points in October 2001.  The first post introduced this series.  You can read it here.  The second post discussed the First and Second steps.  You can read it here.  The third post discussed the Third and Fourth steps.  You can read it here.

How well do your employees buy into with your strategy?  Attend the Simplified Strategic Planning Seminar for more instruction on how to achieve buy-in as well as all other aspects of Simplified Strategic Planning.

Robert Bradford

Robert W. Bradford

Robert Bradford is President & CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at

© Copyright 2018 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission

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