There is unbeatable strength in organisation that is focused on its Value Proposition and is totally aligned to that Value Proposition. This is a strength that gives lasting competitive advantage in the market because it is almost impossible to imitate.

The issue

When people don't pull together, many managers assume it's because of lack of will or workers just don't care. However, in over 20 years working in business strategy, I've yet to find an organisation where people don't want to do a good job. If they don't do a good job it's nearly always because of poor organisational design.

Organisational design

Organisational design is like a boat with three rowers. Their names are:

  1. Culture
  2. Brand
  3. Customer service.

To be successful, the three rowers need to know where they are going and they all need to be pulling together in the same direction.

What often happens

In many organisations the three rowers pull against each other like this:

What should happen

What we want is for all three rowers to pull together like this:

The three rowers are closely related to each other

The diagram shows how the rowers are related:

  1. The relationship between staff and the organisation defines the Culture.
  2. The relationship between the staff and customers defines the Customer Service
  3. The relationship between the customer and the organisation defines the Brand.

Where the boat is going

In business, there are really only three places (Value Propositions) your boat can go:

  1. Customer Intimacy where we know the customers' business better than the customers know it (e.g. IBM in the 1960s)
  2. Product Leadership where we are constantly redefining the state of the art in product design and innovation (e.g. Apple), and
  3. Operational Excellence where we closely follow the system and processes to produce good quality at a reasonable price (e.g. Mc Donalds).

To be world-class all aspects of an organisation, including the Brand, Customer service, Culture and Leadership style, need to be aligned to the Value Proposition.

How they row is very different depending on where the boat is going

The way the rowers row is very different depending on which Value Proposition they choose to aim for. For example, if the boat is aiming for Product Leadership, the Culture, Customer service and Brand all need to be entrepreneurial, individual and exciting; however, if the boat is heading towards Operational Excellence, the Culture, Customer Service and Brand all need to be more structured, disciplined and measured.


Successful organisations set their direction (strategy) and align all parts of the organisation to achieve it. Actually, it is a bit more complex that I suggest above, because there are 10 rowers rather than 3; however the principle of aligning all of them is the same and my simplification makes it easier to understand.

Another way of looking at it

Alignment is like the focussed beam of light generated by a laser. Ordinarily, incoherent light consists of waves of many frequencies, in all phases, and moving in all directions. Light waves in a laser beam are coherent, organised in the same frequency in phase, and travelling in the same direction. This gives the laser the power to cut through even very dense materials.'''

You have the same power available to you through Alignment.

Our Product

Our product is based on the foundation that there is no such thing as a universally 'best' setting for these aspects. The best settings will be VERY different depending on which Value Proposition is chosen. These differences are shown in the Chart below.

Settings For Customer Intimacy

The settings for Customer Intimacy have a shape of 2243 as shown in Chart 2:

Chart 2

The generalised shape of 2243 relates to a setting of 2 for quadrant A, 2 for quadrant B, 4 for quadrant C and 3 for quadrant D. Quadrants A, B, C, and D are references to Herrmann's Thinking Preference quadrants as shown in Chart 3 below.

In other words, Customer Intimacy needs to be world class in the C quadrant (relationships), very good at D (creatively solving the client's problems) and at least competitive in A (analysis) and B (systems).

Product Leadership

The settings for Product Leadership are a quite different shape than those for Customer Intimacy.

Settings For Operational Excellence

The settings for Operational Excellence are different again.

Read a living Case Study on Alignment.

The benefits of the process

  1. Total clarity by all people in the organisation about what matters
  2. Customers receive service which is consistent with the chosen Value Proposition
  3. Customers and other external parties have a clear and self reenforcing image of the organisation, its brand and what stands for
  4. Each part of the organisation reinforces the other parts with no parts fighting against or rejecting other parts of the organisation
  5. Less Waste, Better quality, More profit.

Probable outcomes of Alignment

  1. Customers become far more loyal because they understand exactly what the organisation stands for and can see this being put in place
  2. All parts of the organisation work to the same agenda and reinforce the value proposition
  3. Far less confusion and more focus on what really matters
  4. All people (Tops, Middles, and Bottoms) contribute more effectively to the organisation's goals
  5. Communication and decision-making is significantly faster
  6. People are happier and more fulfilled because they are doing useful work
  7. All staff have a greater commitment to the organisation and its goals.

In a word ...The whole organisation becomes as sharp and focussed as a laser.


This product is supported by Bruce Holland who is a specialist in business strategy Wellington, nationally and internationally. He specialises in public sector strategy and other large private sector organisations.

Key words: strategy, strategies, business strategy, business strategies, strategy management, strategic management, strategy development, implementation.

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