Align - Ideas for Leaders


A Leadership Blueprint for Aligning Enterprise Purpose, Strategy and Organisation

About Author/s:

Jonathan Trevor is a Professor of Management Practice at Oxford University's Saïd Business School. A noted management researcher, adviser, speaker and teacher on the subjects of Strategy and Organisation Alignment, he consults extensively to executive leadership teams internationally applying his research insights. Jonathan’s thought leadership is published in leading journals, including Developing Leaders, Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review. His research is also regularly featured in FT, BBC, WSJ, CNN and Forbes.


Trevor opens with a case study of a large business, which had grown quickly led by a charismatic CEO. The CEO was beloved by employees but feared by his senior team. He had always had all the answers but the size and complexity of the business prevented him from being able to oversee it all now, and now wanted his senior team to run the operations and discover new solutions. As each division was run as a standalone entity (and competed for glory between each other at Board meetings) this collaborative approach, that might leverage economies-of-scale was not in their mindset. The case study is not fictional, though is anonymised – and is certainly far from unusual.

Core Idea

In a leadership world that is increasingly focused on the idea that leaders need to be focused on the people (a view Ideas for Leaders is generally in strong support of), Trevor throws a rock in the pond, and causes some necessary ripples (dissenting voices is something leaders need to listen out for). He posits that Enterprise Leaders, those at the very top of organisations, are different to personal leaders, and rather than mobilising people need to mobilise resources. They need to understand the many interconnecting parts of the organisation and make them work optimally together. Enterprise leaders need to envision what the strategic alignment looks like; design the links in the enterprise's value chain to be 'highly complementary and supportive to the firm's long-term purpose'; and diagnose continually the strength of the alignment, particularly between its purpose and capabilities.

The Enterprise Leaders need to start by asking five fundamental questions:

  • what do we do and why we do it? – to understand the enterprise's purpose
  • what are we trying to win at to fulfil our purpose? – to understand its business strategy
  • what do we need to be good at to win? – to understand its organisational capability
  • what makes us good enough to win? – to design its optimal organisational architecture
  • what delivers the performance we need to win?  – to identify the optimal management systems

While the core purpose may not change much, the strategies and structure to achieve that purpose may well be constantly evolving, and it is Enterprise Leaders role to ensure it is aligned. He provides the Strategic Alignment Framework (SAF) as a conceptual 'golden thread' that weaves its way through all the links of the alignment. The SAF has two axes, one of stability-agility and the other autonomy-connectivity, and where the firm lies on that graphic will classify what type of business it is. The four extremes being portfolio integrator, network exploiter, enterprising responder and efficiency maximiser.


Trevor sets two fundamental questions for the Enterprise Leaders in search of how aligned is your organisation:

  • How well does your business strategy support the fulfilment of your enterprise's purpose?
  • Howwell does your organisational capability support the implementatin of your business strategy?

The answer to these two questions are then plotted on a 2×2, with the firm's fortunes falling into one of four categories from the crisis-facing, 'not long for this world' through 'best of intentions but incapable' and 'boldly going nowhere' to the ideal 'very best chance of winning'.

The book explores all these different concepts in depth, offering case studies, insights and techniques to handle particular issues arising from different scenarios. Trevor is a self-confessed 'contingency theorist', believing that the silver bullet, best practice approaches of the Universalists (which he depicts as the current preferred stance of management academics) does not translate to the real world of practice (that he is a professor of). "There is no one-size-fits-all approach to management that suits all situations. For us, the best management practice is the one that is 'best fit' – or aligns – to the unique context of the enterprise concerned" he asserts.


  • Title: Align: A Leadership Blueprint for Aligning Enterprise Purpose, Strategy and Organisation

    Author/s Name/s: Jonathan Trevor

    Publisher: Bloomsbury Business

    ISBN: 978-1-472-95939-3

    Publishing Date: November, 2019

    Number of Pages: 234

Author Knowledge Rating: 1-5 (based on their years of experience, academic expertise in subject areas, and exposure to cross-functional thinking in the area)

Readability: 1-5 score(1=dense and v academic; 5=frantic; page turner)

Appropriate Length: (1=could have been written in 25% of the length;5=could have been longer)

Core Idea Value: (1=nonsense (or entirely esoteric); 5=game-changer)