Internal vs. external consistency in strategy: Achieving internal and external strategic alignment

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What is internal strategic consistency?

Internal consistency is how aligned the internal resources within an organization are. Having all of the internal resources aligned with one another allows the different parts to reinforce each other. Each part of the firm is pulling in the same direction – the sales team is, for example, aligned and emphasizing the same components of the design, development, and manufacturing parts of the company.

What is external strategic consistency?

External consistency relates to how well aligned the company is with the external environment. For example, is the firm meeting the needs of customers and competitive with competitors’ offerings. Lack of external consistency is illustrated when the market either demands different features and services than the company is offering, or does not value other features that the company has in its products. 

The importance of both internal and external consistency

When considering internal and external consistency it is not one or the other – rather it is important that organizations are both internally consistent, and also are consistent (i.e., aligned) with the external environment. Firms that lack internal consistency are pulled in multiple directions, without a focus to achieve an overarching strategy. Firms that lack external consistency on the other hand have a product that doesn’t satisfy market demands.