The Power of Alignment
Something that I’m always focused on in one way or another is alignment within organisations, or in many cases, the lack thereof.
I believe that this is the underlying cause for so many complaints from managers and employees. Think about what you may hear around the water cooler such as to how various teams are preventing them from doing their work, that senior management don’t get what really needs to happen and that cross-functional teams are anything but functional!
Think of an iceberg and how much of it is beneath the water. A hairline crack barely visible on the surface is probably a gaping chasm below the water line. All it takes is a little pressure for it to break apart.
Apply this to a leadership team and you’ll understand how even subtle misalignment or gaps at the top could cause chaos among the rest of the organisation.
“By failing to eliminate even those small gaps (in alignment), they are leaving employees below them to fight bloody, unwinnable battles with their peers in other departments.”
Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage
When there is enough clarity and alignment at the top on the key issues and that is communicated well to the whole organisation then it makes all the difference in the world.
So what are the key things that require such clarity and alignment?
- The number one organisational priority over the next 3-12 months
- The key activities required to achieve that one priority
- The ‘business as usual’ objectives (which mustn’t clash with the top priority in terms of direction)
- Who is responsible for what
Gaining alignment on the top three is something that I think a lot of organisations think they do, yet don’t to the extent that it eliminates or at least massively reduces silos and negative politics.
Something that really helps in this process is when people throughout the organisation understand that it’s only by helping others to be more effective, can they themselves get into flow. You see in addition to the leadership team being aligned on these four points above, there also needs to be alignment between the talent in the organisation, responsibilities and accountabilities and the company’s objectives.
When this happens too, then you eliminate wasted time and other resources and get to leverage the value offered at individual, team, departmental and organisational levels effectively. This itself leads to further alignment between the systems and processes, people and the organisational objectives.
Not only does all this result in incredible (yet sustainable) increases in turnover and profit, it leads to a workforce that is more motivated and engaged. Why wouldn’t they be? They get to use their strengths to work on priorities and objectives that they and their peers are clear on and are all working towards.
How can you increase alignment?
So the next time you see something not functioning in or between teams, or hear somebody moaning ask yourself, what is not in alignment here? What can I and/or they do to help this? How can I add more value to the organisation in my HR capacity by helping to increase the alignment in my team and the teams that I work with?