One of the most common reasons for business failure is lack of team alignment. Leader-Managers can set out brilliant strategic objectives. But without clear direction on how these translate into aligned individuals’ objectives and activities, success can remain elusive.
Strategic alignment continues to be a hot management topic in many executive offices. Its definition is hardly a point of contention: Getting all the organization to focus on the right results and activities that drive strategy.
Alignment is the synergy that’s achieved when strategy, goals, and activities work as an integrated system, reinforcing one another top-down and across the organization. That is why alignment sits at the core of organizational effectiveness: Getting the right things done.
Teams in different functions tend to have their own worldview, different processes on what to prioritize and how to allocate resources. Getting each team to work together around a unified purpose and a shared vision can be challenging.
As one of our customers found:“I thought my team was perfectly aligned until I asked five of them what our top priorities are. I got five different answers.”
The Cost of Misalignment
According to Forbes, 65% of organizations have an agreed-upon strategy, but only 14% of their employees understand it. Even worse, less than 10% of all organizations see it implemented.
Another Gallup research found that employees whose managers involve them in goal alignment are four times more likely to be engaged than other employees. Yet, this basic expectation only occurs for 30% of employees. The result is poor management, loss of productivity and a disengaged workforce that have resulted in losses of between $960 billion and $1.2 trillion per year.
An Unfinished Puzzle
John just joined a large consulting firm in Vancouver, BC as their National Business Development Leader. At the beginning of his tenure, he set out a strategy to increase sales on the eastern seaboard, as he saw a tactical time-sensitive opportunity. But John failed to break this down into targets for each of his regional sales team members. He missed getting their buy-in on why this is important. The team did not feel part of the goal of their new leader.
Weeks go by, and John finds out that four members of his team are following up with the same leads. Two are sourcing new furniture for the lobby (to impress the new clients), and one is sprucing up his résumé. Each team member represents an important piece of the puzzle to achieve the goal. But as a Leader-Manager, John failed in seeing how vital it was to fit all of them together.
A Rally to Win the Hearts and Minds
At a high level, alignment starts with defining what matters most to the organization: where it wants to be, how it wants to be perceived, what it wants to achieve and how to get there. It’s a combination of vision and strategy.
That’s all good. But without boots and tools on the ground, visions are no more than dreams. That’s why securing buy-in among everyone in the organization becomes essential. It’s a shared commitment that resources (people, time and capital) should be dedicated to reinforce that very same vision. It’s a rally to win the hearts and minds of everyone. It’s also a commitment to hold them accountable for bringing that vision life, and it’s easy to do.
It Takes Courage
Great leaders are good at securing consensus. They also have courage to reject the status quo. They don’t hesitate in calling out what’s holding back progress.
I made alignment my #1 goal for the Navy because, in my business, second place is a terminal disease.
So, when management teams are in constant disagreement about priorities, it’s easy to see that as an indication of a misaligned organization. If the team isn’t in disagreement, does that mean they are in perfect harmony? Or, are they simply avoiding conflict?
When he took over as the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Vern Clark once said: “I made alignment my #1 goal for the Navy because, in my business, second place is a terminal disease.”
An effective Leader-Manager is like an admiral. They keep their eyes on their fleet, and have the courage to call out time-wasting activities, and hold those accountable for steering off course.
Setting clear direction and aligned priorities is empowering to teams. It gives them the confidence to say “no” to activities that they know are not aligned to their roles. It gives them the freedom to take initiative on what to do next.
For Leader-Managers, getting commitment becomes easier. They can trust their teams to move in the right direction, delivering faster results. They also feel empowered, spending less time on debating decisions and priorities and more on getting the right things done.
Technology as a Catalyst for Continuity
Alignment optimization often fails not for a lack of will or vision. It’s often due to a lack of knowledge on how to secure lasting adoption over time. Without a framework and a team optimization platform that instills a culture of alignment, continuity stalls.
Having a team management system to optimize team performance and alignment in place makes it easy for everyone to adopt an alignment mindset. Technology makes it part of everyone’s workday routine, a disciplined habit until it transforms the culture, making alignment part of the organization’s DNA.
When living in a culture of alignment, organizations get better and faster results. Everyone feels empowered and engaged, maximizing the organization’s return on the human capital investment.
As Patrick Lencioni, author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” described it, “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”