It’s true for all enterprises, from the “mom and pop” corner store to the global corporation. Alignment at an organizational, team and interpersonal level is necessary to achieve results. Conversely, inadequate alignment on the things that matter will break even the most powerful company.
Alignment is a coordination of effort in an agreed-upon direction. What are the keys to getting and keeping successful alignment?
Align when you need to. Know where you’re going, what you’re trying to achieve and the best practices that are strategically essential. Be nimble and realize that these foundations may need to change, but those adjustments must be widely broadcast to all stakeholders.
Don’t align on everything. Don’t expect that everyone will do things the same way, at the same time or with the same approach. Allow creativity and ingenuity in how things get done, as long as the essentials (see point above) are unwavering.
Realize that alignment has a shelf life. Abe and Barb are working on a project. They agree on a definition of success and what each party will do by when. Six months later, Abe checks in to find that Barb hasn’t done her part. Conflicting priorities, faulty memories or shifting realities can impact alignment. Touch base with the other party frequently and adjust agreements as necessary.
Ensure mutual understanding around the core. Your vision, goals and best practices should be not only communicated widely, but understood the same way by everyone. To ensure mutual understanding, ask a few people from diverse parts of the organization to restate these core principles to you. If they can’t, or if they’re fuzzy, redouble your efforts to clearly communicate. It’s essential to keep working on this until you get it right.
Ensure mutual understanding around the details. The same principle applies to interpersonal agreements. Sales manager Terrence agrees to call on Customer Q while sales manager Shawnee is on leave. When Shawnee returns, she is surprised to find that Terrence now “owns” Customer Q and is receiving a bonus based on those sales. Clear, unmistakable alignment is essential up front to prevent time-consuming, messy problems later.
Document and review. Nothing speaks like a paper trail, or, better yet, an electronic trail. For the foundational pieces, such as vision and goals, make them a part of the fabric of the organization. Put them on the website, make posters for all offices, review them at meetings or create work groups to monitor progress and suggest changes. For team or interpersonal alignment, work together on how best to document and regularly review agreements.
Alignment is necessary because, in words from one of the most lucrative movies of recent times, “we’re all in this together.” “Get your head in the game,” so you can get and keep alignment around the factors that drive success.
(The references are to High School Musical for those of you without a person between the ages of 6 and 25 in your household.)
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