That’s a critical question. It’s also the title of a book I wrote several years ago.
Here is my big idea.
To make your organization aligned, the senior leadership team needs to do three things:
- Work as a team.
- Create and implement a winning strategy.
- Align the green boxes so they support the strategy.
If you do those three things, you will create a high-performing, successful and aligned organization.
Studies have found that highly aligned companies are
- More profitable.
- Customers are more loyal.
- Employees are more engaged.
Everything you want! In addition, highly aligned teams and organizations create energy, excitement and fun.
Urban Meyer is a highly successful college football coach. He said that he was involved with 24 teams during his career, but only five were highly aligned. Nineteen were not.
Some common misalignments include:
- The strategy isn’t producing the products and services that customers need and value.
- The structure is complicated and confusing. Roles and highly aren’t clear.
- The systems don’t provide people with the correct information and resources to do their job.
- The shared values aren’t shared; senior leaders say one thing but do something else.
- The staff includes some people who are in the wrong positions. Others lack the required knowledge, skills or motivation.
What are some of the biggest misalignments in your organization?
The role of senior leaders
Senior leaders must ensure all the organization’s parts and pieces work together systematically and in coordination.
They must ensure the organization is aligned both vertically and horizontally.
- Vertical alignment: All employees from the top of the organization to the bottom understand and support the company’s mission, vision, values and strategy.
- Horizontal alignment: All the processes and teams work together in a highly integrated and coordinated way.
Actions to create alignment
Here are three actions you can take.
1. Ask one question
Sir Peter Blake won the America’s Cup yacht race in 1995 and 2000. He and his team had five years to prepare for each race. During that time, people would present Peter with various suggestions and proposals. He consistently responded to all ideas with one question: Will it make the boat go faster? That one question kept everyone focused on the strategic goal of winning the race.
Create a question you can ask to keep your team aligned and focused on the most critical priority.
2. Discuss values
One of my students worked at a restaurant that had these five values:
- Respect each individual.
- Commit to excellence in all areas of service.
- Practice continuous improvement.
- Have fun.
- Be safe.
Each night, the shift supervisor would have a five-minute meeting with the staff to discuss one of the values. The group would discuss questions such as: How will you show respect to your customers tonight? What does disrespect look like?
The shift supervisor made the values real and identified concrete behaviors that supported each value.
When all employees buy into a set of core values, it creates a strong culture.
How will you discuss the company’s core values with your team?
3. Identify and correct misalignments
Achieving alignment up, down and across the organization is never-ending. It requires ongoing assessment of how well the parts work together, identifying misalignments and taking corrective action when needed.
At every staff meeting, “alignment” should be a topic on the agenda. Give people a chance to identify misalignments and recommend corrective action.
Discuss questions like these:
- Do all programs and initiatives support the strategy?
- Do we have the right people in the correct positions?
- Do our actions and behaviors align with the company values?
- Are employees receiving the correct information at the right time?
- Do all employees have the required skills?
How often do you discuss alignment at your staff meetings?
The benefits of alignment
- Efficient use of all resources.
- Greater clarity about the company’s goals and priorities.
- Improved collaboration and teamwork.
- Faster decision-making.
- Increased motivation and cohesiveness.
- Higher morale and engagement.
What would you add to my list?
The more aligned your organization is, the more effective and efficient it will be. Make alignment a priority!
Paul Thornton conducts seminars and workshops on alignment, leadership and implementing change. He is the author of several books on leadership, including “Leadership Styles,” “The Leadership Process,” “Performance Management” and “Is Your Organization Aligned?” Special offer: Thornton is giving away 20 free copies of his book “Is Your Organization Aligned?” Contact him at [email protected].
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