The Alignment Challenge
Over two decades ago, Roger Harrison wrote an article entitled Leadership and Strategy for a New Age, published in a wonderful book called Transforming Work. He defines organizational alignment as something that occurs “when an organization’s members act as parts of an integrated whole, each finding the opportunity to express his or her true purpose through the organization’s purpose.” In today’s world of rapid change, alignment occurs when everyone wants to be involved in the real work of the organization and they want to go where the organization wants to go. Achieving that is no easy feat.
When we think about alignment throughout an organization, it needs to happen at 6 different levels:
- Interpersonal (between people)
- Team/Group/Department/Division (throughout functional groups)
- Cross Functional (between functional groups)
- Organizational (throughout the organization)
- Organizational Environment (between the organization & it’s customers etc.)
There are several essential questions that must be answered to determine if your organization is aligned or not. Here are five key ones for you to consider:
- Does your organization’s purpose (work you do and the values/principles that guide you) truly resonate and connect to each individual’s current purpose in life?
- Is your organization’s current strategic direction clear? Does it engage everyone sufficiently to inspire them to commit the energy required to make the journey and achieve the desired results?
- Does your organization have no more than a handful (4-6) specific strategic initiatives that will ensure the overall strategic direction is achieved?
- Do all the changes underway throughout your organization clearly align under each of the key strategic initiatives? There are no pet projects, old changes or even proposed changes that are pulling people away from the desired direction and outcomes.
- Are all of these four criteria (purpose, direction, strategic initiatives, changes) consistent across all of the six levels of your organization?
If you can answer affirmatively to all five key questions, your organization is aligned. When an organization is aligned, there is a palpable energy and enthusiasm readily apparent that everyone, even an outsider, can feel. There is a sense of conviction, commitment and potential that is very compelling. If yours is such an organization, congratulations, you have achieved something both tenuous and very special.
If you are not able to answer yes to all 5 questions, you have some work to do. Start with the purpose. Articulate the deeper purpose behind why your organization exists; the one that people really care about. Ensure that is clearly understood throughout all six levels. Then clarify the overall strategic direction, and ensure it is evident in the direction at all the levels. Aligning the strategic initiatives is next. The strategic initiatives for different departments likely vary to some degree, but they do all need to align with the broader organizational strategic initiatives. Aligning all the changes under each of the specific initiatives will take some work. Simply tracking down all the changes that are taking place can be quite an undertaking. However, trying to link all the changes taking place in an organization under each strategic initiatives is a very helpful exercise, even if it is just for one department that seems to be struggling.
Alignment in an organization occurs when the strategy and all the changes are connected at every level. Should you want to learn more about what it takes to sustain successful change in your organization, please check out our resources available in our Online Learning Centre.
Copyright 2017 Chris Edgelow, Sundance Consulting Inc.