If you ask leaders across the board what alignment means in their organization, most likely they’ll give you one of two definitions.
Either, our core values and mission are aligned with our goals” or “our people understand our values and are aligned with our vision.
Within these answers, no doubt a great deal of effort has been done. Your company probably has hosted many strategic planning sessions to identify your values and derive it’s goals. Many hiring interviews with potential candidates were held to screen those out who did not match your company values.
While those steps are a necessary foundation for alignment, they are just a starting point for true transformation. There are a great many more aspects to bring together the entire company that will build upon this foundation of values and people. Unfortunately, this is where many leaders end and thus fail to follow-through with the process.
Proper organizational alignment is to ensure that every aspect of your organization is congruent to your company mission. As a leader, you’ll need to recognize that challenge and fold it into your company’s culture.
How is every area aligned within your organization? Here are some ideas:
- Systems – Are the work processes and flowcharts tied into your mission? For example, if your company wants to give the best customer experience, is every customer interaction streamlined, or are they bogged down with layers of checks and balances that hinder this goal? Check each and every system constantly to ensure they work together as a well-oiled machine.
- Training & Development – This is an area that if not fully congruent, can derail the best strategic alignment plan. Do all the touch points of training – hiring, on-boarding, training, leadership development, continuing education – enable your company to fully achieve your goals? Are there areas where this is shortchanged? Will the full execution of your training plan realize your company mission?
- Policies – While necessary guidelines (or guardrails) for conduct, your company policies may impede the internal and external effectiveness of the organization. Do they take away from the customer experience? Slow down hiring processes? Communicate trust throughout your company? You may have to do some fact-finding to find the original germ of each policy and why they were instituted. Have a team scrutinize them to see their impact from many angles and ensure they support your mission instead of detracting from it.
- Communication – Does the flow of both personal and digital communication move freely throughout, promoting the vision? Or does need-to-know govern the talking points? Do you use BCC fields in emails that betray the trust you promote to foster? Does your company have town hall meetings? What is being communicated to your customers? If people feel like they have the needed information, they will more likely help communicate along the company lines. If not, they will fill in the gaps and spread as much misinformation as the leaders who did not communicate.
- Financial Systems – Alignment also transcends into your company’s financial stewardship as well. If training is a top value, does your training budget reflect this? Does your business model allow the core operations to drive profits without derailing your mission in pursuit of smaller, less profitable niches or strategies? If your company handles their financial matters ineffectively, the pressure will quickly mount to shortcut everything else to reign in the bottom line.
Remember this, cars run best when all four wheels are aligned. If even one is off slightly, it will create more problems than just uneven tire wear. Alignment, done holistically, will create a streamlined organization that will stand out above the rest.