Organizational Alignment Is The Key To Managing Change

by  Kelli Hinshaw  |  Change Management
Organizational Alignment Is The Key To Managing Change

There are two types of organizational change: Change that is mandated and change that is proactive.

The latter is easier and can be less emotional than the former. Yet, the lines often blur between the two. Frequently because proactive change launched by one group is perceived as mandated change by another.

Thus, both types take preparation and skillful execution if they are going to produce positive results.

Core to leading any significant change effort is organizational alignment. No amount of tactical change management training will substitute for having an entire organization that has a clear vision of goals, shared responsibility, and personal accountability to achieve results.

Organizational alignment enables significant change to occur due to a culture of personal accountability and the commitment everyone shares in achieving organizational goals and quality patient care. Strong organizational alignment commands buy-in: there is no option not to be on board with strategic initiatives.

8 Ways To Assess Organizational alignment

Here are eight core ways to assess the organizational alignment needed to enact significant change:

  1. Clear Vision – All employees have a clear vision on what operational goals should be their top focus. This vision is aligned with their performance expectations and well communicated by leaders. The information required for improving work process flows freely across organizational boundaries and formal reporting relationships.
  2. Clarity Of Success Metrics – The parameters for how success will be measured are clearly communicated and understood at the beginning of a project, and employees understand how they will be measured. At best practice organizations, these success metrics are included in individuals’ annual performance goals.
  3. Sense Of Urgency – There a sense of urgency around the need to complete projects and firm milestones are well communicated. All employees take consistent action toward completion – the sense of urgency implies its organizational importance.
  4. Firm Priorities – There are many improvement projects that require attention, yet senior leaders are personally involved in helping employees to prioritize which two or three strategic initiatives they should focus on at any given time. These priorities are in alignment across the organization.
  5. Clear Decision-Making Roles – Everyone in the organization has a good idea of the decisions and actions for which he/she is responsible and the changes they can make without approval.
  6. Decision Stickiness – Once made, decisions to make changes in work processes are rarely second-guessed or vetoed. Since opting out of decisions isn’t accommodated, individuals are focused on initiative implementation.
  7. Change Barriers Removed To Keep Momentum – When barriers arise that block progress, leaders are quickly made aware and actions are taken to ensure momentum is maintained.
  8. Empower Willing Change Leaders – The most successful change efforts include the early adopters and use internal, front-line change agents to sway the majority. Who are the willing? They are the few who raise their hand in support of any initiative – start with them.

Key to organizational alignment is the understanding of personal accountability and leadership responsibilities as well as styles of management that empower individuals to drive positive change.

There’s much more to come on this topic, and in anticipation I’ll leave you with a quote from New York Times bestselling author, leadership guru, and friend of Avantas, Cy Wakeman:

“The job of a leader is to conserve the energy about to be consumed in drama and redirect it toward efforts that have better ROI.”

To discuss your organization’s change management needs, please email me at kelli.hinshaw@avantas.com.

Editor’s Note: There will not be a Lead Change post on Friday, July 3.

Would you add a ninth factor to the methods for assessing organizational alignment?
Photo Credit: Fotolia Tsung-lin Wu

About The Author

Articles By kelli-hinshaw
As Director of Client Education, Kelli is responsible for the strategy and execution of change management and client education initiatives in pursuit of optimizing enterprise labor management for large healthcare systems. Kelli brings a varied background with more than 10 years in human resources including transformational change, training & leadership development, talent acquisition and performance management.

What People Are Saying

Page Cole  |  02 Jul 2015  |  Reply

Great quote!
“The job of a leader is to conserve the energy about to be consumed in drama and redirect it toward efforts that have better ROI.”

If leaders could grasp the concept that dealing with challenges proactively rather than reacting, it would totally transform their organizations.

Thanks for sharing!

Kelli Hinshaw  |  03 Jul 2015  |  Reply

Thank you for reading! I agree, and believe a first good step for a leader is to recognize when employees are heading for “drama” and challenge them to question their thinking/mindset.

John E. Smith  |  02 Jul 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Kelli – great post with a great deal of useful information, including that wonderful list of areas to assess for organizational alignment. In general, I am in complete agreement with the approach you outline and the areas you identify as critical.

I do have two questions:

“3. Sense of Urgency”l
This is indeed often lacking in organizations, where inertia and a tendency to just move through the day, combined with a focus on the minutia blunts any sense of getting it done.

However, I have also experienced a sense of urgency become a sense of impending doom, which tends to have a negative affect on morale, energy, and focus. How do you suggest making sure that the sense of urgency is not … shall we say, TOO urgent:)?

“6. Decision Stickiness”
BTW, I love this heading. Organizations should remain focused on the longer term goals and ends, not letting daily stuff (as noted above) get in the way or divert energy and focus.

Again, where do you identify when a healthy resolve to make your decisions sticky becomes an obsessive attachment, regardless of changing environments and situations?

All in all, this is a very strong debut post and I am already looking forward to your future contributions:)


Kelli Hinshaw  |  03 Jul 2015  |  Reply

Hi John,
Thank you for reading and your questions!

3. Sense of Urgency
I have a couple of thoughts. First, I think the important thing here in communicating urgency is to ensure leaders are communicating THE WHY behind the change. Part of the job of the leader is to capture the hearts and minds of their team with the vision, and not just communicating THE WHAT. Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle fits in nicely here. Second, leaders have a responsibility to recreate mindsets in their organization that any change defines the new circumstances in which we must all succeed. To be successful in the new world of business, we must coach our teams to greet change with a simple, “good to know” and focus on the next best action that will add value. ‘Simpler times’ are over, and change readiness is an essential core competency if you want to continue to be relevant to your organization. I agree that realistic, yet assertive, timelines should be kept in mind, there are some instances (safety, compliance, etc) we won’t always have that luxury.

6. Decision Stickiness
I think the key strategic question here is, “At what point is my decision no longer supporting the long-term vision of the organization?” If they’ve determined that it no longer serves it’s strategic intent, leaders must have the courage to quickly modify the direction. Easier said that done as we often feel the weight of sunk costs! However, I don’t feel all is lost here, great leaders can consolidate gains, learnings and progress made and focus on those wins as they shift organizational direction. I agree with your point about not letting those daily small decisions derail the overall objective, and that is what the ‘Decision Stickiness’ is intended to communicate.

Thanks for your comments, John!

Jesse  |  03 Jul 2015  |  Reply

Hi, I really like your post.
I think I would like to add a ninth factor, in the form of supporting the people involved and making sure they’re on track and happy. Just read a nice little post on this: http://kanbantool.com/blog/happy-teams-a-short-guide-to-change-management and this is what they’re advocating. If it’s the people who make up a company, we should put emphasis on ensuring they’re happy with what is going on in terms of changes, and that they’re coping well.
Thank you for a great article.

Kelli Hinshaw  |  03 Jul 2015  |  Reply

Hi Jesse,
Thank you for reading! I like the Kanban post, especially the points that it makes about ensuring you roll out a well-communicated change and keeping in mind the cultural trends as you make changes.

An area I have a different viewpoint on than the Kanban article is the point about happiness,
“All in all, for as long as the change managers keep the team happy and save them as much stress as they can, any amount of change can be implemented with success.”
My thoughts on this is that the job of a leader is to 1) communicate clear objectives and pursue clarity in goals and roles 2) teach employees that they are responsible for their own happiness and stop waiting for perfect, stress-free circumstances – They will never occur. Great leaders inspire their teams to succeed no matter their circumstances.

Studies have shown that happiness is directly correlated with the amount of personal accountability we take in our lives. We are responsible for our own happiness – we cannot wait on others to create that situation for us. To close the loop on ‘making employees happy,’ I think great leaders should focus on developing high levels of accountability in their teams, which correlate to overall happiness.

Thanks, Jesse – the happiness/personal accountability concept is a hot topic I am passionate about.


Paul LaRue  |  03 Jul 2015  |  Reply


Wonderful post!

Item #8 really resonates with my observations in organizational behavior. Unless someone, anyone, is truly willing, then change cannot occur. When a person, team, or organization has the willingness to make the necessary changes, then proper alignment can occur.

Welcome to the group, and we all look forward to hearing more from you!

– Paul

Kelli Hinshaw  |  03 Jul 2015  |  Reply

Hi Paul,

Thank you for reading and your warm welcome!


John E. Smith  |  03 Jul 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Kelli – thanks for responding:)

Enjoyed your clarifications and amplifications immensely.

My personal favorite line: “To be successful in the new world of business, we must coach our teams to greet change with a simple, “good to know” and focus on the next best action that will add value.” To me, this is a great way to perceive our role as coaches and as leaders through continual change.


Kelli Hinshaw  |  04 Jul 2015  |  Reply

Thank you for your comments and interest in this topic! I resource I’ve found helpful in my career in dealing with change is http://www.realitybasedleadership.com. I’ve worked with the founder, Cy Wakeman, on various projects since 2005. She has several free tools and two best-selling books on this topic.

Jesse  |  23 Jul 2015  |  Reply

@Kelli – thank you for the reply.
You have a point.. we cannot expect the managers to actually prepare a stress-free environment for the team. There is much truth in the fact that self-responsibility and accountability reflect on general happiness, at least this would agree with what I observed. Thanks for making me think about this.
Maybe the best thing to do then is to leave as much autonomy to the teams as possible, this way they not only plan their own work for themselves (so no excuses when things get too hard) but also they then are the only people responsible for the actual stress levels?
I might do some testing on this myself :)

Thanks again!

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