Do all the pieces of the puzzle fit together?
Business alignment implies that all parts of an organization are integrated and functioning in a highly coordinated manner in support of its business strategy.
A highly aligned business is effective (focused on the right things) and efficient (no waste). They are highly productive and successful.
The organization’s structure, processes, systems, programs, and initiatives all support and align with the company’s strategy.
It’s helpful to consider alignment from two points of view.
- Vertical alignment—From the top of the organization to the bottom, all employees are on the same page. They fully understand and support the company’s mission, vision, values, and strategy.
- Horizontal alignment—Across the organization, all functions, departments, and teams work together towards a set of common goals. They’re a high level of cross-functional collaboration and cooperation.
High performing businesses, athletic teams, pit crews, and marching bands are highly aligned, which produces clarity, focus, and energy.
In 1995 and 2000, Sir Peter Blake led Team New Zealand to victories in the America’s Cup yacht competition. Blake created an aligned team by focusing on one question, which they asked about everything they did: “Will it make the boat go faster?”
Misalignment creates chaos, confusion, and wasted time, energy, and resources. Some of the common causes of misalignment include:
- There is a lack of shared organizational goals. Department managers are focused on their own agenda as opposed to the strategic goals of the business.
- Some managers and employees don’t embrace the company’s vision or values.
- Various programs and initiatives don’t fully align with the company’s strategy.
- Outdated policies, procedures, reports, and meetings no longer add value.
- The reward and recognition programs aren’t aligned with the company’s strategy.
Misalignment creates inefficiencies and produces less than optimal performance.
A common problem occurs when managers focus on their own agenda rather than improving the overall performance of the organization.
Who owns alignment?
The senior leadership team is responsible for creating and implementing a business strategy that will help the company win in the marketplace. In addition, they are responsible for making sure all the departments, processes, and parts of the company fit together in a coherent, logical way.
Business alignment doesn’t magically happen. It is an ongoing process that requires attention and action to correct misalignments.
At every staff meeting, “alignment” needs to be a topic on the agenda. The senior leadership team need to discuss questions like these:
- Does the proposed change in strategy align with our mission and vision?
- Is our organizational structure appropriate to execute the company’s strategy?
- Do our day-to-day behaviors align with our values?
- Does the proposed initiative support our business strategy?
- Do we have the required resources needed to implement this change?
However, no matter how much time and effort you put into creating an aligned organization, misalignments do occur. Quickly taking steps to correct misaligned initiatives, policies, and behaviors go a long way to helping people understand what’s important and valued.
The senior leadership team is responsible for creating alignment and fixing misalignments.
When all the parts and pieces are aligned and working together, you have a strong, focused, and winning organization.