The key strategic imperative of any business is alignment.
Alignment has long been the greatest challenge of leadership. The importance of alignment in business, along with its effect on performance, has only increased over time. Today, to come close to competing and succeeding in the chaotic and rapidly shifting business environment, leaders must create aligned teams and organizations.
For extraordinary companies — those that consistently compete and win in the marketplace — the overriding characteristic that is invariably present and separates them from their competition is alignment. And, because it is so important, the challenge is all the more difficult.
Most leaders, teams, and companies struggle with alignment because they lack an effective and easy-to-apply framework and approach. As a result, they tackle individual aspects of business — such as vision, strategy, processes and systems, and culture — without aligning them.
The Dangers of Misalignment
Most of us are all too familiar with the consequences of misalignment. We get caught up in the conflicts and blame games that result when everyone is not working toward the same outcome. Time and energy is wasted trying to overcome misalignments, which can disrupt and destroy teamwork and eventually bring down entire companies.
The consequences of misalignment are grave. Among others, they include:
- A lack of focus on results that support the vision and strategy of the team and organization, resulting in poor performance.
- A lack of a shared and consistent approach to serving the customer, which damages the company’s reputation and brand and creates customer distrust.
- A lack of the ability to leverage and fully utilize team members’ individual talents and strengths, which decreases motivation and reduces their desire to contribute.
- A lack of clear expectations resulting in unmet performance requirements, poor accountability, distrust, and potentially divisive conflict.
Misalignment is costly.
Typically, misalignment results in a negative financial impact, which can be obvious or often hidden.
Among the hidden costs are:
- unmet goals and objectives
- missed opportunities
- missed sales
- unmet promises to the customer, and
- a myriad other failures that result from dysfunction within a group, team, or company.
One way or another, misalignment results in a failure, or a lack, of execution, which has a negative financial impact on a business.
All too often, leaders find themselves searching for answers to these problems without realizing that misalignment is at the root of them. They instead rely on hit-and-miss approaches and fixes, as well as temporary measures that provide only short-term solutions.
Great leaders and team members actively seek out and confront misalignments.
Aligning a business, company, or team requires a clear and constant focus, continuous effort, and all the skills necessary to be a great leader today and tomorrow.
Leaders need a systemic framework for understanding, assessing, and creating alignment. They and their teams and organizations require an approach that cuts through the complexity and eliminates the noise from multiple priorities, numerous initiatives, and the confusion of choices and options; an approach that provides a clear and simple roadmap to success.
The Business Code
The Business Code, discussed in depth in my book True Alignment, is a framework for alignment that can be applied to any organization or team, regardless of its size. It shows leaders and their companies how to confront and overcome the challenges of misalignment. The code also provides the tools needed to create strategies and initiatives and take actions that result in the alignment required to compete and achieve high levels of performance.
The outcomes of applying this framework include:
- Alignment that clearly defines the trusted relationship of the business to the customer, the customer’s expectation, and what the brand
- Alignment of leadership that is responsible for role modeling, reinforcing, and leading an aligned culture and is committed to the reputation
and success of the business; leaders who hold themselves and other leaders responsible for their personal alignment to the organization,
as well as its vision, and its culture.
- Alignment of goals and strategies across and down through organizations and teams, large and small, demonstrated by the contribution each group and team member makes to the organization’s vision and strategies.
- Alignment of each individual to the values, beliefs, and expectations of the culture; each member knows how success is created at individual, group, and company-wide levels.
- Alignment that results in every person being responsible and acting in alignment with the business’s intention, as conveyed through each member’s commitment to the customer.
- Alignment that contributes to the resilience that great companies and teams demonstrate when confronted with difficult issues and challenges and keeps them from going off course or losing sight of their mission, vision, and intended outcomes.
- Alignment that is demonstrated through every decision and action taken by every member of the organization or team, how they fit into its culture, and what the company and team have promised to deliver to the customer.
The Business Code starts simply, letting us discover the richness of how business fulfills our needs. It allows us to connect the needs of the customer to our brand’s intention as delivered through the products or services provided. Next, it connects the ways in which we lead and operate our businesses and shows how they can be aligned to become more effective and efficient.
Edgar Papke is the co-author of Innovation By Design and author of True Alignment and The Elephant In The Boardroom. He helps leaders and their organizations align to create greater levels of innovation, performance, and fulfillment. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org