It is easy for any team or company to become strategically misaligned. As in the case of G. Hensler, misalignment usually results from a combination of factors. The lure of revenue to support growth and expansion is a powerful force.
The idea becomes bigger is better.
Frequently, misalignment is the result of a single team member or small group that influences a team or company to go in a new direction.
Sometimes very successful companies develop such confidence that its leaders believe they can diversify company product or service strategy to pursue additional markets. Short-term results, while energizing and encouraging, can often mask the realities of longer-term outcomes and consequences. Sometimes, it’s simply the leader’s desire to be more aggressive or competitive, or simply to try something new.
You may note that all of these potential sources of misalignment are the result of human motivation and interaction. It’s all about who we are, what we want to achieve, and the natural desire to participate and contribute.
Alignment is not an easy undertaking.
The term “alignment” isn’t typically used in the business curriculum of colleges and universities, and it doesn’t typically show up in executive and leadership development programs. As a result, it is rarely an articulated outcome or goal used for visioning and strategic planning. Nevertheless, it is one of the most important outcomes.
For most leaders and team members, alignment is not part of their ongoing conversation; this is likely one of the key contributors to their misalignment.
A lack of alignment, and all the challenges and issues it presents, usually becomes part of the dialogue when leaders and members of their companies and teams are forced into it. It’s typically not talked about until it can’t be ignored. Then, it’s a rude awakening.
It often seems sudden, yet we know things don’t ever happen overnight. Still, if you ask members of the team or employees in different parts of the company, they are likely to say that they’ve been dealing with the lack of alignment for some time. They’ve been observing or taking part in the conflict, struggles, and skirmishes caused by it and wondering what it will all lead to. Like a tsunami caused by an undersea earthquake, the plates of the earth’s surface have been slowly shifting for quite some time.
Preceding the tidal wave were tremors that, if someone had been paying attention to them, provided signs of what was to come. We often look past or ignore the signals of misalignment until its waves are upon us.
There are other reasons that companies and teams don’t pay enough attention to alignment.
Here is a short list:
- Everyone is too busy to stop and talk about it.
- Although it’s been communicated, we can’t expect that everyone is going to hear it or be in on the communication.
- Everyone is hard at work on individual goals and objectives and can’t always take the time to communicate to make sure everyone is on the same page.
- We have a lot of other priorities.
- People don’t always agree with what is being done or how it is getting done, so misalignments are to be expected.
- Not everyone agrees on the outcomes.
- No one, not even the leaders, is willing to truthfully talk about the conflicts.
- It’s someone else’s responsibility.
- Not everyone is clear on the vision and strategy.
Unfortunately, one aspect misalignment can never be overlooked.
When it is happening, customers sense it. They can feel the misalignment.
When a company is aligned, customers emotionally experience the satisfaction of being treated in a way that reflects their expectations of getting what they’re paying for. Whether doing business with consumers or in a business-to-business situation, customers know when people act in a manner consistent with, and contributing to, the brand intention and customer satisfaction.
The goal and outcome of alignment is for everyone to act in a manner consistent with the intention delivered through its products or services. Leaders must clearly articulate the intention and communicate it throughout the organization to every person in every corner and in every role. It doesn’t stop there.
Alignment is more challenging than just a matter of communication. In a larger context in a bigger company setting, it requires all the leaders of the organization to lead and manage alignment effectively. This includes ensuring that all goals and outcomes at the organizational, unit, group, team, and individual levels are clearly articulated and contribute in an aligned fashion.
When alignment is present, the day-to-day tasks and actions that people undertake are united and aligned with customer expectations and the longer term objectives and outcomes of the business. They are aligned to the brand intention, mission, or purpose of the business and its shared vision.
It is imperative for any company or team to keep a strategic focus on alignment. And while you may not have started with it in mind, you can always come back to it. Much like Lisa Rissetto and her team at G. Hensler, refocusing on alignment will ultimately reap the benefits of business success and keep your company or team on the right track.
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