Unity of purpose, demonstrated by unity of action. That's alignment.
Imagine your local symphony orchestra performing Beethoven's famed 9th Symphony...but the strings are not in tune with the brass. Meanwhile, the flutes, clarinets and oboes are actually performing Beethoven's 5th Symphony, and the conductor hasn't even arrived. This is an organization that's out of alignment.
Or take your automobile. You notice it's beginning to pull to the left and you're constantly having to adjust by steering to the right. The front end is out of alignment. This is affecting performance and fuel mileage, and it can be costly.
From time to time, every organization begins to lose its alignment. Given normal wear-and-tear, a pothole or two, or maybe a new conductor, the effort to maintain alignment can be an ongoing challenge. Unfortunately, alignment doesn't happen by accident. It requires purposeful, deliberate action, and leaders who understand "how the parts fit". It also requires ongoing monitoring to ensure that the vision, mission, strategy and daily behavior remain in harmony. In essence, it requires a strategic approach. Without proper alignment, our orchestra is out of tune and gives the audience a good reason to take their business elsewhere.
But organizational fatigue isn't the only cause of misalignment.
The way the components of the continuum (vision, mission, strategy and daily behavior) are created and managed leads to a set of dilemmas, as follows:
Organization A: The components are assigned to separate teams, each responsible for optimizing their component. The teams go their separate ways, working in silos to devise the perfect solution. This makes good sense, using division of labor to place the most talented and knowledgeable people where they're needed most. But when the teams re-convene to aggregate their solutions, a problem arises. The separately-optimized components no longer fit together properly. Since, for example, the visionaries and strategy experts often have no idea what it's like to sell, deliver or service a product, they do not account for operational concerns that are common knowledge to those departments.
Maybe there's a better way.....
Organization B: The continuum is created and managed from end-to-end by an integrated team of experts from each component department. This approach eliminates the re-integration dilemma faced by Organization A. Now every section, every discussion is integrated from start to finish. A logical solution, but this approach also creates a dilemma. Now the process is constrained by the limited thinking of a single, fixed group of people who own the entire process. The integrated team of experts, no matter how intelligent they are, will restrict the range of inputs and ideas. This hinders creative problem-solving and severely limits the range of alternative solutions which will be considered. As Groupthink sets in, this may be a recipe for disaster.
Both dilemmas are resolvable, but there's no magical formula that's guaranteed to always succeed. Few organizations are really good at sustaining the process of developing and examining fresh approaches over an extended period of time.
Quite often, all that's needed is the insertion of a fresh set of independent eyes to help reset the perspective and focus of the organization.
This new perspective can be achieved by performing some or all of the following:
- Comprehensive assessment of each component of the continuum - Examination of the pros/cons of both the silo and the integrated approaches - Rigorous systemic analysis of the gaps and inconsistencies in the continuum - A structured approach to re-alignment
Jewell Consulting Group Washington, DC, USA 202-248-8208