4 Qualities of Aligned Organizations
“The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths, making a system’s weaknesses irrelevant.” – Peter Drucker
Imagine a company where everyone – from the CEO to the newest intern – shows up knowing EXACTLY what they need to do every single day, even on those days where plans fail and crises happen. A place where everyone pitches in and covers one another even when someone messes up in the other departments and, there is no blame, no infighting but, rather a healthy and constant agreement around how decisions are made, resources are allocated and priorities are established.
That has a name. It is called Alignment.
Aligned organizations can be truly amazing places to work. There are four characteristics that mark an aligned organization.
1. They Create a Shared Agenda
The first thing that leadership teams in aligned organizations take the time to create alignment around is a shared agenda both within their team and with the rest of the organization.
Notice the word, “create.” We don’t just “get” alignment. We create alignment. There is a huge difference. A shared agenda is created together and waved like a rallying cry. In an aligned organization, everyone understands the agenda and can articulate it in their own words, making it come alive rather than simply sit framed on a wall.
The act of creating a shared agenda, by definition, eliminates personal or hidden agendas. It is the fastest way to pull everyone onto the same page and creates a mechanism to hold the group accountable to it. Sometimes, a shared agenda need only be a set of guiding principles or a list of problems the team is united in solving. Sometimes it is alignment around a future state business strategy or mission, so that everyone has some skin in the game around where the organization is headed. And sometimes, it is alignment around a clear set of priorities.
“Shared agendas blow hidden agendas out of the water.” – Jennifer Eggers
Once the shared agenda is created there is no opting out. There is no dissent if an agenda is truly shared. Together the organization moves forward. Decision making is aligned. Fast. Focused. Accountable to each other.
2. They Have an Aligned Structure
The second thing aligned organizations have in common is a structure that supports their ability to deliver the shared agenda. In many organizations, organizational structures have been built out of necessity, not intentional planning.
Too often work is assigned to a leader who has the capacity or skills to take it, rather than putting the work in a place that makes the most sense in driving strategy. Often, work is assigned as a ‘special project’ or given to an employee the organization is seeking to develop. And, sometimes, work comes in as part of an acquisition and gets “bolted” on to the quickest, easiest place. None of these things are inherently bad, they’re simply not intentional.
These structures are often ineffective as the keep your organization from being more resilient and ultimately increase the opportunity cost by making things difficult, decrease margin, or inhibit you from achieving the strategy.
“Every organization is perfectly tuned to deliver exactly the results it gets.”
– Arthur Jones
Imagine an organization where decisions are made at the exact point in the process where they need to be made, instead of elevated for approval. Delegating decisions upwards is not only a waste of time, it’s a strategy sinker. Imagine that everyone has a clear understanding of the capabilities the organization must deliver to create a differentiated customer experience. Imagine real alignment around where the gaps are and what must be done to fix them. It is possible. That is what an aligned structure delivers. It can even be designed to be adaptive.
3. They Have a Shared Investment Roadmap
The third component that aligned organizations share is alignment around investment priorities and the assurance that their next investment will directly contribute to the business strategy. While there could be much debate, a prioritized investment roadmap removes the distracting static or infighting caused by constant internal competition for resources. This infighting and competition have been the death of many a team and many personal and corporate relationships. There is simply no need for that when all that energy would be better placed setting the organization up to be more competitive against the real, external competition. When we get the priorities “right” the organization does not have to waste time debating every investment by itself and they have criteria to determine when they should.
Imagine an organization with a clear investment prioritization process where each project, investment or resource expenditure (including people) was evaluated based on its contribution to delivering the organization’s strategy or shared agenda. What if you were able to see, over the next three years, a clear prioritization of investments that ensured that the next investment was the most critical? And to complete the success, what if everyone in the organization was aligned to that plan?
In our experience, this is possible when organizations are aligned around a clear roadmap to maximize productivity.
4. They Have The Best Talent Driving The Most Critical Capabilities
The last thing that aligned organizations have in common is that they are very particular about who runs what. This means that the highest performers own the most critical things the organization needs to get right to deliver the strategy. At LeaderShift®, we call those critical things organizational capabilities. But they are not all created equal. For example, we can optimize the hell out of payroll and it won’t drive a dime of revenue. When it comes to capabilities that drive a differentiated customer experience, those have the potential to contribute financially and drive strategy. They are the ones you want your best people running.
Your Next Step
At LeaderShift®, we have learned a few things over the years about helping companies make order out of chaos. We have seen the difference it makes when a company is truly aligned. These companies withstand tough times. They lead where their competitors fail. You don’t hear people complaining about “change fatigue” in their hallways. Instead, there is excitement and engagement. As a result, life at these companies is easier. Things just seem to work. It doesn’t mean they aren’t challenged every day or aren’t super competitive or aggressive with external competitors, but they are competing with the competition instead of with each other and they are united on one team.
If you want to see how aligned your organization is, take the LeaderShift® Alignment Quiz here. Interested in creating alignment across your leaders, teams, and organization to execute your strategy? Call Us. It’s what we do.