Alignment – the Missing Piece of Your Plan

Jeff Lebow
Pull Thinking

The term “Alignment” is commonly used in business – especially in strategic planning. However, it is also an elusive concept not well explained in traditional management texts. Aligning execution to strategy is what ultimately delivers value to customers (and your company), and makes your strategy successful.

Even the best strategy in a misaligned organization is difficult to effectively execute. Precious time and money are wasted. As a facilitator, you can make the difference by using tools for alignment.

You may recognize these:

Misalignment Symptoms Alignment Results
  • Many “silos”
  • Outstanding customer service
  • Miscommunication and stress
  • Better execution / continuous improvement
  • Failure to meet plan
  • Empowerment
  • Continuous quality issues
  • Passion
  • Dysfunctional behavior
  • High-performing teams
  • More management
  • More leadership
  • High turnover
  • Everyone pulling together

But what is really meant by “alignment?” How can you define and measure it before you begin?

Most importantly, how can you intentionally create alignment to enhance and sustain business performance?

Pulling is the natural way to create alignment

First, know that you can stop pushing! You know how it feels to be pushed; take this example: Your boss tells you what to do; you do what you understand s/he wants you to do. But when you return with your proudly finished product, instead of hearing “Great work, this is exactly what I wanted,” you are met with exasperation and criticism like “It doesn’t really suit the purpose, not what the customer is looking for, wrong format, wrong content, wrong timing,” etc.

To start pulling, build a visible structure that assures everyone knows and agrees on what to do, who they are doing it for, who is supporting them in completing the task, and finally, what success looks like. Once all the agreements are in place, the organization is fully aligned to the needs of the customer, so that the customer is actually doing the pulling, with the entire organization automatically aligning to their needs. Being sensitive to the Pull of your customers (internal and external) becomes a natural aligning process for the whole organization.

Picture what happens when pulling one end of a chain – it becomes a straight line – it’s aligned. But when the chain is pushed, there’s just a big mess – alignment can’t be pushed. However, in the case of the chain, alignment can be pushed – but at the cost of the management required to keep (push) every link of the chain in line.

Just like the chain, there is a choice in straightening out the mess in organizations. You can tell someone to get in line (push); or you can show them how to become aligned (pull) – pulling is a lot easier.

The fact is that most people are more experienced with being managed into alignment than being led into alignment. (Micromanagement is one example; a criminal repeatedly serving jail sentences is an extreme example). Leadership is a natural result of first learning, and then applying Pull. Few of us are born with this ability. But for most, it is a practice of continuous learning.

Creating organizational alignment is a facilitated process

As a reader of this newsletter, you are already familiar with facilitation – a structured process designed to arrive at a result that is created, understood and accepted by all participants.

As a facilitator, do you think it’s important to better understand how to pull alignment so you can create it for your clients? Do you think it would be helpful for them to know more about pulling alignment as well?

Because alignment is a facilitated process, you can create it utilizing your facilitation skills. By adding alignment tools, you’ll have a common language that defines alignment for the entire organization, enabling you to objectively measure it.

Alignment tools:

  • work at all levels – between individuals, departments, divisions, companies, etc.
  • act as a “lens” that makes it easy to identify misalignments and their causes
  • are easily applied

One of next month’s free webinars is “Facilitating Organizational Alignment.” Join us on Wednesday, September 21 at 2:30 p.m. EDT, to learn more. Register for this free webinar today.

And, if you would like to enhance your facilitation skills, consider attending our upcoming Creating Organizational Alignment in Atlanta on October 17-19, and December 13-15. This course is also available as a private on-site class that can be customized to fit your specific needs. Contact us for more information.

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