Every business endeavor begins with a vision and this defines what goals and objectives will be set in order to measure business performance. The most fundamental resource of any business is the people that drive its operations towards the direction of achieving these set goals and objectives.
‘’Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment’’ – Jim Collin and Jerry Porra
Understanding the dynamics of human interactions within an organisation as they seek to realize the business goals is of utmost importance. This is where the concept of Alignment comes to play.
Alignment as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary is the proper positioning or state of adjustment of parts in relation to each other. If we make reference to teams within an organisation, alignment is the proper positioning or state of adjustment of the teams within an organisation in relation to one another.
By organizational design, the people, structures, processes, culture, leadership and practices must have a way they are configured effectively to drive business performance. The mode of configuration will differ from business to business due to the fact that every organisation has its unique vision and business model. Therefore, when it comes to alignment, what works for one organisation may not work for another.
Alignment is a challenge for many organisations because the co-ordination of people and resources can be complex as employees have diverse motives, different levels of understanding, different perceptions, opinions about work and general outlook on life. Alignment is a concept that distinguishes successful organisations from unsuccessful ones. One of Henry Ford’s quote stated: ‘If everyone is moving together, then success takes care of itself’.
For any business to endure, there has to be a unifying factor that transcends individual ideologies such that each individual understands the part they play in the scheme of things and consistently seek ways to align with the overall vision. The ability to always set aside personal bias and see the bigger picture is a quality that distinguishes valuable employees within a system.
POINTERS TO ALIGNMENT WITHIN A TEAM
How do we identify alignment within a team? An aligned team or group is one that is void of chaos and dysfunction, where everyone contributes their bit towards a common goal. The following are some of the characteristics of an aligned team:
- CLEAR VISION: Every group or business endeavor begins with a vision and in an aligned team, no one is in doubt of what this vision is. It is clearly written down and becomes the reference point guiding the operations and dynamics of the team.
- FOCUS ON THE GOAL: Distractions are inevitable as people work together within a group due to the complexity of human nature. An aligned team sets aside distractions and focuses on what really matters, what contributes to the achievement of the team’s vision.
- COLLABORATION: This implies support for one another as individuals recognize the importance of their contribution to the larger scheme and avoid lagging. This is a strong indication that a team is aligned.
- ACCOUNTABILITY: Within aligned teams, there are clear expectations. The team places a demand on each team member for delivery of their responsibilities and each one takes personal ownership, being accountable for their work.
- ENGAGEMENT: In aligned teams, expectations are clear, purpose is understood and each member feels accountable to the group. It is mostly the case that that engagement levels are high. Everyone is involved.
FOSTERING ALIGNMMENT WITHIN TEAMS
Without doubt, alignment is a major concept that drives unity of purpose and is pivotal to success for any organization. In fostering alignment, the following are some steps to consider:
- Clear Communication: Nothing hampers alignment in a team more than poor communication. Good communication enhances the relationship between superiors and subordinates and generally among individuals within the organisation. There should be no ambiguity in written and spoken communication. This reduces tension and conflict significantly and also promotes team spirit.
- Clear Reporting lines: One recipe for failure in alignment is the lack of clarity on reporting lines – employees are not clear about who they are directly answerable to. An organizational chart is an alignment tool that helps organisations overcome this challenge as it clearly defines the reporting lines. This should also be accessible to each employee.
- Periodic Meetings: Weekly check-ins with team members is a great way to foster alignment. In such meetings, discussions should be centered on projects, tasks, milestones, deadlines and feedbacks. It is in such forums that Management policies and decisions are cascaded down from top to bottom. Periodic meetings between a superior and a subordinate allows for constant feedback on job performance and builds up to the major performance appraisal. This way, there will not be surprises which may lead to demotivation in certain situations.
- Periodic Reinforcement of the vision: Write the vision, make it plain, that they may run that readeth it; so says the holy book. A clear statement of the vision and mission positioned in strategic places in the view of employees reinforces the vision. Make it the language spoken within teams, coin a mantra and speak that language within the team as a way of reminder and reinforcement.
- Challenge directly but care genuinely: It is natural that people fall out of line but constant check-ins go a long way in ensuring adherence to the goals. It is majorly the duty of line managers, to constantly assess alignment levels within their teams and make necessary adjustments. However, this should be done with a lot of caution. A high performing team member may have genuine reasons why their performance levels are declining. Leaders should show care and seek ways to help.
- Embrace fairness and Equity: When employees realize that they are valued and there are no scared cows as everyone is treated with fairness and equity, they are more inclined towards giving their best. Collaboration is easier when people know that their contributions are valued, it is also easy to take feedback in good faith knowing it is without prejudice.
In improving an organisation’s business performance, it is important for Executives to focus on the different units that make up the entire system and ensure alignment. Employees at all levels right up to the CEO must have a shared vision, this is one of the pathways to success.
One great way of fostering team alignment also is through periodic team bonding activities. At Kennedia Consulting, we understand the importance of building effective and cohesive teams. We bring your team out of the regular work zone and help them find fun ways to strengthen bonds with their colleagues. Reach out to us to help facilitate your next Team Bonding Retreat. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and 08130172187, 08130172118
Article written by:
Adebayo Ayodele (Talent Acquisition Specialist)- Kennedia Consulting Limited