Great leadership is the backbone of an organisation. It gives the organisation the much needed command and greatly impacts on the organisational culture. Leaders are tasked with driving the company’s strategic initiatives, grow business performance and cultivate perseverance during tough times. They play and active role in planning, policy implementation, continuous improvement and most importantly in strategic alignment.
However, for a long time now, achieving organisational alignment has been one sided with greater burden left to the organisational leadership. But to make effective alignment in companies’ operations, it is time to take a different approach. Rather than putting the entire weight on the organisation’s head or unit managers and their capabilities, it is important to examine how the whole system can be involved in making effective alignment happen.
Whether the end result is to drive growth, cut costs, or increase employee engagement and productivity, each organisation has its goals and targets that they strive to achieve. Sometimes, however, these objectives do not end up helping an organisation get closer to where it ought to be; they fall short due to a lack of strategic alignment.
Strategic alignment in organisation
As a leader, you ought to take time out to work on your organisation’s alignment if you are keen on attaining your organisational goals faster. Nothing guarantees mission failure more than a lack of alignment.
Strategic alignment is achieved when the strategy of a business is in sync with its culture. This is reinforced by the words of George Labovitz, the author of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance “alignment is that state where the key elements of a business are integrated and aligned to drive growth and profit.”
The culture is the sum total of the people’s interaction in an organisation between themselves and the leadership/management. A 2019 article on AchieveIt described alignment to imply that an organisation is working on the right things; everybody in the organisation (executives, managers, employees) understands how the activities they are working on align to the broader strategic plan.
This is because the effectiveness of the alignment process happens during the interactions and exchanges among people with shared work. If leadership within these teams, work groups, task forces, divisions, communities, can be encouraged, then the organisation will be inching closer to being aligned.
An article published by Brent Gleeson in Forbes Magazine on August 29th 2016, titled “6 Steps For Improving Leadership Alignment”, explains that no responsible leadership team desires to be misaligned, but it happens most of the time and curtails the success of an organisation.
Whenever alignment does not exist, the ripple effects are felt across the entire organisation, with employees being disconnected to a shared sense of purpose. It is like a crew team that has people rowing at different tempos — the boat does not move as fast as it should. In contrast, when alignment exists, employees invest most of their energy, talents and time into attaining or surpassing the targets or goals of the organisation. In so doing, an organisation creates a sense of urgency and purpose and employees’ ownership of the overall results of the organisation’s goals.
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Case in point
Birds, especially geese always fly in a V-formation when travelling thousands of miles against the resistance of the wind. Basic purpose for this formation according to scientists is for energy conservation and visual assurance. When birds fly in V-formation, they move more efficiently, and exponentially increase their flying range using lesser energy than if each bird flew alone.
The smartness of the V-formation is that coordinated movements permit every bird to ride the windbreak of the other birds in front of them. In a long mile round-trip migration, each bird takes its turn to lead at the front to avoid over-reliance on one so that none of them burns out. Additionally when a bird is sick or wounded, two of the birds drop out of formation to assist and protect their fellow member until the bird can fly again.
This, in a nutshell, is how organisations should function. Team alignment is the most efficient way an organisation can use to fly, and a strategy a team can apply as it tackles challenges. Just like the movements of birds are choreographed to operate efficiently as a group and each bird is required to monitor subtle changes in wing mates flight patterns, altering their strokes accordingly, so should organisations.
Adopting such a culture in the office creates a positive enthusiasm among teams that leads to reliable results. Teams are most effective when individuals are purpose-driven and feel they share a joint mission. Beyond this shared end-goal, the best teams have the same vision of how to pursue this shared objective.
Once people are connected to a shared sense of purpose, it is essential, to draw a clear line of sight from the responsibilities that each individual plays as part of the team to achieve the desired outcome. However, commitment should be emphasised over compliance. At the end of the day, what you are driving for is an environment that makes people gain a sense of ownership of the organisation’s direction and goals and always wants to go the extra mile.
For this to happen, the leaders must be exemplars and icons of that commitment and must demonstrate it with their actions, work ethic, care and concern for the people. When all these elements are in place, commitment flows through the organisation at all levels. Everyone will work in sync towards achieving the most significant priorities and goals of an organisation.
Like the coxswain of the boat, who ensures that everyone keeps the same rhythm and produces the optimal speed, it is important for leaders to help their teams to become more aligned.
I couldn’t conclude this better than with the words of Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in Harvard Business Review article that said, “Building a visionary company requires 1 percent of vision and 99 percent alignment. When you have superb alignment, a visitor could drop from outer space and infer your vision from operations and activities of the company without ever reading it on paper or meeting a single senior executive.” This alone should increase the chances of your organisation to yield excellent results.