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Alignment - Stay On Target


Alignment is conceptually simpler than Identity and Purpose, but not necessarily any easier to maintain or execute. In this post, we will elaborate on why that may be the case and provide a few ideas about what you and/or your organization can do to maintain Alignment between your Identity and Purpose.

Alignment is an important topic for individual and organizational effectiveness, but what do we mean by alignment? The term may be used in multiple ways, each of which essentially describe the positioning between multiple elements. The following questions highlight how alignment is often considered within business:

  • How consistent are our actions with our values (individually or organizationally)?

  • Will our efforts help us accomplish our goals? In other words, are we doing the right things to accomplish our goals or mission?

  • How well do our individual or team goals align with the organization’s overall strategy?

  • Do we have the right resources to accomplish our goals?

Another way to think of alignment is the accuracy of our course for getting from A to B. Maintaining and understanding alignment is important for staying on course (e.g., accomplishing your objective). Aviators utilize a 1 in 60 rule of thumb which states that after traveling 60 miles, a one degree error in heading will result in being one mile off course.

Realistically, we never achieve perfect alignment and likely begin with higher degrees of error. The business environment is constantly changing. What helped us be successful yesterday may not be relevant for tomorrow. This makes it even more critical that we spend time establishing alignment in the beginning and regularly measure and recalibrate alignment over time if we are to stay on target.

What can you do about it?

Steven Covey, in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, wisely suggested we begin with the end in mind. I believe this is one of the best things you can do to ensure desired results are achieved. It is difficult to align resources, processes, and performance indicators if you do not know what you are trying to achieve. Ensure everyone understands the goals.

  • Measures of success. Identify key performance indicators that help you monitor progress and measure your success. Resist the temptation to develop a long list of measures. Choose the few most relevant to what you seek to accomplish. Also, expect these to change over time.

  • Reflect. Periodically revisit your personal and/or organizational goals and your interest/ability to accomplish them. Are the goals still relevant? Have the requirements for success changed?

  • Communicate. Leaders, ensure your teams see the connection between what they are doing and the organization’s strategy. This can be done in team meetings, during one on one meetings with employees, and part of a larger departmental or organizational communication campaign.

  • Communicate. Employees, make it a point to understand the connection between what you do and the organization’s success. Be curious. Ask questions to ensure you see the connection. It will help you better understand what is important to your manager and/or the organization in practical terms.

  • After action review. Take time to reflect on projects after they are completed. There are a variety of approaches to this. This can help you better maintain alignment during similar projects in the future. It can be tempting to focus only on what went wrong during the review. We encourage you to focus deliberate attention on what went well also.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief series on Identity, Alignment, and Purpose. Future topics will be written with a range of specificity in their relation to individual and organizational development.

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