It is that time of year when goals are being set, strategies are being finalized and objectives for the year are being established. Unfortunately, too many efforts to improve organizational performance fail to deliver on their stated objectives. Whether the aim is to reduce costs, increase engagement and productivity, or drive growth, most of the time they fall short because of a lack of organizational alignment. Most leaders understand that in order to achieve critical objectives like these, a clear sense of alignment is needed in order to get everyone on the same page.
Have you ever worked with someone who seemed to have a different set of goals than you did? Or perhaps you have had someone on your team who did not share the same performance objectives as others.
It’s is kind of like a crew team that has people rowing at different cadences — the boat just doesn’t move as fast as it can or should.
That’s why it is so vitally important that leaders focus a good deal of their energy and effort on helping their teams become more aligned, like the coxswain of the boat who ensures that everyone keeps the same rhythm and produces the optimal speed.
Here is how to do it.
Make sure everyone shares the same definition of success. Ask most groups in an organization to tell you what the definition of success is for a project they are working on and you will get wildly different answers. When I do strategic planning with organizations this happens regularly, and the downside is that without a common vision for the outcomes of an initiative there is little chance to succeed. Take the time to ensure that everyone has the same understanding of the problem to be solved, the implications of the problem and the definition of a successful outcome. It sounds simple, but it is not easy and this alone will increase your likelihood of productive results.
Help people see their role in the outcome. Once people have a clear and complete picture of a successful outcome, they need to understand their roles in producing that result. Draw a clear line of sight from the responsibilities that each individual plays on your team to the desired outcome. Translate those overall contributions to the tactical and practical day-to-day activities for each person, so they understand the importance of behaving strategically and in alignment with the goals for any given objective.
If the aim is growth-focused, make sure they see the connectivity of their actions to customer results.
If the focus is on getting leaner as an organization, the link from specific behaviors to the bottom line needs to be illustrated. Get granular and help people see their part in the achieving success.
Align your performance drivers. In every organization there are systems that support the achievement of objectives but those systems, if not aligned, can become barriers to the attainment of your goals. Pay attention to things like infrastructure, compensation, staffing, career development, and even how cross-functional collaboration.
All of these drivers of performance will have some kind of impact on how well your organization performs. Make sure they are reinforcing the right behaviors that will make your initiative or strategy produce the intended results.
Focus on commitment not compliance. At the end of the day what you are driving for is a sense of commitment to the organization and its objectives. While motivation for most comes from within, great leaders are able to create an environment that makes people want to go the extra mile. Help people gain a sense of ownership of the organizations direction and goals.
Too often managers settle for compliant action and don’t push further for the kind of commitment that produces great results. In order for this to occur, leaders need to be the exemplars and avatars of that commitment and demonstrate it with their actions, work ethic and care and concern for the organization’s people.
Alignment is a powerful competitive advantage for organizations that choose to use it. When these elements are in place, commitment flows through the organization at all levels, and that can be a benefit that produces great value.