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Getting on the Same Page – The Power of Team Alignment

I think all of us have felt like the Aflac Duck, quacking our bills off about something really important–if only we could get someone to listen.  A great example of a voice that people didn’t listen to was W. Edwards Deming, inventor of process improvement, rejected in the U.S. that catapulted Japan to dominance in the auto industry.

Several years ago Carol Kallendorf, PhD and I created a system of alignment that is the key component in organizational success.  In those years executives often told us they didn’t have time and money for the “soft skills.”  Because of this short sighted view, many organizations continued an incongruent amalgamation of people with different ideas and approaches.  They never created the momentum to succeed.

Today most of us see alignment as parallel in equal in important to process improvement, TQM, and all the advances that have remade the world of business globally. 

If you’re an entrepreneur, an investor, or someone who is looking for a job in a company that won’t fold before it flowers, look for the company where there is a focus on aliment from top to bottom. Today alignment is at the top of the list of business magazine topics—from Harvard Business Review to Forbes and Fortune—as  bedrock of any business strategy.

One writer who got it right is Andre Lavoie, an entrepreneur himself in Entrepreneur Magazine:

“An aligned workforce is a happy, engaged workforce.     Unfortunately, alignment between an organization and its employees doesn’t come naturally — it takes planning, hard work and communication.” (Italics mine)

Recruiting, if it does its job, brings you educated, skilled, and experienced people and places them in your workforce, often around the same table.   The better they are, the less likely they are to be initially aligned.  They’re huge achievers, and that’s why they were hired–but achievement most often makes people compete rather than align.   They’re bringing to the organization all of the strategies that made them successful where they were, and each member of the team brings a different playbook.

The alignment system that we have developed with hundreds of clients over several decades takes an intelligent, capable team from poorly aligned to a group of team members moving the team forward at a remarkable pace.  We have seen teams falling apart in their organizations that became star teams by going through the alignment system.

The Steps to Alignment: How Do You Get on the Same Page? 

Many of the articles on alignment are useful, but lack the steps it takes to move a team from where it is to effective alignment.  The following steps will totally justify the time and expense it takes to do them and become gamechangers for organizations.

  1. Group Discovery: Discovery is key.  What Do You Know about team members’ approaches to life and work?  It is impossible for a group to align if it doesn’t know the basics about each other.  You are coming from different cultures, education, and experiences.  Until you know each other, you can never be aligned.  There must be a process to know each other.
  2. Group Goal-driven Direction:  Many articles on alignment miss the most fundamental alignment connector–a goal and outcome that everyone buys into.  Team members must connect personally with the goal of the organization.  They must own victory or defeat in all its consequences.  There must be a sense of the famous Benjamin Franklin quote, “We’ll all hang together or we’ll hang separately.    A commonly held goal is fundamental to alignment.
  3. Personal Discovery:  Teams often can’t align with each other because they are not aligned within themselves personally.  Tools such as the 360-degree assessment, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and other assessments are critical to the success of a 21st Century organization.
  4. Building Bench Strength with Personal Game Plans.  Through the power of assessments we generate a mass of data which often creates  the tools for participants to develop a personal GamePlan to present to their team, staking out how they’ll strengthen their ability to become a stronger player on the team.
  5. Team Alignment Session.  At this point, off sites are very useful in putting together the knowledge and insights that have been learned through the alignment process.   Team members connect in a way they have never connected before because they have new knowledge and tools.
  6. Executive Coaching.  Business is the only contact sport that doesn’t assume that a team member would have a regular coaching program.  Coaching to achieve the organization’s goals is an absolute essential to making the organization’s investment in that star pay off.
  7. Leadership Development. As Andre Lavoie said that alignment takes planning, hard work and communication, it also takes repetition and practice to build the automatic muscle movements that reinforce alignment in the organization every day.  Regular leadership sessions over time make aligned teams the norm. 

Alignment Measurement
In every aspect of business we measure results:  in sales, revenue, productivity, down to the speed of the coffee pot in the breakroom.  The 360-degree assessment gives teams the ability to measure alignment from the perspective of the team, with specific numbers.  You see if you improve or not.  We put numbers to the age-old question of “How are we doing?”  We measure what matters most, an aligned team.

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