Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How Important Is Alignment?

While those questions appear simple, if everyone in the company is
unaware of the answers to those questions, the company could experience unproductive chaos. Imagine if you hire employees who are prepared to manufacture cars, except, your business is set up to make food. And those auto-manufacturing employees start to buy equipment to do their job.

On one hand, the scenario above is obvious and somewhat silly. On the other, it is analogous to what happens inside many enterprises that have yet to organize themselves in a way that everyone is on the same page.

For example, imagine the sales team and executive managers have a conversation about the quality of service that will be delivered to customers. If sales and management agree the company offers premium service at a premium price, it would seem everything is fine. However, if operations and production were never informed, they will deliver what they believe is adequate. This lack of alignment can cause a loss of clients if operations do not deliver premium service. Furthermore, it will create dissonance between sales and operations. That acrimonious relationship will erode corporate culture and make it more difficult for the CEO to create a high performing culture. At some point, the best sales people will leave and the ability to attract and retain high performing sales people will be diminished. Eventually this environment will encourage micromanagement and further erode the ability to attract and retain high performers. 

This situation is much more common than most can imagine. If it happens, it requires a complete transformation of corporate culture.

An example of transformation is Samsung. Decades ago, they were known for making cheap consumer electronics. In 1987, after the founder died, the new CEO declared Samsung will be known for making high quality consumer electronics. He delivered this message to the entire corporation. In interviews, he speaks about how the culture of the company had to change in order to become a high quality consumer electronics company. He also said they had to create a new language to support that culture. To ensure everyone understood the new direction, he had the company build a refrigerator that sold for $8,000. That refrigerator was a breakthrough initiative that led the way for a new era at Samsung.

If your company struggles to align employees, it could be in everyone’s best interest to create a breakthrough project that requires everyone’s participation. Instead of changing people for the sake of changing, empower them to produce results that are beyond business as usual.

In the case of Samsung, they brought in an outside firm to help them transform culture. Transforming culture is a distinct set of core competencies. The outside firm’s expertise was to focus on creating a new mindset and correlated language to support a new culture. To transform culture, people need tools and objective support. More importantly, people need clear, concise communication and transparency about the new direction and what is needed from them. Are your people aligned?    

What do you think? I would love to hear your feedback. And I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know. 

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