He dreams, We dream, They dream
For the businesses we manage, we tie the visions of where to go and how to get there to the goals we set. Internal alignment is about focusing the vision so that each part of the organisation understands what the goals are.
Many times, when business productivity declines it is due to internal alignment problems. Trace the vision back through leadership until you find where the vision has frayed. Part of the problem, when internal alignment fails, is the way that different parts of a company change. An example is technology and the ever increasing speed by which it changes. The real problem, in this case, is not that technology evolves, but that leadership failed to apply those changes to the vision. In so doing, leadership undermines internal alignment and derails collaboration.
Collaboration and internal alignment – one supports the other
If you put two people in a car and ask them drive to drive home when each lives in a different part of town, they cannot arrive where each needs to be without working together. Collaboration is much the same in companies.
In the past, failures can be traced back to goals. The top leadership refined and identified the vision and, perhaps because of fear of losing competitive edge, did not share it. The next level down in the organisation was given goals and those that met their goals were praised or promoted while those that failed to meet goals were punished or fired. Often those goals were in a contextual vacuum and the work suffered as a result.
It would seem in this case that the best people rose to the top and those who could not handle their jobs lost theirs. However, that may not be the case. Working with imperfect information, good people will under perform and poorer people will occasionally shine. Sharing the vision and goals and collaborating effectively brings the skills of each party to the fore and where there are gaps they become clear too.
What happens when leadership empowers?
- When people work together to achieve the same goal wonderful things happen
- The waste that exists shrinks, as it’s easy to spot
- The processes that the business uses become streamlined
- The costs fall
- The quality of the products and services improve
- Customer satisfaction improves
- Management costs shrink dramatically
All of these things increase the flow and forward movement of the company, which then experiences improved bottom line performance.
Changing the plan
It takes courage to refine the vision. Refining the vision does not mean you have to change your short and medium term goals, it’s all about creating a more refined, better understood contextual framework.
If there are problems with the internal alignment they may stem more from managers or leaders in the wrong position or that parts of your team interpret the existing vision differently. Clarifying information is a tool that all leaders need to embrace. In fact, outside forces require that the vision of the company is honed from time to time.
Add to that the reality of externally influenced change. Outside influences include advancements in technology, changes in laws that impact your products and a slew of other factors that provide challenges and opportunities for your company. The real question is how can you change vision without losing ground?
The answer to that question is subjective. Each business faces unique challenges but, with courage and a leadership mindset, the challenges you face become opportunities to grow and thrive. One tool that is useful is mentoring. An outside voice that is not vested in where you have been can help you get to where you need to be.
Which came first collaboration or internal alignment?
The truth is that either one came first, but the results are what are more important. Collaboration is about “the process,” whereas internal alignment is about choosing congruent goals. It is important to have internal alignment before developing collaborations. After all, one needs to see where one is going before making a map that details how to get there.
Collaboration is a departure from an older style of business. Collaborating is more about moving an entire company in one direction than it is about specific departments achieving goals. The process requires that everyone work together — to collaborate. A single team is more effective than groups of teams. Competition derails collaboration and in the process the company loses ground.
How do you assess the internal alignment in your organization? What expectation have you set regarding collaboration? How are collaboration and internal alignment reflected in the CSFs for your people?