Sponsorship. Buy-in. Fit for purpose. Aligning structures, processes, technology. Lining up your goals with the business goals. Agreeing on action items.
There are so many words and phrases that tap into the concept of alignment. Alignment is fundamental to business execution, particularly when pursuing breakthrough business performance and large-scale change efforts.
What we mean by alignment is aligning people. Alignment is the state of being one – aligning the commitments and concerns of people such that they are one. Their concerns are my concerns. Their commitments are my commitments.
Most of us have experienced this kind of alignment at some time in our lives, often in the form of a high-performing team. That magic, ease and velocity are a function of people’s alignment with each other.
However, being one and aligned with others is not the most natural thing – if it were we would all be experiencing it on all of our teams and in our organizations. But the tendency is to first think about our own concerns and what’s important to us. It may show up as personality conflicts, hidden agendas, tug-of-war over differences of opinion, or not enough time to find out what people’s concerns and commitments are. This stuff is not even bad, it’s just normal everyday. And it’s the immediate pitfall to achieving real alignment that makes a material difference to delivering the results you’re committed to.
Alignment has to be created. Conversation by conversation. Moment by moment.
Four key questions to ask yourself as a way to create alignment are:
1. Are you aware of (and do you care about) their point of view as it pertains to the particular project or business outcomes?
2. Can you articulate their top three commitments and concerns?
3. To what degree are you taking their commitments and concerns into account in your planning?
4. To what extent are you willing to change your point of view and create a new perspective together?
The last question is the real challenge and the real access to having the alignment we desire; we tend to get locked into our own view (especially when there is data or proof for our case!).
Being “one” with people is a life-long challenge, it never stops. It’s not automatic or permanent; it doesn’t stick. It seems to require ongoing maintenance – like tuning strings on a guitar or aligning tires on a car. At the same time, just about everyone has been on those high performing teams. Therefore, anybody can do this.