Why is alignment important?
If everyone in your organization was moving towards a different place, would you consider that success? If everyone is moving in different directions then you’re going to be wasting time, money and resources, and you’re going to get a lot of frustration and confusion along the way.
Alignment helps you focus all the above, and is a required precondition for a successful strategic plan implementation.
Here’s a breakdown of this article:
- Who needs to be aligned & when should we focus on alignment?
- What are some of the symptoms of a misaligned team?
- What are some important considerations to be aware of when fostering alignment?
Who needs to be aligned & when should we focus on alignment?
When starting the strategic planning process, decide who will be a part of the planning and decision making team. Usually, the session participants include senior leadership teams, upper management, and potentially department heads (depending on the size of your organization).
It is critical that this group of people are aligned from the start and throughout the entire strategic planning process.
Beyond the people who will be participating in the development of the strategic plan, it’s important to consider who will be assisting with implementing it. This will likely be middle management and their teams.
While this group of people may not be directly involved with developing the strategic plan, they still need to be aligned with the overall direction of the organization. Alignment and 2-way communication can be fostered early on in the process through pre-strategy surveys and pre-planning meetings or workshops.
Later in the process, after the strategic plan has been developed, alignment can be fostered through sharing the strategic plan and re-opening 2-way conversation channels through avenues such as management meetings, company intranet portals, or town hall sessions.
One last group to consider when it comes to alignment is your core internal stakeholders. This group may include board members, key donors or funders, and volunteers.
Depending on the size of your organization and how involved these stakeholders are, you may also consider involving them throughout the process.
Though these stakeholders may not be involved in leading the strategy implementation, it’s important to keep them updated and aware of your organizational strategy.
That way, they understand how their role will help move the plan forward and buy into the vision and mission of the organization.
Opportunities to engage stakeholders prior to strategic plan development, as well as after the plan has been created, include pre-strategy session surveys and stakeholder engagement sessions.
It’s important to remember that implementation is a cyclical process. Therefore, fostering alignment throughout your organization is an ongoing process that should not be overlooked once your strategic plan has been created.
Alignment should be developed on an ongoing basis throughout the plan’s implementation cycle. This can be done through strategic plan reviews and ongoing communication through avenues such as surveys, town halls, or engagement sessions.
What are some of the symptoms of a misaligned team?
Indecisiveness - If your leaders aren’t clear, aligned and bought into where the organization is heading, they might not make the best decisions that move everybody in the same direction or towards the same vision and mission.
Furthermore, each person likely has their own goals and objectives that they may pursue if they are not aligned on a common future state.
Ineffective communication & collaboration - Leaders and teams who lack alignment, especially across different departments, may avoid talking with each other or collaborating on projects if they don’t understand the common priorities they are working towards.
This can contribute to deep communication silos, resulting in people not knowing what others in the organization do.
This could lead to redundancies like duplication of work or bottlenecks in communication while waiting for clarification in order to move forward.
Frustration & confusion - When teams are misaligned, some projects or tasks might seem futile if they are not being fulfilled to completion, or if there is resistance from others along the way. A “what’s the point” attitude or apathy may become prevalent among even your highest performing people.
What are some important considerations to be aware of when fostering alignment?
Clear, ongoing communication - communicate clearly, early on in the planning process, and
on an ongoing basis so that everyone has the opportunity to understand what is happening and have their questions and concerns addressed.
From a change management perspective, when people have the information they need,
understand why change is happening, and are clear on how they’re part of the change, there’s a better chance of having an aligned team that is bought into the strategic plan.
Clear definition of success and expectations - If everyone has a clear and specific definition of what success looks like to the organization, it becomes easier for people to move in the same direction.
Additionally, if expectations are clear, each person will understand what their responsibilities are and why they are important. Not only does this help to foster alignment, but it contributes to a culture of accountability.
Understand motivations - When working towards aligning around a common vision and definition of success, it’s important to remember that each person also has their own motivations that may or may not align with the organization’s.
Instead of ignoring this, engage your leaders throughout the strategic planning process. This way, you’ll be able to identify their individual motivations that might align with the organization’s vision.
From there, you can help them understand how their individual success will support the growth and success of the organization as a whole.
Make sure people have what they need to do their job - Once the strategic plan is developed and the implementation cycle begins, excitement and alignment can wane if your people don’t have the resources and tools they need in order to complete the initiatives they are accountable for.
Checking in with your people early on and throughout the implementation cycle to make sure they have what they need can help to continually foster alignment.
If you have an upcoming strategy session, learn more about how to foster alignment and buy-in throughout the strategic planning process.
If you’re interested in leading the strategic planning process yourself, our course will guide you through each step, and contains practical information to help you foster team alignment: