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Team alignment can easily be one of those things that are easily taken for granted. If you're not focused on creating and improving your team alignment on a regular basis, your company and organization are going to be in trouble.
If your team is not aligned you will waste time, money, and energy. People will be disengaged, they will quit, and it will cost you 10x more than it would if you focused on regularly improving your team alignment.
In this article I'm going to go over:
- What team alignment is (and what it is not)
- The cost of not having team alignment
- What you can do to improve team alignment
What team alignment is (and what it is not)
Have you ever heard the expression "We're all rowing in the same direction" or "we're all on the same page"?
Having alignment as a team is really about making sure that everyone knows:
- Where the team is at
- Where we are going
- What we need to do next
In organizations, this can take many different forms.
- Do we have the same vision, mission, and values?
- Do we have the same communication style/expectations?
- Are we clear on who is doing what by when?
- Do we have clear and aligned goals?
- Do we know what's coming up next and what's expected of us?
The challenging part of this is that it's so nuanced and specific for each person/team that strategy leaders need to be able to focus on alignment with their teams at multiple levels.
What alignment is not:
Team Alignment is not assuming or expecting that everyone is bought in or on the same page because the CEO said so, or because "we talked about it and it must be clear".
Team alignment is also not being conceptually on the same page around general aspects of the organization.
- The company is going to grow
- We need better quality
- It's obvious what I mean, isn't it?
- These are the top 8 priorities...
It's very easy for leaders to move fast without getting full alignment from their teams and instead assuming that because we're all at the same company, we're all on the same page.
We call this the "Multiple Destination Trap".
People are not on the same page because they have different ideas of what the end point looks like, so they will either do the wrong thing, do nothing to avoid being wrong, do too many things, or duplicate work that others are already doing.
Interested in finding out if your team is aligned or not? Download this free scorecard to do with your team.
The cost of no team alignment
You might have seen a lot about the Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and Record low disengagement etc.
It's largely because teams and employees don't have alignment with their managers and bosses.
But this low engagement/alignment doesn't only affect front-line employees. It affects senior managers because they can't move important initiatives forward. It creates frustration and apathy, and eventually, key people leave to work somewhere where they can more easily be successful.
Some other costs due to lacking team alignment include:
- Reactivity - Fire fighting/micromanagement. If you're not in tune with what's going on, the problem will be much bigger when it gets to you.
- The non-productive conflict between team members. Creating apathy, resistance and blocking full collaboration and honesty.
- The cost of duplicate work (either operationally or on critical projects). Why pay for something to be done twice? it also creates frustration between parties.
- The cost of initiative or project delays due to inefficiencies such as having to check in on every detail versus being able to make critical decisions across the team (this cost can vary per project/initiative)
- The cost of projects going over time & budget when people don't know what is expected of them or don't have a clear outcome on what "good" or "finished" looks like. (this could also cascade into losing key partners, etc)
- The cost of mergers and acquisitions not going smoothly. (Turnover of existing staff and not realizing economic gains)
So what are the dollars and cents of all this?
Consider some of the potential costs of low team alignment before digging into how we can develop alignment:
- How much does it cost to hire and re-train an employee? (30-50k/ employee?)
- What's the cost of low/lost productivity? (10-20% of their salary, per employee?)
- What's the upside value of accomplishing your goals, vision and key milestones?
- For certain strategic priorities of our clients, we've seen millions of dollars of benefit and value.
Creating team alignment with your team is not a nice to have; it's a must.
For a buiness with millions of dollars of revenue, the cost of no alignment could easily be 6-7 figures in a year.
What is your ballpark cost from everything listed above?
What you can do to improve team alignment:
There's no secret to improving team alignment, but the keys are being committed to fostering alignment, regularly checking for alignment, and maintaining the alignment through communication and check-ins.
Some other ways you can create better team alignment:
- Doing a big strategic planning process over 2 days
- Quarterly strategy reviews
- Monthly operational check-ins
- Scheduling regular strategic planning sessions (annually)
- Supporting sufficient communication between team members and the CEO
- Make sure goals and priorities are clear and explicit
- Focus on training and development so you don't have a skills gap that counters leadership's expectations
- Ensuring that leaders don't move ahead of their time - Slow down to make sure everyone is on board first
- Challenge your assumptions when you think someone is bought in
- Use a proven change management process when going through important changes, and consider the people who are involved in the change
Fostering team alignment takes focus and it's worth the time and money.
Having facilitated hundreds of strategic planning sessions, I've seen the value firsthand of having a team that's aligned and on the same page.
People are happier, goals get hit, and conflict is dealt with swiftly. They work better together, and they accomplish their biggest goals.
As a CEO, team alignment is not a nice to have; it's a must have. Either spend the time developing it now, or spend hundreds of thousands trying to fix it later.