Some Thinking about Organizational Alignment

When you listen to organizations and their language, there are some obvious signals available when things aren't going well. You will hear people talk about "They" fairly often, as if these others were competitors or saboteurs rather than others within the organization who should be sharing the same goals and objectives as the rest of us.

And departments, because of their nature, also develop visions, goals and objectives that do not align with those of every other department. Each often has its unique desired outcomes and often, without the understanding of senior management, there are actually conflicting objectives.

Consider sales and accounting, or marketing and underwriting for an insurance company or bank. The sales and marketing people are measured and rewarded on the amount sold, while the accounting or underwriting people are measured on safety or quality. Thus, the former group might want to "write" everything they can and see what might go through while the others are more motivated to block the sale if there might be any objection.

Now, my example is NOT real-world in that more balance is demanded than what I mentioned above, but it is this kind of non-alignment that needs to be continually addressed and discussed.

In my organizational experience, senior management tends to view things from the Top, thinking that the organization and departments are aligned and operating in a collaborative way, as witnessed below.

But in reality, things seem to operate more like this:


Is it any wonder that the people in the organization might develop some distrust for other departments or leadership? They are faced with trying to deliver customer service and quality on the one hand, but commonly run into issues of perceived "lack of support" from other departments.

If we are to expect organizations to optimize results, we need to understand that people will not take risks unless they feel that they have the unconditional support of the leadership throughout the organization. They will cross the risk bridge only when they feel that management will not fail them and that the journey is not a terribly risky one.


The solutions are fairly simple -- ASK about the issues and opportunities. ENGAGE people in a discussion of the journey and an identification of the Square Wheels and Round ones. LISTEN to what they say when it comes to clarity of mission and vision. How many "THEY" comments appear in the discussions about how to improve things? Then work to ADDRESS these issues and opportunities and generate alignment among the people and the departments.

Lastly, remember that:

Trust is the Residue of Promises Fulfilled.

Hope that this is useful. Have FUN out there!

(c) Copyright Performance Management Company, 2000. All Rights Reserved.

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