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08-20-19

What Causes Organizational Dysfunction?

PotholesI believe that the root cause of virtually every organizational problem is misalignment.

Why do I believe that? Let me count the ways!

When your market vision is misaligned, you miss growth opportunities.

When your business model is misaligned, you lose money. 

When your human resources strategy is misaligned, you hire the wrong people.

When your product development team is misaligned, you build the wrong product.

When your operating model is misaligned, people spend endless hours in internal coordination meetings.

When your mission-critical processes are misaligned, you miss your deadlines and irritate your customers.

When your management system is misaligned, decisions are frequently overturned.

When marketing and sales are misaligned, you miss your revenue targets.

When management and labor are misaligned, workers go on strike.

When the board and the CEO are misaligned, the CEO gets fired.

I could go on, but you get the point: misalignment is the root of virtually every organizational dysfunction.

We also see misalignment as the root cause of most interpersonal conflicts.

For example, recently I was coaching an executive who was struggling to meet his numbers. I asked him, “Why are you missing your numbers?”

He gave me an explanation that seemed plausible, but then I asked, “Would your boss agree with that explanation?”

“Probably not.”

Given that the executive and his boss were not aligned on the root cause of the problem, there was little chance that they would agree on the executive’s proposed solution.

In another session, a different executive was recounting her accomplishments. Again, I asked the question, “Would your boss agree with that list?”

“Probably not.”

In both cases, the executives and their bosses were misaligned.

Alignment is both a strategic corporate issue and a tactical interpersonal one.

That is why improving alignment is Job One!

08-14-19

WHAT DOES ALIGNMENT ACTUALLY MEAN?

shutterstock_1065963824

a·lign·ment

One word.  Three syllables.  Thousands of applications.

But, what does alignment actually mean? 

The etymology origin of “align” is French.  Webster’s says the first known use of the word was in 1693.  Some of the common uses include: 

  • to arrange things or people in a straight line.
  • to bring things or people into alignment.
  • to bring people into agreement with a particular group, party, cause, etc.
  • to bring things into a proper coordination (such as the wheels of a car).

Align is a verb.  Aligned is a past participle.  Aligning is a gerund.  Alignment is a noun.

Okay, enough of that. 

What does it mean for your company?

If your company is a global conglomerate, alignment means one thing. If your company is a dance company, alignment means a totally different thing.

In addition, our review of the research articles about alignment confirmed that even the scholars don’t have a common definition of alignment.

There are multiple reasons for this.

First, every company is radically different.  Synagogues are radically different from symphonies.  The United Auto Workers is radically different from the United Nations.  3M and IBM have one letter in common … and that’s about it.

Second, companies are in different life stages.  (See the chapter entitled One Life Stage.)  Startups are worried about survival, and spinouts are worried about cutting the corporate umbilical cord.

Third, companies have different operating models and management philosophies. (See the chapter entitled One Model.) Some companies run like denominations, and some churches run like corporations. 

Thus, every company is different, and you must define alignment in your unique One-of-a-Kind Way. 

After all, how can everyone Drive in One Direction if you don’t show them the way?

ACTION POINT:

One Way to get started is to take the One Definition challenge.

Ask a group of people to write a basic definition of the word “alignment.” Share the results around the table. Then, ask them to modify that definition as follows, “What does alignment mean for our company?”

07-31-19

How Essential is Corporate Alignment?

BicyclerRace

We believe that every organization, regardless of size or industry or operating model, must create strategic alignment.

That is why we say, “Alignment is Job One.”

For every idea, there are contrarians. Alignment is no exception.

So, let’s consider the question: is alignment really necessary for every organization?

Consider some of the common objections to alignment raised by my contrarian friends:

  • Can’t you just let everyone do whatever they feel is right?
  • Won’t top-down controls stifle innovation and creativity?
  • Do you really need rules?
  • Won’t people just naturally self-align to do what is in the corporation’s best interest?
  • What, are we going to all join hands and sing "Kumbaya"?

After all, you can’t legislate morality.

Perhaps you are an alignment contrarian. Perhaps you have these questions and more. If so, consider these examples:

In 2014, the online retailer Zappos adopted a utopian “self-management” model called Holacracy. When Zappos adopted it, hundreds of managerial positions were eliminated. It was hailed as the future of work. Fully empowered employees. Free to contribute. Free to innovate. Free from creativity-stifling management.

Not so much. The Holacracy model has a formal constitution that is 42 pages long.

Consider Burning Man, the annual festival in the Nevada desert. It is designed to be the ultimate, utopian experience of individual freedom and “radical self-expression.” It attracts over 70,000 people from all walks of life (including, ironically, billionaires who fly in on private jets).

But even Burning Man has rules to keep everyone aligned.

Yes, but how about the anarchists?

The International Anarchist Federation is fighting for “the abolition of all forms of authority whether economical, political, social, religious, cultural or sexual.” Interestingly, even the IAF has rules. To become a member, you must agree to align with their statement of principles.

Amazing. Even anarchists need alignment.

I hope these examples help convince you that alignment is mission-critical for every organization.

If your company needs alignment, SHIFTPOINTS offers The Pit Stop Program -- a 30-day engagement that culminates in a One Day workshop. It is intensely focused on One Issue: unleashing the accelerating power of alignment. To schedule your Pit Stop Program, contact us at start@shiftpoints.com.

07-24-19

DO YOUR EXECUTIVES WORK AS ONE TEAM?

ClimbersLIOne of the most dysfunctional and destructive organizational pathologies is undermining, especially at executive levels.

Unfortunately, we see this all the time. 

Issues are discussed at the executive meeting. Alternatives are debated. And eventually, a decision about the best course of action is made.

Far too often, what happens next is that executives who did not get their way undermine the decision. Sometimes, their undermining is overt, blatant, and public such as when executives say, “They made a dumb decision.” 

Most of the time, however, the undermining is much more covert. Whispering at the watercooler. Backstabbing in the bathroom. Sniping at Starbucks.

This kind of behavior, especially at executive levels, must never be tolerated.

In contrast, high-performance executive teams debate, decide, and align. Once a decision is made, everyone aligns behind it, even it if wasn’t their preferred course of action.

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies unleash the accelerating power of alignment, because ... 

Alignment is the ultimate competitive advantage™.

How aligned is your team? It takes just One Minute to answer our CORPORATE ALIGNMENT PERCENTAGE™ (CAP) Survey

.

07-12-19

MUST WE UNITE ALL THE DIVISIONS?

WindmillsWhen companies are small, they are in One Business. They target One Market. They sell One Product. There is One P&L. Everyone probably sits in One Office. But, as companies grow, they create divisions. 

There is only One Problem: divisions—by definition—divide.

Just to be clear, even small, One Business businesses can have alignment problems. (We’ve even worked with solopreneurs, otherwise known as One Person Companies, who had alignment problems.)

But the larger you are, the more likely you will struggle with strategic alignment. The big turning point is when your company creates divisions.

Some companies divide by product line. Some divide by geography. Some create business units. Some organize by function.

How is your company divided?

By product? By market? By function? By geography? Some other way?

Once your company has divisions, you must decide if it is important to align them.

Yes, I said “if.”

Theoretically, your company could allow the divisions to operate totally autonomously, with virtually no alignment. Some companies, such as Berkshire Hathaway and Virgin, operate as a “company of companies.” There is just a very thin, lightweight corporate alignment process to hold the operating companies together.

However, most companies decide that it is indeed important to create a high level of alignment.

“We must unite the divisions!”

As we explained, companies must align the divisions with corporate and they must align the divisions with each other.

In addition, each division adds its own strategies, goals, standards, priorities, policies, etc. to the things that cascaded down from corporate. Then, departments are expected to align with both the things that cascaded down from corporate and the things that cascaded down from the divisions.

And on and on it goes.

The alignment challenge grows exponentially once a company has multiple divisions. Aligning a company with two divisions is four times harder. Aligning a company with four divisions is sixteen times harder.

Many companies exacerbate the alignment problem by constantly reorganizing. Every time your company reorganizes, the alignment operating system must be rebuilt.

07-03-19

WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF ALIGNMENT?

BigBoatManyRowers

a·lign·ment

One word. Three syllables. Thousands of applications.

But, what does alignment actually mean? 

The etymology origin of “align” is French. Webster’s says the first known use of the word was in 1693. Some of the common uses include: 

  • to arrange things or people in a straight line.
  • to bring things or people into alignment.
  • to bring people into agreement with a particular group, party, cause, etc.
  • to bring things into a proper coordination (such as the wheels of a car).

Align is a verb.  Aligned is a past participle.  Aligning is a gerund.  Alignment is a noun.

Okay, enough of that. 

What does it mean for your company?

If your company is a global conglomerate, alignment means one thing. If your company is a dance company, alignment means a totally different thing.

In addition, our review of the research articles about alignment confirmed that even the scholars don’t have a common definition of alignment.

There are multiple reasons for this.

First, every company is radically different.  Synagogues are radically different from symphonies.  The United Auto Workers is radically different from the United Nations.  3M and IBM have one letter in common … and that’s about it.

Second, companies are in different life stages. Startups are worried about survival, and spinouts are worried about cutting the corporate umbilical cord.

Third, companies have different operating models and management philosophies. Some companies run like denominations, and some churches run like corporations. 

Thus, every company is different, and you must define alignment in your unique One-of-a-Kind Way. 

After all, how can everyone Drive in One Direction if you don’t show them the way?

ACTION POINT:

One Way to get started is to take the One Definition challenge.

Ask a group of people to write a basic definition of the word “alignment.” Share the results around the table. Then, ask them to modify that definition as follows, “What does alignment mean for our company?”

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies unleash the accelerating power of alignment, because Alignment is the ultimate competitive advantage™. We focus on mid-market companies that want to shift their company into top gear. www.shiftpoints.com

06-25-19

Are you delivering on your brand promise?

BasketballSwishAccording to research from Gallup, only 50% of companies deliver on their brand promise. 

You don’t need a Harvard MBA to figure out that 50% of companies don’t. 

How about your organization… which half are you? 

If you are not sure, perhaps you should start by taking a fresh look at your brand promise. Is it crystal clear? After all, you can’t deliver on a brand promise that no one understands. 

Next, take a hard look at your company from the outside in. Put your executive team in your customer’s shoes. Try ordering your own products. Try using them. Try calling your own help desk. 

These two activities are just a start, but for most organization, they are very revealing. 

And often quite humbling. 

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies unleash the accelerating power of alignment.

06-11-19

True or False: Alignment is Mission-Critical for Every Organization

shutterstock_18214750webWe believe that every organization, regardless of size or industry or operating model, must create strategic alignment.

That is why we say, “Alignment is Job One.”

For every idea, there are contrarians. Alignment is no exception.

So, let’s consider the question: is alignment really necessary for every organization?

Consider some of the common objections to alignment raised by my contrarian friends:

  • Can’t you just let everyone do whatever they feel is right?
  • Won’t top-down controls stifle innovation and creativity?
  • Do you really need rules?
  • Won’t people just naturally self-align to do what is in the corporation’s best interest?
  • What, are we going to all join hands and sing "Kumbaya"?

After all, you can’t legislate morality.

Perhaps you are an alignment contrarian. Perhaps you have these questions and more. If so, consider these examples:

In 2014, the online retailer Zappos adopted a utopian “self-management” model called Holacracy. When Zappos adopted it, hundreds of managerial positions were eliminated. It was hailed as the future of work. Fully empowered employees. Free to contribute. Free to innovate. Free from creativity-stifling management.

Not so much. The Holacracy model has a formal constitution that is 42 pages long.

Consider Burning Man, the annual festival in the Nevada desert. It is designed to be the ultimate, utopian experience of individual freedom and “radical self-expression.” It attracts over 70,000 people from all walks of life (including, ironically, billionaires who fly in on private jets).

But even Burning Man has rules to keep everyone aligned.

Yes, but how about the anarchists?

The International Anarchist Federation is fighting for “the abolition of all forms of authority whether economical, political, social, religious, cultural or sexual.” Interestingly, even the IAF has rules. To become a member, you must agree to align with their statement of principles.

Amazing. Even anarchists need alignment.

I hope these examples help convince you that alignment is mission-critical for every organization.

If your company needs alignment, SHIFTPOINTS offers The Pit Stop Program -- a 30-day engagement that culminates in a One Day workshop. It is intensely focused on One Issue: unleashing the accelerating power of alignment. To schedule your Pit Stop Program, contact us at start@shiftpoints.com.

06-04-19

Debate, Decide and Align

BussesOne of the most dysfunctional and destructive organizational pathologies is undermining, especially at executive levels.

Unfortunately, we see this all the time. 

Issues are discussed at the executive meeting.  Alternatives are debated.  And eventually, a decision about the best course of action is made.

Far too often, what happens next is that executives who did not get their way undermine the decision.  Sometimes, their undermining is overt, blatant, and public such as when executives say, “They made a dumb decision.” 

Most of the time, however, the undermining is much more covert.  Whispering at the watercooler.  Backstabbing in the bathroom.  Sniping at Starbucks.

This kind of behavior, especially at executive levels, must never be tolerated.

In contrast, high-performance executive teams debate, decide, and align.  Once a decision is made, everyone aligns behind it, even it if wasn’t their preferred course of action.

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies unleash the accelerating power of alignment, because ... 

Alignment is the ultimate competitive advantage™.

www.shiftpoints.com

05-28-19

RACES ARE WON—AND LOST— IN THE PITS

PitStopWithCTA_version2(2)

Memorial Day Weekend is the greatest weekend for racing fans. It starts with the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix … and then there is the Indy 500 … and the day culminates with the NASCAR Coca Cola 600.

In all three races, Pit Stops played a pivotal role in the outcome.

Likewise, offsite meetings play a pivotal role in the outcome of your company.

Companies have offsite meetings to focus on strategic issues. The goal is to generate new thinking, but they often fall short. The company ends up off-course, off-track, and often a bit demoralized.

There is a better way.

The SHIFTPOINTS Pit Stop Program® is a comprehensive offsite solution.

First, we leverage deep expertise in strategy development, organizational alignment, and performance management to lead the process. Therefore, we operate as a strategic catalyst, not just a timekeeper and scribe.

Second, we leverage extensive SHIFTPOINTS resources, such as our Drive One Direction® methodology and The Acceleration Index®, to customize the meeting agenda and focus energy on the most critical issue or opportunity.

Your organization will leave The Pit Stop meeting strategically aligned and intensely focused.

Refueled and recharged.  Ready to win the race.

Organizations have used The Pit Stop Program as a catalyst for strategic transformation. Our best clients have quadrupled in size. Several have doubled. Two have won Best Place to Work awards. One is in the Inc. 5000 Hall of Fame. 

SHIFTPOINTS® works with organizations of all types and sizes – from construction companies to churches, Fortune 500s to startups.  

You can learn more about The Pit Stop Program here: https://www.shiftpoints.com/the-pit-stop-program.