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?
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?”