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07-31-19

How Essential is Corporate Alignment?

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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

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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?

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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