Alignment is mission-critical.
However, how you create it and how much you need is a function of what stage your company is in.
Here is a list of ten common company stages. Which One are you in?
Some startups develop a strong sense of alignment from Day One. Most, however, are so focused on survival that wordsmithing a mission statement seems like a big waste of time. Regardless, the primary alignment issue for companies in the Startup stage is product/market fit.
Scale-ups have built a viable enterprise but are still primarily focused on One Core Product and One Core Market. The primary alignment issue for Scale-Ups is focus. They must fight the temptation to diversify too much and too soon.
Expansion-stage companies are expanding beyond One Core Product and One Core Market. Companies in this stage are starting to add divisions. They might also be adding additional geographic offices. The primary alignment issue for companies in the Expansion stage is building a One-Company mindset before the divisions create division.
Companies in the Reenergize stage have plateaued and need to get the company growing again. The primary alignment issue for companies in the Reenergize stage is getting back to their core—they must prune the distractions.
Companies in the Realign stage are fragmented and dysfunctional. They have silos and warring tribes. They must confront tough issues and deeply ingrained dysfunctional behaviors—often within the executive team.
Companies in the Spin Out stage are being spun out from a larger corporate parent. They will have a new company name and a new brand. Their primary alignment challenge is to keep the best from their corporate parent and, at the same time, develop their own unique way of creating alignment.
Companies in the Consolidation stage are shedding non-core assets so they can refocus on their core business. As divisions are sold off, it is hard to maintain employee goodwill. Once the consolidation is completed, companies must align the remaining employees with the new vision and strategy.
Companies in the Transformation stage have old core businesses that have stagnated. They are focused on creating new ones. For many companies, this is seen as a “digital” transformation, but transformations can come in many forms. The primary alignment issue is maintaining the existing core business while liberating the new one.
Makeover companies are solid, but tired. The primary alignment issue for companies in the Makeover stage is establishing a new brand identity and positioning. It can be very difficult to change—aka realign—what customers think of you.
After a merger, the challenge is to make One Company out of two. Integration-stage companies literally have two of everything—two mission statements, two lists of core values, two accounting systems, etc.—and they must consolidate down to One. Companies in this stage have thousands of alignment issues.
Which life stage is your company in? How does that impact how you create alignment?