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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

.

07-03-19

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

05-21-19

WHAT DOES TEAM MEAN?

jazz band

A lot has been written about teamwork.

Teamwork is the foundation of alignment.

But many people have never been on a high-performance team, thus they do not have a real framework or experience base to work from. They don’t really know what “team” means.

In addition, there are many kinds of teams:

A crew team is a homogeneous group. Each member has a virtually identical build and an identical skill-set. There is only One Team, and they must work in perfect harmony in order to win. They are all—quite literally—in the same boat!

A golf team is a loose collection of individuals, all playing their own games. The team wins if enough people win their individual matches. However, it is possible for an individual player to win the individual trophy, yet have their team lose the match.

An improvisational jazz band is a different kind of team altogether. There is no conductor, no playbook, no scoreboard, no trophy, no match to win or lose, and no coxswain to keep everyone synchronized. Yet, the musicians demonstrate amazing teamwork.

A football team is a highly interdependent group of diverse players. Each player has very specialized skills. While there are sub-teams—offense, defense, and special teams—there is only one winner at end of the game. They win or lose as a team.

In 2015, retired General Stanley McChrystal discussed the complexity of sub-teams in his book, Team of Teams. In many companies, the real issue is that people are aligned with their “sub-team” but are not aligned with the other teams or with corporate.

  • The Boston office is tight, but they don’t get along with the New York office.
  • The marketing team is tight, but they don’t get along with sales.
  • The corporate finance team is tight, but they don’t get along with the divisions.
  • The European team is tight, but they don’t get along with the Americans.
  • The Democrats are tight, but they don’t get along with the Republicans.

People tend to get along with their immediate group. Their function. Their local office. Their clan. Their tribe. But they fight with people who are not part of their group.

So, as you embark on the journey to improve alignment, perhaps you should start by answering One Simple Question, “What does ‘team’ mean?”

Learn more about creating One Team

05-14-19

HOW YOUR OPERATING MODEL IMPACTS ALIGNMENT

BlueprintCompanies operate in many ways. Some are highly centralized, others are highly decentralized.

Your corporate operating model is a key factor in deciding how to create alignment.

The following list is not meant to be exhaustive but can help you articulate your operating model.

The “One Business” Company

  • Company competes primarily in One Market
  • Most likely, the company is organized functionally (sales, marketing, manufacturing, etc.)
  • Most likely, there is One P&L

 

The Highly Centralized Corporation

  • Big, strong corporate headquarters
  • Most of the big decisions are made at corporate
  • Divisions are partially autonomous
  • Alignment is primarily created “top-down” by corporate

 

The Multidivisional Corporation

  • Strong corporate headquarters and strong divisions
  • Division leaders are General Managers
  • An even balance of power between corporate and divisions
  • Cross-divisional alignment is created by corporate

 

The Federation

  • Moderately strong corporate headquarters
  • Autonomous divisions, often led by Presidents
  • Only a small amount of “top-down” corporate-level alignment
  • Alignment is primarily created at the divisional level
  • Small focus on cross-divisional alignment

 

The Conglomeration – A Company of Companies

  • Small corporate headquarters
  • Company Presidents are highly autonomous
  • Alignment is primarily created at the operating company level
  • Little or no focus on cross-company alignment

 

The Association

  • Corporate has very little power
  • Members choose to affiliate—or not
  • Members pay to be a part of the association
  • Corporate has limited decision authority, and primarily exists to serve the members
  • Alignment is often around a common agenda

 

The Denomination

  • Many different operating models
  • Some have very strong corporate-driven alignment … others have very little
  • Always bound together by One Doctrine and/or One Tradition

 

The Abomination

  • If your company is in this category, you definitely need my upcoming book, Drive One Direction!

 

What is your company’s operating model?

 

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

Alignment is the ultimate competitive advantage™.

Contact us at start@shiftpoints.com or www.shiftpoints.com.