Achieving Organizational Alignment

Achieving organizational alignment towards achievement of the vision starts with one person…YOU! It is your job to communicate a clear vision, and to inspire your team to accomplish the goals and objectives required to achieve the vision. The driving force behind your shared vision is your purpose. When your employees know and understand the “why”, they will be more motivated to focus on the “how”. Especially, when your employees can “connect” how your “why” helps each employee accomplish their own personal goals and ambitions.

Starting with You

When you have a particular challenge to overcome, or let’s say a “hill to charge”, when you shout CHARGE, you want your team to already be charging that hill. You want them to feel inspired by you and motivated to achieve organizational goals. If you shout CHARGE, and your team is behind you instead of in front, or even worse, deserting your ranks, you are not an effective leader. In fact, you may perish as the result of “friendly fire”.

The key to your leadership success, and alignment of your team to achieve great things, is how they perceive you as a leader. I call this this your level of “Leadership Credibility”. Does your team trust you and feel you are honest? Do they feel respected by you? Do they feel that you are competent and can help them solve problems? Do they feel that you are inspiring and forward looking? Do they feel that you “have their back”? If so, your team will charge the hill for you and will share your vision of success.

Connecting the “Why” with “WIIFM”

To achieve organizational alignment towards a shared vision, it is imperative that you be able to connect “Why” achievement of the vision is business critical to “What’s In It For Me” or (WIIFM). In other words, if I help you achieve your business goals and ultimately the organizational vision, how will I benefit? Organizations often fail to achieve great things because they have failed to help their employees understand how their efforts can result in individual goal accomplishment and success. We just assume that employees will make that connection, when we should be working hard to translate organizational success to individual success. Your goal, as a leader, is to ingrain the mindset in your team that you are all in this together. You succeed together or fail together, but regardless…you are together, aligned, and focused for success. The minute your team feels that it is “Us versus Them”, you are doomed to fail as a leader unless you can change that mindset.

Once your team connects the “Why” with “WIIFM”, your goal is to help them understand how their individual and team roles impact success. You do this by developing strategies that translate easily into team and individual performance goals, or the “How”. Then you make sure your performance management and rewards and recognition processes support positive behaviors and performance while discouraging undesirable behaviors and performance.

Achieving alignment towards a shared vision and goals takes time, patience, and perseverance, but foremost it takes effective leadership.

Creating A Shared Vision

If you took a walk through your facility and asked your employees one simple question, “What is our Vision?”, what do you think their answers would be? Would you get a common answer among the team members? Would you get several different answers? Would you get a “deer in the headlights” look and a lot of head scratching?

The fact is that most organizations of any size have created “Vision Statements”. Unfortunately, many of these Vision Statements are just nice fodder for framing and hanging in the lobby of the office. Vision Statements are often used for external marketing when their best use is to generate internal focus of purpose and effort.

So, how do we take that nicely framed “Vision Statement” and convert it to a truly shared organizational vision?

Start at the Top

Start by challenging the senior leadership within your organization. Ask them if your stated vision clearly communicates the organization’s desired destination. Is it challenging enough? Does it provide clarity of purpose? Is the vision clearly communicated in a consistent manner throughout your organization? Are your business strategies and goals in alignment with achievement of the vision? If the answers to any of these questions are “No”, then work with senior leadership to resolve the issues.

Get Everyone Involved

Having an organizational vision and having a shared vision may be two different things! Do your employees know the organizational vision and do they understand it? Do they understand the connection between their individual and team roles and accomplishment of the vision? Are your organizational rewards and recognition processes in alignment with accomplishment of the goals that will achieve the vision?

If the answers to any of these questions are “No”, then start with small employee focus groups to discuss and better understand the discrepancies. The more employees feel involved in the process, the more commitment they will have in ensuring the success of the process.

Remember, you want your employees to be inspired by your vision. The first step in providing inspiration to is to ensure understanding and provide “connection” to achievement of the vision.

The Role of the Leader

If you were to sit down with any successful business leader, you would most likely hear about a journey and how they did not become successful by accident. Hard work, persistence, and perseverance are of course important, but in order to achieve organizational success, you need to be a leader who understands and fulfills your true role within the organization. The formula is really very simple in concept but can become complex in practice, depending on the size and culture of the organization. In essence, to be a successful leader you need to possess the ability to create a shared vision, align the organization to achieve that vision, and ensure execution of the plan to achieve the vision.

Creating the Vision

The first step in creating a shared vision is to be clear about what you wish to achieve. Your vision should be the desired destination of the organization. The vision should provide clarity of organizational purpose, values, goals, and direction. With a clear destination, you provide your team focus. For people to be truly inspired, the vision needs to be big. It needs to be challenging and needs to generate within you and your team a “call to action”.

Achieving Organizational Alignment

The driving force behind your shared vision is your purpose. When you know and understand the “why”, you’ll be more motivated to focus on the “how”. Unless you instill a sense of purpose in your team, you will have a difficult time getting them aligned towards achievement of the vision, and you definitely will struggle in getting the best performance from them. It just makes sense that the clearer you are about where you’re going, the easier it will be to galvanize your team to work towards it. A clear vision will also help your people to determine their own departmental objectives and to collaborate with others, as they will know that they’re all working towards the same goal. When communicating the vision, avoid doing so from just your point of view. Keep in mind that your team will be more motivated to share your vision if they can connect achievement of that vision with satisfaction of their individual goals. Also, communicate multiple purposes and you will increase the odds that each member of your team will be equally inspired by the vision.

Executing the Plan

Once you have settled on a shared vision, the next step is to establish strategic goals. Remember, the vision is the destination, and the strategy helps to determine the path to get there. Thus, a clear strategy helps to bring a sense of practicality to the vision, so that it seems attainable. Goals should be both measurable and specific so that there will be no ambiguity about whether or not your team is hitting them.

Achieving Results

When people of similar interests come together and share a common vision, the collective energy automatically shoots up. Your role is to set the stage for team and organizational success, get the team on board and focused, and follow through to ensure goal attainment.