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Organisational alignment – Warning signs of misalignment

Posted by Ben Whittacker-Cook on 20/05/2020 11:00:00 AM

Welcome to part two of Bill Bain’s blog on organisational alignment. Part one outlines why misalignments occur and analyses its damaging outcomes. Part two examines some of the signs that leaders need to look out for and why clarity helps push things in the right direction.

alignment business Icehouse

Picture yourself driving down a road. It’s been raining so the road is a bit slick. You have noticed recently your car has been pulling to the right, but you just compensated for it by adjusting your steering to the left.

Suddenly the person in front of you brakes abruptly. You apply your brakes relatively hard and your car veers right. You panic. You hit the brakes real hard and turn the steering wheel left. Your worn tyres don’t grip the road and in what seems slow motion you continue your slide to the right, but you are able to stop, albeit on the opposite side of the road.

Luckily there were no cars coming the other way, but you get a hell of a fright.

Deep inside you know that you had seen the signs that your car was not performing. The pulling to the right and unusual wear on the tyres were warning signs that your vehicle was not aligned. And because you ignored it, things could have gone real bad!

Just like a car, businesses can show signs of misalignment. Some indications are extreme and glaringly obvious. Some are small and are harder to spot. But if left unchecked, they can grow into bigger problems.

Ignoring misalignments may bring short term wins but over time there is often a high price to pay. And these prices are paid by your people, your customers and your bottom line.

| When you are aware - you see

My first car was a Volkswagen Beetle. Nobody else in Canada had a Bug, or so I thought.
But once I bought my V-Dub, I saw lots and lots of them. It was only because I had one that my awareness allowed me to see all the other ones around.

To help responsible leaders become more aware of potential misalignments, here are some warning signs that may get your spider senses tingling when you see them:

Lack of motivation
The buzz just ain’t there. The essence of what the organisation should be about is lost.
When things are flat, people do the bare minimum, if that. Work is just that – a job. Customer service levels drop, lack of productivity and poor performance becomes acceptable.

A compelling purposeful culture gets people engaged, motivated and creates a constant buzz. People are focused, put in more discretionary time and effort into what they do.  Wins lead to more wins with creativity and collaboration flourishing.

No clear Vision
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat
Lewis Carroll’s - Alice in Wonderland  

If your organisation is not clear on what it wants to achieve in 5 to 10 years’ time, then it has no destination people can work towards, and just like Alice, people will take any road that suits them.

The company will just bumble along until someone realises things are not good and by then the road to recovery is long and difficult, if possible at all.

Having clarity on the Vision (the goal) provides the direction, the true north, that everyone can see and work towards together.

Conflicting strategies
Strategies that do not have a clear line of sight to the Purpose and Vision do not get buy-in from the people needed to deliver them. All plans need to have a path that leads to the achievement of the big goal so as to engage the people who are needed to get the things done.

Internal friction
This is a real sign that people/teams are not aligned. It can lead to silo behaviour, lack of collaboration and politicking which all leads to a septic culture. Unless dealt with, a considerable amount of time can be spent dealing with squabbles. It can sap energy and take focus away from delivering on key initiatives.

Changing priorities
If you are constantly shifting priorities, chances are high that things will break down. People can’t keep up with the changes and are spinning off in different directions. If you do change priorities, ensure you are communicating changes to everyone so they are aligned with what’s going on.

Trying to do too much with too little
This is when the company is trying to achieve their goals, but they don’t have the capability or the capacity to deliver. If you don’t have people with the right skills or time; or the specialised resources; or the manufacturing capacity, you just won’t get the results you are expecting to.

Lack of accountability
When companies don’t set clear expectations on what needs to be delivered and truly hold every person accountable for delivering what they are responsible for, it creates an environment of mixed messages.

It is imperative that everyone knows that there is a high expectation on being accountable and non-delivery is unacceptable.

Poor team performance
Often individuals are not aligned to the overall performance of the team. Rather they are focused on their own patch and their behaviours negatively impact the effectiveness of the team.

Teams performing at the highest level are essential for the success of a business. Having team members move as one towards common objectives with a trusted leader creates an almost magical energy and just makes great things happen.

Now is the time to consider what misalignments may be happening within your organisation right now, the impacts they may be having on your business and then, what are you going to do about it. For an Alignment Pulse Survey and 60-minute consultation at no charge, please contact Bill Bain.

Bill is one of our most experienced coaches and business mentors. Following a distinguished leadership career, he is now using his skills to coach and mentor people to reach their own business goals.

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