If you’ve ever skippered a sailboat, you know that you cannot simply set a course and then sit back, relax, and watch the waves roll by. Some combination of external and internal factors will be driving your boat off course: a shift in the direction or speed of the wind, a hidden current, your own force on the tiller, or something else you cannot anticipate. These disruptions require that you stay alert, keep an eye on your compass bearing, the sails, the knot indicator, and the direction of the wind, and make adjustments as needed. By sensing and responding to changes as they happen, you can keep your boat on a steady course.
Organizations have a lot in common with that sailboat; they are continually buffeted by forces that push them off course and out of alignment. And because the pace of change is swift, management must respond with equal speed — that is, with rapid realignment.
Our prescription for rapid realignment has the following steps:
- Align the leadership team.
- Create an online alignment portal
- Develop a tool to assess current alignment
- Make periodic assessments and take action based on data
- Track progress and provide feedback
Align the Leadership Team
The first step toward rapid realignment is to get leadership team members aligned with The Main Thing of the enterprise and its strategy. A survey of 2,000 executives by Booz found:
- 64 percent said that their company had too many conflicting priorities
- 49 percent reported that they didn’t have a list of strategic priorities
- 54 percent reported that their employees did not understand how their company created value
We recommend aligning leaders at an offsite meeting that accomplishes the following:
- Agrees on The Main Thing of the business
- Defines reality in terms of what needs to change
- Creates a small number of metrics tied to The Main Thing
- Identifies and eliminates operational and cultural barriers to execution
- Develops personal 3, 30 and 60 day commitments to action
Tips for An Effective Alignment Web Portal
To make the most of an alignment program, we recommend a dedicated Web portal through which people can access the information they need, and the messages that management want to get out. The site should provide the following:
- A video message from the CEO. Speaking on this clip, the CEO should briefly explain the what, why and how of the initiative: what alignment is about, why it is important and being undertaken now; and how every person can be a part of it. It’s important to define reality with data and to share what needs to change, and to describe the metrics that will be used to track those changes. It’s also important to describe the behaviors that will need changing.
- A brief introduction to the alignment concept. A website link should take viewers to a page that succinctly explains the key concepts: The Main Thing of the business, vertical and horizontal alignment, how alignment will be measured, and frequently asked questions.
- A link to an alignment measurement questionnaire. The company should develop or purchase an online questionnaire-based tool for measuring critical success factors and the current state of alignment at every level and for every unit. Employees should be able to quickly and easily access that questionnaire. Here are, for example, are some statements from a Web-based 80-90 statement version we use in our consulting practice.
The training offered within my unit helps me to do a better job.
I know that customer satisfaction is an important part of my daily work.
High integrity and mutual respect are key aspects of our culture.
I feel included in the decisions that affect my work and schedule.
My immediate manager is passionate about make our strategy a success.
Quality is an ever-present concern within my department.
I know how my work contributes to the organization’s strategy.
- Tracking and sharing of results. Both management and employees should have access to the questionnaire’s results and the current state of alignment.
- A chat room. Here people can share information, ideas and best practices. An alignment blog. Management should appoint an operations person with good written communication skills and feet in the trenches to write a weekly blog about the progress of the alignment project. The blog should profile best practices.
Take Action based on Data and Track Progress
In the years we have been assessing and measuring alignment, we’ve learned two fundamental things:
It is possible to create alignment by measuring alignment. Measurement drives behavior and behavior creates a culture of alignment.
When leaders are provided information that informs action, leaders take action. We’ve seen dramatic improvements in alignment and operational performance as the result of leadership action based on alignment measurement data.
Dr. George H. Labovitz, co-author of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance, is the founder and CEO of ODI, an international management training and consulting company, and professor of management and organizational behavior at the Boston University Graduate School of Management.
Victor Rosansky, co-author of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance, is co-founder and president of LHR International, Inc. He has more than 25 years of experience as a consultant, helping Fortune 500 clients to drive rapid strategy deployment and alignment.
For more information about the book please visit http://rapidrealignment.