When you are a member of a leadership team, and by that I mean a team of people who are each leaders of other teams, alignment is critically important. Many leadership teams settle for cursory alignment without understanding the catastrophic implications on the rest of the organization.
Do you remember the old protractor you had in your grade school geometry set? I use the image of a protractor to explain the problem with insufficient alignment at the top. Imagine the leadership team is the center point of the circle. It can appear that there is pretty good alignment on the team, but as the message spreads into the organization, what seemed like minor gaps at the top project into significant gaps further out into the organization.
How aligned is your leadership team? How can tiny gaps at your level magnify into significant issues in the organization?
Make sure your alignment is stronger than these common mistakes:
- Alignment is only about the what not the how. If you have agreement about what needs to be achieved but the team is not aligned about how it will be accomplished, your alignment won’t hold. As your plan spreads through the layers of the organization, sub-teams will come into conflict with one another as they try to achieve the agreed-upon objective in ways that are unacceptable to one another.
- Alignment is in theory but is not strong enough to hold in practice. (Leadership pipe dreams.) Don’t get caught in the situation where alignment is about an ideal state or a perfect world. If this is the case, the plan won’t survive contact with the real world and no one will know what to do once it fails. You need to create alignment that is strong enough to withstand different scenarios.
- Alignment is temporary and superficial. Beware of false alignment where heads nod around the boardroom table but the agreement is only a façade that masks concerns or outright disagreement. This alignment will dissolve the moment team members leave the room and it will definitely lead to problems in the broader organization.
A tiny gap in alignment in the top team magnifies into a huge gap as it cascades. Take alignment further than feels necessary. [Tweet this!]
Are you settling for a level of alignment that isn’t strong enough to withhold the normal tendency toward organizational entropy? More time invested in alignment up front will be worth it in the long run.