When teams are aligned, good things happen
When your goals are aligned with those of your stakeholders, good things happen.
The trouble is, that without actively doing something to maintain alignment, entropy creeps in, and alignment gets weak.
And when alignment is lacking, unpleasant surprises can lurk around the corners.
I see this happen many times where an executive will come in to lead a change initiative or a new strategic agenda, and there is strong alignment across executive management to support the new thing — initially.
But then time goes by.
Alignment falters without reinforcement.
The leader working on the new thing proceeds as though he still has support, assuming that nothing has changed in that level of support, because no one has come right out and said, “We don’t support this anymore”.
But at the same time, he doesn’t do anything to continue to foster the support and maintain the alignment.
“The thinking is, “I don’t need to do that. It’s done already. I don’t have time to do it again. They said supported me/this.
Why would I waste time continuing to get support for something I already have support on. They’re the ones who asked me to do this in the first place.”
Then the executive gets fired. Seemingly out of nowhere.
What happened was that all the stakeholders went back to their day jobs.
Resources became tight.
The pull of the existing work and the existing way of doing things is very strong.
The stakeholders did not see material progress in the new initiative, and the world did not seem to be coming to an end, so the initiative started to seem less important.
The new initiative was deemed ineffective and unnecessary along with the executive leading it.
Maintaining Alignment Over Time
The sad reality here is that the stakeholders did not see material progress NOT because it wasn’t there, but because the executive had failed to maintain alignment.
Alignment does not happen in a moment. Alignment is not about nodding heads in a meeting.
True alignment is about people staying in agreement, and therefore making the same decisions long after the meeting when the world gets hard and things change.
What could this executive have done to maintain alignment?
Here are 10 things off the top of my head.
This is not an all-inclusive list by any means. Please fee free to add to it!
- Communicate progress regularly, perhaps use an internal social platform where comments and questions could be archived with each post
- Communicate and celebrate small wins along the way
- Invite a guest peer into each of his staff meetings to continue to cross pollinate the ideas and value
- Involve people from peers’ teams in meetings and projects so that peers have some investment in the game
- Schedule a couple of 1-1 meetings each month with stakeholders to have conversations about how it is going
- Have a contest to cleverly name the initiative and let the employees choose the winner. This creates wider traction and visibility
- Ask all stakeholders involved once every 1-2 months, “Do I still have your support on this?”
- Be aware of dissenting voices from the old world and keep them in clear view. Deal with them directly.
- Check in regularly with finance and see if there are bids for his budget
- Continue to communicate the ultimate value of completing the program to his management and peers
Alignment does not happen in one meeting. True alignment exists when people make the same decisions outside the meeting over the long term.
What do you think?
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)