Imagine you’re driving a car with a badly misaligned steering wheel. The vehicle eventually gets you where you want to go. However, the process is exhausting, frustrating, scary, and inefficient. It also is hard on the car (and your arm muscles).
The same thing happens when an organization has misaligned priorities. Your team starts in the right direction, but it will take longer to get to your destination…if you even get there at all. If you don’t have clearly stated and agreed upon priorities, your team won’t reach its goal.
Misaligned priorities lower team productivity, morale, commitment, and trust. The problem when you have misaligned priorities is that people:
- go in too many directions and do too many things
- focus on their priorities rather than the team’s, which result in nothing getting done
- get burned out and become disengaged
Alignment is Your North Star: Critical to Reaching a Common Goal
Your team members can focus their time and energy on a few aligned priorities to successfully achieve goals. Goal alignment begins with clarity and buy-in to the team’s purpose, vision, and values. These serve as a “North Star”. They guide your leadership team and the employees beneath them in focusing on a common goal.
A colleague who worked for a large company had a great CEO who called a meeting with over a thousand people in the company. His purpose and vision were clear: to grow the company by 50% in one year. He then stated that the leadership was to find solutions to do this and work with their departments to submit a plan. The cascade of information and aligned goals were narrowed to three. After selecting the best strategy, each department was expected to regularly report on their progress towards the vision. The result: A 50% increase in revenue and a new vision.
Why did this work? The leadership team clearly communicated the purpose and vision, and let the employees be a part of setting the goals to reach it. The leadership team needs to be aligned around the vision pass it down to motivate the entire organization. Without it, alignment becomes impossible.
Priorities will inevitably shift.
When the purpose, vision and values are not communicated clearly, confusion and lack of focus on the right priorities occur. When team leads see this happen, they must first look at how clearly they have communicated the purpose, vision, values, and priorities. Lack of pushback, conflict, and questions by team members are seen as signs that everyone understands and is on the same page. The appearance of consensus, understanding, and agreement result from the team’s fear of conflict, not alignment. Many team leads assume their team is aligned and on the same page due to false consensus. Leaders need to know whether they clearly communicated their goals to the team or if team members are too scared, embarrassed, or dissengaged to speak up.
Team alignment happens when everyone on the team is on the same page. The head needs to make sure their employees are on board with the goals, expectations, and priorities, that the employees understand them, and why achieving them is important.
How to Achieve Alignment
The first step to achieving alignment in your organization is to create a foundation of trust. Without it, you can’t have the conversations that lead to commitment and ownership. Everyone on the team must know and agree to the team’s priorities. To achieve this outcome, it is important to know where the team is currently. We use the Team Alignment Survey as a tool to help leaders and their teams measure and achieve aligned priorities and goals. The survey measures three main areas:
- Trust among team members
- Clarity of purpose, vision, values, goals, priorities, and roles of the team
- Agreement or buy-in around the aspects listed above
The Team Alignment Survey serves as a benchmark to see how aligned your team is today and what it will take to get there. The further your team is from understanding and buying into the vision, the more work will be needed to reach alignment on priorities.
Results = Alignment of Purpose, Vision, Values, Goals, Priorities, and Roles
The purpose, vision, values, goals, priorities, and roles need to be understood and agreed to by all team members to achieve alignment. Think of the six aspects mentioned above, like a ladder or steps that need to be reached to achieve your vision and get back down safely to the ground. You can’t be aligned on the lower rungs or steps without being aligned on the upper ones. In other words, you and your team cannot be aligned around purpose, vision, and values (where you want to go and why) before first being aligned around goals, priorities, and roles (how you will get there.) Once you get to the top (achieving the purpose, vision, and values), you must return back down, reiterating the purpose, vision, and values to your team and then aligning the bottom rungs (team goals, priorities, and roles) around them.
When is the Best Time to Measure Team Alignment?
One of the best times to do it is when you have a relatively new team, a shift in direction, or team dysfunction that is causing performance issues. It is during these times where there is the most significant risk of misaligned priorities. Without alignment, people will gravitate toward pursuing their own priorities. This will lead to the attempted pursuit of too many priorities. A cause of this is a lack of clearly stated priorities that have unanimous buy-in. When team leads allow for too many, misaligned priorities, it becomes difficult to pursue alignment with team goals, values, vision, and purpose. The Team Alignment Survey can help identify the reason for this misalignment in your team and empower you with the best intervention to use.
The survey includes an individual report and an overall team report showing where there is a misalignment. After the surveys are complete, Action Strategies will conduct a team debrief to look at your purpose, values, and vision. We’ll then help you create an agreed-upon purpose, values, and vision to communicate with your team. We’ll identify alignment gaps, establish an action plan, and set goals.
Let’s steer your car in the right direction
Let’s get back to the car analogy. The lack of aligned team priorities is like constantly readjusting and fighting a car with misaligned steering. The Action-Strategies-By-Design approach to the Team Alignment Survey is like a mechanic who diagnoses the misalignment’s cause and fixes the steering and wheels. With a fixed car, you no longer have to constantly change its direction, but depend on it to operate by itself. Autopilot, if you will. Similarly, once your team identifies and addresses alignment issues, it can function to its highest potential on its own.
If team alignment is your goal, contact us to help you get there.