Myth-Busting: 3 Common Myths about Alignment and What Your Organization Really Needs to be Aligned

by David Silverman

Most leaders will tell you that they believe alignment is important for their organizations, however there are a few common misconceptions about how to achieve it in today’s dynamic environment. In our experience helping executive teams build and maintain alignment, here are the most common myths we’ve observed:

Myth #1: If the executives are aligned, the rest of the company is aligned

In many organizations, the leadership team is where conversations about alignment begin and end. Once the executives are aligned, it is easy to assume that the new direction will quickly permeate throughout the organization — but such an assumption proves very costly. While the strategy may be driven by the leadership team, commitment from every level will make or break its success.

For managers and individual contributors to execute the company’s strategy, they must understand it. Empowerment without alignment is dangerous to any business. As John Doerr notes in Measure What Matters, “If two nails are even slightly misaligned, a good hammer will splay them sideways.” Even minor misunderstandings about the company’s direction can lead to divergent and conflicting decisions.

The solution CrossLead offers is simple — a cloud-based company plan that provides the up-to-date goals, strategies, and initiatives of the organization. Teams are notified when a strategy they support changes and are empowered to self-organize around the new direction. This does not remove the mandate for leaders to keep their teams informed when strategic guidance changes — instead, it couples this dialogue with a complete view of how the change affects the work teams are doing.

Myth #2: Alignment is about cascading goals from top to bottom

Cascading the strategy vertically from the top-down is just one part of enterprise alignment. The second, and often more challenging piece, is achieving horizontal alignment. In a highly interconnected business, no ambitious goal can be achieved by one team alone. As customers increasingly expect integrated solutions, teams must be synchronized in delivering their products and services. This means they are committed to helping one another achieve their goals.

Unlike typical goal-cascading platforms, CrossLead Plans enable both horizontal alignment across teams and vertical alignment to the organization’s strategic objectives. This informs prioritization up, down, and across the enterprise. Teams can more easily coordinate efforts when they have visibility into other teams’ priorities and a mechanism to visualize the dependencies between their work.

Myth #3: An annual offsite or kickoff meeting is enough to keep an organization or team aligned for a year

In today’s rapidly changing world, the approach of an annual strategic plan read- out is woefully inadequate for building and maintaining alignment. The strategy identified in Q1 may need to be revisited by Q2 and be totally obsolete by Q3. Market forces and technological advances are often unpredictable, and executives in a modern organization must plan to re-plan. Each time there is a change in direction, the team must be prepared to adapt. In some cases, this will mean pausing or halting existing efforts to direct resources to new, more promising ones.

An annual update that can change the strategic direction of the company is a big swing, when really organizations require several small adjustments throughout the year. We developed CrossLead to keep companies on the same page, even as the environment changes. Alignment requires a commitment to executing the plan, which means stopping work on activities that no longer support the company’s goals. Our software not only makes it easy to visualize how work at every level contributes to the company’s objectives, but it also highlights what specific efforts should be halted when the strategy changes.

The more strategic pivots the company makes without building alignment across the organization, the further employees are from understanding how their work contributes to the company’s strategic objectives. The result is that they may continue to push forward on efforts that do not advance the business — a true waste of time and talent.

While enterprise-wide alignment may sound like a daunting task, CrossLeadexists to help companies achieve it effectively and efficiently. Reach out to us at sales@crosslead.com for more information.