The other day I took my car into the shop to get the oil changed, tires rotated, and wheels aligned.
As you may know, the failure to correct misalignment of your wheels usually results in uneven tire wear and your vehicle pulling to the left or to the right.
This misalignment leads to the expense of frequent tire replacement, driver fatigue and even danger resulting from the vehicle’s inability to hold a straight line when driven.
Just like there are good reasons to keep your automobile wheels aligned, there are good reasons to ensure that your organization’s business practices and your core values are also aligned.
Alignment is all the elements of an organization working together in concert within the context and boundaries of the organization’s only sacred cow (core ideology = core values and purpose).
By all elements, I’m talking about goals, strategies, tactics, policies, processes, cultural practices, management behaviors, building layouts, pay systems, accounting systems and job design – essentially everything that the organization does.
When an organization is aligned, it’s being guided first by its own internal compass (however unusual, it make perfect sense and is appropriate for your company), not the standards, practices, conventions, forces, trends, fads, fashions, and buss-words of the outer world.
The evidence from the research done by best-selling author, Jim Collins, found amazing truths about the good-to-great companies:
- They used a participative management style that was reinforced by employees being…
- Trained in participative management skills and…
- Involved in the decision making process.
Through my “1-2-3” participative management style, our employees knew that I was as much working for them rather than the other way around. This way of leading literally turned our organization chart upside-down!
When you accomplish that, you have a team of people aligned and all rowing in the same direction.
- These companies hired people with the same core values and who strongly lived-out those core values. Consequently, the problems of commitment, alignment, motivation, and change just melted away.
Every leader can ensure organizational alignment by following a two-step process.
Identify and Correct Misalignment
The first step is an analytic process that requires the discipline of the organization to uncover and eliminate misalignments that promote behavior that:
- Is inconsistent with or driving people away from the organization’s core values and purpose and/or…
- Impedes or blocks progress.
Most managers fall short in identifying and eliminating misalignment.
Insight: Employees pick up on all the signals in their work environment – big and small – as cues for how they should behave. They are ever watchful for the tiny inconsistencies. You do NOT want employees to say, “See, there you go. I knew management was just blowing smoke. They don’t really believe their own rhetoric.”
One way to allow your organization to quickly identify misalignment without pointing fingers is to…
- Put random people into groups of no more than six and,
- Ask each group to come up with the three most significant misalignments pertaining to each core value.
Typically, each group will identify the same misalignments.
Example: If you say teamwork is a core value, but you compensate people on individual performance, you’ve got to change your compensation structure.
Create New Alignment
The second step is a creative process requiring the invention of new mechanisms, processes, and strategies to bring the core values and purpose to life and to stimulate progress.
Example: After I introduced our core values to our people, my company created new ways to recruit, select, hire, and conduct the on-boarding, orientation in-line with our core values.
Remember, you never attain absolute alignment. But you can make meaningful progress toward alignment, if you work at it consistently over time.
It’s not just the big pieces, but also the itty-bitty details that make a big impression. Together, big and small efforts combine to create an overall effect that leads to enduring greatness.
How’s your company performing? Is it time for a core values alignment? What progress are you making on eliminating your misalignments? Please let me hear your comments <here>.