Achieving business alignment is one of the most vital and elusive tasks a company will face. Without it, your business can be unwieldy and aimless, and its successes will be wistful and drift in-and-out of focus. With it, however, your business will be a rock-solid pillar of communication, cooperation, and ultimately, success.
As you’re undoubtedly aware, there’s no easy, one-size-fits-all approach to business alignment. Every business is different and every business will have its own idea of “success,” “alignment,” and how those two things interact with one another. With that said, if your business is in need of a fresh approach in its pursuit of alignment, then the following strategies can help get you started on the right foot.
1) Connect Departmental and Company Goals
Setting the right goals is a fundamental pillar for business success. Goals are the roadmap that will carry your business toward the finish line. Without them, you’re likely to get lost along the way and lose focus of why you’re on the road in the first place. However, when only 14% of employees tend to understand the strategy of the organization they work for, setting goals simultaneously becomes important and more difficult.
Entrepreneur says it like this: “Think of alignment as a playbook for the entire company, just like in sports. For a coach to make sure every player is on the same page and goals are made, that playbook needs to be shared and discussed in real time.” If you want your business to be in alignment, then you first need to make sure that your overall company goals are also in alignment with the goals of every employee and department within your company.
This is easier said than done, of course, but following the four steps Entrepreneur proposes below can help you make sure you’re on the right track:
Employee-role alignment: Find the right employee for the right role means aligning someone's personal skills with the requirements of their position.
Employee-goal alignment: Include your employees in the goal-setting process and periodically check-in on their process to ensure that they’re on the right track.
Employee-team alignment: Every employee should have a clear line-of-sight in regards to the way their individual goals overlap with the goals of their department. This will make it easy for them to see how the work they do contributes to team success.
Employee-organization alignment: Your employees need to see the “big picture” in order to understand how their work contributes to the overall mission of the company. This is a top-down process, meaning employers need to actively communicate the company vision.
When your employees are comfortable in their role, then they’ll be comfortable embracing and pursuing the goals that role comes with. When an employee is comfortable with their personal goals, then they’ll be prepared to adopt and contribute to the goals of a larger team, and ultimately, an entire company.
It’s all about scaffolding, as you’re providing individuals with the steps and foundation necessary to elevate them to a higher level of performance.
2) Be Adaptable, but Stick to Your Roots
In a world of “the customer is always right,” it can be tricky to skirt the line between complete submission to the whims of your target audience and utter disregard for anything that doesn’t easily align with your company’s goal or mission statement. Like Forbes says, “The objective is to remain true to your core while at the same time making reasonable attempts to satisfy the demands of your target market.”
In the same way that you want your individual employees to align their goals with the goals of the company, so too should your company strive to align its goals with the goals of its customers. While it’s certainly valuable to try and accommodate your customer’s requests and desires, if you come across someone whose expectations just can’t be met by your company’s capabilities, then you may need to let that customer go.
It’s important to be flexible whenever possible, but if “flexible” is all your company is, then it won’t have the structure it’ll need to sustain itself for very long. Think of your business like a coloring book: the outlines are there, the picture is clearly decipherable, but the colors—the details and features that bring the picture to life—are adaptable to the whims of the artist, or in this case, the customer.
3) Set a Series of Sustainable Checkpoints
Achieving business alignment isn’t a race; it’s a marathon. As cliche as the sentiment is, it’s true nonetheless. If you hope to find a future where all of your business’ interconnected departments, individuals, and ideals are consistently in alignment, then you need to set sustainable, reoccurring checkpoints.
These checkpoints will serve a variety of roles. For starters, regular deadlines will allow you to check-in on the progress your employees have made towards a particular set of goals and assess whether that progress is in alignment with the things it should be in alignment with. Checkpoints will also provide your company with the satisfaction of having achieved something.
A checkpoint is a momentary stopping point, a place where you can catch your breath, inspect where you’ve come from, and assess where you’re going. Reaching a checkpoint can empower your employees, energize them to keep pursuing their goals, and ultimately, give you the power to make sure everyone’s efforts are in alignment with one another.
Stay on Target
Achieving business alignment doesn’t happen overnight. Just look at this example from Harvard Business Review, as they explain how The Walt Disney Company archives alignment across its many branches “by pursuing high performance in each area and by using each to support the others.”
Finding alignment is a collaborative, ongoing process that requires a lot of work, patience, and commitment. However, by taking the steps above to heart, you’ll be well on your way towards building the kind of firm scaffolding you’ll need to grow towards a future of successful business alignment.