The use of the term alignment in business is relatively new, but quickly growing. Two decades ago alignment was typically used in the context of IT systems. Today it is often applied more generally to describe ‘re-alignment’ of business strategies — for example, strategic alignment, portfolio alignment, organizational alignment, and stakeholder alignment.
In the context of group alignment I use the following simple definition: “Alignment is the degree to which individuals in a group share similar views on a subject.”
In other words, alignment is a measure of similar thinking. The extreme would be a ‘borg-like’ network: each individual in the group sharing the same assumptions and aspirations — making commitment complete and coordination seamless. The other extreme (totally different beliefs, values, expectations, etc) would make cooperation among individuals impossible due to in-action or missteps resulting from lack of information, misunderstandings, and mistrust of the motives of others. Most people would probably prefer to be in a group that is aligned.
The 5 Truths of Alignment are important for groups to understand in order to maximize their coordination and increase their chances of success:
1. Alignment exists on a continuum. For any issue in any group, opinions occur in degrees between two extremes. Rarely is this binary: ‘yes’ or ‘no’, ‘black’ or ‘white’, ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’.
2. Alignment can be precisely measured. The degree to which a view is shared can be measured between any two individuals, among members of an organization, between two or more organizations, or across members of a multi-stakeholder community. Data analysis can show which individuals or subgroups have the highest degree of alignment.
3. Alignment can be influenced. Individuals in a group can change their opinion based on new information, refinement of vocabulary, increased familiarity with the subject, or changes in incentives. Understanding the causes of differences of opinion can lead the way to influencing those opinions.
4. Alignment changes over time. As individuals in a group separately experience new information or the composition of the group changes, the degree to which the they share the same views on a subject will change. These changes typically happen gradually but are detectable.
5. Alignment is correlated with collaboration. Individuals who share the same assumptions about the current situation, the same aspirations about the future and the same expectations about required actions are more likely to work together with minimal friction than others who don’t share these views.
This is the first post for Banner Group. The objective of this blog is to educate, stimulate curiosity and create dialogue related to the concepts of strategy, organizational dynamics, group alignment and related topics.