In the past few days I’ve talked to several executives across industries about alignment.
“How does your organization achieve alignment?”
“What are the consequences of ignoring misalignment?”
“Who drives the group alignment process?”
One conversation involved the CIO of a company with sales of about $1 billion. He’s not sure who should initiate the alignment process between his department and the leaders of several business units. Although he recognizes a lack of common understanding on key issues, he is unclear how much he should defer to others to get everyone on the same page. So far the discussions have not been constructive or complete. It seems no one on the executive team has the time or the patience, and just convening the group is a major exercise.
While this company is under tremendous performance pressure, the stress is causing myopia among the executives in each business unit. This CIO feels trapped between 1) the pull to bring attention to issues he knows are likely to cause major problems down the road (delays in delivering new capabilities and shortfalls in planned savings) and 2) his desire to not stir up controversy that will position him (ironically) as not being a team player.
In this case the executive feels that the stress among the leadership is such that raising important questions could literally cost him his job. What at dilemma! …if it were true.
This leader may be reading the situation wrong. The current state of misalignment among the key executives is actually an opportunity. People generally want to work together — especially when a lot is on the line and they need each other’s help to make their numbers. But leaders often lack a constructive approach to get started. By initiating a transparent alignment process that quickly results in shared understanding of key issues, this CIO could be everybody’s hero.
What about you and your organization? What keeps you from initiating an alignment process? Could you be the one that everybody thanks for getting the group aligned?