The key to growth, and the first thing to go.
Common responses relating to alignment:
“We’re not fully aligned on strategy.”
“We’re experiencing internal discord.”
“We don’t have clearly defined marketing objectives.”
“We don’t operate like a well-oiled machine.”
“We tend to overthink things.”
“We struggle to make a decision.”
Of the four factors most closely correlated with the growth of a company, alignment is perhaps the most important, and the most fragile. It often goes overlooked by corporate leaders, sometimes intentionally. If your team isn’t aligned, it doesn’t matter how good your strategy is. It won’t get executed.
Don’t grow apart.
McKee Wallwork has put thousands of organizations under the microscope with our Disruption Cycle diagnostic. While every examination yields unique results, there’s one correlation that we always see:
Healthy, thriving organizations have aligned leadership. Struggling ones don’t.
At MW, we believe in this principle so firmly that we dedicate a half hour out of every day for our four partners to meet together, plus a weekly 90-minute directors meeting, plus quarterly all-day leadership retreats. In a business where time is literally money, the cost of this investment is astronomical. But we believe the return is even greater. Too many times, we’ve seen what happens when leadership drifts out of sync, and we’ll dedicate our most valuable resources to avoiding that outcome.
It’s important to note that alignment isn’t the absence of conflict. In fact, it might surprise you to hear that MW has a staunch pro-conflict policy. Not only do we vehemently encourage our own teams to “enter the danger” and get their tension points out on the table, but some of our most valuable services to clients are when we help facilitate that conversation everybody is afraid to have.
At its most basic, alignment simply means that leaders share a unified view of the end toward which they’re working. This doesn’t mean you’re not still ironing out the tactical details, but it does mean that you’re all rowing in the same direction. You all want the same thing. You all see the same destination, and you all want to get there. A healthy management team will have disagreements, different styles, different roles to play, and different ways of executing on the details. But you’re past arguing about where you’re going.
However, if your leadership team is misaligned, you’ll feel it everywhere. Employees are confused (because they’re receiving different signals, tacitly or explicitly). Decisions are laborious (because they tend to be battlegrounds for deeper, underlying disagreement). Initiatives stall (because they lack conviction and energy). Once-healthy relationships sour. If left unchecked, strategic misalignment will poison nearly every aspect of an organization, ripping it apart from top to bottom.
The good news is that misalignment alone is fairly easy to address...as long as you know what you’re looking for. But it must be addressed early on, because its symptoms and effects can be life-threatening for an organization.
How aligned are you?
In less than five minutes, we can get a quick read on how your internal alignment stacks up against thousands of other businesses.