PDS On Performance

performance improvement ideas and some common business sense

Alignment Trouble

Written By: Terry Merriman - Mar• 21•13

The funny thing about cars is if they’re the slightest bit out of alignment they just don’t ride very well. You feel that gentle wobble in the steering wheel, that slight drift off course when you brake, and maybe a little hop in the wheels. The symptoms grow gradually worse and the tires start to wear excessively; then your fuel economy begins to suffer. It becomes obvious you have an alignment problem.

If your business results have dropped off a bit, or you’re sensing your internal processes just aren’t running smoothly, or maybe you noticed an uptick in customer complaints, or perhaps yours is a new business that isn’t producing the results expected, just like that car you may have an alignment problem.

Business alignment problems aren’t quite as easy to fix as cars; it’s not a little matter of an hour or two with some shims and a wrench. Business alignment problems arise from ineffective communication. Fixing communication problems involves people, time, and a process that encourages documentation and accountability. Documentation and accountability scare people so resistance enters into the equation. Team meetings and memos rarely solve the problem. In fact, formal communications in general, employee newsletters, employee meetings, management memos and business announcements are all pretty ineffective in fixing business alignment problems.

Alignment means getting people on the same page, building a common focus, sharing specific goals, and building productive working relationships throughout the organization, vertically, horizontally, cross-functionally, and even externally. It involves spelling out the details and gaining agreement on who is going to do what, and how they’re going to do it. That doesn’t happen by directive. It only happens through interaction within and between teams, involving peers, leaders, and team members at the personal level.

We’re talking about focused alignment discussions between two people to address specific expectations each has of the other related to critical success factors of the situation being addressed. These discussions include what evidence there will be that expectations are being met. They include tasks and behaviors (what and how), and cover deliverables, timing, and budget constraints. They address resources needed to get the job done, and the competence and proficiency necessary.

The process of stating, agreeing, and monitoring progress on expectations will be disruptive until people develop proficiency with it so be prepared to wait a little bit for the ride to smooth out. Then your results should prove well worth the cost of getting aligned.

Helping to smooth out the ride …

Terry

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