Using Organizational Alignment to Absorb Complexities
Reed Deshler | March 2, 2016
Competition has changed the corporate landscape and the way we must do business. Differentiation in the marketplace used to be much simpler: focus on making a great product or providing an improved or much-needed service.
Those days are gone. Today, products themselves have become undeniably similar and struggle to deliver differentiation on their merits alone. The result is a shift from product innovation to a differentiated user experience and integrated solutions. In essence, business leaders must learn to anticipate consumer’s needs rather than waiting for a break-through product, a killer app or significant new technological need to arise.
This new reality necessitates even more from leaders. It requires a conscious organizational environment that can adequately absorb the inherent complexity of activities and services that customers used to do, but now look for companies to integrate and deliver for them. To meet these demands, leaders must make aligned choices, make decisions about how to allocate limited resources and implement organizational constructs consistently across their organization.
Inevitably, organizations still struggle to build and implement their strategies and align their organizations around them. In increasingly competitive and complicated work environments, lack of a clear organizational alignment strategy makes it difficult for leaders absorb consumer-driven complexities and maintain the agility to quickly pivot left or swivel right depending on what the marketplace dictates.
However, it can be achieved. Below are three recommendations for using organizational alignment to absorb complexities.
- Make trade-offs and stick to them. It’s why having a clear vision of how you want to address complexities is so important. How can you articulate your objectives and strategy without a clear vision? Doing so will give you certainty about what you will and will not do to address your complexities. If your approach is light on trade-offs, complexity will persist and your strategy will suffer and implementation likely will fail.
- Beware the “best practices” pitfalls. Naturally, all facets of your organization – including support departments such as human resources, finance and IT – are integral to your vitality and longevity. All too often though, they follow form rather than function, viewing best practices as the “be all, end all” to their function’s strategy. The tail ends up wagging the dog, rather than the other way around. The organization ends up doing things that really aren’t necessary to their strategic and marketplace objectives or capabilities. We like to call it “functional goodness” – functions that try to be cutting edge when they don’t need to be.
- Involve internal and external people in order to make good choices. Complexities can’t solely be the burden of the organization’s leader, select functions or departments, or external partners. It requires a consortium. It’s akin to dieting. In order to effectively lose weight, you need a plan and a support team. Successful weight loss plans include a nutritionist to recommend what foods to eat and how to control portions. Likely you’ll also enlist a personal trainer to motivate you, suggest calorie-burning exercises, and ensure that you use the proper techniques to avoid injuries. They are experts in their fields and can help you execute your plan. A plan without a team isn’t as useful in losing weight or in executing a strategy. Each key organizational player is necessary to the alignment process.
The good news is that these strategies and others that we’ll discuss in future blogs, lead to a successful organizational alignment that – in turn – can absorb complexities and provide you with safeguards to pivot deftly without hindering your business.
The opportunity to meet customer needs in new and integrated ways should be a welcome challenge for your organization. The key is to absorb complexities through a proven strategy and through the strategic alignment of organization choices.
Work with a change management partner. Rewire how you view your leadership role. Engage in collaboration with your team members. Assess your structures and processes – then determine which employees will excel where. Be scrupulous in making good decisions and knowing when to forgo a “best practice”. Once you’ve accomplished organization alignment to absorb complexities, revisit and recalibrate as necessary to maintain alignment.