Developing Organization Design Capability in Alignment Leaders® (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this article, we discussed the process of building organization design capability in change partners. Now, let’s examine the role of the alignment leader in organization design, and how to assist an alignment leader in building organization design capability.

Why Alignment Leaders Need Organization Design Skills

To remain viable, an organization must change in ways that allow it to maintain resiliency and remain competitive in the market.  For its leaders to pilot the company through appropriate changes in response to shifting internal and external conditions, they must develop a certain amount of proficiency in organization design.

In contrast to the practical, hands-on role of the change partner, the role of alignment leader is more visionary in nature. The alignment leader needs to first recognize where there is misalignment in their organization. This leads to a diagnosis and an assessment of the problem, and exploration of potential solutions. Once the new direction is identified, the leader then needs to tee up the organization to address the misalignment, which may call for sponsoring a large scale change effort. From there, the leader must sanction the work to be done, and make sure the right resources are available to carry it out. A solid understanding of organization design as well as an understanding of what it means to be an alignment leader is critical throughout this change journey process in order for the leader to make decisions that support the entire organization in working smoothly and efficiently together to achieve the desired change.

How to Develop Organization Design Capability in Alignment Leaders

Asking these four key questions before determining a course of action to train alignment leaders will help to ensure that the organization design training received is adequate to the situation.

  1. What do I want the alignment leader to be scaled up to be able to do? How much do they need to accomplish? Do they need to take an active leadership role, to act as a sponsor, and/or simply understand the change process? First, one must recognize the role of the alignment leader as defined above, and choose trainings appropriate to develop a solid understanding of the overarching concepts and principles used to guide an organization (as opposed to the hands-on, how-to knowledge needed by the change partner.)
  2. How do we give them the skills? Next, one must keep in mind that time is typically the alignment leader’s scarcest and most precious resource. It is best to choose methods that allow the leader to acquire a thorough understanding of these skills as rapidly as possible. Often, this takes the form of some sort of executive seminar to understand the principles of organization design concepts and ideas, and their implications in their organization.  We’ve also seen positive results in mixed groups of executives who are able to share their organization transformation situations and discuss with peers.  Selected reading can also accelerate the learning curve.
  3. Who will be available to work with them? Will they have a change partner such as an HR partner, or will they be working by themselves? Will they hire an external consultant? What other help will be available to them? Wherever a resource comes from, having a mentor or thought partner is key.
  4. How do we help them to master those skills? In what ways can we support the alignment leader to develop their capability in the post-training period? This requires finding ways for leaders to test out their skills and leadership capabilities. From a succession planning perspective this might be a special assignment to lead a strategic change initiative or an externally supported organizational change.  From these experiences, alignment leaders can gain important in-the-trenches know-how that will help them in future organizational transformations.

In Part 1 of this article, we explored the role of the change partner.  Similarly, an alignment leader who knows how to drive organization transformation work is a powerful force in achieving marketplace success.  When organization design capability is built in both the alignment leader and the change partner, the effectiveness of both is enhanced and organizational results typically follow.


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