Today’s rapidly changing global environment requires organizations to respond quickly and efficiently to new technologies and emerging marketplace trends. Leaders who can nimbly adapt and redesign their organizations to fit the changing landscape or find new ways to differentiate themselves from the competition create substantial advantages over those who do not react promptly.
From an outside perspective, it’s easy to see how these efforts benefit the organization and its employees, but redesigns are often perceived as a threat or a sign that the system is flawed. Overcoming these challenges requires a leader who can actively champion the change, guide the team through the transformation process and ensure that the organization is set up to achieve strategic results. It also requires a supporting teammate who can serve as a sounding board and help implement organizational alignment. We call these critical roles the Alignment Leader® and the change partner.
Let’s consider some key aspects of these responsibilities to understand why this relationship is so important to organization redesign efforts.
The Importance of an Alignment Leader®
When you hear the term “Alignment Leader,” you may think that it refers only to a CEO or member of the c-suite. In reality, this is a role that can be held by anyone in a leadership position at any level of the organization who can identify and implement the transformational changes needed for strategic success.
Although the Alignment Leader role isn’t limited to someone with a specific title or level of seniority, it should be someone who can demonstrate these four essential competencies:
- Making tradeoffs. No organization has infinite money, time, or personnel, so leaders need to make tough choices to maximize their resources. Making the right trade-offs comes from establishing clear goals; defining a strategy to meet those goals; and then efficiently allocating the available resources.
- Ensuring alignment. Any organization design or redesign effort comes down to aligning all the components of a complex organization to support the strategic choices you make. Much like solving a Rubik’s Cube, you must align your organization systems – your work processes, structure, information and metrics, people, continuous improvement and culture – with your strategy for maximum effectiveness.
- Driving change effectively. Once you have a blueprint for the future, you also need implementation skills to carry that vision forward. Key skills to drive change across a large organization include finding creative ways to introduce change; creating the structural architecture that aligns change and strategy; communicating how and why a redesign is taking place; facilitating the involvement of key players; and leading by example as a role model and change advocate.
- Building Alignment Leader capabilities in others. The more team members who can think and act like Alignment Leaders, the easier it becomes to drive change throughout your organization and maintain it in the future. You can develop these capabilities in others by setting expectations; involving them in the design process; providing tools and training; and mentoring promising team members.
The Power of Change Partners
Even the most skilled Alignment Leader can benefit from the support of a change partner. The role could be filled by someone in human resources or the strategy office, by another executive, or by an external professional with deep experience in corporate design. Change partners are trusted advisors who serve as sounding boards to discuss new ideas, alignment strategies, roadblocks, and solutions. During the design thinking process, they help create the blueprint for change and the roadmap to get there. They can also facilitate discussions within the executive and project teams, as well as provide tools to help you implement your strategic vision. Having a change partner helps you transform the organization more seamlessly, quickly, and thoroughly.
There are also several key competencies that effective change partners should possess. These include diagnostic abilities, the ability to anticipate and navigate change, solid listening skills, and bringing proven tools and processes to the project.
It’s important to note that change leaders should not be a “yes person,” but rather a thought partner who challenges assumptions and contributes new perspectives. A good change partner is someone who will help the Alignment Leader weigh the various options available and then consider the strategic trade-offs and implications of each choice. Change partners must also be able to rise above daily operational concerns to maintain a strategic focus on achieving alignment goals.
Teaming Up for Redesign Success
The synergy between an Alignment Leader and a change partner helps an organization maintain its momentum during the lengthy process of building, designing, and implementing change. The Alignment Leader is the catalyst for change, while the change leader supports that vision by setting up the conditions needed to achieve a successful organization redesign. By working together, the Alignment Leader and the change partner create the conditions to launch and sustain an effective organizational structure.