Every organization must periodically adapt to shifts in the market. Those that are the most agile with effective strategies in place to maintain optimal alignment enjoy significant competitive advantages over those that don’t. Given the rapid changes that are part and parcel of increasingly complex global markets, heightened customer expectations, and ever-evolving technology, cultivating leaders within your company who can empower their organizations to achieve optimized alignment during times of transformation is crucial to long-term growth, sustainability, and stability.
But the devil is in the details and one of the key competencies every Alignment Leader® needs to master for optimal effectiveness is knowing how to best allocate resources. Or as the song says, you need to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ‘em.
Trade-Offs and Hard Choices
While death and taxes may be the only certainties in (American) life, for company managers not having enough time or resources is probably a close second. Rather than prioritizing what can reasonably be accomplished at maximum quality with the time and resources available, many of us insist on trying to do everything now, as if each task is of equal importance. That inability to choose and prioritize will inevitably create a more stressful, less productive work environment and invariably undercut quality—even the best of jugglers eventually start dropping the balls.
Enter the Alignment Leader® whose job is to 1) clearly establish goals and define a strategy to meet them by 2) wisely and efficiently allocating available resources. Making the necessary tradeoffs often means tough choices. However, making the right tradeoff can create profound advantages for the organization by preventing wasted time, energy, and money on tasks that don’t move the needle enough and instead funneling those resources into productive and strategic pursuits.
Recognizing the need for a trade-off is the important first step; communicating it effectively to your team is even more important. Here are some proven strategies top Alignment Leaders® use to get teams focused and on board.
Be the Alignment Advocate. With leadership of any kind, the best and brightest are part visionary, part innovator, and part team whisperer, who have a knack for seeing around corners to anticipate emerging trends and excel at keeping their organizations focused, aligned, and productive even when the unexpected happens.
As a company grows there will be differing ideas on how to proceed forward and having those exchange of ideas is important. But in the end it is up to the Alignment Leaders®, from C-suite on down, to make choices that best maintain alignment while moving forward, even if it means rejecting ideas that, on their own could be successful, but if pursued within the current operating model may divert significant energy and resources away from that competitive differentiator and ultimately risk weakening the company’s market positioning.
It’s Not What You Say. Presentation and delivery can be everything. Explaining the reasoning behind a decision lets your team know it was thoughtfully and carefully rendered. Putting the decision in context enables others to visualize how the choice or trade-off maintains alignment and positively impacts the company moving forward.
Weighing Cost against Value. When making decisions, consider how your choices will affect your company’s structure and business model; specifically, will they help or hinder your ability to deliver value long term. For example, outsourcing is the current trend in many industries, especially when it comes to IT. However, if the choice to keep your IT department in house, even though it would mean diverting funds from other valuable activities, would in the end make your company more agile in adopting new technologies and more efficient in addressing client/consumer needs, the value might outweigh the cost.
Maintaining the Present While Preparing for the Future. The ability to make wise choices and trade-offs is especially important during change transitions, when the need to protect emerging processes and structures must be balanced with the necessity of keeping the organization running.
Leaders must thoroughly analyze the impact of every choice on both existing and future processes and structures during a change, adaptation, or pivot, making trade-offs that facilitate the change and move it forward expeditiously while still meeting the day-to-day needs of the organization and its customers throughout the transition.
The fortitude and foresight to make the right trade-offs and choices are essential competencies of every Alignment Leader®, and the sooner it becomes part of company culture, the better a company’s ongoing financial and operational health will be.