The Two Faces of Achieving Organization Alignment

It is hard to overstate the benefits of organization alignment. Aligned organizations better implement and realize their strategies, can do more with fewer resources, are faster, and generally perform better in the marketplace. However, it is important to realize that not all alignments are equal in their power to produce the hoped for marketplace results.

I have found that there are two types of misalignments:

  1. Disabling misalignments. These misalignments stem from a need to overcome gaps or broken elements in an organization system. This is the classic case of the “squeaky wheel” that makes substantial noise in the form of customer complaints, internal confusion, and/or a lack of coordination. Often, the noise garners quite a bit of leadership attention and many leaders spend a lot of their time trying to get the noise to stop. This is common to any organization, and everyone needs to spend time fixing and/or closing gaps to address customer needs, minimize frustration, and stay ahead of competition.
  2. Enabling misalignments. Enabling misalignments focus more on the potential of an organization to achieve a strategic outcome rather than just fixing capacity/operational problems, performance shortcomings, or cross-organization gaps that may exist. As a whole, these misalignments are more strategically focused and address organizational misalignments about how an organization can extend its influence, expand, grow, and improve what it can deliver to customers and ultimately differentiate the marketplace.

Naturally, most leaders focus on fixing problems and making the noise go away. While we all need to improve our organizations and keep our clients and internal partners happy, addressing the enabling, strategic dimension of misalignments can often produce greater marketplace growth and success.

Recently, we had a client in the banking industry who needed help aligning their organization to reduce a significant amount of customer “noise.” During our diagnosis and interaction with the customer, we discovered that, while they did care about the issues they were making noise about; they were actually more concerned about a strategic issue. This enabling misalignment wasn’t getting as much noise, but it represented an opportunity to deliver an unmet need of the customer that would differentiate this company from its competitors.

Rather than remain focused on fixing the noise, our client realigned their organization and shifted the appropriate resources to correct the enabling misalignment. After six months, the noise actually increased, but interestingly so did their revenues—by 25%.

While they didn’t solve the disabling misalignments, they unleashed considerable growth by addressing the enabling misalignments in a very short period of time.

It is hard to ignore all the noise from disabling misalignments, and indeed, we should work to correct these misalignments to improve our efficiencies, customer/employee experiences, and speed to market. However, resist the temptation to get so caught up in disabling misalignments that you forget to address the enabling misalignments and the corresponding marketplace potential of your organization.

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