I’m looking forward to a visit with my chiropractor this week before I start back on the road. I know that my day-to-day activity can cause my body’s bones and musculature to get out of alignment. Two back surgeries and nearly six decades of gravity take their toll. Dr. Doug’s magic touch helps release muscle groups that hold me in an ineffective, unhealthy posture.

I swear by the magic touch of another practitioner, as well: Becky, my massage therapist and acupuncturist. Her work has increased my awareness of bad habits and muscle tension that get in the way of the body’s energy flow. When my “chi” is flowing freely, I’m more present, more focused, more at peace, and more able to apply my skills and enthusiasm in effective ways.

As a human who was brought up valuing Western medicine (“just take this pill, it’ll be all better!”), the effectiveness of their work has helped my beliefs change to embrace these very powerful approaches.

Alignment in Organizations

These experts’ work on my physical, mental, and spiritual being have also increased my appreciation for alignment within organizations. When I engage with senior leaders to help them refine their organization’s culture, I start with interviewing senior leadership team members and select managers, supervisors, and front line staff to learn how the culture operates today.

When I compare current practices with the best practices of high performing, values aligned cultures, I consistently find unclear vision and strategy. Gaps typically include goals in one part of the organization that are in conflict with goals in other parts of the organization. Systems typically have evolved to support current practices, despite inconsistent quality, poor customer service experiences, and difficulty getting agreement about how to address daily issues.

Just as my mis-aligned skeletal structure and musculature cause me pain and difficulty in moving, mis-aligned organizational vision, strategy, structure, systems, and goals waste time and money, and cause conflict and poor productivity.

How can you learn if these key organizational elements are aligned? Ask this question of a random sample of leaders and front line staff: “What gets measured, monitored, and rewarded around here?” It is very likely that you will find that the culture emphasizes results and performance, yet doesn’t equally emphasize values or valued behaviors. You may also discover competing goals – a classic circumstance is the drive for sales creates division and friction in the delivery or manufacturing side of the business.

Start at the Top

Begin with the end in mind: revisit your organization’s vision of the future. What do you want to be to key stakeholders, who include customers and employees? Clearly state what your vision is, seek input from all staff, the communicate the final draft throughout the organization.

Formalize your organization’s strategy by answering questions like these:

  • What and/or who is your target market?
  • What do customers in that market need?
  • Which of your products and services best address those needs? Are there new products and services you could offer that address those needs more effectively than your current product/service mix does?
  • How will you communicate your solution(s) to that target market?
  • How will you know when you’ve made an impact in that market? What metrics will you use to gauge your success?

Formalize that strategy in a written statement. Share it with all employees to seek their insights, then publish your final draft and communicate it broadly throughout your organization.

Only after vision and strategy are clear can you take on mis-aligned systems and goals. Aligning these elements is a great deal of work that requires constant monitoring and refinement. But that’s what effective senior leaders do. Every day.

What alignment strategies work for you & your body – and for your work team? Share your insights in the comments sections below.

S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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