aligned-arrowThe signs of team mis-alignment are all around us, if we only choose to notice.

Two replacement NFL officials stand over opposing players in the end zone in the closing seconds of a recent game. One signals “no catch” while his partner – three feet away – signals “touchdown.”

Occupied airplane seats come loose on three flights in the US this week (twice on one plane). Passengers are not seriously hurt but the danger is plain. The explanation? The clips that secure the seats would not lock because they were too clogged with spilled soda over a 20 year lifespan. The unspoken message? Our maintenance crews do not pay attention to securing passenger seats.

The best teams do not leave alignment to chance. They work hard to define the team’s purpose, values, strategy, and goals. They then work hard to ensure that every member of the team understands the overarching framework they operate in. They hammer out the day’s tactics behind closed doors. They debate the fine points. Once agreed, they commit to “one mind, one heart, one voice.” When they leave their meeting, they support the strategy, the plan, peers’ actions, etc. as one.

They look like the diagram above – every player acts in alignment with the overall team’s purpose and strategy. That is not to imply that such teams are without conflict. The best teams are constantly looking to improve their processes, cooperation, and delivery. They debate – sometimes loudly – every day. They challenge each other to align more closely. And, they praise and encourage aligned action from peers.

In my experience, teams that operate with “one mind, one heart, one voice” are too few and far between. It is rare when a team has crystal clarity of the team’s purpose, values, strategy, and goals. Without that clarity, team members can feel isolated. Their unique interpretation of what they are supposed to do, and how they’re supposed to do it, widely varies. In those teams, their day to day actions look more like the diagram below: unaligned-arrow

Mis-aligned teams have difficulty meeting commitments, maintaining quality, or being nimble when opportunities arise. Team cooperation is much more difficult to attain.

When mis-aligned team members are “empowered” to act independently, they head off in the direction that makes the most sense to them, in that moment. The result is chaotic demonstration of mediocre products and services.

Your team may not be entirely mis-aligned nor entirely aligned. Yet anything short of alignment causes difficulty.

Please join in the conversation! To what extent does your team demonstrate “one mind, one heart, one voice”? What are you doing to increase that alignment? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.

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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Comments

  1. Alignment reminds me of my car when one wheel is out of balance. Everything is honky-dory until I hit a certain speed. Then the whole car starts to rattle. The ride becomes very uncomfortable and it is difficult to concentrate on the driving. Unfortunately, some teams (organizations) have this culture so embedded so deep in their DNA that short of firing every employee, they are doomed to fail.

    I refer to this as ‘inherent mediocrity’ that I tried to explore in “One-degree past mediocrity” http://wp.me/p28gFh-2A

    Thank you for this excellent article!

    • Thanks for your comment, Kimunya! Great analogy with the out-of-balance wheel.
      When team leaders sees their jobs as “keeping everyone on track,” there is less rattling at high speed!
      Cheers!

      C.

      Sent from my iPad3

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