Baseball, Abbott and Costello, and Aligning for Success

 
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As the final days of summer wind down, we’re savoring the last weeks of baseball. And that always makes me think of Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First?” While a comedy routine, this classic clearly illustrates the dangers of misalignment, misunderstandings and misassumptions. Within organizations, lack of internal alignment can yield equally frustrating — though far less humorous — results.  

Fortunately, misalignment is, indeed, avoidable. By observing what’s going on in your team, listening to what’s being said, asking the right questions, and getting everyone on the same page, you can set yourself and your organization up for success. This month is a great time to take a look back at 2018 and determine what you need to do to successfully close out the year — then begin planning for 2019. Good planning and better execution cannot happen in a vacuum, and thinking about key success factors begins with internal alignment.

The Value of Internal Alignment

While internal alignment is one of the most obvious success criteria, it’s often overlooked or underestimated, or we assume that everyone will simply understand and be on board. Individuals should be aligned with their boss and teammates as well as with their co-workers throughout the organization, right? In addition, an organization’s vision, mission, plans, priorities, strategies, structures, processes, resources, tools, technology and communication must also align for the company to succeed. Clearly, that’s a lot of opportunities for misalignment that can hold organizations back.

So, what can you do about it?

Leading Off: Review Where You Are Against Your Goals

Start by having a team huddle to discuss three aspects of your organization’s 2018 YTD performance: What’s going well? What isn’t? And what’s missing that would have made the not-so-well go much better? Then, look at the goals and the health of your organization in the following categories to see how you are performing:

Customer

  • How are your team and your supporting partners performing against your customers’ expectations (internal and/or external)? Are you treading water, moving the needle or falling behind? What needs to be addressed?

  • How would you characterize your interactions with customers? What are they saying? How are you performing against key customer metrics? Do you have an opportunity to set yourself up for a more productive relationship with them in 2019?

People

  • What’s your team saying about their experiences working for you and the company? How are your employee engagement measures?

  • When was the last time you conducted a needs assessment to determine how prepared and trained your team is for the changes that lie ahead?

  • How effective is your leadership team in helping support the organization during any period of rapid change? What do they need from you to be more effective? Would more coaching and training help them be more confident and more effective?

  • Does the culture of your organization support the values and working practices you know are essential for individuals and the team to thrive, feel empowered, and know that the work they do makes a difference?

Process

  • Is your operating model supporting the effective delivery of all objectives?   

  • What framework does your team use to deliver projects and work? Is it efficient and effective? If not, is it time for a change?

  • Is the team working effectively? Where are the breakdowns happening, and why? What can be done about them?

  • Are you continuously trying the same approach and getting nowhere? In other words, are you just doing Plan A harder?

Base Hit: Now What?

Now that you’ve assessed your progress and how you got there, think about how to accomplish all that you need to. Some questions to consider:

  • What things on this list of things that need to be done can you realistically accomplish?

  • What decisions on priorities need to be made? How will those decisions be made?

  • How will you get the final list done? What will help achieve that? (Behaviors, actions, etc.)

  • How can you stay on course over the final months of 2018 to close out the season successfully?

Do You Know Who’s on First?

Achieving success in 2019 might require you to think differently and to really evaluate your organization for alignment issues. For example, employees may think they understand the organization’s overall goals and objectives and believe they’re doing what’s needed to achieve them, yet don’t accurately understand the goals and objectives or how their efforts directly contribute to achieving them.

Other common organizational misalignments — such as mismatches among strategies, priorities and resources or among revenue goals, delivery channels and customer preferences/expectations — lead to unsuccessful outcomes.

Rules of the Game: The Role of Integrity in Maintaining Alignment

Finally, as you get aligned internally, it will be imperative to ensure there is a shared commitment to values. Integrity (as we recently discussed) is key, and having a shared understanding helps all team members feel empowered to clarify, consciously consider and, when necessary, negotiate requests to ensure consistent delivery on commitments.

Embedding integrity in your organization can establish the kind of trust, dependability and predictability that can help you consistently sustain internal alignment enterprise-wide to enable you to achieve the highest potential of your organization and its people.

Crossing Home Plate: Move Forward Aligned

Completing this year-to-date review will equip you and your team with the insights and clarity necessary to develop strategies and implement action items to make the most of the final months of 2018. It also will lay the groundwork to position your organization for a very successful 2019 and beyond. Play ball!