Does Your Team Need a Wheel Alignment?
I used to drive one sedately around the streets of Sydney at the then maximum speed of 35 miles per hour. It handled it beautifully.
Then I got my first job in the country at Yanco Agricultural High School near Leeton N.S.W. So off I went, packed up the old Wolseley and took it out on the open highway.
While the Wolseley handled speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, once it got past 50 miles per hour, on the open road, the steering began to wobble. When I took it over 50 the whole car started to “shake, rattle and roll”. Even the glove box would open and shut. The cause? Bad or no alignment between the four wheels.
How’s Your Alignment?
In my experience a lack of alignment is one of the biggest inhibitors of business growth. Particularly, the lack of alignment between Senior Management. Someone (one wheel) wants to do an I.P.O (float a company) and someone else (another wheel) doesn’t. Someone (one wheel) wants to put on more people and increase revenues, and someone (another wheel) wants to stay smaller and increase profitability. Someone (one wheel) wants to put all the dollars behind a particular marketing campaign and someone else (another wheel) doesn’t.
The list goes on and on and I bet you can add your own examples to it.
At What Speed is Your Team Travelling?
Now the important thing to note here is that this lack of alignment isn’t a problem when you’re travelling at low speeds, in other words, your organisation is just idling along; but you better get it sorted out before you start to pick up speed in your business or your whole organisation will be like my Wolseley.
Shake Rattle and Roll
You see you don’t even know about “the wobbles” when you’re just doing business as usual, in other words, driving around the city. But once you journey out in a new direction and begin to pick up speed in your business (revenue growth, new markets, new products and services, more team members) you’ll begin to see the effects of poor alignment. Initially it’ll show in your top team, the steering wheel of the car. And then, in a very short space of time, you’ll notice in every part of the organisation and like the Wolseley, you’ll begin to get really shaky.
Believe me it’s incredibly dangerous, impossible to steer, wastes a hell of a lot of energy, and its just plain exhausting. Without absolute clarity about where you and your team wish to take your business or function you could suffer the same fate. You will see your competition whizzing past you on the highway. Competitors that you think have no where near your class; tinny, light weight cars with plastic everywhere. Certainly no leather seats, wooden dashboards or the sophistication of your organisation. But you know what, they’re aligned.
Where are you going?
It’s imperative that every three months (at least) you make sure your team is aligned. We should be saying “yes” only to the things that help us move forward the destination we’ve agreed on. And a big fat “no” to all those seductive side streets and alleys that constantly present themselves
What Does it Take?
It takes a clear vision and the discipline to only do the activities that get your team closer to that vision and someone to hold you to account if you wander off the road.
Do a check up!
So do alignment checks with your team. Check that everyone is in absolute agreement with the stated vision, mission and values of your business. And, as I said, don’t just do it once. Assume your organisation will constantly go out of alignment. Keep checking and fine tuning all the time just like you do with any vehicle.
The Little Big Things
When your team is next together ask them to write down the answers to these four questions without speaking to one another:
- What is our organisational vision? (a picture of where we want to be by a predetermined date)
- What is our mission? (what do we wish to be known for in the minds of our clients and our people)?
- What are our key strategic drivers or key thrusts? (the things we will focus on that will enable us to fulfil our mission and achieve our vision)
- What are our key values? (who we wish to be with each other, how do we wish to behave)?
Then in your next meeting:
- Grab the first person that walks past outside and ask them to join your top team for just a few minutes.
- Make sure they know this is a not a test of them but a test of your team.
- Ask them the same four questions (as above).
The answers may amaze you. It’s a great test of not just alignment but whether or not you’ve been able to communicate the four issues above throughout your organisation.
You’ll either be in agreement, need some fine tuning or perhaps a full scale alignment and balance.
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