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This is the eighth part of an exclusive, nine-part series of articles by Total Alignment authors Riaz Khadem and Linda Khadem, entitled "The Alignment Factor". Please check back next Thursday for the latest installment.
A focused organization focuses people's talents on achieving a common goal. The aim is to give all employees a clear understanding of their mission, vision and values. This in turn motivates actions that advance the interests of the organization and open up important channels for collaboration. It all depends on the behavior of the individual. In companies with traditional management cultures, transformation is required in three areas: culture, infrastructure and practice.
For our purposes, we define culture as "the way people do things" or their habitual behavior. Culture is therefore the collection of the habitual behavior of a group of people. Behavior can be triggered by thoughts or occur as an automatic response to situations. A traditional organizational culture is more likely to generate habitual behaviors that happen automatically.
The pursuit of alignment requires a change in the way people think and act in many organizations. This change leads to new habitual behaviors. But what are the behaviors that should be changed? You can be identified based on your mission, vision and values. These are unique for every company.
If collaboration is a value for the new culture, how should the behavior be? This can manifest itself as collaboration between silos. For example, if production does not normally work with sales (e.g. in a manufacturing company) or buyers do not work with sellers (e.g. in retail), a change in behavior is required.
What other behaviors are required in a focused organization? Perhaps they involve listening, empowering, accompanying and respecting the opinions of others, regardless of their status in the hierarchy. As soon as the new behaviors become a habit, they change the organizational culture.
Related: & # 39; The Alignment Factor & # 39 ;: Decision making and the culture of alignment
The term "infrastructure" often refers to public works, buildings and roads that are necessary for a company to run. However, here we are using the term to refer to processes that facilitate alignment in an organization. The existing structures in many organizations that advocate misalignment need to change. For example, think of the performance appraisal process common in many companies. Each person is reconciled with their boss once or twice a year. However, this alignment does not guarantee alignment with the vision and strategy of the organization. What if the boss himself is not aligned? Also, two people doing the exact same job reporting to two different managers will be targeted differently. And if you go up the organizational silos, the director at the top of the silo may not be level with another director. The purpose and mission of the organization would therefore suffer from a lack of adequate collaboration and direction.
Among the components of a new infrastructure that we propose is a process that demonstrates measurable accountability for results, measurable accountability for collaboration, and the free flow of information to people through a push notification.
These are not the only structures that are needed, but they are essential because without clarifying accountability for the results, everyone is responsible – which means no one is responsible. Without assigning responsibility for working together, the old cultural pattern will take over responsibility, which prompts people to strive to perform their own roles rather than working together for higher results for the company. And without the free flow of information to everyone who needs it, decisions are based on opinions and personal preferences, not on facts. We mention that the information flow should have the push notification property to ensure that people get the necessary information sent to them without having to search databases to find it.
Clarity on these first two dimensions is necessary, but not sufficient. Practice is key to putting desired behavior into action and leveraging the infrastructure mentioned above to maintain alignment. The systematic approach we propose for this third dimension consists of two management processes: team review and vertical review.
Team review is a meeting that reviews the results of a boss on a natural or project team. Traditionally, each direct report presents successively the results of the last period in its area. This usually takes hours and ends with minutes of conversation. It is based on what happened in the past and why.
The team review is completely the opposite in that the team, including the managerial and direct reports, reviews the results assigned to their boss and spends some time understanding what happened in the previous period but significantly more time working together advise how improvements are possible the results. The meeting is upward, which is a paradigm shift. It's a rhythm of activity that focuses on the future, spending more time trying to figure out how to improve results rather than just looking back at the past. It is a forum that encourages collaboration and creativity. Participants focus on helping their boss succeed by being open, non-defensive, and committed.
Embedded in this process is a simple but profound learning model based on advice, action and reflection. The rhythm is to come together to consult and develop action plans, then implement the plan, and after a week (or month) come back together to review what happened and learn. It's a cycle that continues week after week, month after month. Since members of the team often represent different functional areas, this learning process serves to standardize and align them horizontally.
A close companion to the first process is vertical review; H. A one-on-one conversation between each person and their boss. This also represents a paradigm shift as the purpose of the conversation is to develop capacity for the employee rather than the boss's assessment. It's also forward-thinking in the sense that most of the conversation is aimed at reviewing the employee's plans of action to improve outcomes, rather than just reviewing what happened in the past and why. In preparation for this interview, the employee has already analyzed his previous performance and developed an action plan that is to be presented to the boss. Conversation transforms a culture of excuses into a culture of finding solutions.
The above-mentioned learning model is also active in the vertical review. The boss and the employee come together to consult and validate or improve the action plan already developed by the employee. Then the employee continues the implementation, returns after a week (or a month) to report what happened and reflects on the learning that has taken place. This process allows the boss and employee to align themselves vertically.
Implementing this learning model through team review and vertical review at all levels of the organization gives significant impetus to the alignment culture as well as the end results.
Related: & # 39; The Alignment Factor & # 39 ;: Manage the present but focus on the future
Culture, infrastructure and practice are mutually reinforcing and coherent. They focus people's talents on achieving the common goals of the organization. The three dimensions have been applied to all types of organizations with significant success in terms of performance and growth, creating a healthy organizational climate that attracts and retains talent.