#6 – A Healthy Organization Is Good At “Alignment” — Its People Are On The Same Page, With Genuine Buy-In Throughout The Organization – (12 Vital Signs Of Organizational Health)

Oneness is not something you can turn on with a switch.
Phil Jackson, Eleven Rings:  The Soul of Success


In my introductory post, 12 Vital signs of Organizational Health, I listed the 12 signs.  Here is sign #6:

A healthy organization is good at “alignment” — its people are on the same page, with genuine buy-in throughout the organization.

So, think about the healthy organization.  A healthy organization is constantly adapting and innovating, because the world is changing by the year month week hour; there is a clear, compelling “why” to what the organization focuses on; there is a clear, coherent strategy toward reaching a shared direction – in other words, the organization knows where it is going; there is strong and effective leadership, from a strong and effective leader; there are teams hard at work, effective at what they do, and now successful at actually accomplishing things.  And, now, the sixth vital sign – they have achieved alignment.  The corporate culture is one in which everyone is on the same page — and that page is the right page.

Let’s define the term (from businessdictionary.com):

Corporate alignment: Linking of organizational goals with the employees’ personal goals. Requires common understanding of purposes and goals of the organization, and consistency between every objective and plan right down to the incentive offers.

I think of a couple of examples.  Bronwyn Allen frequently attends the First Friday Book Synopsis here in Dallas.  She is the President of High Profile (an employment staffing agency here in Dallas).  Over the years, I’ve had interactions with a bunch of folks in her company.  I don’t know what Bronwyn has done, or how she has done it, but I’ve got to tell you – those people are on the same page.  In their overall competence,  their attention to detail, their “tone,” their “attitude” – those people are definitely on the same page.  You come away just thinking “that is a company I want to do business with.”  No slip ups.  Everyone seems to be ready to do whatever is necessary.  There is genuine alignment, genuine buy-in.

A few “big” companies seem to pull the same thing off.  I think of Southwest Airlines.  You can tell when listening to the over-the-microphone announcements by flight attendants that “this is a Southwest Airlines person.” Sadly, you can also tell, when flying on other airlines, that “this is not a Southwest Airlines person.”   There are a few other “big” companies that seem to do this well.

And , then, there are those that don’t come close – nowhere near close.

Now, the bad example.  A few years ago, I talked to a baseball manager/coach.  He coaches the oldest group of amateurs.  Plenty of his players have ended up in the major leagues, with accomplished careers.    He has led his teams to numerous national titles.  He knows his stuff!  This story is from the bad years of the Texas Rangers.  Great players, but not enough wins — no banners.  I asked him, “what’s wrong with the Rangers?”  His answer:  “they have a locker-room problem.”  There was  a lack of camaraderie, almost noticeable dissension, even alienation…  the players were not on the same page.  It was a roster of players, but not a team.

All InLast year, Karl Krayer presented the synopsis of All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.  Here are a couple of key excerpts from his synopsis:

Why is it that some work cultures get their people to buy in wholeheartedly and others don’t?

…As we ask managers about their specific team cultures, we are often told that they have a strong one, but that it’s hard to define. Sorry for being blunt, but that’s rubbish. If it’s so excruciatingly hard to describe your culture, then you don’t have a great one. Culture isn’t invisible, indefinable. When you walk into a great culture, it smacks you in the face with its concreteness.  (emphasis added).

All in – aligned – a direction and an approach and a style and a tone that is clear, definable, and embraced by everyone in the organization.  And, this alignment is so important to the organization that they invest time, money, people in keeping everyone aligned.   This is so important that when a new person comes on board, they are practically brainwashed into the organizational culture.  (I mean this in a good way).  They are shown, and taught, very quickly, very intentionally – from and by people who believe in it, live it, swear by it.  And their every interaction with a member of the leadership team reinforces this alignment.  They just sense that: “everyone truly is on the same page – I’d better get on that page too.”

This is a real challenge to pull off.  Which it why you see it so seldom experienced.  And, as an organization grows, it is even tougher to maintain.

And, to make matters even more difficult, in this era of mergers and acquisitions and buyouts, people who work in organizations which experience such seem to suffer whiplash.  Can you imagine how confused folks are when there has been one, then two, then three mergers and buyouts?  They watch the leadership teams change, merge, fight…  What is the culture in such a place?  Whatever it is, it is in flux.  And a culture that is indefinable, always in flux, has great difficulty getting everyone on the same page.  There can be no “same page” because of all of the competing “pages.”

Do you have alignment in your organization, or do you have your own version of a “locker-room” problem?

It may be time for a little diagnostic work.

Are the people on your leadership team on the same page – and is it the right page?

Does everyone in the organization know that the leadership team is on the same page?  (Hint – just telling them may not reveal much.  They can only tell be observing and experiencing.  In other words, you can’t fake being on the same page.  You really have to be on the same page).

Now, is everyone throughout the organization on the same page?

And, next, are all new folks practically indoctrinated, very, very quickly, so that each new person who comes on board feels this sense of  “all in” – and then lands on that same page with eveyone else very quickly?

You read a lot about “employee engagement.”  It is pretty clear that a whole bunch of employees, in a large number of organizations, are not engaged.  The latest figures put it at fewer than 30% of employees who are fully, truly engaged.  Well, trust me – low employee engagement pretty much guarantees a whopping deficiency in the “alignment – all in” department.

It is pretty tough to have a healthy organization if people are not on the same page.  It they are not on the same page, get to work on that problem — now – today.  It will take you awhile, but you’ve got to do it.

Which would you rather have?


Only one of these is good for your organization.  You know that, don’t you?

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