Bridging the Gap: Achieving Organizational Alignment with Work Excellence

May 31, 2024

The Importance of Alignment

There is a lot going on in today’s world across all facets of life, often the only constant is change. Developments happen at breakneck speed, what we know now may not be the same a few months from now, let alone the following year. This reality is mirrored in organizations.

According to recent studies reported by Gartner, the average employee faces around 10 planned enterprise changes, a significant jump from just 2 in 2016. These changes manifest internally and externally, from adapting to market shifts and geopolitical dynamics to navigating internal transitions like leadership changes or scalability efforts. With such a whirlwind of change, one might assume we’ve mastered the art of managing it. A common statistic often reported indicates a stark reality—70% of change initiatives end in failure. Though this statistic is highly debated in its validity, we can all attest through our own experiences that change initiatives are often difficult. 

At Work Excellence, we’ve spent over two decades assisting various organizations through change initiatives while managing our own evolution. Through successes and setbacks, we have reflected on these learnings in order to determine the seemingly intangible secret sauce for excellent growth and performance. This critical component is alignment.

What is Organizational Alignment?

Alignment, as per the Oxford Dictionary, refers to a position of agreement or alliance. It’s about ensuring everyone within your organization, regardless of its size, is on the same page to drive real change.

Without alignment, organizations face a variety of challenges—confusion, frustration, disengagement among employees, lack of clarity in workflow and direction, wasted resources, and unmet goals. Essentially, the lack of alignment breaks down value creation.

Conversely, aligned teams exhibit clarity in roles, seamless communication, and consistent achievement of targets. It’s a state of flow that creates success.

Despite our ability to recognize the signs and symptoms of misalignment, achieving alignment remains elusive. Studies reveal concerning trends, with only a fraction of executives and managers able to articulate their company’s strategic priorities. This lack of alignment cascades down organizational levels, creating clear gaps in understanding.

One study shows that only 28% of executives and middle managers responsible for executing strategy could list their company’s strategic priorities—with this percentage decreasing the further down the reporting line you look (MIT Sloan Management Review). Another study highlights this idea of decreasing alignment, Research from 451 Research found that while 71% of C-suite and business owners really understand specific organizational goals, only 54% of senior leaders, 44% of middle managers, and 39% of those in non-managerial roles feel the same.

So, how do we achieve alignment?

While numerous resources and training programs aim to address alignment issues, many fall short of providing the holistic view necessary for sustained alignment and value creation. This is where the Work Excellence Method comes in, with its four core elements—Work Direction, Work Improvement, Work System, and Work Measurement—anchored by the Work Routine. If any of these areas are out of alignment, it can have a detrimental impact on your organizational, customer, and cultural value.

Work Direction visually presents how you define the value of your work. This includes clear instructions, defining why this is important, and expected outcomes. Without clear direction, organizations may end up working towards different targets, feel disconnected from their work, and have difficulty planning.

Work Improvement visually presents how you improve the value of your work. This revolves around setting clear objectives in order to reach the next desired state. Misalignment here often looks like confusion on what to spend time and resources on, having competing priorities, uncertainty about the pace of work, or lack of clarity on who owns what aspects of improvement plans.

Work System visually presents how you create the value from your work. This allows you to set up the structure and order of standard work. When there is a lack of alignment in this area, organizations may not be clear on how to do the work, who does which work, where they are supposed to collaborate, or what is driving the value in the organization.

Work Measurement visually presents how you ensure the value of your work. This means choosing key target measures to judge your progress. Without alignment here, people may be tracking different measurements, or they may be unsure of how to even measure value in their work.

Work Routine is the rhythms and cycles established creating a habitual framework of checking and adjusting work. This is critical for team reflection and implementations of changes to continue to improve work. Without clarity here, people may be unsure on how to effectively meet and collaborate, there may be the feeling of starting or stopping with value creation or constantly moving in circles. 

Each element is integral to organizational alignment. By engaging in conversations around these elements and honoring everyone’s input, organizations can foster the visibility needed to achieve alignment.

Alignment in Real Time: Case Study

Take one of our clients, an organization in the technology services industry. Initially, they engaged Work Excellence to support them through a rebranding project. As we dove into the 4 Core Elements in relation to this specific project, we uncovered a deeper-seated challenge: organizational misalignment. Following a significant restructuring marked by the acquisition of several smaller ventures, the executive team consisted of multiple CEOs, each advocating their distinct ways of working. 

Consequently, the absence of coherence regarding priorities, go-to-market strategies, and organizational value perpetuated discord not only with their original marketing project, but impacted the entire organization including issues discovered in operations and IT. Recognizing the pivotal role of alignment in fostering success, we refocused our efforts towards attaining organizational cohesion by defining clear direction, workflow, and improvement priorities with the structured approach of the Work Excellence Method. 

Armed with their page sets for Work Direction, Work Measurement, Work Improvement, Work Systems, and a well-defined Work Routine the teams started to notice improvements. Enhanced meetings and streamlined reporting mechanisms became the norm. Notably, the innovation cycle was reduced from 18 months to a mere 6 months, while the time required for go-to-market content production fell from 3-4 weeks to 3 days. Attaining alignment changed the trajectory of this organization, from being stuck in the churn to executing their targets with excellence.

In essence, adopting a common method—comprising shared thinking, working principles, and tools—enables organizations to bridge the alignment gap, navigate change, and establish the stability and capability needed to perform with excellence.

Ready to assess your organization’s alignment across the four core elements and the work routine? Get started with our free organizational assessment today.

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