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Are we really on the same page?

 In most organizations I find many different opinions on whether or not everyone is on the same page. When I ask managers I usually get a resounding yes. When I asked the people in the trenches what the mission of the company is they often look at me like my dog used to—with a cocked head and a “huh, what do you mean?” response.

One of the worst retorts to this by managers is: “Well, we told them didn’t we?” I’ll sometimes hear so many different responses to the question (of what we’re trying to accomplish as a company) that I question if the people I’ve asked are even working for the same organization. So why does this matter? The truth is it matters a lot more than you may think.

 

Alignment

Understanding the strategic intent of your company and your role in moving the organization forward to accomplishing that strategic intent is the ultimate definition of alignment. From a bigger perspective, companies are like ships. Unless everyone is pulling or rowing in the same direction there is inefficiency and waste. The larger the organization the more important alignment becomes. Too many people pulling in the wrong direction will render a large organization restricted in its ability to maneuver and accomplish its goals.

If each individual knows how their job assists their team and their organization to achieve its mission, then they will become self-directed. They will do whatever is needed, including pushing on other departments or teams to achieve success. In this environment command and control is not as necessary and managers become more of a support and coaching function. These types of teams and organizations will do what’s necessary to achieve success, if they have line of sight to performance.

 

Employee Awareness

What we’re talking about here is “strategic importance.” It is an employee’s awareness of how their everyday job assists the organization’s success. If every employee owns their individual strategic import to the company and they have freedom to improve what they do to assist the goals of the company, then you have a motivated and engaged workforce.

What would happen if tomorrow your company said they would pay you 50 percent of the first year’s proceeds from any new idea that either makes money or saves money as long as the benefit was measurable? I’ve seen this work wonders to motivate employees.

Too often, management seems to think they know what’s best from their lofty perches. In reality, quality and efficiency improvement is best sourced from those people actually doing the work. Real leadership motivates people and sets them free to do the best they possibly can do. They remove obstacles and support each individual to their greatest success.

 

Obstacles

The biggest obstacles to becoming this type of organization tend to fall into three categories.

  1. Lack of trust. This is the organization where politics rule and decisions are mostly made on opinions and personality versus factual information. Proud peacocks rule these roosts and covering your backside is the modus operandi.
  2. Inattention to results. These are organizations that do not react to reality. They tend to be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and usually have environments of blaming and justifying when things don’t turn out the way they planned.
  3. Lack of accountability. These organizations suffer from vague roles and responsibilities and a lack of clear ownership of anything that’s being done or not being done. Silos and turf battles abound.

 

Overcoming Obstacles

Overcoming these obstacles requires a clear definition of what success is for the entire organization and for each department and each person. The first step is accessible information regarding company and individual performance.

Second, meetings and conversations should always include fact-based and purpose-driven performance goals and objectives that are celebrated when met and redirected when in danger of not being met.

We all want to know that our work matters and that we make a difference by doing what we do. We all want to know the facts on how we’re performing. We yearn to be part of something bigger than ourselves, something that we can tell our great-grandchildren about someday. We’d like to be able to say that we were a part of something great and important.

Every business and every organization has the capability of being a place where everyone—and I mean everyone—can have pride in what they do and what their coworkers do. Everyone in every organization needs to be able to answer the question, “How do you make your company successful?”

Kevin M. Dee has a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University and is the president of KMD Services & Consulting. He has more than twenty-eight years of experience providing leadership development, organizational development, and human resources services in Alaska and internationally. Contact him at mail@kmdconsulting.biz.

This first appeared in the March 2014 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly magazine.

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