Is everyone on the same page?

Opportunity 44In the last Opportunity we talked about the need for organizational alignment and that there were three sub-components. In this article we will focus on the first component, clarity of direction (organizational alignment direction). The concept is fairly straight forward, all levels of an organization need goals that reinforce each other in order to move forward in a desired direction. The reality, unfortunately, is much more complicated. It also goes beyond just aligning the levels of an organization, it also means aligning functional objectives. It’s hard enough aligning levels…aligning functions (primarily because of the conflicting objectives we’ve discussed before) is even more difficult.

Take something as basic as a plan to grow sales. Top line projections are made and put into budgets, but forecasting where that growth needs to come from (e.g. new business, base business, market growth, from competitors, etc.) isn’t so easy. At the next level, regional and territory sales managers need to forecast growth by product (or service) and by customer. This is important because these forecasts feed other department requirements, who need to be aligned. When you get to the sales rep level, the direction they are given on a monthly, weekly and even daily basis needs to reinforce the overall sales strategy. Implicit in higher level planning is lower level activities that need to be done. The front-line of the business (and not just in sales) is where we often see the integrity of the organization’s alignment break down. To continue our example, sales people might be given direction as to how many sales calls they should make in a week, but what’s more important is the types of calls they need to make in order to achieve the plan. Being more specific about the types of calls (e.g. new accounts vs base customers) might dramatically change the required activities of a sales person.

A good way to study directional alignment is to map out the tools managers use to plan, execute and report on an area. Planning usually starts with higher levels of the organization and gets more granular as it nears the point of execution. Reporting flows up and away from execution in a similar pattern. It’s not unusual to find that the direction used to initiate planning and then later report back on it, has little to do with the direction that is provided at the point where products or services are actually delivered. Finding those disconnects is often a rich source of opportunities to improve alignment.

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