Top 7 Questions to Align Your Company
Misalignment is like a cancer in your organization
When you were a kid, did you play tug of war? If so, you may remember having two equally strong teams matched up. There was lots of spent energy, sweating, perhaps swearing — and that darn rope just didn’t move! Does your company feel that way sometimes? Lots of people working hard and no movement?!
Without alignment, you’re wasting energy in the form of capital, payroll, confusion in the market and opportunity costs. You most likely don’t see it. Misalignment is like a cancer in your organization. It’ll slow you down and eventually kill you if you don’t eliminate or reduce it.
So how do you create alignment? Answer these seven questions:
- What’s our purpose? You don’t create a purpose as much as you uncover it. Why was your company created? There was an underlying need that had to be addressed, and it’s a big deal. It entails making peoples’ lives better. It’s OK if your purpose is similar to other organizations. My neighborhood church and hospital don’t offer the same services, but they may have the same purpose — saving lives. Do you think this is mushy bullshit? You’re dead wrong. By the way, your purpose isn’t an advertising campaign — it’s why you exist, and it’s why people want to work with you (or maybe they don’t …).
- What are our values? The real ones. The two or three things that are apparent in the behaviors of your people. You may have aspirational values — those you want to exhibit. But make sure you talk about them that way, or your people will know you’re a fraud. What programs and practices do you have to support your values? Do you want to figure out what the current real values are? Ask 20 of your co-workers two questions: 1) Who are the company’s heroes and why? 2) How do you get fired around here? The answers will tell you what your real values are.
- Where are we going? This is your vision, and it’s the starting line for developing a sound strategy. It provides a compelling picture of the future for the troops. The fact that you want a bigger boat isn’t a vision — it’s a financial goal, and your people don’t give a damn. If you don’t know where you’re going, what road will you take?
- What customers do we serve? Strategy question No. 1. You cannot be all things to all people, so which defined customer group or groups will you serve? What are their characteristics? Why are they different from other customers? Whom will you not focus on?
- How will we win? Strategy question No. 2. There must be a reason people will buy your product or service over the competitions’. What is it? If you can’t answer this, you don’t really have a clear strategy. You’re also in danger!
- What are our current priorities? There can only be a few, and they should be based on your answers to Questions 3, 4 and 5. Having too many priorities means that you don’t have any. Better to move three things forward a mile than 50 things an inch. Without priorities, you may as well admit that you’re blindly and randomly applying resources in an effort to achieve an above-market return. Good luck with that!
- What’s our plan? Given your priorities, who does what by when? It must be documented, tracked and adjusted.
To create alignment you must answer these seven questions, which isn’t supposed to be easy. Or you could just play tug of war until you run out of resources.