When “Are we all Aligned” Doesn’t Mean Real Alignment

How many times has a meeting ended with the question similar to this. “Are we aligned? Do we know what we all need to do and by when?”

Does the ‘affirmation’ that all in the room are on the same page with what to do denote alignment? What is agreed upon can be aligned with the organization’s mission, but too many times, it’s not.

We see numerous comments in Orgametrics®Assessments about contradictions to what was just ‘agreed to’ in meetings by the people that were in the meeting. Misalignment coming out of such meetings is usually a result of these factors:

  • The person running the meeting (in the room or as a hovering force outside) is command and control, wanting his way or the highway. Creativity, discussion, contradiction and collaboration are not needed, or wanted. “Here’s what I want to get done. You do this. You do that. Here are the timelines. Are we on the same page?”
  • The person running the meeting asks for feedback, but there’s enough history to know he doesn’t want anything that really contradicts his desire. There might be some creativity on execution, but not on whether the reasoning is sound. “Here’s what I’m seeing. I see you doing this, you doing that. Does that sound right? Good. Then we’re in alignment. Let’s go.”
  • Trust is lacking among the people in the room. They do a lot of head nodding, keep quiet and leave the room knowing there’s enough inertia going on that nothing will be accomplished. They know they won’t do what they were asked, will have a plausible excuse as to why they didn’t get it done and won’t suffer consequences for the lack of accountability.
  • Meeting participants aren’t aligned with each other on a higher, organizational, level before the meeting even starts to even make a positive outcome likely.

Without alignment to the mission, vision and/or strategic plan of the organization, and how they each support and strengthen one another, leaders at all levels will have a hard time getting their teams, and the organization to be truly effective. Without establishing an alignment culture in the first place, as the foundation of everything that’s done, actions and behaviors outside of that will be more and more misaligned.

Let’s look at this in a non-business way.

When an archer is off by just a hair in her setup either up or down, right or left, the arrow shot will have almost no change at hitting the bullseye. A building can never be more aligned than its foundation. When a wall doesn’t get started up completely level, it will become less stable as it gets built up and it will not support the structure it’s set up to hold.

Do your work beforehand to get people aligned at the end of meetings. . Set up a foundation, a culture, processes, that reinforce connection and buy-in to mission, vision and strategic plan. If ties of alignment are strong within and across departments and teams, meetings and interactions become easier and results come faster and with more impact.

It’s imperative for you, as a leader, take a systematic view of the organization, leadership, alignment and effectiveness. If you are lacking in some components of leadership and alignment, learn some best practices. However, you must practice them and spread them around to other leaders for them to take hold. If you are at the top, you need to support your team to develop. If you are in the larger group, you need to bring others along with you as you convince those above how important it really is.

Growth won’t happen overnight, but will take consistent, intentional effort, openness and patience.

One of the original employees at Google learned and used a way to make meetings more impactful and aligned.

Establish agreement of what the objective of the meeting really is. Get all to agree how the issue or opportunity being addressed relates to the mission vision and/or strategic plan. Do this before the meeting even begins. Practice it in smaller meetings where politics in front of a larger group are less of a factor. End the meeting and address gaps before reconvening if there isn’t agreement as to what the meeting is supposed to accomplish, .

This process could serve to reverse engineer some alignment and build it from the lower levels. It builds trust, communication lines and a regular connection to mission and vision. This path will take alignment and effectiveness to a certain point, However, if leaders rumble and stay disconnected, or even stay ambivalent, their toxicity will bleed through the organization.