3 Ways Organizational Misalignment Causes Your Initiatives to Fail and How You Can Fix It

You’ve put a lot of time, effort and resources towards a key initiative for your organization. You may have spent a lot of political capital to get it moving and a lot is riding on its success. But, it’s not going as planned.

Deadlines are being missed. Costs are higher than the plan. Different people and functions are infighting about who does what and when.

Why is this happening?

Is the initiative you are on the line for poor in its design? Doubtful. You likely wouldn’t have gotten it off the ground if it was.

Is the finish line too far off and it’s hard to see how to get there? Possibly, but there are steps in place to get you to the end.

Could the issue be systemic from an organization perspective and related to how aligned it is to its mission and vision? More likely than you might think.

Alignment is the Key

When an organization’s employee base is bought into and connected with the mission, vision and strategic plan of their organization, a variety of things fall into place:

  • Employees are on the same page on the WHY an organization exists and what their role is to meet that why,
  • With passion towards the common goal, it’s much easier to see how plans, tasks and workflows across teams fit together; and
  • Initiatives and programs that flow from the strategic plan are better understood and are easier to sell.

Many organizations have alignment gaps. The farther you go down an organization, the less connection there is to the mission. When a broad set of people are not connected, they don’t see how the initiative fits into the overall scheme. They pick holes at it. They prioritize other items they see as more important for their role. When momentum down in the organization for your initiative wanes, it’s hard to get it back.

3 Causes Your Initiative is Failing

If you look at this issue from an an organizational perspective rather than looking at tactical issues, you will see systemic, alignment-related reasons your initiatives, and other programs in your organization, are floundering:

  • Leadership in different functions are not well aligned to the Plan and, therefore, your initiative. When other leaders are not bought into what’s happening, they naturally put kinks in the flow of the organization. Like the graphic depicting alignment in an education institution to the right shows, that misalignment can only stay the same or get worse the farther down you go.
  • The Mission, Vision and Plan are not sold. Mostly, this is weighted on the strategic plan. We’ve written about selling a strategic plan here and here. If the plan hasn’t been sold well, its initiatives will have a hard time doing better. Teams won’t be on the same page. They’ll prioritize tasks based on their priorities, not the organizations. They will drag their feet.
  • The initiative didn’t engage key stakeholders well enough and wasn’t sold. This one is on you, potentially. If you are part of a misaligned organization, you likely knew there would be people and departments that might not buy into your ideas. You may have pushed them aside in the planning and selling process hoping it wouldn’t come back to bite you or that you could force the work to happen when it was needed.

How to Fix It

If you are at the top of the organization, and all three of the reasons above can be put on you, there’s a lot in your control. Getting an organization aligned to its mission, vision and strategic plan should always be your number 1 priority. Everything else that’s done on a daily basis flows off of that. You shouldn’t have excuses that you are in the middle of this or that, or there’s this fire that needs to be put out. Take care of those, sure. But, you need to right the ship or it will always list, and may tip over.

If you are at a leadership level lower down the organization, and don’t have the ability to drive an alignment journey, you can use the concepts posted in our blog post about selling your Plan after the fact. The same concepts would apply.

You have a great initiative. It will positively impact your organization and those it serves. Don’t worry about blame or prior mistakes. Look forward to the possibilities and strive on.