No one takes organisational alignment as seriously as the Singapore Armed Forces.
When the going gets tough and lives are at stake, you want to be sure that everyone’s focused on the same objective, pushing as hard as you are, and that your buddy’s got your back. The mindset and rigor applied to the army may have also been ingrained into the way Singapore rallies its citizens for civil defence and indeed community responses to threats of all kinds — including the current COVID-19 outbreak. (Singapore has done itself proud with the way it has reached out to the people living in this city-state to keep it as “safe” as possible in uncertain and unsettling times.)
Achieving this state of “operational readiness” doesn’t come easy, and in the big, bad world of industry and commerce, it’s even more challenging.
Companies are made of all kinds of people with diverse cultural and social backgrounds, and perspectives — so any sort of alignment, whether it’s around business strategy, talent management or even how we should respond in a crisis, can be a cause for much hand wringing, and dissent.
Granted that unlike the army, you may not get your head blown apart by a ‘frenemy’ in the jungle out there, but the consequences of a lack of internal alignment can be just as crippling: Low morale, fuzzy roles and responsibilities, squabbling factions, measly pockets of excellence, lackadaisical purpose, petering productivity, poor time-to-market.
Which is why I’m surprised when companies on a rebranding run think the heavy lifting is done when their corporate vision, mission and core values are articulated and the brand strategy is defined. That’s all well and good; but in fact, it’s only half the job done.
You need to activate the whole shebang. Induct employees in the game plan. Cascade the new vision upwards to the board, and across all employees — because a new corporate vision should first and foremost be a signal of business and organisational strategy. It is the shorthand for strategy made inspiring, and must therefore be understood in order to be activated.
The brand values that support the vision should be able to affect behaviours as well as mindset shifts. It should say “these are the kinds of company experiences we are seeking to create, and these are the values which will drive our culture and behaviour”.
The brand alignment process isn’t taking root until it seeps into the frontline troops — your brand ambassadors at the coalface, who are consciously or unconsciously building or breaking your brand at each and every customer touchpoint.
Organisational alignment doesn’t just happen on its own. It needs the visible endorsement of senior management, and their demonstrated commitment of funding and resourcing appropriate programs to give employees a clear line of sight between their on-the-job actions and the resultant impact on company performance.
That’s the only way we’ll bring down the damning statistic that says 4 out of 5 workers are not engaged in doing the things that drive business results.
What causes this misalignment? Cumulative missteps, large and small, that include:
- Senior executive behaviours that don’t match the message;
- Complicated and lengthy approval processes that prevent timely distribution of information;
- Employees who don’t get to hear things before the outside world does — resulting in a loss of faith; and conversely,
- Too much communication, such that more important messages are lost in the clutter.
But is it really worth the effort to pursue organisational alignment? It’s too idealistic, I hear you say. It takes too much effort. So what if a few people are off doing their own thing?
Well, consider this: A recent Towers Watson study found that companies with highly effective internal communication practices have a 47% higher shareholder return than companies without such disciplines in place. An informed, equipped and inspired workforce can truly achieve great things.