The Holy Grail of Team Alignment

At the start of every financial year, organizations pen down goals and agree on strategies to attain them. These goals could be to reduce costs, increase engagement and productivity, or drive growth . These goals can only be achieved if the teams collaborate and work in harmony. A clear sense of alignment is required to ensure that everyone is on the same page. It’s obvious that if people row at different cadences, the boat just won’t move as fast. That’s why the leaders are supposed to be the coxswain of the boat ensuring momentum and optimal speed.

Team alignment can be best learned from a flock of birds flying in a certain formation, travelling thousands of miles together against the resistance of the wind. Every change of direction comes not as a result of a bird of the flock, but rather of the snap decisions made by all those birds in response to one movement. So why can’t we apply this principle to our business?

Team alignment is a sure way of unlocking team potential. Organization’s structures and hierarchy are meant to help people identify their roles and work together supporting each other. However, at times the varying roles, responsibilities and individual targets varying agendas that makes goal achievement a challenge.

Differing roles and objectives result in silos mentality which have the ability of killing productivity, halting innovation and destroying morale. Reality is that humans are social animals. By denying them the opportunity to collaborate and cross-pollinate ideas, they accelerate towards their own speedy demise.

If organizations can address this problem creatively, then it can make a big difference both for their people and the expected business outcomes.  This requires a shift from the traditional neglect which results in teams having misaligned priorities and limited collaboration. The organization also needs to ensure the employees’ professional development. A study shows that roughly 70 percent of employees don’t feel that the organization cares about their professional development. An alignment of personal and business objectives for every employee will makes them feel valued, thereby making them add value to the organization’s set goals.

Now that we know why team alignment is important, lets understand some ways of doing so.

Share leadership responsibilities: 

Here’s a thing about leadership — people often confuse titles with shared responsibilities, but in reality true leadership qualities can be found anywhere in an organization. For instance, in a long bird migration, while congregating in a flock, every bird is allowed to take its turn to lead the front of the flock and take the force of the wind. When in power, it carries the flock towards their destination to keep anyone from tiring out. The same can be applied in business, where a Manager can identify the sweet spots of every team member and allow them to take turns in leading the several stages of a project.

Communicate objectives clearly:

Birds make sounds to identify and communicate subtle changes and alter their actions accordingly to stay focused. Human can do this too by communicating clearly any change, confusion, action or idea that can have an effect on the overall objective. No one should leave it to assumptions.  Also, the communicated objectives during monthly or quarterly meets should be subtly repeated in day to day business to ensure everyone stays on the same page.

When times get tough, learn to trust: 

This is the basis of any successful relationship – be it personal or professional. To understand this concept from the point-of-view of a migrating flock, when some bird is sick, two of its fellow birds leave the formation in order to find aid for the sick bird. They protect the member till it is able to re-join the formation healthily. Such natural accountability and reliance – if brought in teams – can work wonders to meet the end objective. However, in reality, if one person is struggling to give his/her 100%, we see others ganging up against him/her as they have to bear the burden of increased work. That’s not right in many ways because a team is after all the creation of reliable and candid relationships.

While all these are best practices, they are better said than done is real life as its difficult to change mindsets of individuals and teams who come from different backgrounds, beliefs and whose level of openness to accepting change varies. To bring it all in under roof, we conduct an interesting and interactive team building game, The Search for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine (LDGM), is universal in nature and provides your teams with a reason to accept certain changes for personal as well as professional development.

When these learnings are delivered in a team setting, the alignment/collaboration/accountability roots spread in multiple directions, thereby influencing and helping your team align to organization’s goals and ensures sustained replicable success.

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