Want everyone’s ducks in a row? Then you need to understand how to create team alignment. It doesn’t matter if you’re a team of 10 or an organization spread over 10 countries, success is down to team alignment and everyone being on the same line of the same page or same book.
And we mean any success – a culture transformation, a strategic initiative, a new department or product or service, a merger or acquisition, you name it. However, aligning teams is no easy job, and sometimes it can feel like a whole different chapter or book altogether.
The symptoms of a lack of team alignment might sound familiar. Time, energy and money wasted on the wrong efforts, frustration and confusion running rife in teams, and uncertain futures – for employees and even for the business.
Aligning teams is about setting crystal clear expectations, mutual understanding of goals, and shared responsibility for outcomes. But aligning teams at quarterly reviews with one-way conversation is not enough. Nurturing team alignment is about thinking past the short-term and creating sustainable processes. Every day is an opportunity to identify issues, gaps, and red flags, and it’s an essential leadership skill to be able to step in to re-align people.
Why is Team Alignment Important?
“Building a visionary company requires 1% vision and 99% alignment.” – Jim Collins and Jerry Porra
Quite simply, team alignment is essential to achieve business goals. What’s the point in having a dream team of superheroes if they’re all flying in different directions and uncertain about how and when to use their powers? Ducks in a row, and not ducks on different lakes!
When you align teams effectively, you provide the information they need to make the best decisions, and set them up to communicate and work effectively, and to succeed – with the company/team goals always at the front of their mind.
Team alignment has many benefits:
- Maximized productivity and better results, with less repetition and back-and-forth.
- Clear priorities and expectations, so less conflict and confusion.
- Engaged and motivated employees who understand the importance of every role.
- Increased camaraderie and collaboration, fostering more creativity and innovation.
- Faster decision-making increased operational efficiency and less wastage of resources.
- Increased exchange of knowledge, and easier-to-spot talent gaps.
- Increased understanding of the customer journey, and better customer experiences.
- Increased trust between leaders and teams.
3 Effects of Poor Team Alignment
97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project (McKinsey). There may be various reasons and barriers to why teams aren’t working well, but without team alignment on what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, anxiety and stress ensue due to having to regain clarity down the road.
No Team Vision
Without a North Star – the guiding vision for the business – how can anyone know what they’re supposed to be working towards? That they’re making the right decisions? Failure to align teams is a recipe for mixed messaging, missed KPIs and yes, disasters. ‘Vision’ may sound like a cheesy box to be ticked, but it’s about inciting a sense of passion and direction in your people.
Effect on Team Culture
It doesn’t take long for a lack of clarity and structure to poison the well of company culture. When teams don’t understand what needs doing and why, and how they fit into the company vision, they become frustrated and confused. Without team alignment, resentment will fester, and you’ll soon be saying goodbye to your star players.
Lack of Clarity Between Leaders and Employees of Teams
If you don’t align teams, how can they be sure about which tasks to complete first, and the impact each has? You’ll have disengaged employees suffering from a destructive lack of momentum – juggling too many tasks at once, duplicating efforts, missing deadlines, and working towards different goals, with alternative viewpoints leading to butting heads rather than greater understanding. You’ll also have angry bosses because the work wasn’t up to scratch.
How to Create Team Alignment
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford
We have a full article on how to create team alignment, but here are some brief tips too:
1. Prioritize communication and transparency. Communicate often and ask for clarity often.
Aligning teams means helping people to connect dots. When you communicate an update or instruction, don’t just mic-drop and leave the room. Factor in time to answer questions, fill in blanks, and check understanding. Be comfortable with silence. Let brains process before closing out Q&A’s. Being transparent about company strategy, mission and values give employees a shared language and sense of accountability. People crave certainty, don’t starve them of what their brains need. The ‘why’ will always go a long way.
2. Set clear goals at the start of projects.
If teams aren’t aligned at the start, it will end badly. Resist the urge to jump in headfirst and begin by slowing down to align teams. Don’t let illusions of agreement biases hinder you. Slow down and have teams repeat back to check for understanding. The big picture is easily lost in the nitty gritty of the day-to-day, but establishing clear, memorable objectives helps avoid that. Involve the team in setting those goals too, and they’ll be more likely to understand and get behind them.
3. Check in with your team and be empathetic, to ensure no assumptions are being made.
Take steps to discover how values, objectives, and strategy are being understood and realized throughout the business. That could mean quarterly strategy meetings, weekly surveys, and regular one-on-one time to align teams. Not everyone feels comfortable admitting they aren’t on the same page, so practice active listening and work to create a psychologically safe environment, before any hurdles are tripped over or goals affected.
4. Utilize the right tools
Teams, Slack, Asana – there are so many at your disposal, all very helpful in aligning teams. It’s important to identify the best tools for your teams, that empower people, while building team alignment. Too many tools, and you’ll be faced with information silos and hidden work.
5. Highlight team accomplishments and celebrate wins against objectives – throughout projects, not just at the end.
1 in 4 employees say their organization doesn’t celebrate accomplishments or learnings (Officevibe). Big or small wins, everyone likes a ‘well done’ and a pat on the back (or a private message from their leader if they’re an introvert) when they’ve done a good job.
Relaying how people have made a difference, and milestones that are subsequently hit, are huge factors in team alignment. Careful tracking of progress not only keeps the focus on goals but enables you to nip any problems in the bud too.
Learning how to create team alignment is more important than ever before. Sign up to The Alignment Shift, our program that merges cutting-edge science and immersive, experiential learning to help your leaders get everyone on the same page of the same book, and drive your business forward.