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So much of the struggle of working on teams comes down to one key task: getting a team aligned. Aligned teams lead to better engagement, performance, and retention. Getting and keeping a team aligned is a key task for leaders at all levels. But recognizing the importance of alignment is a lot easier than actually getting everyone on the same page.
Team alignment means everyone contributes toward a shared goal, understands their assigned tasks, and sees how their work fits into the team’s work. But teams are composed of people and people bring their own individual goals, desired tasks, and sense of contribution that may or may not fit well with others.
In this article, we will explore how to get a team aligned across five steps of creating, and then keeping alignment.
Step 1: Start from Purpose
The first step in how to get a team aligned is starting from purpose. Before setting a plan of action, goals, and key performance indicators, teams need to focus on the reason they’re working on that project. This begins with the organizational mission, as it sets the tone for the team’s purpose and helps everyone understand the bigger picture. Once the mission is defined, it can be translated into a team-wide purpose—a clearly defined statement of why that team’s work is important and how it fits into the organizational mission.
Starting from purpose is key to keeping the team motivated and providing them with task significance that helps them stay focused when the day-to-day tasks get tedious or strenuous. But starting from purpose also helps teams deal with change. Changes are going to happen to the team—internal and external changes are going to force the team to pivot. But if everyone on the team has a clear picture of the team-wide purpose, then they can pivot quickly and still trust they’re making progress on their purpose.
Step 2: Establish Priorities
The second step in how to get a team aligned is establishing priorities. Once the end goal is defined, the team can turn its attention to getting there. Any project carries with it dozens of tasks and subtasks that have to be arranged in a specific order—and that bring with them a certain level of importance. That’s what establishing priorities is all about. Once the tasks are identified, they should be ranked in order of importance. This ranking should be communicated to the team, so everyone understands what tasks are most important and what they should be working on.
Just like starting from purpose, establishing priorities helps keep the team focused and updated on changes. When those inevitable changes happen, they may or may not affect the ranking of priorities. So, in the face of changes, leaders need to be clear on what tasks stay critical, what new tasks are important, and what tasks were lowered. In this way, keeping priorities clear is vital to keeping a team aligned.
Step 3: Set Team Goals
The third step in how to get a team aligned is setting team goals. With purpose in focus and priorities set, it’s time to map out how the team will act on their plan. Some teams use complex metrics like KPIs and OKRs. But if you don’t know what either acronym stands for that’s okay. Fundamentally, setting team goals involves working backwards from completion and creating milestones that will be used to monitor progress, provide feedback, and create moments of celebration.
Whatever system is used, leaders need to ensure people know what the most important goals are, as well as how they’re being measured. And leaders need to ensure people know what is expected of them and by when, and how it fits into the series of cascading goals. This makes holding teammates accountable for performance easier—but it also makes it easier for everyone to celebrate their own wins and the wins of their teammates.
Step 4: Hold Regular Huddles
The fourth step in how to get a team aligned is holding regular huddles. Huddles are the quick meetings team members have on a regular basis to “work out loud” and keep everyone updated on progress and potential roadblocks. It helps keep everyone on the same page and ensures that everyone is aware of what is happening. How often these huddles happen depends on the team and the project.
Regardless of frequency, one easy format for leaders to adopt in their huddles centers around three questions: what did I just complete?, what am I focused on next?, and what is blocking my progress? When each person on the team provides an answer to each question, then everyone on the team gets a status update, gets to know how their work fits into the work of others, and gets to ask for and offer help across the team.
Step 5: Check-in Often
The final step in how to get a team aligned is checking in often—and this happens on the individual level from leaders to individual teammates. Check-ins help leaders keep tabs on progress, give coaching, and align individual goals with team and organizational goals. And Check-Ins keep team members motivated and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.
In addition to team-wide huddles, regular one-on-one meetings should be held with team members to discuss progress, challenges, and individual goals. Leaders should encourage transparency and honesty during these meetings. This helps them understand what is happening and how they can help. This is also a great time to have more forward-looking conversations about the individual’s career goals and ambitions and how the current projects can help serve as development opportunities for them. The information gathered during Check-In meetings can be used to get team members more meaningful work and keep them motivated.
Team alignment is crucial for the success of any team. By starting from purpose, establishing priorities, setting team goals, holding regular huddles, and checking in often at the individual level, leaders can keep their team aligned and performing at their best. An aligned team is a team that helps everyone do their best work ever.
A quote you often hear is, “Culture eats strategy for lunch,” typically attributed to Peter Drucker (whether correctly or not). Regardless, it puts a spotlight on the power of culture to resist even the most compelling strategic narratives. These days it’s hard to come up with a more compelling narrative than digital transformation. But it can definitely find itself at odds with culture, so what chance could it possibly have?
In my work with successful companies, two cultures show up over and over again. One is a competition culture, where teams get up every morning driven to be the best. The other is a collaboration culture, where teams strive to be the best for others. Both cultures can create great companies, and, if you play your cards right, each can be enlisted as an ally of change. You just have to get it aligned properly.
To do so, you need to use your culture to focus people on a driving force of change that is outside of your company:
In the case of a competition culture, this would be a competitor using disruptive technology to steal your market share. Think Google for Microsoft, Lyft for Uber, Nvidia for Intel, or Arista for Cisco. Transform or they win! That’s the sort of thing that galvanizes change in a competition culture.
In the case of a collaboration culture, the driving force is fear of letting your customer down as the world shifts to a new platform. Think of Salesforce championing machine learning, Docusign championing systems of agreement, or Proofpoint championing people-centric security. These are changes that could put your customers’ franchises at risk. No customer left behind! That’s the battle cry that brings a collaboration culture to attention.
The key point here is that, regardless of whether you have a competition or a collaboration culture, the force for change must be external, not internal. Either culture, internally focused, simply will not transform. Instead, everyone will spend all their time listening to radio station WIIFM—What’s in it for me? And what they will learn is that there are not a lot of good songs playing. Transformation requires sacrifice. We are going to have to step back before we step forward.
People are willing to sacrifice for the right cause outside the company, but not inside. So, when you are leading a transformation, be sure to keep people’s attention focused on a North Star that transcends their individual issues, not on the career compass they are holding in their hand.
That’s what I think. What do you think?
Image Credit: Pexels
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How to Ensure Your Digital Transformation Plan is Aligned with Your Business Goals
GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia
Digital transformation has become a critical journey for organizations seeking to thrive in the digital age. However, simply implementing new technologies without aligning them with business goals can result in wasted investments and missed opportunities. This thought leadership article explores the significance of alignment between digital transformation plans and business goals. It will delve into two case studies to illustrate how organizations effectively aligned their digital transformations with their strategic objectives.
Case Study 1: Company X – Aligning Digital Transformation for Enhanced Customer Experience
Company X, a global retail giant, recognized the need to adapt to changing customer expectations and remain competitive in the digital landscape. Their primary business goal was to elevate customer experience and boost brand loyalty. To achieve this, they embarked on a comprehensive digital transformation plan with a strong alignment strategy.
Firstly, Company X invested in state-of-the-art customer experience management tools, gathering data from various touchpoints and analyzing customer behavior. This facilitated targeted marketing campaigns, personalized recommendations, and seamless interaction across digital channels.
Secondly, their transformation plan focused on integrating digital platforms and optimizing user interfaces. This allowed customers to browse and compare products effortlessly, find relevant information, and make purchases seamlessly across multiple devices.
The alignment of their digital transformation plan with the business goal of enhancing customer experience yielded remarkable results. Company X experienced a substantial increase in customer satisfaction and loyalty metrics. In addition, their digital initiatives delivered a significant boost in sales by providing exceptional online shopping experiences.
Key Takeaway: Aligning digital transformation efforts with specific business goals, such as enhancing customer experience, can lead to substantial improvements across various performance metrics.
Case Study 2: Company Y – Employing Digital Transformation to Enhance Operational Efficiency
Company Y, a leading logistics and supply chain service provider, aimed to improve operational efficiency while reducing costs. Through a well-aligned digital transformation strategy, they successfully achieved these goals by leveraging emerging technologies.
Firstly, Company Y integrated Internet of Things (IoT) devices throughout their supply chain network. By doing so, they collected real-time data on inventory levels, transportation conditions, and delivery statuses. This enabled them to proactively address issues such as delays, product damage, or stockouts, resulting in optimized operational processes and reduced costs.
Secondly, they implemented predictive analytics tools, which utilized the collected data to forecast demand patterns accurately. This allowed them to optimize their inventory levels, streamline warehouse operations, and plan more efficient delivery routes. As a result, Company Y experienced significant cost savings through enhanced operational efficiency.
By aligning their digital transformation plan with their business goal of improving operational efficiency, Company Y achieved remarkable returns on investment. They witnessed substantial reductions in operational costs and achieved increased customer satisfaction through timely deliveries and improved order accuracy.
Key Takeaway: Aligning digital transformation initiatives with strategic business goals, like enhancing operational efficiency, can lead to cost savings, improved customer satisfaction, and optimized business processes.
Digital transformation is not just about implementing new technologies; it’s about aligning those technologies with business goals to drive meaningful outcomes. The case studies of Company X and Company Y illustrate how organizations can leverage alignment to achieve remarkable success in their digital transformation journeys. By prioritizing alignment, businesses can avoid missteps, maximize returns, and ensure a seamless transition into the digital era, ultimately gaining a competitive edge in their respective industries.
Bottom line: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.
Image credit: Unsplash
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