Amidst the shifting landscape of today’s global markets, businesses in 2024 must navigate an important workforce challenge: “How do we produce beyond what we have done before while toggling between office-based, fully virtual, and hybrid work environments?”
In the face of this challenge, we invite you to consider that having a solid business strategy and operational plans will not be enough. Though necessary, strategies and plans are only half the story; the other half lies in the implementation of those plans. As anyone who has ever tried to implement a strategic plan knows firsthand, implementation ultimately comes down to the people within an organization working in coordinated action to produce the desired results. Through Vanto Group’s 30+ years of experience working with organizations across the globe, we have found that successful implementation depends heavily on aligning a company’s workforce behind a shared strategic purpose, which we refer to as an “aligned-on future.”
When most people hear the term “Alignment”, they think of everyone agreeing to something. When we at Vanto Group say “Alignment,” we mean something different and much more powerful. According to Steve Zaffron and Allan Cohen in their paper Alignment: The Secret behind Organizational Power and Coordination:
“Alignment is a unique state in which a group experiences and operates from a wholeness or oneness in approaching those matters relevant to fulfilling the group’s concerns. When a state of Alignment has been created, the group members’ actions are naturally and necessarily coordinated and focused towards fulfilling shared concerns. Their actions are like iron filings lining up under the influence of a magnetic field.”
When we speak about an aligned organization, we are describing an environment where employees, managers, executives, and other key stakeholders collaboratively shape and jointly own the vision of the organization’s future. When this happens, a new ecosystem emerges in which strategies, plans, and practices can be designed and effectively implemented throughout the organization. A culture of engagement, respect, and appreciation naturally arises in this new environment. People begin to experience themselves as dynamic performers who are capable of high levels of achievement.
This is in stark contrast to how most organizations operate. In their May 2023 Harvard Business Review article, Is Your Company as Strategically Aligned as You Think It Is?, the co-authors surveyed over 500 frontline employees, middle managers, and senior executives across 12 diverse organizations. The survey asked participants "to indicate how aligned they thought their companies were with respect to corporate strategy." The survey found that “…participants were largely optimistic, on average reporting that they felt strategic agreement at 82%."
When detailed written explanations from those same employees were analyzed, the co-authors found that “… actual alignment (as measured by the linguistic overlap in the concepts and words they listed) was on average just 23%...” – two to three times lower than their estimated alignment. Unsurprisingly, this disconnect creates real problems. In organizations experiencing wider disparities between actual and estimated alignment, employees exhibited greater skepticism toward their companies' strategies and their implementation. They reported that their companies' efforts to execute their strategies were slower and of inferior quality.
In 2024, the opportunity for organizations to transform their culture and performance will require a strategic focus on Alignment. In both physical and virtual work environments, fostering Alignment around a shared future, embracing workforce diversity, and promoting heightened collaboration will help create a culture marked by high levels of engagement and performance.