Early alignment is key to unlocking lasting organizational change

By Scott Goldstein (alum)

Change is easy to conceive, but much harder to achieve. Within organizations, even the best and boldest new strategies or ideas are prone to fail when people are not aligned. 

Substantive and sustainable organizational change demands a high degree of alignment and enormous energy to succeed. Everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction at the same time with a shared understanding and enthusiasm. But this is easier said than done. It’s difficult to move beyond the status quo. 

Here we take a look at common pitfalls when there’s lack of alignment around organizational change, and highlight the clear benefits from gaining early consensus.

Change of any variety first needs alignment

Whether you’re striving for a quarterly objective, pursuing an annual goal, or driving towards a multi-year transformation such as a new North Star, changes of all types and sizes require early organizational alignment. 

Your need for change may be the result of an acquisition or restructuring, the introduction of a new product or service, or competitive or economic pressures. Whatever the impetus, alignment, or lack thereof, will determine whether or not you deliver the desired outcome. Without it, you’ll be caught up in a swirl of endless meetings where participants are unfocused, overwhelmed or even adversarial. Energy and enthusiasm is sapped and confidence in your leadership wanes.

With alignment, you create energy instead of draining it. And that energy fuels belief in the vision and builds momentum for change. 

Make alignment the first chapter in your playbook

People — and the teams, organizations, and companies they comprise — often think they are aligned when they are not. 

The lack of alignment results in confusion or even conflict. Most of the time, it leaves people feeling frustrated and disillusioned, and they eventually retreat to the status quo. In severe cases, a lack of alignment creates chaos, sows mistrust, and stifles good ideas.

Without alignment, plans and objectives were never clear in the first place or too much was open to interpretation. Maybe the C-suite understood the vision, but the rest of the organization never got the big picture. Even within an extremely talented team, people can become adversarial if there’s a lack of consensus or enthusiasm around a change.

This scenario is not uncommon. But the response should be to fix the problem, not the blame. 

Lack of clarity has its cost 

As a consultant, you are tasked with conceiving the strategy — and doing so under intense pressure. It’s possible that key stakeholders may have different and even opposing perspectives on a strategy’s components and their prioritization. If your stakeholders can’t align, you can get caught up on a treadmill of endless iteration. 

When multiple stakeholders are trying to formulate a strategy without alignment, the resulting frustration over wasted time and energy can boil over with drastic results: A consultancy can be replaced and an executive can be sidelined if they’re deemed ineffective when trying to articulate an approach. 

Whether the architects of new strategies or those tasked with activating them across an organization, no one wants to see their game plan undermined due to poor execution. Even the best conceived ideas will fail to launch if people aren’t aligned and energized around them.

Getting there requires taking a deliberate, proactive approach. 

Engage a proven process for consensus building and engagement

If a strategy is clear in the minds of its architects, but confusing to others, it needs to be expressed with greater clarity.

If you’re sharing your strategies with dense presentations rife with bullet points and data, but lacking cohesive narratives, expect confusion outside of your core team. That lack of clarity will undermine confidence in your idea no matter how analytically sound it may be. 

Even a clear strategy can fall flat if it lacks emotional engagement and energy. Alignment begins to take shape by understanding how to express your idea as a story, supported by effective visuals, allowing you to present ideas to key stakeholders and other audiences in an accessible and engaging manner. 

That starts with a facilitated working session that brings stakeholders together to begin co-creating their story and uses live sketching to visualize their ideas. Sketching, by its very nature, is incomplete, which draws participants attention and engagement and subconsciously prompts them to complete the images. 

Everyone can react to what they see and begin to fill in the gaps to make better sense of the overall approach. And as the process unfolds, it creates a new, positive energy that is fun, fresh, interesting, and engaging. You gain real alignment behind the idea as people begin to coalesce around a shared vision.

The result is an effective change story that energizes its audience, not confuses it, and is more memorable and shareable for its audience.

Alignment requires a reliable, repeatable approach

Alignment problems are common to consultancies and their clients because of the very nature of the work. There’s often a persistent gap between the team that formulates the strategy and its primary audience. 

Visual thinking and communications can overcome this challenge by making your ideas visible, tangible, and actionable. As a result, the formulation of your plan is more engaging because from the outset people have clarity and confidence that they share an understanding of the ideas at hand. Instead of merely advocating for their own ideas, stakeholders can more easily build upon one another’s. 

If you’d like to learn more about how Tremendousness works with companies to create alignment and bring about successful organizational change, we’d love to hear from you.

Image: photo by Fahrul Azmi on Unsplash.