In pursuit of alignment

We seek alignment to many things, but three things are critically important to us as individuals. Firstly, we look for alignments from others to our creative activities, both in those that contribute to the strategic objectives and those personal ones in the work we do. Secondly, we always need to work on how we set about the way we communicate if we want to achieve anything within a team or our organisations. Thirdly, alignment becomes essential in how we execute, is it going to be heaven or hell, or simply in the middle? We just can’t avoid alignment, yet we seem to do a poor job of this when you ask. Why is that? We constantly talk more about misalignment.

Part of this reason we see more misalignment is the magnitude of this constant change, coupled with the incessant pressure for new sources of innovation is causing us increasing anxiety on the knowing/doing gaps. Alignment remains one of our best answers to communicate the ‘need to agree and do’.

Achieving alignment, arranging all those planets to be in line, can provide the much needed impact to a whole lot of what we do. Alignment also needs that other magic word of ‘objectives’. We have a specific need to always set clear objectives between ‘us’ to gain this essential alignment.

Understanding the complex linkages within alignment

To get closer to achieving alignment for innovation, as an example, we need an overarching strategic design, to reduce the ‘disconnects’. Innovation needs constant alignment. One essential need is to provide a well-designed strategic plan that will allow the necessary connections. In order to allow innovation to contribute to growth, organisation leaders are demanding to keep us all ‘on track’. We need to seek out alignment through clarification, through talking to each other, to working explicitly from the same page.

Yet good intent is not good enough, as I have outlined before: “However, even when executives understand the linkage, they may fail to understand how to ensure linkages between corporate strategy and innovation actually does lie with them to be communicated throughout the organisation. When executives simply request innovation and delegate the decisions and definitions to business line leaders or executives outside the boardroom they are delegating the growth and future of the organisation to others.

We are constantly fighting the failures within organisations for achieving alignment

There are so many failure points. For instance, how often do you see those failures to translate the strategy of the leadership’s thinking (often those vaulting high-level ambition ones) into offering the additional leadership guidance to achieve these? This lack of guidelines or framework reduces the potential for alignment. It stops turning ambitions into specific actions that allow these strategic objectives to be translated into specific realities that others can really identify with.

We fail if we don’t have the abilities to translate and communicate those objectives throughout our organisations. Being able to gather around and work towards achieving makes a significant difference. Leaders leave strategy far too much in the abstract. They need to consciously work on the design principles and downstream choices. I have offered the “choice / cascade integrated innovation model” to help in this.

We also fail to communicate when conditions in the market place show signs of real change, we stay aligned to old objectives, we don’t dynamically adapt our strategy and thinking. We allow it to remain static, locked into old, out of date thinking, missing the essentials of new knowledge to flow through adaptive learning.

Then we fail when we simply struggle within ourselves, we can’t personally or organisationally adjust quickly enough. We still find great difficulties to really learn how to pivot in larger organisations or in our personal learning, yet this is becoming essential in today’s world, to adopt to rapidly changing conditions. Take a read within Steve Blank’s postings on pivots, maybe as a start here on a critical aspect of managing today.

Then we can fail because we struggle to align organisational capabilities with our strategic and innovation growth objectives. We are constantly battling fatigue, resistance, and ownership issues. We fail to often take the dedicated time and consistent focus to build our capabilities, in order to establish new ways of working and regain those creative energies.

We then really fail if we can’t convert strategic intent. This ‘strategic enthusiasm’ turns fresh but sustaining investments into those that can help change our organisation capabilities to learn and deliver afresh but with renewed vigour. We need to align our desire with clear intent, purpose and objectives.

I’ve written about innovation failures before–it starts at the top. If you need further thinking in this area, take an additional read, but the critical point here is to recognise, and then work actively on all the potential failure points that are stopping your alignment.

Once you recognise these and what they are doing to you, you can address them and remove these blockages to regain the essential alignment you need.

Overcoming potential failure, alignment might come through more dynamic linking.

To achieve a more dynamic linking, we need to find new ways to translate strategic ambition into clearer downstream choices for our innovation activities. I believe we need to offer a more explicit design from the top of our organisations to guide and frame innovation–one that offers an outline of actionable design principles.

The design needs to be specific enough but without prescribing all the details. It is amazing how much knowledge does reside within our organisations. If it doesn’t, it is getting easier and easier to go outside the organisation, where you will find more thoughts to stimulate the potential answers, but I’d tend to issue a caveat. As long as you understand the context, these ‘answers’ can show up in so many totally unexpected places, particularly if you wear different ‘lenses’ of enquiry.

We need to translate the organisations innovation ambitions by providing adaptive frameworks to build within. Finally to sustain them there is the leadership need to provide all the necessary ‘capitals’ for building the required capabilities and the capacities to be understood and established, to achieve innovation alignment.

Putting together alignment and objectives needs a specific design


The alignment within the use of the Executive Innovation Work Mat 

I’ve argued that the adoption of the Executive Innovation Work Mat does offer a terrific framework for achieving this triple alignment of 1) communicating strategic ambitions and goals, 2) aligning the conditions to allow innovation to be put to meaningful work and then 3) working towards building the necessary design of capabilities and capacities to execute around these plans.

By working through a better understanding of the innovation ‘parts’ that make the whole, we can translate our executive intentions by engaging and then communicating so innovation can become explicit to all. You come closer to organisation and personal alignment. You create the conditions for more explicit outcomes, aligning activities within the overarching frame of a desired culture, environment, governance and processes that flows through specific contexts, better communicating channels and choices.

You move closer to alignment because you are all working within the same overarching innovation framework creating the common language, gaining the appropriate context and all communicating on this- you are moving closer to alignment.

The Executive Innovation Work Mat can be summarised as a place for real beneficial alignment:

  1. The framework can create cohesion and consistency of innovation purpose that will reduce many existing barriers and uncertainties around innovation.
  2. The framework itself will generate work flows that links, become more dynamic to explore and promote the holistic needs for innovation to work. With the innovation skills, capabilities and competencies needed, they become more cohesive, coordinated and focused.
  3. As the framework connects, in its understanding and as its impact grows, we certainly can ‘see and believe’, our confidence builds. Both formal and informal areas are addressed in parallel, growing all-round identification and alignment.
  4. It can reduce present tensions and increase the dynamics within innovation in dialogues, framing and identifying with the organisation’s innovation goals
  5. You can begin to align compensation and incentives into your abilities to generate the innovation activities that provide the impact the organisation is looking for. You can understand and measure innovation impact far more through a well-designed framework

We do need a unified view of innovation design, and I believe to ‘arrive’ closer to alignment there is a clear and compelling value proposition that a well-designed innovation framework, like what the Executive Innovation Work Mat offers.

I certainly believe this can move you closer to spending less of your day working on the negatives of bad alignment into generating positive innovation outcomes, simply because you do have in place an aligning framework that works to lins all the parts into something you can gather around.

I can’t promise it might not make you business day any shorter but it might make it a far more positive experience, where you are aligning  your contributions and expertise into a specific innovation design, where innovation activities do link into organisations strategic that is needed and achieve this often elusive alignment we all are search for, far more than we want to acknowledge.