But we had a PLAN!!!

(and it wasn't enough)

We’ve all heard (or said) this at some point in our careers… probably many times. A project, a program, or an entire business has gone off the rails. While this happens frequently due to a total lack of planning, that wasn’t the case here. Instead, you and your team put time and effort into formulating a plan to achieve your goal. But, somehow, things broke down during execution. But why? Perhaps your plans, however complete, were not fully aligned.

TooManyProjects

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Hey! Where did our alignment go?!?!?

Eight tips for maintaining the natural alignment of a startup

LostAlignmentToday I was speaking with a colleague about their experience working with several startups. They agreed that start-ups have “natural alignment”. They also agreed that many startups have major challenges maintaining alignment, as they grow. But why?

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In Startups, Alignment is Natural

This was the observation of a colleague, when we were recently discussing alignment. “Yes, of course,” was the best response I had at the time. But later, as I reflected on it, I realized this was a significant insight. And that there’s quite a bit to be learned from it.
Consensus_team_LinkedIn
I’ve had the good fortune to be part of two quite successful startups, from early in their life cycle, through periods of explosive growth. I spent nearly 20 years with the first one, experiencing the changes that occur as a startup matures. In the second, I saw many of the same patterns unfold, but at an even faster rate, over five years.

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When a Crisis Drives Focus (And Alignment)

DownPowerLine

Earlier this week, I was talking with SMART Growth author and “business growth catalyst” Jack Spain about alignment. He recounted some of his experiences working for a large public utility here in the Carolinas, where hurricanes and ice storms periodically wreak havoc on the electric infrastructure. “When we had a restoration even, alignment became very clear.” While business-as-usual could get wrapped up in many competing corporate goals and priorities, when a storm impacted a large number of customers, all hands were on deck with a common top priority: restore power as quickly and efficiently as possible. This reminded me of similar stories I had heard from executives and managers at smaller electric co-ops in the past: their organizations excel during restoration activities.

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NewCos are All About Alignment

I just read a great post by NewCo founder John Battelle on trends that are remaking business. This is a good read for anyone in any business, and quickly summarizes some of the mega-trends that are changing how we work, who we work for, what we buy, who we buy from, and what it takes to build a successful business.

His point #4 really jumped out at me:

4. A job is table stakes. To win talent, companies must compete on purpose, authenticity, and organizational structure. 

Millennials are now the largest force in the global economy, and they have a markedly different view of work: Purpose and “making a difference in the world” are central in their work-related decisions. They’d rather work at The Honest Company than Unilever, if given a choice – and the best and brightest always have a choice. Members of the next generation want to be at a company where work means more than a paycheck. They believe work can be a calling (Reich) or an expression of our creativity (Florida). BigCos aren’t currently organized to enable their workforces in this way (human resources, anyone?), but NewCos – even the very largest ones like Google – most definitely are.

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Let me tell your story!

I’m working on a book series, about many facets of alignment for teams and businesses. I’m looking for all the examples I can find, good and bad. Where strong alignment of purpose, passion, priorities and practices led to strong team and business performance, or where gaps in alignment contributed to challenges. I’m also looking for business leaders and entrepreneurs who are willing to be interviewed related to these topics. Please reply in the comments, or via email, if you have something to share, or someone to suggest. Thanks!

Question: What stories do you have to share? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Planning to Plan: Aligning Priorities, Part 2

Signpost_chaos

In my last post, I talked about the importance of a shared context, as a prerequisite for building consensus around a team’s priorities to move forward. I also reviewed some approaches to leading the team through developing this shared context. This shared context needs to include an understanding of:

  • what we really do
  • what we have
  • what we lack
  • our customers’ and stakeholders’ expectations of us
  • how we’re perceived by them currently
  • risks we face
  • opportunities we have to be more than we are

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Planning to Plan: Aligning Priorities, Part 1

ClingmansPanoramaLowIn the introduction to my “Planning to Plan” series, I proposed that leaders ask themselves a few tough questions about last year’s plan:

  • Did we have a clear, compelling and attainable vision of what we wanted to accomplish?
  • Did our team truly and deeply believe in what we were doing, and why?
  • Did we clearly identify our priorities, and what was “out of bounds”?
  • Did we encourage our critical thinkers to think critically, and help us face the brutal facts?
  • Did our team buy in to an actionable plan that addressed their constraints?
  • Did our entire team review and adapt the plan throughout the year?

In my last post, I shared some thoughts on tapping into the personal passion your team members already have. Once the team understands how the organizational vision aligns with their own passions and vision of the future, what’s next? Priorities.

The bottom line is, when people are crystal clear about the most important priorities of the organization and team they work with and prioritized their work around those top priorities, not only are they many times more productive, they discover they have the time they need to have a whole life.
– Steven Covey

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Planning to Plan: Aligning Passion

AlignPassion

Happy New Year! Many of you are finalizing goals for 2016, and planning how you’re going to accomplish them. I want all of you to have even more success this year… and helping your team align their passion, priorities, and actions toward your organization’s goals will be a key to your success.

In the introduction to my “Planning to Plan” series, I proposed that leaders ask themselves a few tough questions about last year’s plan:

  • Did we have a clear, compelling and attainable vision of what we wanted to accomplish?
  • Did our team truly and deeply believe in what we were doing, and why?
  • Did we clearly identify our priorities, and what was “out of bounds”?
  • Did we encourage our critical thinkers to think critically, and help us face the brutal facts?
  • Did our team buy in to an actionable plan that addressed their constraints?
  • Did our entire team review and adapt the plan throughout the year?

In my last post, I shared some thoughts on building and articulating a clear, compelling and attainable vision. Next, I’ll focus on how we get our teams aligned for action in pursuit of the vision. What do I mean by “aligned”? In this context, I believe alignment has a few key facets: passionpriorities, and action.

Passion is what gets your team members out of bed in the morning, what motivates them to care enough about the work to actually do it, and what keeps them working for you instead of someone else. While there are people who say they don’t have (or don’t even believe in) passion for their work, you really want team members who care.

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