Creating alignment can be a daunting task for any group of key executives. Great plans are made…activities discussed…task lists made…action steps identified. Yet, how do you cascade this information to others in your company (thereby creating the magical alchemy known as "alignment")?
Alignment is only created when there's clarity. Remember being a kid and whispering something to the person next to you…and then watching that "secret" pass around the group…only to discover that the last person that heard the message didn't get it right? It was always fascinating to me as a kid to see this dynamic in action. However, the same thing can be true in organizations full of people at multiple levels. So how on earth can you cascade your Annual Goals, Key Thrusts, Key Initiatives, Strategies and Individual Action Plans?
I see leaders struggle with this all the time. They put out memos, write emails, create and deliver speeches…and still it seems as if their message isn't heard. When this happens, it might behoove you to look a bit deeper into the inner-workings of your organization.
Your Organizational MRI…
One CEO recently asked that I conduct interviews with employees to capture a snapshot of how things get done within that organization. Other organizations I've worked with have opted for a formal organizational culture survey process, but either method (properly done) can give you a glimpse of what's going on in your company. So we set-up and launched the interview process, gathered the data, and analyzed the results. Information gleaned from these types of activities can give you the information you need for creating a higher degree of alignment.
The medical world uses functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to do this. An fMRI shows the flow of blood and oxygen to active parts of the brain and allows scientists to map a brain in the act of thinking. By doing a culture survey, you get a much clearer picture of what's going on, and you can get answers to some of your most challenging questions--like, "Why isn't anyone hearing me?"
When doctors do brain-mapping, their objective is to isolate the brain's neuro-circuitry involved in a specific task. When you do a culture survey, you get a Brain Map for your organization. You can better isolate which parts of your organization are high-performing and which ones need a bit of help. You get another set of solid Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to fill in the gaps around the Key Initiatives you're trying so desperately to cascade.
Your organizational Brain Map will show you patterns and trends relative to the neuro-circuitry of your company: The thoughts, the perceptions, the ideas, the tasks. It's these neural connections that make your organization what it is.
The Truth (if you can handle it)…
You might think that measuring your organization's culture is "soft stuff" and not relevant. Leading doctors and medical specialists might want to think the same thing about the inner-workings of the human body. After all, the complexity is really high when you consider there are 100m or so neurons with 100 trillion or more connections. It's really hard to comprehend that from all those physiological neurons that we don't literally "see" on a day-to-day basis comes our thoughts…our perceptions…our ideas. It's all this connectivity that makes you…you; they define us. It's all this connectivity that also defines your organization. Just because it's complex doesn't mean it should be ignored. fMRI's are strategic; they are procedures that are performed for specific reasons. So is your organizational fMRI.
So what do I do?
Measure your organization's neural pathways. It's the only way you can understand the degree to which you are a high-performing organization (or not). You'll also begin to "see" the blocked arteries and gaps in your company's synapses. Without KPIs linked to your Key Initiatives, you don't know what "great" looks like. Likewise, without KPIs linked to your organizational pathways (i.e., without KPIs around key aspects of your organization's culture), you can't know what's really getting in the way of forward movement.
If you have the courage to do some form of an organizational fMRI (i.e., a Culture Survey, a Deep Dive into your People Issues, etc.), you'll have real data on how to better cascade a message that will engage and align an entire workforce.