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Why CEOs Find it Hard to Align Teams When Scaling their Companies

By Guest Blogger

    Wed, Nov 6, 2019 @ 11:03 AM Accountable Leaders & Teams

    Blog written by Guest Blogger, Eskinder Assefa

    One of the toughest challenges CEOs high performance teamsface is finding effective ways to align teams and keep them aligned as their company grows. High-growth companies must have teams that are continuously aligned and work cohesively on what matters most.

    Misalignment is Practically the Norm

    When Rebecca Homkes, strategy expert and teaching fellow at London Business School, and MIT Sloan School senior lecturer Don Sull set out to study how strategy plays out in more than 400 companies, they got a surprise. The research team started off by asking more than 11,000 senior managers what was supposed to be an easy question: What are your company’s top three to five priorities?

    The results were “shockingly bad,” says Homkes. Only about one-third could name their company’s top three goals and, “even given five tries, only about 50% could agree on the same one priority.”

    Alignment problems start at the top when even senior executives don’t fully agree on the top priorities or what the core purpose of the company is. This lack of alignment then leads to fragmentation of efforts as each department begins forming its own agenda. As teams get vested in their own agendas, it becomes increasingly harder to attain alignment and shared purpose.

    Misalignment is Very Costly

    This can get very costly. Just before the iPhone came out, Bill Gates, then Chairman of Microsoft, asked CEO Steve Ballmer to create a copycat product to forestall Apple’s dominance in this field. While Ballmer did pass on this request to his senior executives—each of whom had R&D budgets in the several hundreds of millions of dollars, they failed to produce anything that could slow down the iPhone. Microsoft ended up losing many tens of billions of dollars of sales due to its lack of alignment on top priorities.

    It is vital for CEOs to ensure that their employees are fully engaged and aligned—that they understand the value and importance of what they do every day.

    However, ensuring that every employee in the company is fully engaged and aligned is not easy. CEOs cannot spend each day interacting with each and every member of their company. As the company grows, this becomes less and less sustainable. Nor can CEOs hope that they bring in consultants to train their people on how to become high performers. These work briefly, and then things go back to silo-thinking and dysfunctional teams.

    high performance teams

    Failure of Execution is an Alignment Problem

    In a Harvard Business Review article called “Executives Fail to Execute Strategy Because They’re Too Internally Focused”, Ron Carucci talks about how a 2016 a study revealed that 67% of well-thought-out strategies fail due to poor execution. The main reason was that 61% of executives felt unprepared for the challenges of senior leadership.  New executives struggle to see the critical priorities of the company and tend to instead focus on what they are aware of and understand.

    Without a clear way to establish common purpose, CEO’s can feel unprepared to lead their company in a direction that inspires growth. When the CEO is unclear on his or her goals and is unable to execute the planned strategy, this has a ripple effect throughout the entire company as the goal of the company gets further distorted farther away from the center of leadership. If employees receive this distorted message, then alignment is impossible to establish and time and energy get wasted as different teams struggle with conflicting goals.

    Rhythm: Where Company-wide Alignment Begins

    CEOs must find an effective way to unify every member of their company around the common purpose in order to ensure that everyone is fully engaged.

    Rhythm Systems deeply understand this challenge, having worked with some 600 clients over the past thirteen years. Rhythm Systems has built a Framework for a High-Performance organization that enables CEOs to overcome the hurdles of scaling their company and building High-Performance teams that are tightly aligned with one another.

    To learn more please click here to schedule time to talk to our team to see how we can help you remove silos so you can continue to scale and grow rapidly or download the white paper below to learn how to overcome these specific challenges.

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