Championing Change – A Culture of Alignment

sheep-lineRather than viewing change management as a series of periodic events in which a new program or initiative must be “rolled out,” consider fostering a culture of alignment.  In a culture of alignment, employees’ values, perspectives, and priorities are “aligned” with the overall strategic direction of the company or team.  Simply put from a management point of view, they “get it,” and are able to view the business from the company’s perspective (as well as their own).  They may not agree with every individual directive or initiative, but they trust their leaders and subsequently accept or even embrace decisions that are made, even those that are unpopular.  Change is viewed more as an evolutionary process than a series of periodic singular events.  When new initiatives are brought forward, team members feel more engaged in the evolutionary process and have a greater comfort level toward any potential impact.  Rather than becoming overwhelmed by fear and trepidation at something new, they maintain a viewpoint focused on the immediate opportunities and longer term benefits.

Now all this sounds well and good, but let’s be honest, there are times when initiatives presented from above are viewed as flawed, implausible, even unrealistic.  This creates a critical juncture for a leader and his or her team.  Failing to acknowledge obvious problems and blindly repeating scripted expectations undermines a leader’s credibility.  This is management, not leadership.  As I stated earlier, leaders must have the courage to appropriately challenge assumptions and question superiors.  On the other hand, organizations rightfully expect their managers to sometimes just tow the line and enthusiastically implement new initiatives.

In many cases, managers are afforded enough discretionary license to adapt the implementation of an initiative to align with the strength of the team and better respond to specific business needs.  In these situations, the emphasis is on the end objective rather than the means.  Reviewing the objectives with all team members and involving them in developing an action plan for implementation builds consensus and instills a sense of ownership.  People are far more likely to own a problem when they participate in designing the solution.

However, there are times when the mandate leaves no room for interpretation, or when the emphasis is on the means itself as well as the end objective.  Here, a team’s culture of alignment is truly put to the test and strong leadership becomes crucial.  Even in disagreement, a healthy, aligned team will embrace the solution together, but only with the leader’s support and assistance.  A leader doesn’t necessarily have to agree with the merits of every directive, but he absolutely must believe in and support the organization’s overall vision of success.  He must also believe in his team’s ability to accomplish the goals set forth, and champion their effort toward achieving the overall objective.

The point is, affecting change within any team or organization means altering the status quo in some way.  Teams with a strong culture of alignment are far less resistant to change because the idea of change itself is less threatening.  Let’s face it, most people dislike change.  There is some level of comfort even in the consistency of misery.  Teams that operate within a culture of alignment may never enthusiastically embrace the idea of change, but will nevertheless accept change as a systemic component of their ongoing growth and success.  These team members trust their leader and their values are fundamentally aligned with the general vision and mission of the organization.

Next Post:  Developing a Culture of Alignment

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About Bryant
Bryant is a business management and organizational development executive with over 20 years’ experience focused on financial and operational efficiencies, talent development and optimization, improved employee engagement, and cultural alignment of teams within the organization. He has diverse experience in successful financial and strategic planning, brand management, leadership analysis and talent development, as well as designing and executing improvements to teams’ cultural efficacy and organizational alignment. Bryant has experience in both International Public S&P 500 Corporate and Non-Profit Sectors, and also runs his own entrepreneurial business venture, a consulting company specializing in helping small businesses and organizations improve operational efficiency, leadership development, and employee engagement . Bryant holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and a Bachelors in Fine Arts (BFA).

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