Bringing both small and large groups of people from diverse backgrounds with different levels of experience in order to work harmoniously together to achieve a unified result can be one of the more daunting tasks of business leaders today. How is effective teamwork achieved? What methods are best employed to effect positive interdepartmental co-operation? How can you as a leader, best optimise the performance of a workgroup consisting of various personality types, creeds and motivations?
These are all pertinent and important questions that no doubt adorn the desktop blotters and notebooks of leaders all over the business world. In order to properly address this issue, let’s take a brief look at the lay of the land from a broad perspective.
As has been covered previously in our Accountability blogs, it is accepted that in most instances regarding contemporary business practices, motivated employees function on an individual level and accept responsibility and become accountable for the results of their performance. This represents the fundamental level of successful organizational operations. However, the process of working towards a common business goal that benefits the group as a whole begins, but does not end with the individual.
Alignment among individuals attempting to successfully work together is incredibly important. Klatt and Murphy, authors of Aligned Like a Laser, refer to these gatherings of interdependent co-workers, “Workgroups.” Individuals in these circumstances – which exist in the majority of companies today – inevitably depend on the efforts and support of their peers to be successful. This forms a bond of community stemming from everyone pulling in the same direction, so to speak. Without this group consciousness, people remain in the singular frame of mind and may fail to engage in the group,adversely affecting motivation, commitment and focus.
Alignment can be accurately defined as “The application of individual accountability at the group level.”
Alignment functions to legitimize, facilitate and mitigate potential yet necessary confrontational processes that arise in workgroups due to difference in opinion, philosophy and problem solving techniques. This can include raising difficult conversations, asking confrontative questions, positively resolving disagreements fostering effective communication and encouraging an overall environment of mutual respect and professional support.
According to Klatt and Murphy, Workgroup Alignment has six main characteristics:
- It links individual accountabilities at the group level
- resolves gaps and overlaps in accountability and goals
- achieves agreement on mutual respect and support
- is best achieved using the 80/20 rule
- requires a foundation of strategy, structure and leadership
- is dynamic and requires regular maintenance
Each of these six points is significant and warrant a closer look piece by piece. We will do exactly that in part two of this blog entitled Accountability and Alignment: Brothers in Business.
For now, let us pause and take a quick look at what alignment is not, so that leaders can more easily recognize when a workgroup situation has come off the rails.
Misalignment can manifest itself in many shapes and sizes. The following are representative of a few of the more glaring examples:
- People find it difficult to coordinate work and cooperative spirit
- There are projects and tasks left undone for which no one takes accountability
- Staff fails to take initiative to make decisions over which they have been empowered
- Workgroups are working hard but fail to achieve results
- Issues that seem to be resolved keep cropping up
- Lack of communication resulting in project doubling by people or groups
- Tasks are completed but don’t measure up to quality standards
- Existence of unproductive internal competition within the workgroup
- People resist joining the workgroup or actively seek to disrupt harmony
All of these symptoms of misalignment can be overcome with proper leadership, planning and effective management of accountability at an individual level. Once employees become personally accountable for the results of their actions and can feel a true sense of purpose and accomplishment from their work, they can then become more receptive to transplanting those positive feelings and motivations into a workgroup setting and truly become able to facilitate a positive, enjoyable and productive work environment.