Post COVID-19, we must hope to see an organisation with new norms and practices. We will see changes in the composition of our workforce, the policies and the norms for workplace dynamics. The relationship among colleagues is going to change because practices around delegation and performance management are certainly changing. In this context, tomorrow’s organisation would need to make some changes in its alignment. This is a good time to review if my team is aligned well internally as well as with the other teams and the larger body of the organisation.
How critical is the alignment?
Every firm has a raison d’être, but it’s not very well-understood among all its stakeholders. All banks lend money; all restaurants provide food and drinks, hospitals provide healthcare and so on. These are at best descriptions of what they do, but certainly are not the reasons why a bank or a hospital exists. For every strong organisation, there is a larger purpose which drives them to exist, sets them apart from the others in their peer group and defines their ambitions and goals. The purpose is not about size, profitability, social responsibility, customer focus or employee care.
For example, Walmart says that they save people money so that they can live better. Google says that they exist to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. BBC’s purpose statement is to enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain. All these are crisp and clear for all. Naturally, the stakeholders right from customers and partners to employees, shareholders and suppliers are clear what to expect and what to give.
If the purpose is clear, an organisation can decide which muscles to strengthen, which areas need additional reinforcements by a prioritised allocation of resources and what outcomes to monitor and improve. Barring a handful of best-in-class firms, most organisations struggle with this piece and hence, have issues of positioning, employee retention, productivity and customer satisfaction. It takes a lot of strength in leadership practices to articulate the purpose, embed it in the strategy and execute the strategy by the perfect alignment of the work processes, systems and people practices.
The alignment is extremely critical in the current context
Given the current scenario and the learnings, the alignment of systems and processes with the organisation’s purpose, vision and strategy are more critical than ever before. One may wonder why it is so.
The new normal in an organisation is going to have a much higher flexibility and diversity in its workforce than the current times. We will have more contingent workers, gig workers, part-timers and project teams. Most of them are going to connect among themselves remotely to get work done. How do we get their commitment levels up and drive their actions in the same direction?
One cannot get high levels of productivity when employees aren’t sure how their employer is different from its peers and what its ambitions are. They cannot relate to their organisation’s future and hence, aren’t sure why they should go beyond the call of their duty. As a result, not only the alignment with the organisation’s purpose and strategy is missing but also the commitment is not at its best.
Who builds this alignment and sustain it?
We know that the new world of work is going to be more complex and challenging than what it has already been. Performance management systems are going to evolve into more outcome-oriented; self-driven and quick to adapt employees are going to be more valued than the others; organisational structure and reporting are going to be a lot task-based or project-based. Hence, the leadership practices in an organisation have to not only align the teams around the purpose and strategy but also define the roles, responsibilities and performance outcomes in such a way that there is no confusion in execution and evolve the systems and processes to facilitate execution.
The leadership team at each level in the organisation needs to understand the changing world of work and its growing complexities. They have to appreciate the case for a greater need for alignment in the team and work towards achieving and sustaining high levels of alignment.