One hundred years ago, management pioneer Mary Parker Follett wrote that “Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim. We attain unity only through variety. Differences must be integrated, not annihilated, not absorbed.” Her words ring true today as we dance between complexity and order. How can we achieve unity through variety and the integration of our differences? We can start by better understanding alignment.
What is workplace alignment? The recently published MirrorMirror white paper states that alignment is “a shared understanding between people” and that alignment leads to engagement, collaboration, and effectiveness.
“Alignment is not people ‘thinking the same thing’, it is compatibility – making room for differences and challenge, new ideas and change.”
Some of the underlying causes of misalignment include people saying yes but not taking action, teams making conflicting actions, and disconnects between functions or departments. While diversity is a positive attribute of any organization, it can lead to misunderstandings, and management direction is not sufficient to ensure alignment. People have to trust and understand each other without management interventions.
“Researchers have found that alignment includes shared understanding and team behaviours. They found that you cannot tell people to align.
People need to make sense of things on their own terms. They need to internalize meaning as relevant to their own context, through a common language with others.”
The MirroMirror method uses surveys, interviews, and discussions to help teams see themselves ‘in the mirror’. It is a non-judgemental approach. The alignment report is a starting point for teams to make changes to their strategy, learning, and support services.
While the survey is just the start of any performance improvement initiative, it helps to create a shared understanding of the current situation.
Disclosure: I am trained to facilitate MirrorMirror alignment surveys.