Organization Design Part 3: Alignment
In this segment of The Everyday Innovator video podcast, Dr. Chad McAllister and I discuss growing up in silos and how alignment and integration is a key organization design concept.
Designing the elements, like strategy, metrics, and the things you mentioned, make the organization the organization. I appreciate that you emphasize that the alignment between those, designing the alignment that is so important too. Just as a quick aside, one of my experiences. I was invited to join the executive team because I was in the role that sat between all the functions. That role was often being squeezed between the silos, and it just absolutely amazed me; maybe I saw this more because I was actually between the roles and interacted more with the vice presidents involved.
At one meeting in particular, in an organization that was primarily managed by objective, so the CEO would say what the goals were for the organization. Then, the same day, after the meeting, talk to the VP of sales on how he was responding to that objective and the VP of engineering and how he was responding to that objective and pointing out that if you indeed do what you do, that’s going to make this other guy’s job difficult and challenging, but that wasn’t how they perceived it. He said, “that’s not my responsibility.” In other words, his responsibility was to optimize his role, function, and department. If he is in sales, his job is to optimize sales, even if that might jeopardize something that is going on in engineering. That alignment is so essential, and it’s left out of organizations too often.
The issue that you're talking about is also part of the alignment of incentives and part of the alignment of culture and the alignment of developing employees. All too often, we grow executives in a particular functional area or silo, and some organizations make sure they get broadening assignments. They get to view other parts, but sometimes they don't. If you can succeed and get promoted or a bonus based on optimizing your area at the expense of other areas, then the design and the incentives' alignment are not there.
Interestingly, most management ideas and techniques and fads we've had do work if you do them right and align everything to support them. But all too often, we plop down a new management technique or a new management idea in the middle of an organization, and we don't work through the system integration, for lack of a better word. The lack of alignment among the rest of the organization's components causes the new management technique to fail. They fail to produce the results, and we blamed the idea or the method when it was us not doing our job of good integration and alignment of that new technique into our business systems and our culture.