While textbook definition of business alignment looks easy to understand, it's extremely hard to implement
Recently, I was given an opportunity to discuss ‘business alignment’ with a set of people in my group. To make the session interactive, I asked each one of them what exactly they understand by aligning with business. Most of them replied saying ‘aligning individual aspirations to business needs’, ‘understanding organization opportunities in a better manner’, ‘developing business acumen’, etc. While most of them were correct, I asked them back “In every given opportunity, is it possible for an individual to be absolutely open and align himself to business needs? Can we always say business is heading in the right direction?” And I could see many blank faces. While textbook definition of business alignment looks easy to understand, it’s extremely hard to implement.
Let us take an example. Assume a business leader is having a specific business goal (for example, improving customer satisfaction, considering the current business trend of customer complaints. Based on his understanding of business and his personal view, he typically comes up with ways to implement certain actions to achieve desired results. However, when the business task starts coming down the hierarchy, it gets interpreted by different layers in different ways. What is seen as the ‘right thing’ from the top might be seen as an ‘absolute blunder’ from the bottom layer of people. It can also be easily interpreted as the business leader trying to implement his ‘personal agenda’ to gain some benefit for himself. This is one of the key reasons why practical implementation of business alignment becomes very challenging, except for cases where the whole hierarchy consists of ‘yes sir’ type of people.
Now, how can a business leader ensure that the ‘right thing’ gets implemented in the ‘right way’? In my opinion, there is only one way to do it – establish trust! For people, who see value of implementing an action (to improve customer satisfaction), will go ahead and implement without fail. For people who don’t see or perceive the value of implementation, will still implement because of the trust. They will work on the fundamental belief that ‘I might be missing something, let me implement this and understand this better, rather than telling reasons for not implementing it’. This also leads to another case where an individual in the chain will build a ‘disagree and commit’ mindset. This individual might not believe in the way it is implemented, but will still go ahead and do it in his own way, because he is committed to the business leader. For all you know, such actions might lead to a totally new set of possibilities, which the business leader might not have even thought of.
The power of trust is much bigger than we actually can think!
Jayakumar works as an R & D Engineering manager at Huawei