energizing breakthrough performance

It’s Time to Fire Dilbert: Towards Dynamic Strategic Alignment

Alignment, as you will frequently hear it used, sounds a lot like motherhood and apple pie. How can one be against alignment? Indeed, how can an effort succeed if the pieces are not aligned? It sounds wrong even before you know what the pieces are! What pieces? It could be the pieces of people, organization, and technology. Or, it might be a different characterization, say, strategy, structure, and systems. Or, how about vision, skills, incentives, resources, and action plans?

This article does not argue against alignment. We are for alignment. However, if your management and/or your consultants are describing alignment with the holy background music and velveteen curtains that seems too much like apple pie and motherhood, your antenna should go up. Effective alignment is less about Mom, and a whole lot more about a temporary conceptual frame that has a bit of radical and revolutionary flavor to it.

Strategic planning and alignment is about change during a fast-moving, quickbreak time that commingles continuity with discontinuity. The motherhood and apple pie definition plays into the scoffing Dilbert humor. Dilbert is not ready for the change revolution. Alignment is about the flying-in-formation force of Transformation: This is not a safe place for our Dilly-boy, for goodness’ sake.

So pick your poison and find an alchemy of alignment that fits the speed and magnitude of your organization’s strategic change trajectory: No matter what conceptual reference you prefer, e.g., people/organization/technology or strategy/structure/systems, alignment is critical for several reasons that presuppose a degree of management thinking and influence that is greater than the individual silos of the organization. Alignment presupposes transcendence that is the seeing-the-game-board-from-above helicopter view. After all, this is what Leadership is supposed to bring to the party. Alignment presupposes something real that will actually change the way business is done because alignment and change must go hand-in-hand. So it’s more than a pointy-headed intellectual exercise where the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin are to be counted correctly and dubbed "alignment." Deep inside the term, "alignment," ought to reside a dark, resonant, and angry dissatisfaction with feeble management intellectualism, e.g., paint-by-numbers TQM zealotry, because this feeble thought militates against Change. If you view alignment as some fragile, theoretical perfection that holds for a half-hour or so until that nasty ol’ dynamic world sweeps away the ersatz perfection yet again, then you are missing the point and setting yourself up as the brunt of a new Dilbert strip, or worse yet, joining Dilbert World-Wide.

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