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Powerful information for all business leaders.
on February 9, 1999
The Power of Alignment: How Great Companies Stay Centered and Accomplish Extraordinary Things by George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky, ***** What follows is an excerpt of an article written by Steve Gibbons of The Principal Financial Group for the National AQP periodical: "The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing!" We've heard it before and it makes sense. But, in today's busy world where the leader's job looks more like a juggling act - it's hard enough identifying the main thing, let alone keeping it the main thing. Well, help is out there in form of an insightful, well-written book by George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky - The Power of Alignment: How Great Companies Stay Centered and Accomplish Extraordinary Things. This book cuts through the consultantese and helps the reader understand alignment and why it is critical to organizational success in a straightforward easy to understand manner. The first things I discovered in reading the book was how freely the authors share good usable information. The book is full of best practices you can read one day and put to use the next. For every concept they share - there's an anecdote to illustrate it and specific practices or tools to effectively implement the concept. The book's premise is based on the belief that for a business to be successful it must, "align the four essential elements that together create growth and profits: strategy, customers, people, and processes." It is only through an approach that aligns all four elements that organizations achieve long term success. The authors lay out the fundamentals of alignment, how it's created and maintained, and creating a self-aligning organization. Favorite new terms: Vertical alignment - Vertical alignment brings together the strategy of the organization and its people, allowing them to take effective action. How many times have we heard about a wonderful strategy that failed because it was never effectively deployed? The authors believe, "When strategy is created with the involvement of employees and customers and deployed rapidly and well, it releases the untapped energy of employees and aligns activities and intentions." Horizontal alignment - Horizontal alignment is about the connection between customers and the organization's processes. To be a successful market driven company, it is critical to understand customer needs and expectations and align processes accordingly. The authors state, "...horizontal alignment infuses the concerns of customers into everything the organization does. Horizontal alignment links the company's actions with customer needs in ways that delight and create loyalty." The message from this book I'll remember 10 years from now: "The activities and behaviors of people at every level must be aligned with the main thing." Organizations must understand what the main thing is that drives success and focus on it. Lack of focus creates an organization that wanders, employees that aren't focused and ultimately unhappy customers. Favorite quote from this book: "Strategy is often like desert rain. Before the raindrops hit the desert floor, they evaporate, creating little or no effect below." It's not about creating a wonderfully worded strategy and assuming people will understand and embrace it- it's about deployment and hard work. Second favorite quote: "Horizontally aligned companies use the customer voice as a beacon and a driver for the way the company thinks, works and is managed." The customer as a beacon guiding our actions rather than always right - what a refreshing thought. Advice for Leaders: "Distributed leadership is the glue of alignment." Leadership must be distributed throughout the organization and at every level. It is created when people are both empowered to act and have the knowledge to take the right actions. So, how do we create distributed leadership? Sure enough, the authors share the following handy guide: * Keep people continually connected to the environment in which they operate. * Help people think holistically. * Keep people connected to the main thing of the larger business. * Reward and recognize people for working toward the main thing. * Use the review process to carry the message to employees. * Create opportunities to interact. Special Feature: The appendices are wonderful. They're full of tools and ideas that illustrate key points in the book and guide the reader's learning. They include an alignment diagnostic profile instrument, dynamics of the self-aligning organization, chairman's review questions, a customer focus audit, and more. The appendices alone may well be worth the price of the book. The Power of Alignment, is a must read. It's well written and loaded with examples and tools that can be put to work immediately. Every leader should be armed with the information is this book. The Power of Alignment: How Great Companies Stay Centered and Accomplish Extraordinary Things George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky, 1997, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., NY, NY, ISBN 0-471-17790-3,