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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,
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on January 1, 2001
After reading this book you will a have a greater understanding of how you s-h-o-u-l-d run your business. It does not go into proper detail on how to do this (they only supply you with a limited framework - the rest you have buy directly from them. Their theory is a framework in which you can put all other management theories and practices. So if you feel lost in the world of ever growing management practices, this book will make you more comfortable!
They use a pilot's cockpit view as a metaphor for describing their theory and practice. Once in balance, the plane is aligned vertically and horizontally with the runway during approach. It is in center. The center is the main thing. Your focus. There are four elements in this model: Strategy, customers, people and processes. You must strive for aligning the strategy with your people (vertical), and your internal processes with your customers (horizontal). In other words, the people that work for you must understand what they are about to encounter so that they can make the product that customers want, thus altering processes along the way. Using this model you can easily see what elements are misaligned. The authors gives you several pathologies on misalignments. The model can also be used separately in each department, division, project, and so on.
They also let you in a little bit on the secrets of how to do this by telling you about critical success indicator and stretch goals, and how you must plan actions, etc. In my opinion, not to adequate for businesses in the high turbulence area.
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on January 4, 2000
As a university professor and consultant, I have read a lot of material on strategic planning. This book is one of the best. It is all about getting focused and centered as an organization. It goes beyond the theory and gives practical advice on just how to do that. I am considering making it required reading for my graduate students.
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VINE VOICEon August 22, 2011
"The Main Thing"... that is what this book is all about, getting you, your employees and your company aligned to a single focus. Now, why it took 190 pages to say that, I don't know. I bought this book based on the great average review but I will not lie, I was a bit disappointed in the lack of ideas that can be implemented quickly and make this book useful. Now I understand the value of having everyone behind an idea but the reality is that it's simply not easy to pull off. In summary, this book did not live up to my expectations based on the average reviews.
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This is an absolute masterpiece that reminds all business managers that if an activity is not aligned with the overall objectives of the organization then it should abandoned or not embarked upon and that profits come only after relentless focus on people and service.

The authors describe the overall objective of the business or organization as The Main Thing and remind us how critically important it is to make sure that The Main Thing remains the main thing in the business otherwise the forces and efforts exerted in the business are at risk of working against each other. Yes, departments can meet their immediate or departmental goals and objectives but actually not get the business any closer to its overreaching goal if things are not properly aligned. I've seen far too many businesses operate with a silo mentality where silo goals are almost completely detached from overall corporate goals. This condition has lead to devastating results in management, branding, marketing and acquisition strategies. The authors remind us how important it is to make sure everything is aligned and remains in alignment.

Does everyone in your business know how their objectives are tied to the overall objective or mission in your organization? Do they really understand how all other employees' objectives are tied to the overall Main Thing? If not then "The Power of Alignment" will help you understand how to bring about organizational and cultural change that will allow your business to prosper and endure.

Loaded with great quotes from business leaders and plenty of examples, this book will show you how to make sure everyone in your organization is working together to hit the main target and why it doesn't actually matter if that main target changes from time to time when market conditions change. In fact, if your organization is aligned to hit targets then the target can be just about anything.

I highly recommend this book and hope that one day it is required reading at all business schools and executive management courses.

~~Review by The Marketing Guy Who Drives Sales, author of the e-book, "How to Build and Manage Your Brand in Sickness and In Health" and creator of the "Top End Alignment Branding Strategy."
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on July 13, 2001
I found this book easy reading, concise, and presented it's basic premise well with specific examples and good suggestions for creation and implementation.
Working as a Director in Managed Care for several pharmaceutical companies, it creates a focus for any organization and a roadmap for the future(physician, health plan, pharmaceutical company) to avoid many of the mistakes and pitfalls that have already been experienced in an attempt to align with the ever changing healthcare landscape.
For those who do account management, it provides a construct and roadmap to use to optimize alignment with internal customers and maximize resources to create value and return with the external customers (....and their customers.) As the authors point, alignment is a continuing process, not a single event in time. Many companies become quickly aligned with the past, and misaligned with the present & future, and can not sustain the competitive edge because they forget this basic premise that the authors reinforce.
The concepts are basic and fundamental, but usually overlooked and forgotten in the day to day business of rapidly growing companies and changing environments.
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on May 27, 2003
Quite simply, this book was one of the best business management and leadership books I have ever read. It was well-written and expertly balanced management and leadership concepts with real-world examples of effectively aligned organizations, such as Federal Express and Southwest Airlines. This book should be read and discussed by leaders and managers at all levels, especially by mid- to senior-level executives.

In brief, alignment deals with the relationships among the people, processes, strategy, and customers of an organization relative to that organization's purpose, or what the authors called "the main thing." Alignment is both a noun, a state of being, and a verb, a set of actions. Vertical alignment connects organizational strategy with the people responsible for transforming that strategy into meaningful work. Horizontal alignment deals with understanding your customers' wants and then creating processes to deliver what your customers want, when and how they want it. Effective leadership nurtures the organizational culture that is built around and upon "the main thing," and it is this culture and leadership combination that drives and sustains self-aligning organizations in turbulent times.

The authors' analogy of landing a plane helped me to visualize the dynamics involved with organizational alignment. To land a plane, a pilot must adjust and react to multiple simultaneous factors and conditions (i.e. air speed, altitude, angle of approach, wind speed and direction, etc.) and then understand how a change in one will affect the others. Likewise, to align an organization, a leader must adjust and react to feedback about his people, processes, strategy, and customers, and then understand how a change in one will affect the others.

The authors clearly and thoroughly explained the alignment factors and conditions throughout the book. They followed their explanations with incisive questions for readers to ask about themselves and their organizations to assess their degree of alignment. Those questions were definitely a highlight of the book for they really helped to stimulate my thinking and should help inspire organizational progress to alignment. Another highlight was the appendices that contained examples of actual tools and products used and created by some of the aligned organizations studied by the authors.

The inside back cover jacket sums up why I give the book my highest recommendation: "Essential reading for all managers and executives, "The Power of Alignment" offers a new way to reestablish focus and sustained energy, and is a dynamic approach for staying balanced and achieving extraordinary levels of performance."
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on May 2, 2006
Great book! The basic premise is that once a business has a raison d'etre, or a 'main thing', that profits are maximized by the alignment of four key business areas: Strategy, Processes, People, and Customers. Built on this premise are actionalbe ways to build a self-aligning organization. I got the sense of discovering truth while I read this book. Leadership isn't really about power, it is about responsibility. This book shows a manager at any level how to align his area to the overall strategy of the company and to the end products of the company. It shows how processes should be designed and what factors should be used to reward, recognize and evaluate employees. Great food for thought and realistic to implement.

Five Stars
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on February 7, 2012
This is one of the only books I have read multiple times. I've read it 3 times already and will read it several more times. I wish I had read it when I was a younger businessman, starting a business with the ideas outlined in this book provides a great advantage if one plans to grow one's business. I've given away more than ten copies!
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on August 25, 2007
After reviewing several books on Strategic Execution, I was continuously left with the feeling that the authors had ommitted a key ingredient. This book has convinced me that that key ingredient was "Alignment".
This book was published 10 years ago (OK, I am embarrassed that I have only just got around to reading it) but it is as significant today as it was when it was first published. Probably more so considering the rapid state of change that most companies are faced with today.
It is a simple read, and the concepts are easy to follow. What I enjoyed most about the book is that the suggestions are practical and you can take them and implement them immediately within an organization.
I noticed that one of the readers who has reviewed the book said that the book was required reading for his MBA course. 10 years on, I still think it should be required reading for any business executive.
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