Alignment, within a business context, is the way a business is arranged to approach its strategies to ensure resources are all working in the same direction toward the company’s stated goals. Alignment itself, of course, is making sure things are lined up properly with regards to one another and an external reference of some sort; the same is applied to business management philosophy, to ensure departments and policies are all lined up in a way that will move the company closer to its objectives.
In this context, vertical alignment in business refers to the alignment within the company, ensuring that resources are all set up in place to contribute to the company’s goals. Horizontal alignment makes sure strategies are not competing with each other, and helps align a business with its suppliers and customers outside the company. These two strategic positions work together to keep the business focused on policies for success, much like adjustment on an axis.
Vertical alignment means that everyone in the business is aware of the company’s goals, understands them and is aware of how their own personal work contributes to these goals. Anyone within the management hierarchy, from top executives to entry-level workers, should be able to explain the impact their particular position has on the company’s overall strategy. This helps to ensure that work done at every level will eventually support the company’s overall objectives. It keeps the focus on the big picture even in departments where the little details are handled.
This vertical structure, with the company’s goals filtered down through layers of management and departments, does offer advantages to the company. It encourages coordination and collaboration between departments, since employees can find common ground in the way their projects and work supports the overarching goals of the organization.
Vertical alignment encourages efficiency; if all employees have some understanding of how their work affects the bottom line, they’ll put more energy toward that type of work, as success for the company also means success for the employees. It helps employees feel more engaged with their work, and thus more invested in the company and the company’s objectives.
The way to make a vertical alignment work successfully is to ensure strong leadership – at the top of the company, yes, but at all middle management levels as well. For the goals to properly filter down to each level, leaders have to understand them fully and commit to them in all of their work interactions.
Strong leadership helps to have concepts float upward as well; top leadership should engage with employees on multiple levels to make sure projects are staying aligned and that the message is not being diluted by other business concerns. It also helps leaders adjust targets if necessary, based on the actual output from their employees.
The other key is to make sure the business’ goals are all clear, concise and understood at all levels. Strong, decisive goals can be easily translated into middle management and daily tasks, while goals with too much superfluous language or without clear definition are hard for employees to grasp. Be sure the goals push employees to do their best without becoming unobtainable. The goals should represent the real heart of the company, looking at where the business needs to be both next year and in five years.
Being sure to vertically align resources within a company structure is a good way to ensure everyone contributes to common goals and works together for company success. Employees at all levels will find value within their work, and leaders will be better able to keep the company moving forward.