Imagine going on a road trip with 200 other people, each of you driving your own vehicle. You have a general idea of where you're supposed to end up, but none of you has the same map. Some are outdated, and others are incorrect. A company without organizational alignment is much like the group who travels without a map. Employees may have a vague understanding of what the final outcome is supposed to be but very differing ideas of how to make it happen.
On The Same Page
Organizational alignment is the practice of putting everyone in the company on the same page. No longer will "what gets done" be in conflict with "how things get done." Everyone in the company will travel in the same direction, at the same speed, supporting each other. All the components of the business, including values, strategy and systems, will work together to produce maximum results.
Often, an organization will claim one thing as a value but reward another. For instance, if research and development are important to a business, management must show it. For example, an engineer who takes risks comes up with new ideas for the company. Many of his ideas don't work out, and he occasionally blows something up. If he is reprimanded for his mistakes, everyone in the company knows that what the company says it values and what it actually values are two different things. It's the same as a sales team who is constantly hearing about the virtue of team work, but the real emphasis is on individual sales. Employees know when the values message is no more than lip service.
Organizational alignment means that what the company tells the public it stands for is actually what it stands for. For example, a company which sells children's toys cannot say it stands for child safety if it is paying a company in a foreign country to produce those toys using child labor. Incongruities will not only sink a business with the public, but it will also make it a place talented employees don't want to be associated with.
If engineering and manufacturing, or manufacturing and accounting are at odds, working towards different goals, nothing will be accomplished. Organizational alignment means linking performance measurement to strategic goals across the board. That means that at any given time, employees in every department will understand what the goal is and will be working towards a singular goal. They may each be working on a different section of the puzzle, but it is the same puzzle they're working to complete.
Leaders are the ones who must provide a clear direction and ensure that each department in the company is working towards the same goal. That means that leaders must be hands-on enough to understand the function of every department and to recognize when the actions of one are self-serving. Employees will look to their leaders when they are tempted to go back to the old way of doing business. If they see that their leaders are serious about the company working as a single entity, they are more likely to stay on track.