Financial executives' leadership role in organizational alignment.

Author:Vanourek, Bob

Is your organization dysfunctional? Is it slightly off kilter or significantly out of whack?

Are people unclear about what they should do or how their work fits with the rest of the organization? Do the priorities change frequently and are they sometimes conflicting? Is the organization failing to achieve expected results? Have people become discouraged, seeming to simply be going through the motions and working far below their full potential?

If so, your organization is out of alignment. Unfortunately, most organizations are not aligned. According to a 2010 Booz & Co. survey of more than 1,800 executives, 64 percent say their biggest frustration factor is "having too many conflicting priorities." Such organizations pay an "incoherence penalty."

Unfortunately, most leaders don't know how to align an organization. Financial executives can play a critical role in organizational alignment, enhancing the firm's effectiveness, as well as their own career potential in the process.

Financial executives are uniquely positioned to help align the enterprise because of their comprehensive role. They are entrusted with a fiduciary responsibility and ethically bound by their professional obligations as impartial custodians of the organization's assets, both tangible and intangible. They are also critical members of the senior management team and trusted advisers to the board and CEO.

A Comprehensive and Transformational Leadership Process

Organizational alignment is a comprehensive and transformational leadership process to achieve sustained high performance. The approach outlined below is based on years of personal experience of the authors in aligning organizations of all types--from global corporations to startups and social ventures--as well as research on many organizations around the word.

The 10 steps of alignment outlined here move from the broad to the specific, the long term to the short term and the strategic to the tactical in a specific sequence customized to each organization depending on its burning issues. Each step can be applied, not only to the whole enterprise, but also to each department, division, team and even individuals in the organization.

The steps can be viewed in three distinct phases, moving from the long term to the very short term.

All steps in alignment must be consistent with each other, linked together and nested to cascade downward (corporate goals precede departmental goals and so on), while stimulating new ways to solve problems, which can flow upward.

Alignment occurs at multiple levels: enterprise-wide, departmental and team. Each group can benefit from undertaking its own alignment process, even with its own purpose, values and vision, as long as they cohere with the enterprise-wide statements. Each individual's goals, strategies and action...

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