Episode 08 – Organizational Alignment

On today’s episode of Nurture.Team, the exploration we are going to have is:

Creating Organizational Alignment

  • What does alignment in a company mean?
  • Why it’s important and how can it be achieved?
  • Who are the actors who play a defining role in getting this accomplished?

About the guest speaker

Our guest today is Anshuman Bapna.

Anshuman is currently the Chief Product Office at MakeMyTrip group. He was co-founder of Mygola (a travel planning company), Democracy Connect (a non-profit that worked with Indian politicians) and Righthalf (India’s first campus startup). In the past he has been with Google, Deloitte, Stratify.

He was Founder of IIT Bombay’s Eureka event, which went on to become it’s E-Cell.

I wanted to know about the following: 

    1. What does alignment in a company mean?
    2. Why it’s important and how can it be achieved?
    3. Which are the actors who play a critical role in getting this accomplished?

Key takeaways

1/ Alignment

    • Alignment happens inside a company when few important things come together
      • Strategy
      • Resources to support and deliver the strategy
      • A thought-out management structure – Now this 3rd pillar is necessary for alignment often seems to be missing.
        • Or in other words a structure which has laid out a clear set of goals and incentives which matches with the company’s DNA.

2/ Cross-Functional Projects

    • You notice that some projects get executed really well but others failed miserably
    • When you observe closely, you will notice that cross-functional projects – which have the highest business impact – are the ones which would often fail.
      • You will also notice that these projects have competent people, high visibility, sincere commitment from management – yet the chances of failure is high.

3/ How to measure Alignment?

The path to measure alignment is by measuring / noticing mis-alignment. Here are few things to notice:

      • First pattern:
        • There will be no dearth of goals, strategy, vision statements, documents
        • You will see that folks are caught in meetings after meetings, more and more people join these meetings.
        • Meeting content will get repeated in digital format like emails/ messages etc. (and there will be like 50 people in these email threads)
        • What’s going on here?
          • Everyone who is even mildly touched by this project is recording for posterity via these digital recordings and are saying – “I did my bit, here is a proof of that but beyond this I don’t have any part to play”.
      • Second pattern:
        • Strong goal post at the beginning, but slowly these will start shifting.
        • People will try to find something/ anything through which they will show progress on the project and get a pat on their back.
      • Third pattern:
        • Analyze the projects from the past (1-2 years) and all those projects which were identified as “High Impact Projects” which were suppose to change the fortune of the company are gathering dust.
      • Fourth pattern:
        • People shrinking away from cross-functional projects and would want to go back to their earlier teams/ projects.
        • They don’t want to work and be part of these cross-functional projects

4/ Organizational Design

    • Organization design (who-reports-to-who, incentives) are all designed for individual autonomous teams.
    • They are not designed at all for cross-functional teams
      • And hence we hear terms like Silo, shared-goals etc.
      • This leads to misalignment

5/ Role of Senior Management

    • Communicate the beliefs (strategy) of the company
      • Make sure mid-level management understands it and embraces it.
    • Choose the right metrics for these goals

6/ Role of Mid-Level Management

    • First: Metrics and reporting
      • Ensure that these (see above) metrics are reported in High fidelity via Dashboard, tools etc.
    • Second: Missions
      • In every company there are way too many things to accomplish than the resources available.
      • Both middle and senior management understand that we are doing far too much, and we shouldn’t be doing so many things at the same time, committing to every ask etc; this can be solved through Missions
      • What is a Mission?
        • A 3 month long business goal : 60% of resources will be spent on this single goal – so everyone on that mission team will ensure that their 60% of time is to achieve that mission.
        • And this mission will be focused on the Core metrics which had been laid down.
        • Missions are driven bottoms-up: This ends up building high passion and enthusiasm within the team and ends up with under-promising and over-delivering.
    • Third: Touchpoints
      • Every company has a rhythm and based on this rhythm have a touchpoint where these missions discuss their progress in context of their North-star business metrics.
    • Alignment is mid-level management responsibility (and not CXOs)
    • It’s easier for a mid-level manager to call out the mis-alignments
      • Don’t wait for a senior management to tell you about the issues

7/ How to call out mis-alignment?

    • First: Speak up at company touchpoint
      • These are low pressure events and calling out things which are not working is important.
      • There is a good possibility that many in the team/ meeting room are feeling the same but not everyone is able to speak up.
      • Speak up respectfully!
    • Second: Call out two or three things which will not happen in a project
      • Top management is greedy – they know there will always be less resources and more priorities. So, they will push for more to get done.
      • However, at the start of a project, be explicit on things which won’t be done
      • Do not juggle between 6 different things
    • Third: Identifying the core metric
      • Ensure the core metric is the right metric. Sometimes a very obvious metric may be not the right one for cross-functional teams/ or for the business. Be careful there!

Rapid fire with Anshuman

    • What is your Spirit animal?
      • Penguin
    • What according to you is your Super Power?
      • Ability to cram learning into few hours
    • Name a book that changed your life?
    • One team activity
      • Paintball