Why Leadership Alignment Is Critical in Fast-Changing Times


In the current marketplace climate, with economic uncertainty and workforce unrest, companies are constantly looking at ways to sharpen their competitive edge while keeping pace with customer expectations. Every year, advancements from digital breakthroughs, operating-model tweaks and even the landscape of acquisitions and partnerships continue to shift faster. Being able to pivot quickly and align affected stakeholders to the new course is more important than ever.

As companies look to strategic industry partnerships and service providers to help them achieve efficiencies and innovation, it’s critical to ensure your organization can enable and adopt the changes that come out of these initiatives. Leadership and organizational alignment within and between company areas, along with external partnerships, are crucial to enabling change and adoption strategies. More than 90 percent of IT projects over $10 million fail to achieve their potential, with lack of alignment as a documented root cause.

Leadership Alignment as Relationship Counseling

As in any good relationship, leadership of all parties involved must have a common understanding of what is required for success and then the fortitude to follow through on those requirements. Even after a business case is approved or contracts signed, all parties must understand true expectations to achieve desired outcomes. Alignment activities are like counseling, providing check-in points to support the foundation of the relationship and ensure the right course is followed. Alignment is crucial to make sure all necessary parties agree on what they’re trying to achieve, why they’re trying to achieve it and how they will get it done. All stakeholders, including internal and external leadership must be “on the same page,” so you have transparent cooperation required for action. If your various stakeholder groups don’t all agree, they aren’t working effectively together.

Consider questions like this:

  • What does the transition look like to move services to a new provider?
  • What preparation is necessary for end users, if you’re opting for cost-efficient automation support?
  • Do you have the appropriate retained skills to enable a relationship that cultivates innovation?
  • How will the changes impact the business initially, and how do you help your employees and customers on this continuous journey?

If you ask these questions to different leaders, you may be surprised how different the answers are between them. Every individual has a different perspective, and most leaders wrongly assume that others’ thinking is in line with their own. These differences can poke holes in the expected value of even the best business case and rapidly dilute the benefits.

As with other types of consulting, alignment advising from an expert third party can help leaders achieve a solid footing going into partnerships, so all leaders who need to play a role in the relationship understand the necessary actions for success and the parts they play in getting there. For any leader who has experienced partnership initiatives, spending some time up front with the right group can provide a “crystal ball,” giving insight into risks that may play out down the road and cause unnecessary delays when the group is blindsided by an issue that could have been prevented.

What to Expect from the Leadership-Alignment Process

So, how do leaders get on the same page? They need to look for differences of opinion and understand the reasons behind them. Having space to think about this and feel safe to articulate the differences is just as important. Typically, we see three common roadblocks that need to be addressed in alignment:

  1. Data – All people need the same information, so they can make decisions based on the complete picture with consistent data.
  2. Dictionary – All stakeholders need to understand the data the same way, with the same terminology, to avoid misinterpretations.
  3. Drive – Myths need to be dispelled and hidden motives dismissed by fully explaining the changes to people, so they don’t come up with their own conclusions and individual motivations, but rather, focus together on why the organization as a whole needs to make the shift.

The right advisory group can quickly bring relevant leaders into a streamlined discussion to identify and address these differences, so they can understand the part each leader plays in change and make the adjustments in their areas to be successful. In a climate with accelerated digital advancements, economic vulnerability and workforce unrest, if you take too much time to align, then your changes may be outdated by the time they are finally implemented. The rapid alignment process gets leaders to a place where they all understand their unique roadmap to get to the right outcomes.

ISG is a digital advisory firm with experience guiding hundreds of clients from many industries through their digital transformations, working with them and their providers to enable innovation to come to life and support strategic goals. ISG’s Experience Assessment Center and organizational change management (OCM) team can help with digital-transformation enablement and adoption. Contact us for more information.