At Foxwood Associates we talk a lot about alignment and balance in an organization.
Your first question is probably, “Alignment and balance of what?”
We believe that there are four foundational components (4S) in every organization. Each component plays a vital role in the overall health and well-being of an organization. All organizational activity falls into one of these core components. The four primary components are:
- Structure: The formal and informal reporting relationships that influence organizational effectiveness.
- Systems: The collection of attitudes, beliefs, and habits that determine culture and effect work flow, information flow, methods, metrics, and results.
- Skills: The collective knowledge, talents, and abilities of the organization as they exist today and will need to exist in the future.
- Strategy: Originally borrowed from the military and adapted for business use, strategy is the general framework that provides for the deployment of resources (people, capital, equipment) and provides guidance for the initiatives that are to be undertaken in the achievement of organizational objectives.
Your next questions should be “What do you mean by alignment and balance?”
Alignment and balance are two totally different things, although they are closely related in an organizational sense. In a nutshell, organizational alignment means that all four of the foundational components (4S) are aligned toward the same set of organizational goals, and are moving toward those goals at roughly the same pace and speed. Balance, on the other hand, deals mostly with how the organization is functioning within each of the foundational components.
Symptoms of an organization that is out of alignment are:
- Excessive effort and/or capital being expended within a specific core component;
- Pulling or drifting away from the strategic direction;
- Functional wandering in times of smooth operation;
- Senior leadership fighting to keep the organization “on track”, even in times of smooth operation.
Symptoms of a core functional area (4S) that is out of balance are:
- Excessive attention from senior leadership to one core functional area at the expense of the other three;
- Organizational strife when operational capacity exceeds 60% to 70%;
- Uncharacteristic employee issues within a core functional area.
It is the alignment and balance of each system individually and in the interdependence between them that enables companies to effectively and efficiently carry out their missions. Issues or changes in any one of these four core systems tends to create stress and dysfunction in the others. Efforts to address issues in one core functional area without consideration for the other three often result in unintended consequences that make matters worse, not better.