In general, teams tend to assume a much greater level of goal alignment than is actually the case. High goal alignment happens when everyone is fully agreed about the priorities of what they are trying to achieve and why; and at the same time, fully agreed about how they will go about making the goals happen. In this situation, team members may start with different perspectives of both what and how, but they explore the differences creatively and openly until there is a common understanding.
Any of the other situations in this matrix lead to reduced performance. When there is neither agreement on what or how, conflict predominates. In the absence of a common agenda, everyone pursues their own. High agreement on how, but low agreement on what pushes everyone to focus on their own tasks, which may result in people pulling in different directions. High agreement on what the goal is but low agreement on how to achieve it leads to cliques and sub-teams working against each other.
To use the matrix, ask everyone individually to list the top three goals for the team. Compare these and discuss them until there is reasonable agreement. You may need to extend the top three to the top four – but remember, the more goals, the less focussed the teams’ efforts will be!
Now, taking each top goal in turn, discuss how it should best be achieved, until there is a reasonable degree of alignment.
Finally, explore together how to check on a day to day basis whether any lack of clarity has slipped into the team’s goal alignment.
|High alignment on what we want||Low alignment on what we want|
|High alignment on how to achieve goals||High collective performance, positive conflict||Focus on individual performance|
|Low alignment on how to achieve goals||Sub teams dominate||Disruptive conflict reduces performance|
Copyright – David Clutterbuck