What Is Team Alignment?
Team alignment is defined as the process of arriving at a common understanding by which various employees across functions and departments communicate and collaborate in order to deliver specific organizational goals and objectives.
Team alignment includes technology and human process convergence around delivering better products and services to customers.
With Covid 19 and subsequent lockdowns that have pushed team members to remote working environments, team alignment has become even more important. Under on-premise working conditions, issues relating to lack of alignment tend to expose themselves faster as everyone is physically in the same space of work. However, when team members are working together but spread across remote locations, issues emerging from lack of alignment may stay hidden till a major roadblock is discovered.
Therefore, today it is even more important that managers align their teams using technology and processes to cut losses emerging out of lack of clarity around work delivery, timeframes, key objectives, targets and goals.
Team alignment is also often cross-team, where various disciplines come together to deliver a final project, product or service.
For example, for technology product managers who work with programmers, engineers, digital designers and marketers – it is imperative that each member who belong to other functional teams are on the same page.
In addition, even among members who belong to the same functional group may need alignment among themselves. For example, programmers and developers who are also part of a larger product development team, will need alignment among themselves to ensure that the same tech-stack, programming language, and development methodologies are used.
Why is Team Alignment important?
Team alignment is critical to ensure that every member understands the final goals and the approaches and strategies being used to achieve them. Furthermore, human talent management, type of methodology used, type of technology and tools to acquire – requires team alignment.
To better understand the importance of team alignment, let us look at the objectives that are met when your team is aligned.
Key Objectives of Team Alignment
- Shared responsibility for outcome
Output may be personal, outcome however is almost ways a team alignment effort.
For example, while writing an article is a writer’s output, editing it is the editor’s output, posting it is the site manager’s output – but when they are all aligned – the result is an article that generates traffic. The more aligned they are, the better and faster is the production quality content.
Team leaders need to ensure that team members are aligned on their individual goals and how together they are expected to produce an outcome for the organization.
- Reduced wastage of resources and increased exchange of knowledge
Unaligned teams equate to redundant processes, technology purchases (similar products used by different teams), and multiple copies of the same work. In programming for instance, a piece of code may have to be written for one project, and may need to be written again for another project. Through cross-team alignment, the team leads can identify redundant work being done by their members, and exchange of knowledge among their team members.
- Promotes transparency and accountability
‘A millennial workforce today demands transparency above all else. A manager of millennials needs accountability.’
Early alignment is key to both transparency among team members where each person knows what another is working on and how each member is accountable for a specific task for the final outcome.
- Better ideation process
Ideas are no one’s monopoly, but there must be a time and place to share them, debate and discuss them and then move forward together on an agreed upon set of ideas.
Team alignment and meetings allow individuals to share their unique perspectives and ideas, which often come together to form better working conditions. Without a safe and structured space for team alignment, where people are allowed to speak freely within the confines of the scope, a discussion may be suppressed or lost.
- Acts as a trust-building activity
Team members who understand each other are more tolerable and friendly to one another. This understanding may simply stem from a technical, work-related discussion, but it leads to a personal bond that helps develop a healthier working environment.
This is especially true today when our workplaces, remote or on-premise, are filled with people from various backgrounds who are in different stages of their lives.
Key Best Practices for Aligning Your Team in 2021
- Company-wide alignment across basics – Product, Process and Customer
The most preliminary alignment needed across teams, departments, products and functions is the need for utmost clarity on what the company’s product-suite is, what problems do they solve and who buys them (target audience).
Whether an employee works in HR, engineering, marketing, accounting or sales, this basic clarity and alignment on these core aspects plays into every single role. How effectively they are able to produce quality work aligned to the core objectives of the company, depends on alignment on what they sell, to whom and why.
- Provide individual targets
Company outcomes are collective and shared by every employee. However, the productive work of each individual employee comes together to create this common success.
It is for this reason that alignment around individual targets is key to ensuring that every employee knows how they contribute to the overall success of firm. It is also vital for their own feeling of having a goal and the encouragement from accomplishing these individual goals.
- Showcase how individual targets converse
Following from our previous point, it is key to also align your individual team members to showcase how their work collectively aim and accomplish revenue goals. This is not the same as revenue-attribution
for every individual’s target, because in many cases, especially in engineering and marketing, revenues simply cannot be accurate attributed. However, from a team and process perspective, it can be easily explained how each role and target contributes to the final outcome.
- Invest in alignment technologies
Team alignment, especially in today’s increasingly remote working environment, depends heavily on technology enablers. For instance, while investing in project or product management tools, they should be vested for the level of team collaboration and alignment they can facilitate. Unlike point solutions like Slack, unified product management suites provide collaboration tools that better sync with the day-to-day communication activities of managers and employees.
Alternatively, users can also aim for remote collaboration point solutions like corporate instant messenger tools for live chat.
- Discourage but don’t stop post-alignment meet queries
Team alignment is also an investment, apart from being an asset when used correctly. What this means is that there has to be a certain level of adherence to process of alignment, by every member of the team, invariant of hierarchy. This includes ensuring that the time allocated to align team members, even if it is segmented, should be properly utilized to get queries resolved and arrive at the same page.
While a manager should not discourage querying on a subject that was already discussed and assumably the whole team is aligned to- but it may need to be discouraged, especially after the process is well established, to ensure proper utilization of time.