Is Your Business in Need of Alignment?
To operate effectively and efficiently all the parts of your business need to be working toward the same goals and objectives. From time to time, though, operations can get out of whack, such as when there’s a new hire, change in strategy, or decision to expand into a new line of business or take on a partner. You may notice a change in employee behavior, mood or productivity, and that things are not operating as smoothly as they were. That’s a sign you need to bring operations back into alignment.
A useful tool for examining where your firm may have alignment issues is the McKinsey 7S Framework. Although it’s been around for quite a while and was created with large, diversified companies in mind, the essential elements of the framework and method for employing it can be applied to any size business. I have found it a useful way of visualizing how the various aspects of a business work together to support each other.
The framework is called “7S” because it focuses on seven key operational elements, each of which begins with the letter “S.” The first three pertain to so-called “hard,” institutional or analytical elements: Structure (the organizational chart), Strategy (the business plan), and Systems (work flow and chain of decision-making). The remaining four pertain to so-called “soft,” cultural or people elements: Skills (capabilities and competencies), Style (code of conduct and leadership approach), Staff (human resources, talent management, training and development), and Shared Values (mission, values and objectives).
At the center of the framework—and of the organization—are Shared Values. All operations should be supporting and furthering the mission, values and objectives of the business. If there are disparities or differences in ways of doing things in one or more of the other elements that are not in sync with the Shared Values, then the organization is out of alignment and will not function as it should For example, if one of the values is to provide clients with extraordinary customer service but some staff members lack the skills to deal with difficult clients, then problems will arise and the firm’s reputation and brand could be damaged. (For more details about the framework and how to apply it, just do an internet search on “McKinsey 7S Framework” and you’ll find a number of informative articles.)
The framework does not tell you how to fix the problem, but it is a methodical way of examining what may not be working well in the firm and why. Once you’ve identified the changes that need to be made, you can take action to bring things back into alignment.
As businesses grow and evolve, changes and disconnections creep in, usually unintentionally and often undetected. Over time, they can erode the fabric of the organization, leading to problems of morale and execution. Doing an alignment check periodically will help you catch and eradicate them and put the business back on track to fulfill its mission.
In this week’s Creative Genius Podcast, Gail sits down with business author Mike Michalowicz to talk about his new book, Fix This First and the art of focusing. Mike tells business leaders to focus on one big challenge and address it before moving onto the next one.