Leadership, Vision

The Cost of Alignment

One of the greatest challenges I see many organizations having is staying focussed on their core vision and competencies, particularly when the needs and opportunities are so diverse. This is amplified in organizations in which program staff work remotely and with great trust and independence from the main office. A recent conversation with Brady Wilson of Juice Inc. confirms this. Experienced with both corporate and nonprofit organizations, he commented on the need for the latter to identify and act on core, value-added activity. A lot of energy is squandered due to a diluted focus. I see this quite frequently and, for me, it raises concerns about the consistency and strength of the core leadership of the organization. Restoring focus is a demanding and unfailingly painful process. It requires the pruning of programs, efforts, and usually even staff and volunteers who are doing good work and are often respected and beloved. One organization with which I am familiar has taken on this challenge directly. A decade ago it had little common identity, functioning as a very loose and frequently combative assortment of independent entrepreneurial leaders who pursued their own sense of purpose with limited interest in accountability and cohesion. The result was an uneven movement with areas of great strength and achievement and others of confusion and conflict. The brand had no meaning apart from what was attributed to it at each grassroots location. It wasn’t disarray, but it was disorder. A new leader has taken on the task of reunifying the organization. To a great extent this has been successful. the “esprit de corps” is much improved, there is a growing recognition that the name and logo represent something similar in every region of the country, and new staff are comingg in without many of the old biasses and conflicts that were common in the past. There has been great cost however. Some outstanding and experienced leaders have left, some deeply hurt in the process. There seems to be less affection for the point leader than predecessors received. And some of the strongest grassroots efforts have undergone transitions that may feel like backward steps. It hasn’t been easy. Still, from my seat as an interested outsider I am both encouraged and excited about what is developing. Alignment has been costly, but it has created the potential for greater synergy and outcomes than could have been possible before. What is happening in your organization that is out of step with your core vision? When will you pay the price to fix it?