Do an Internet search for team alignment and you’ll find plenty of articles – why your team needs to be aligned for superior performance, how to align your team, and what alignment looks like.
And you’ll see images like these to depict high performance teams.
Team alignment implies everyone is moving forward in unison with precise coordination and execution. It might look nice, but on second glance you see they are moving within a narrow range, with very little variance.
. . . The focus is on staying in formation.
. . . There is little tolerance for differences.
. . . . Creativity is not desirable.
Team alignment depends on a control orientation – keeping people in line. It depends on a hierarchical structure with a lot of policies to maintain the alignment.
You might also see images like these to depict leadership and team alignment. Although team members are not in a precise formation, they are lined up behind a leader.
It shows that team alignment is leader dependent. Followers depend on the leader to make decisions on direction and tell them what to do.
These images imply that team members . . .
. . . should not act independently or get out of line.
. . . have little need to communicate with each other.
. . . are mindlessly following the leader, with no idea where they are going.
Stop trying to align your team.
We need teams composed of individuals who are able to make quick decisions on how to respond to what comes their way, who are able to use their good judgment to solve problems, who coordinate their efforts with each other, and who come up with fresh new ideas.
A compelling vision (that includes common purpose and shared values) is a more powerful way to unifying your team than trying to align them through structure, policies and procedures.
When a team is organized around a unifying vision, the vision becomes the glue that holds your team together. Team members trust each other without concern about competing self-interest because they know they serve the same purpose and values Creativity flourishes, and there is more room for autonomy within the broad guidelines of the shared vision. Because everyone knows they each desire the same result, team members can use their own judgment in how to approach tasks. And there is more space for conflict to arise and to be resolved, instead of being kept under the table. Creative disagreement focuses on the issues at hand, not on personalities, and leads to better solutions.
It might look a little messy, not nearly as neat as everyone lined up on track, doing what they’re supposed to be doing. But these are the benchmarks of high performance teams.
And instead of team alignment images, use images like these to depict your powerful, cohesive team.