Enterprise Thinking & the Alignment Myth

March 18, 2018 Joe Britto

Leadership is vital for the success of any business. Leadership teams, after all, don’t just set a vision; it’s their actions that drive a business forward.

I doubt many would disagree with that. But there’s a flaw in that second sentence and it’s this: a leadership team’s actions only drive the whole business forward if they’re thinking about the whole business. If they demonstrate enterprise thinking.

The Alignment Myth

As you can imagine, here at Innate Leaders we’re often asked to help grow team “alignment” and help that team “align” around a strategic direction.

Now of course alignment is important. Though alignment at the senior level has become a buzzword, without it trust is in short supply, open and candid discussions can’t happen; team members are unwilling to bring ideas forward or seek support on challenges in functional areas.

But the impact of leadership alignment doesn’t end there. If leaders don’t exchange ideas their ability to share best practice is limited. If a leadership team isn’t the custodian of its company’s values, a negative impact on company culture follows.

“Yes,” I hear you saying, “We get it, alignment is important.”

But here’s the thing. Alignment is the result of a way of thinking. It isn’t the golden ring a team should be striving to grasp. It’s the by-product of the idea we began this blog with: enterprise thinking.

Enterprise Thinking and Mindset

Enterprise thinking is a way of thinking that understands our department, our business unit, our org, is part of a bigger enterprise. It sees clearly that the success of our department is a chapter in the success story of the whole business. Enterprise thinking understands that success in our org at the expense of other departments isn’t success for the enterprise. And therefore isn’t success at all.

And just like the phrase suggests enterprise thinking rests on a foundation of mindset.

To go a little deeper on that flaw I mentioned at the start of this blog: it isn’t a leadership team’s actions that drive a business forward; it’s their mindset. And that’s true because the way we think informs the things we do.

Shift the way we think and we create different possibilities for how we act.

The Promise of Enterprise Thinking

And what is the shift in thinking we’re talking about? It’s one where leaders understand they’re not leaders of their department; but part of a leadership team that is responsible for the success of the whole enterprise.

Function like that and leadership teams start sharing resources. They see a problem in one department as a problem to be solved by them all. They see the value of cooperation; and they see they’re not competing with each other, but with competitors outside the walls of their business.

And because of that they develop a different kind of strategy. One that’s aligned around enterprise goals, not departmental goals.

Of course that way of thinking takes time to grow. But if we’re not taking the time to grow enterprise thinking, it begs the question: what are we giving our time to?

 

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