White Paper: Strategic Alignment

Businesses often forget about the culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees. I view my role more as trying to set up an environment where the personalities, creativity and individuality of all the different employees come out and can shine.”    Tony Hsieh, Founder of Zappo’s

The Strategic Alignment Survey

(Provided by Integro Leadership Institute)

Employee alignment is critical. When employees are not aligned with the organization’s goals and strategies, the right work does not get done… or it does not get done right. What many managers fail to realize is that if employees are not aligned with the organization’s Purpose, Values and Vision, or have failed to establish their own intrinsic purposes for their daily work, they are very unlikely to be aligned with your goals, strategies and processes.

When employees feel connected to the purpose and vision of the organization, they have a clear understanding of how important the products and services you provide are to your customers and the community. They also see a clear connection between what they do and the success of your organization in fulfilling its purpose. As a result, aligned employees see their work as meaningful. They look forward to coming to work, and have a sense of pride in what they do and the organization they work for. When there is a high level of trust throughout the organization:

  • Expectations are clear, disagreements are discussed and resolved and individual performance is discussed and agreed on without having to rely on a formal process.
  • Information is exchanged freely as needed, feelings and opinions are openly discussed and people do not have hidden agendas.
  • Differences are valued, employees feel respected for their contribution, and have input into how the organization can be more successful.
  • People keep their commitments, strive for excellence in everything they do, and can count on each other for support.
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This is a place where people want to work… a workplace based on trust and personal responsibility. The Strategic Alignment Survey measures four key areas that have an impact on employee alignment and engagement, and provides critical feedback across the organization. LifeWork Systems will collect, summarize and report on the four sections of this survey:

Section One – Group Trust Level Report

This section includes 16 questions/statements describing:

  • The degree to which group members practice trust-building behaviors
Example 1: In our group, when people express their point of view, they feel truly listened to.
Example 2: Group members are encouraged to share their feelings, regardless of whether they are positive or negative.
Example 3: If there is conflict in our group it is handled in a straightforward and constructive manner.

Section Two – Group Alignment Report

This section includes 23 questions/statements that describe:

  • The degree to which group members are aligned with the organization’s Purpose, Values, Vision, Goals, Procedures and Roles
Example 1: Our group is moving together in the same direction.
Example 2:   We operate by a clearly defined set of values.
Example 3: Forms, reports and procurement methods are familiar to group members.

Section Three – Values That Build Trust

This section has 8 categories describing:

  • The 8 values that must be present for trust to develop (each asks these 2 questions)
Sample Value: Honesty – Having high standards of honesty in everything we do
Question 1: How important is this to you personally?
Question 2: How well does your organization operate by this value?

Section Four – Kinds of People

Descriptions in this section identifying the percentage of:

  • Employees whose behavior is Self-Directed, Rebellious or Compliant

Section 1 – The Group Trust Level Report

This report will measure the degree to which each employee perceives that the four elements of trust are present in their work group. The elements of trust and the behaviors measured are:

  1. Congruence – the degree to which employees (1) have clearly defined and agreed behavioral standards, (2) make sure expectations are clear, (3) are willing to discuss and resolve disagreements and (4) practice what they preach.
  2. Openness – the degree to which employees (1) openly share information and opinions, (2) discuss feelings with one another, (3) do not withhold relevant information from one another, and (4) are comfortable receiving feedback from each other.
  3. Acceptance – the degree to which employees (1) are really listened to, (2) are accepted for who they are, (3) feel it is safe to express conflicting views, and (4) encourage and support each other.
  4. Reliabilitythe degree to which employees (1) can rely on each other to get the job done, (2) do what they say they will do, (3) take ownership of their jobs and, (4) have high standards of quality in everything they do.

Although it is common to get a spread of responses on each, there is usually a tendency for some consistency in group scores, so the elements that need most work can easily be identified.

The percentages for each element represent the raw scores from the questions asked compared to the maximum possible score.

  • A score of 70% for Openness is saying that the total aggregate score for the team is 70% of what is possible, not that 70% of the team is open.
  • There is no way of looking at the report and calculating this percentage.

Often, the most underrated element is acceptance. It is this element that creates the climate for the other three to increase. When team members feel that they are valued and respected, they are more comfortable being open and honest with each another.

Key Questions:

  • Which of the Elements of Trust are we best at and worst at?
  • What are the factors that contribute to our strengths and areas we need to improve?
  • What barriers need to be removed to increase the trust level on all four elements?

Section Two – The Group Alignment Report

This report is measuring two things:

Clarity – how clear each individual believes their work group is on the purpose, values, vision, goals, procedures and roles.

Approval – to what degree each employee approves of the purpose, values, vision, goals, procedures and roles.

Clarity

It is important to understand the difference here between what we are measuring on clarity and approval. With clarity, we are measuring each employee’s perception of how clear they believe their work group is, not how clear the individual is. When people are asked how clear they are, some individuals may not want to admit not being clear. By asking whether they perceive the group to be clear, we get a more accurate picture of clarity.

It is also possible that an individual, the team leader for example, may be very clear on the vision themselves, but believe that the team is very unclear about that vision.

Approval

With approval, we are measuring the individual’s personal approval. So it is possible to have an individual that shows approval in a very unclear position on the report. This would tend to indicate that this person is clear about that item themselves, and approves of it, but believes that the team is very unclear.

The percentages for Team Clarity and Team Approval represent the raw scores from the questions asked compared to the maximum possible score.

  • A score of 70% for Team Clarity is saying that the total aggregate score for the team is 70% of what is possible, not what percent of clarity.
  • There is no way of looking at the report and calculating this percentage.
  • That is also true of the approval scores… a person individually does not have to totally approve of each question so you can have a score of less than 100%.

The main benefit of the Group Alignment Report is that you can see which of these key areas you need to focus on increasing clarity, and where there is a need for more approval.

Key Questions:

  • On which items is our group most in alignment?
  • How well do we perform in these values?

Section Three – 8 Values That Build Trust

Section One of this report looked at the Trust Building Behaviors in this group and this section measures the Values that must be present to drive the trust building behaviors. We have identified two values that need to be present for each of the four Elements of Trust.

The eight values are:

Congruence

  1. Straightforwardness: People are clear about what is expected of them
  2. Honesty: Having high standards of honesty in everything we do

Openness

  1. Receptivity: Giving new ideas and methods a fair hearing
  2. Disclosure: Communicating openly one’s own ideas and opinions

Acceptance

  1. Respect: People are valued for who they are
  2. Recognition: People get the recognition they deserve

Reliability

  1. Seeks Excellence: Striving to do our best in everything we do
  2. Keeps Commitments: People follow through on their responsibilities

In the questionnaire employees are asked two questions about each of these values:

  • How important is this to you personally?
  • How well does your organization operate by this value?

Employees do not see the Elements of Trust or the name of the value, just the description.

Reading the Graph: Each of the eight values shows the average score on the first bar (on a scale of 1 to 10) of how important these values are to your employees. The second bar represents the average score for employees’ perceptions of the organization’s performance on each value. The column on the right shows the number of respondents who completed these questions. The Trust Values Gap Score in the box at the top of the page shows the sum of all of the gaps.

Interpretation: The difference between “personal importance” and “organizational performance” can have a significant impact on employee engagement and commitment. If employees indicate that these values are “important” to “very important” to them, and then rate the “organization’s performance” significantly lower, they are saying is: “This is important to me but my organization doesn’t operate this way.”

Key Questions:

  • Which values are most important to our employees?
  • What do we need to do to improve performance in these values?

Section Four – Kinds of People

This section is measuring employees’ perceptions of the behavior of their co-workers, based on the kinds of people described in our Personal Responsibility Model.

This model identifies three kinds of people:

Self-Directed – people who are personally responsible, and two kinds of

Other-Directed people – those who tend to be Compliant, and those who are Rebellious.

The survey asks employees to respond to the following question:

What percentage of the people that you work with would fit each of the following three descriptions? Please ensure your total for all three equals 100%.

Person 1 –   Will not be told what to do; feels frustrated; feels entitled to better treatment; does the absolute bare minimum they have to do to keep their job; tends to blame others when things go wrong; generally or frequently uncooperative or actively working against others (sometimes openly sabotaging; sometimes through action or inaction)

(Actively Disengaged/Rebellious)

Person 2 –   Does what they are asked to do but does not feel much commitment to the tasks, or to the organization…it’s just a job, a paycheck; sticks to the rules and stays out of trouble but is switched off and non-creative.

(Disengaged/ Compliant)

Person 3   Works intentionally with a strong commitment to their purpose; maintains a high level of engaged passion on the job. They’re eager and willing, personally and intrinsically responsible for their performance, their relationships, and have strong self and social interest; they are open-minded, eager and willing to learn; and uses initiative and creativity to improve results. (Fully Engaged/Self-Directed)

Reading the Graph: The pie chart shows the average percentage of scores for the three descriptions, for all employees in this group that respond to the questions.

Important Note: While we have used the title “Kinds of People” for this section, we are really talking about how employees are currently behaving. It is important to understand that Rebellious and Compliant behaviors are natural responses from employees who perceive themselves to be in an Authoritarian environment. It is also possible for the same person to use all three types of behavior in one day.

Therefore this result is not a portrait of the employees in your group, merely a snapshot of how they were behaving at the time this survey was taken.

Key Questions:

  • How do you need your employees to behave to achieve your objectives?
  • Is your present leadership approach going to allow your employees to be self-directed?
  • What kind of culture do you need to create to attract and retain Self-Directed people, and get your currently Rebellious and Compliant people to behave in a self-directed way?

The Question Level Report

This report shows the distribution of answers for each question with both the numbers of employees at each point on the scales, and the percentage of the whole group that number represents.

The questions are listed on this report by item, making it easier to respond to questions others have about what is actually being measured. It also shows whether there is any significant difference in the spread of answers.

This report is provided for the organization as a whole, not for individual workgroups. Employees have been advised that their responses are confidential, and for smaller work groups it can become obvious that one employee has answered the questions differently from the rest of the group. This can lead to unnecessary and unhealthy speculation as to who this might be.

Summary

The Strategic Alignment Survey has a total of 58 questions that will be asked prior to implementation of a LifeWork Systems Leadership Development Process and again after all services are completed. The survey extensively measures four key areas that impact employee alignment and engagement, and will provide feedback critical for LifeWork Systems and you in developing an effective, comprehensive and customized leadership development plan for your organization.

The resulting process will be tailored to the specific areas needing improvement as well as to leverage and expand your organizations strengths and assets. The results of the initial survey provide a benchmark for the current state of trust and alignment and allow a comparison of post-service data to measure improvements.