Want agile transformation? First you need team alignment

Any time that you have more than two people on a team, it can get complicated to move anything forward that isn’t their idea. Efforts gain no momentum or are slowed down because no one understands or even tries to understand others and where they are coming from. A team needs to be aligned on any team project before proceeding, and unfortunately, it doesn’t happen very frequently. Just because you have been put on or joined a team does not mean you have alignment. It takes focus and discipline.

Getting team alignment

It is not about spouting your solutions and opinions. It is about LISTENING first to others on the team and the purpose for being together. Group commitment is rarely achieved in most meetings, and common sense dictates that commitment is STEP ONE in meaningful accomplishment. If a team leader does not work on alignment up front, a lot of time is wasted and negative complaints, fears, and criticisms take over. Resources are diminished and morale is affected.

Second, as leaders, we can catch ourselves from pushing anything and truly listen — first to what is wanted/needed by the team and then declaring it for all to hear. Next, ask for their support and get everyone’s response openly.

Third, engage everyone in determining the factual current reality as it relates to the specific project. Factual means numbers, dates, history, etc., not theories, conjecture, or opinion.

Fourth, make sure everyone sees the crystal-clear contrast between the desired outcome and current reality. From there, it’s about determining the action steps that need to take place to move from current reality to desired outcome. List those steps, prioritize them, and get team member commitments to follow through.

Then the rest of the work is all about action-team meetings where you will work on the actions, one at a time, and the processes to get there.

Watch out: If the team is working on these initiatives without first establishing alignment and team commitment, things can get messy and sometimes contentious.

Once you reach that final stage, the work is ongoing. It’s about the team implementing action, learning along the way, adjusting to what is required next, and constantly moving forward together. Real, meaningful action is where the learning and adjusting take place. This is how positive change can happen.

This process is not as easy as it sounds in the step-by-step process outlined above. Some very technical or highly successful managers unknowingly communicate that they have the answers and all everyone has to do is listen to them. They forget that they are responsible for creating a future, not managing the past. If the answers were obvious, there would be no need for a team in the first place.

Finally, many of you are probably aware of the current “hot topic” in management speak — agility and agile transformation. Many Fortune 500 companies are riding this wave right now. The essence of this methodology is that change is the order of the day, now more than ever. In today’s 100-mph world, the ability to turn on a dime is mission critical to staying ahead of and leading the competition in your particular field. However, don’t even begin to think that “agile transformation” will happen effectively unless you have aligned teams moving forward.

Team alignment leads to an agile team, which leads to team results!

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