I recently read the book, Boys in the Boat. It was a true story of a sculling team from the University of Washington, who through hard work and discipline became national champs and went on to win the 1936 Olympics in Germany. It’s a great story, set against the dramatic background of the Berlin Olympics hosted by Adolf Hitler. It describes how a rowing team developed into the fastest in the world. Of course, the members of the team need to be strong and fit, but there comes a point when all come together in harmony to maximize their performance. It is said that the team is only as fast as its slowest rower, but once they reach that synchronized harmony, they outpace the rest of the competitors.
Consider your team or organization. Is everyone pulling together? Do they know where they are going? Do they have a common set of values? Is there internal conflict between departments or individuals? Are they rowing together in a way that will help them surpass the competition or lag to the rear? As in sculling, everyone needs to be in harmony to maximize results.
In our practice, we have been able to work with a wide variety of organizations, both in the business and non-profit environment. Regardless of their size, much too often there are conflicts which affect the overall performance. Communications between individuals and departments may be sporadic. People retreat into silos with little care or understand the importance of other areas.
Aristotle is quoted as saying “The whole must be greater than the sum of its parts”. Leaders must ask themselves whether this is true in their business. If not, where are the issues? Finally, how do make the output of those involved greater than the sum of their individual efforts? This is referred to as organizational alignment.
As we work with organizational leaders, we have learned to employ an assessment tool which exposes not only the weaknesses in maximizing the group’s efforts but also identifies strengths which are important to build upon. That assessment tool is entitled D.I.AL.O.G (Data Indicating Alignment of Organizational Goals.) The exercise is administer to the group anonymously on-line and followed up by individual interviews to validate the results. The on-line exercise provides the initial data which is reinforces through participant responses during the interview.
The exercise is modeled after the Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, That extensive and time consuming program leads to a nationally recognized award coveted by both businesses and non-profits. D.I.AL.O.G. is a much simpler to use exercise leading to actionable results.
At the conclusion of the exercise, the results are discussed with organization’s leadership and programs recommendations that can address shortcomings and build upon strengths. They all center on the alignment of the activities of those within the organization with Core Values, Vision, and Mission. Do the team members clearly understand these key indicators of organizational success and do they incorporate them into their daily routines and behaviors? As a results, initiatives may be considered in the areas of team building, customer loyalty, communication, performance appraisals, and leadership.
As an example, one of our colleagues has been working with a national chain of restaurants. This is a business which can be subject to high employee turnover and is dependent on a high degree of customer loyalty. The employee turnover generates increased costs in recruiting and training. A lack of customer loyalty can undermine the success of the business. In the survey, the participant at each restaurant were divided into different groups based on their management levels and roles in the restaurant. For example, the results of those who work in the front of the business such as wait staff where compared to those who work in the back room or kitchen. The owners were presented with the results of the efforts and learned that more time was needed in employee orientation, communications, and feedback. They have now made it a practice to administer D.I.AL.O.G on an annual basis as a measure of their continued commitment to excellence.