Is It Time To Realign? by Jon Firger


Jon FirgerFor those of us living in the North, there are a series of rites we practice each year. After a cold winter, we emerge in spring to consider the potholes and frost heaves that wreak havoc on our vehicles. If you are like me, you soon become aware that your car no longer continues in a straight course toward the destination but, rather, begins to drift off of its desired path. That’s when you know that it’s time for a realignment. It’s an annual expense, but, nonetheless, a great investment to prevent more severe damage and cost down the road.

So too you must realign our organizations to ensure that you maintain your direction and not drift off course.

What is organizational alignment?

When an organization is properly aligned, leadership determines vision and mission, which in turn determine strategy. Strategy guides decision-making; structure, human resource development, service mix, behavior and culture. When each of these elements is aligned, a high-performance organization emerges that is efficient, effective and successful!

If the past year was your economic winter, you can see that financial stress can slowly move your organization out of alignment. Decisions seem only to be driven by financial concerns. The competition for internal and external resources builds tensions between leadership, management, staff and clients. Cutting costs suddenly takes priority over capacity building, strategic thought and service in the scramble for economic sustainability.

What are six warning signs that your organization is no longer aligned?

      1. Tension develops between volunteer and professional leadership over decision-making.


      2. Most decisions become financially-based, without consideration of mission,vision and values.


      3. Your development strategy moves from long-term, systematic growth to short term desperation.


      4. You find that the necessity of cost cutting has diminished your administrative capacity to a less than adequate status.


      5. Your Strategic Plan begins gathering dust on a shelf in your office.


    6. Your staff development activities are put on “hold” until conditions improve.

How does the re-alignment process work?
Organizations, like humans tend to return to familiar (albeit dysfunctional) behaviors when placed under extreme stress. Self awareness is the first step toward health. The first step toward organizational realignment is a thorough organizational assessment to obtain precise and accurate diagnostic information. The assessment tool must effectively measure organizational performance in every element of the alignment chain and identify high impact intervention points.

Once the assessment data is obtained, the next step is usually to focus on your most vital resource; your people. Whether you will be creating a new strategic plan, entering into a capital campaign, or re-evaluating your human resource needs, you need to get your people – your volunteer leadership, your management team, your staff and other important stakeholders – together in one place and remind yourselves of the vision and values, mission and history that makes your work so very important. If you can successfully realign your organization and your people, you can then enter into the spring of growth on a course that leads directly to that vision.