An Overused Word Starring in your 3:00 p.m. Meeting — Alignment

If you make a living as a consultant, a solopreneur, a legal or tax advisor, or spend a portion of your day on a laptop at a coffee shop or sitting on conference calls, chances are that you use the word Alignment too frequently.

Alignment.  Sounds easy.  The reality is alignment doesn’t come in words, it comes in tools, systems, and communication.  And it is far from easy to achieve.

A few years ago, I received a referral from a client.  A nice compliment, right.  So, the setting is mid-December and the prospective new client called and said we need some serious help with our performance review system.  I was instantly flattered for the call and the referral.  The predicament they found themselves in stemmed from a lack of alignment in their Performance Review system.  They used ratings and tied their ratings to bonus payouts.  For many packaged review and HR Information Systems, this is quite common.

The problem was significant.  They had employees with very “Wobegon-esque” ratings, where everyone was Above Average.  An okay strategy, but one that created an unintended outcome.  The above average ratings led to a bonus payout across the organization.  The problem was that the company didn’t have a good year financially.   Based on the ratings, this leader was upside down on what he needed to pay in bonus in relation to Company performance.

We worked on a communication strategy to get them through the awkward explanation and a performance review tool that aligned the organizational performance with individual employee time.  Not earth shattering, but the next time you find yourself over-using the word alignment, remember alignment is a word that needs a vehicle and a communication plan behind it.

Blogging by J. Forrest