The individual contribution of everyone in an organization contributes to its performance. It is this collective effort, when appropriately directed, that makes a company successful. Organizations rely on senior leadership to set direction, but ensuring that everyone throughout a company positively contributes is a different challenge. That is where management engages. The typical management practice is for a supervisor to receive responsibility and delegate it to individuals to accomplish work. In practice, the work remains the responsibility of the supervisor while completed by an employee. This appears to align an organization by making sure everyone knows exactly what to do.
The problem with this approach: it is not working. The result of delegation is low ownership, limited engagement, death of creativity, limited responsibility, unmet expectations, conflict, and low morale.
Organizations achieve alignment through empowerment. I differentiated empowerment and accountability in a previous blog.The basic difference is the ownership of the work. In delegation, the work belongs to the one giving it away. Empowerment occurs when a person is given his or her work.
Leaders at the senior level must design an organization that supports empowerment and expects alignment. When these two conditions are met, collective contribution engages teams and individuals in a shared direction. The organization, team, and individual align and move in the direction set by senior leadership. Each level has distinct responsibilities.
At the organizational level mission, vision, and values must be clearly defined and compelling. If they simply hang on the wall and are written on cards to be placed with employee badges they have little impact. Beyond the direction these provide, measurable, strategic goals should be provided consistently and in a timely manner. When organizational goals are provided after the actions that will make them successful should have started, they are seldom achieved.
At the work group level, teams collectively connect to organizational mission, vision, and values as well as setting goals that connect them to other teams in the organization. Team is defined as any group at any level of an organization where everyone shares a responsibility. The cascading goals that are developed by teams at all levels of the company should all feed into the organizational goals.
Individuals connect to an organization through the team or work group. When a team has defined and understood its connection to the organization and each person shares responsibility for the collective outcome, individual goals should be set. To be fully aligned, personal mission, vision, and values will connect to the organization through the team. Individual goals then support team goals that support organizational goals.
When each organizational level aligns, groups and individuals can be empowered. Without alignment, empowerment becomes chaos as each person and work group operates in a disconnected, misdirected manner.