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How To Find Alignment From Misalignment

Posted by | July 15, 2015 | Employee Engagement, Employer

Via LinkedIn : How much alignment must there be between a company and an employee in order to be a good fit? At what point is there too much misalignment so that it is better for the company and employee to separate? My partners gave their answer in The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age and how a defined tour of duty helps.

By focusing on building alignment for the duration of a specific mission, a tour of duty reduces the issue of aligning values and aspirations to a manageable scope.

In other words, if both company (represented by an employee’s manager) and employee strongly value the successful completion of a mission, there is sufficient alignment per se. What misalignments may exist, become relatively unimportant. Yet it is still ideal to identify them, because that knowledge may provide opportunities for—paradoxically—more alignment.

We have heard this idea can be difficult to fully comprehend, and there is often misunderstanding resulting in managers and employees over-complicating the process to define a tour of duty. So let me try by giving a non-work example.

In my university’s Student Union building there was a bulletin board dedicated to people hoping to share rides on road trips—often back home. Let’s say Steve sees Mike’s post looking for someone to share expenses to drive home to Potomac, Maryland from Ann Arbor for Winter Break. Steve calls Mike and says he too is from Potomac and wants to return home for the break but doesn’t have a car and hoped to pay for half of the gas and tolls.

Some issues immediately are aired. Steve cannot leave until late Friday after his last final; Mike was hoping to leave Thursday morning. Furthermore, Steve actually is not planning to return to Ann Arbor after the break: he’s going to Italy for the next semester, and Mike was hoping to have someone to return with him.

After some negotiations, Steve agrees to drive Mike home on Friday and in exchange Mike will pay for all gas and tolls.

Also, upon learning that Steve was going to the same Italian university as Mike attended the previous year, Mike asked Steve to bring a gift to someone he befriended there.

The original thought for the mission objective did not work out: a shared round trip did not work because it was not aligned with Steve’s intention to stay in Potomac. So the two narrowed the scope of the mission to a one-way trip. There were other misalignments about when to leave Ann Arbor, and how to split expenses. They were resolved by understanding the misalignments and focusing on the alignments, and negotiating the particulars.

Neither side gets all he desired, but by defining an appropriate mission objective, there was sufficient alignment. Also, in discussing the misalignments, their alignment was strengthened in one way: Steve would bring Mike’s gift to Italy.

Both Mike and Steve are highly incentivized to work together to make a success of the mission objective. They have to put trust in each other, as well. They must be honorable.

Furthermore, Mike and Steve recognize that in future semesters there might be opportunities to travel together again. Therefore, being allies, makes sense for both of them.

So the process is to talk about where you want to go, and about all the details. Narrow the scope until there is a commonality to form a mutually beneficial mission objective. Discuss the misalignments. Look for further alignment possibilities. Negotiate. Commit to the mission objective. Fulfill your responsibilities honorably. Be allies, and look forward to working together again.

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