How To Create Organizational Alignment

Added on by Alexander Osterwalder.

This post shares the tools we used to work on organizational alignment at our Strategyzer retreat in Tunisia. We designed the event to create a shared understanding of strategic and operational challenges. It kicks off an effort to put a sound company-wide alignment system in place to handle the growth ahead of us before it gets too crazy.

The Strategyzer team in Hammamet, Tunisia.

The Strategyzer team in Hammamet, Tunisia.

Last week, the entire Strategyzer team came together in a nice resort in Hammamet, Tunisia, for our annual retreat. We aimed to create a so-called Moment of Impact that makes a difference for each participant and the company as a whole. This year we decided to work on alignment to create a sound foundation for growth. This is crucial for a company like ours spread across 4 continents and 5 time zones.

The three working days focused on boosting a shared understanding. Each day had a different alignment focus:

Day 1: Strategic alignment on the business model and its current strengths and weaknesses.  
Day 2: Understanding each other’s work, including roles, responsibilities, and workflows.
Day 3: Cross-functional collaboration (content and design team, software development and support team).

How do you measure alignment?

We used Stefano Mastrogiacomo’s powerful Coopilot method and prototype software to assess if the retreat produced any progress on team alignment. With an anonymous vote at the beginning and the end of the 3 workshop days, we assessed progress on understanding:

  • joint objectives (what we intend to do together)
  • joint commitments (the commitments we have made towards each other)
  • joint resources (the resources participants need to fulfill their part)
  • joint risks (the collective risk exposure)
Stefano Mastrogiacomo's Coopilot Method.

Stefano Mastrogiacomo's Coopilot Method.

Strategic alignment

To boost strategic alignment in a practical way we focused on the business model, its environment, and its strengths and weaknesses. Then we developed improvements to the business model. We split into groups to:

  1. Map out our current business model with the Business Model Canvas.
  2. Assess our business model’s strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Map out the business model environment.
  4. Brainstorm the top business model issues Strategyzer should tackle.
  5. Vote which issues the company should focus on by allocating 5 stickers to your favorites (plenary)
  6. Brainstorm potential solutions for the top three issues by votes.
  7. Vote which solutions the company should focus on by allocating 5 stickers to your favorites (plenary)
Voting for our favourite solutions.

Voting for our favourite solutions.

Operational alignment

Here our goal was to get the team to see what everybody does and to understand each other’s work across functions. For example, the software development team does not know how the content team works and vice-versa. Understanding each other’s workflow creates a fertile ground for better collaboration.

We did several exercises to create this mutual understanding. The funniest one is from Gamestorming called “Welcome to My World”. This is how it works:

  1. People write one of their job responsibilities on a sticky note and stick it to their shirt.
  2. People pair up with someone whose job responsibility they’re the least familiar with or that they’re curious about.
  3. In pairs, people take turns drawing their best representation of how they envision the other person’s workflow around that job duty (without talking to the other person).
  4. The pairs share their drawings with each other and describe what they mean.
  5. People clarify or agree on the realities of each other’s drawing. They highlight areas of ease, friction, and interactions with others in the process.
  6. Volunteers show their visuals to the larger group and to describe some of their insights and observations.

People loved the exercise and learned a ton about each other’s daily realities and struggles.

Cross-functional alignment

We ended the working part of the retreat in small cross-functional groups. For example, the content and design team, which are in different parts of the world, worked together. Or the software development team and the distributed support team, collaborated.  

Cross-functional alignment between the design and content teams.

Cross-functional alignment between the design and content teams.

Here's the entire workshop structure of our retreat if you want to learn more about the other workshop exercises we did or just check out some of the pictures.

Which strategic alignment tools & methods did you try out in your organization? Share them with us!