We were recently with a client whose industry is experiencing major disruption. Consequently, the company is facing possible failure. When we asked the CEO what was the most critical thing we could help his team with during this difficult time, he responded: “The absolute alignment of my senior team around our strategy.” As Andrew Carnegie said: “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision; the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” An aligned senior team is a blessing to their organization. A misaligned senior team is a blight! And while alignment is one of the most powerful tools in change, it is also one of the most overlooked. Of course many leaders (like this CEO) talk about it, and some have the tendency to believe that because they have shared the issues, vision, goals and even strategy, that automatically leaders are aligned. But to equate understanding and even agreement with commitment is a big mistake. The hard part of aligning teams is what Michael Porter described as “making trade-offs and forging fit among activities.”

There are many ways to get alignment (and it often takes multiple tools and sessions to create the “fit” needed in a team). This is by no means an exhaustive treatment of the subject. But here are ten questions that we use to help teams experiencing change.

  1. What mental models and assumptions need to be updated to support the change?

  2. What behaviors do we need to adopt to foster greater collaboration?

  3. How does the team’s work need to change to get better results?

  4. What team practices need to change to help us work together more effectively?

  5. How can the team make decisions more effectively?

  6. Who requires different skills, knowledge, experience, or motivation to do their jobs more effectively?

  7. How can the team get the right people working together?

  8. What needs to change so that rewards drive desired behaviors?

  9. How can employees get needed information more quickly, accurately, and in the right format?

  10. What is getting in the way of working together to implement the change?

Aligning people’s goals, interests, and the way they work can be daunting. But when a senior team is all working together like a great crew team, the benefits are spectacular.