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The Power of Alignment: Connecting Individuals to Organizational Objectives

By Jeffrey S. Nevenhoven, Senior Consultant, Life Cycle Engineering

Alignment is a critical factor in the world of rotating equipment and one of the most common causes for machinery malfunction. Without precision alignment, stationary and rotating components begin to wear under the stresses produced by misalignment. Accelerated component wear, reduced service life, excessive energy consumption, and poor quality are some of the results of misaligned equipment, all of which drive increased spending and lost productivity. Maintenance and engineering professionals conduct thorough evaluations of operating conditions, apply sound installation practices along with the use of precision alignment devices, and conduct ongoing condition monitoring to mitigate misalignment. 

The disruptive and damaging effects of misalignment can occur in the business environment as well. Customers, shareholders, and employees can experience the deteriorating effects of misaligned objectives, goals, processes and job duties. Excessive non-value added work exists in organizations where employees do not have a clear connection with the business strategy and organizational objectives. Even well-intended performance indicators that are misaligned or cause conflicting expectations result in wasted time and money. Department goals and ultimately the bottom line are impacted when business systems are not aligned and when employees do not have a deep understanding of how their individual and collective contributions impact organization outcomes. 

Similar to the methods used to ensure rotating equipment is aligned properly, result-oriented organizations effectively apply performance management to establish and sustain a “true north”. Performance management includes activities that ensure objectives, goals and targets are consistently met efficiently and effectively. It can focus on the performance of the organization, a department, processes to build a product or service, employees, etc. Performance management reminds us that being busy is not the same as producing results. It reminds us that training, strong commitment, and lots of hard work alone, are not results. The major contribution of performance management is its focus on achieving results, e.g. useful, cost-effective products and services for customers inside and outside the organization. 

The performance management system is a powerful business system when structured properly, applied universally and enforced effectively. Result-driven performance management systems link and align roles, responsibilities, behaviors, processes, and department goals to the business strategy and organizational objectives. Employees within result-oriented organizations have a clear line of sight between their daily activities and organizational outcomes; they understand the impact their daily contributions make. The result oriented workforce consistently meets objectives, goals, and targets through a unified vision, clear and non-conflicting priorities, integrated processes and functions, open communication, and shared responsibilities. 

Establishing a result-oriented performance management system redirects efforts away from busy work back to effectiveness. It provides the framework that fosters teamwork through a set of shared goals that pulls individuals into work teams; work teams into functional teams; and functional teams into a single organization team all centered on a common goal. 

A result-oriented performance management system consists of three primary components: the daily management system, process integration, and a performance review process. When synchronized, these three elements communicate, integrate and align multiple roles, departments, and functions towards common organizational objectives. 

The daily management system creates visibility and communicates performance against goals and objectives. Cascading measures communicate and connect employees to processes, processes to outcomes, and outcomes to goals and objectives. Key performance indicators and visual controls report in real time how well the organization is performing against plan. Through real-time monitoring and regularly scheduled review meetings, the daily management system fosters teamwork in identifying problems quickly, developing corrective actions and driving continuous improvement. Daily management directly connects business processes, productions systems and employee duties to the “heartbeat” of the organization. 

Process integration removes functional silos and competing goals by incorporating processes and establishing shared responsibility for organizational objectives. Result-oriented organizations recognize that processes are a group of organized activities that together create value and deliver results. They understand that no single process or function delivers results. Rather, all processes need to work together. Within these organizations resides a mutual understanding that all the parts of the process and departmental functions fit together from end to end. When designed properly, integrated processes facilitate alignment and promote teamwork by identifying interdependencies, coordinating efforts, and setting shared responsibilities. Through standardized and integrated processes all stakeholders can view the impact their day-to-day job responsibilities have on performance. Employees in these organizations strive and work towards collective outcomes versus personal gain. 

The performance review process takes the performance management system to a personal level. It aligns employee’s day-to-day actions with departmental goals and organizational objectives. A successful performance review process keeps everyone focused on common goals and fosters a culture of engaged, high-performing contributors who understand that their performance impacts organizational outcomes. Employees who are provided with realistic stretch goals, growth and development opportunities, timely feedback, ongoing coaching, and appropriate compensation strive to bring value to the organization and deliver positive results. Contrary to the popular practice of employee and supervisor meeting once or twice a year to set arbitrary goals and review progress, the result-driven performance review process is an ongoing effort.  Employee and supervisor meet regularly to review performance against goals, identify obstacles, implement action plans to ensure growth and development of the employee and to ensure job duties deliver results. 

Ultimately there are multiple elements within an organization that must work together effectively for sustained success in today's global economy. Result-oriented companies recognize that that the performance management system alone does not equal success. If the three sub-systems are not aligned, integrated and managed effectively they can lead to competing initiatives, conflicting priorities, organizational silos and a disconnected workforce resulting in less-than-desirable outcomes. In contrast, result-oriented organizations realize that when coupled together, driven by supportive management structure and led by strong leadership, these three performance management sub-systems enable unique functions and roles to collectively achieve organizational objectives. 

As Senior Consultant for Life Cycle Engineering, Jeff Nevenhoven develops solutions that align organizational systems, structures, controls and leadership styles with a company’s business vision and performance objectives. Jeff’s experience enables him to work effectively with employees throughout an organization to implement solutions that remove functional barriers and prepare and lead people through sustaining change. You can reach Jeff at jnevenhoven@LCE.com.

© Life Cycle Engineering