Business alignment is one of those things that speakers and leaders often talk about in platitudes but don’t give anything actionable. This is a short blog with a story of non-alignment that also gives some actionable steps at the end.

I have an open-door policy with prospective vendors: if you want to sell me something I’ll give you 15 minutes, no questions asked. Mike (business development aka marketing) recently took me up on this. Mike works for a company that sells tools every company in my industry uses. My company has the tools Mike’s company sells from another company and I am very happy with the performance and price, which I let Mike know ahead of our phone call. Mike still wanted to go ahead.

The scheduled phone was with Rob (inside sales) not Mike. As soon as I let Rob know that I had the same tools he was selling and was happy with those tools you could feel the emotion leave the conversation as Rob wanted to get me off the phone as quickly as possible.

What happened?

I didn’t let Rob off the phone right away.

I asked some questions – I am insatiably curious.

Turns out Mike is evaluated/compensated on booking calls, Rob is evaluated/compensated on booking customers. Mike was fully incentivized to get me on a phone call regardless of if I would switch. Rob was fully incentivized to get me off when he knew I was a poor prospect.

This is what lack of alignment is: departments have goals that differ from each other and do not ladder up to the primary company goal. In this case, the lack of alignment led to direct conflict between departments that are part of the same process and pipeline.

What do you do about it?

First, have a clear company goal. If you don’t have one today, get one. Yesterday. (Resources: Measure What Matters, Life In Half a Second)

Second, communicate that goal to everyone in the company. Over and over, this is a multi-channel all-the-time effort from the CEO on down.

Third, align department goals with the company goal. Peers (i.e., department heads) need to know what each other’s goals are to make sure that they are not in conflict.

Fourth, align department and employee incentives with the overall goal and punish behavior that is not in line. (Punishment can be the natural consequences, not discipline).

My next blog post will go over what that would look like for Mike & Rob’s company.