Right now, one or more of your business or personal relationships is in the process of failing and breaking down. In what relationship are you feeling the most stress, struggle and challenge? In what team or partnership are you feeling most angry, annoyed or isolated? This is the relationship that needs better alignment and leadership. This is your job.
For over thirty years I have worked in and on teams and partnerships, both personal and intimate and business and technical. When these relationship systems work, the contributions of each person comingle in a magical kind of synergy, where the whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts.
There are a few domains of human achievement that feature solo performers, but even these people are usually only the visible tip of a larger human iceberg. Most often, the beautiful creations of human kind result from the sometimes improbable collective of diverse and temperamental individuals who somehow manage to transcend their animal pettiness in the pursuit of something larger than themselves.
Anything truly great emergences from this harmony of disparate aspirations. When these systems fail or struggle to work they become the pit of human despair, misery and strife.
All relationships systems are some part aligned, unaligned or misaligned.
The moment any venture includes more than one person, which is practically always, it gets complicated. People are messy, imperfect and selfish, sometimes operating from primitive and malicious instincts. If we are fortunate, we transcend our baser impulses to work in a more collaborate way towards a greater harmony. I count it as a minor miracle that any enterprise with people at the centre ever results in anything good, but our built world is full of countless examples hidden in the muck.
Alignment can break down in a multitude of ways.
From my significant empirical experience with the human factor, I have managed to cull the alignment problem into four components: mission and mechanisms are one dimension; mythology and methodology form a second.
The most obvious team area of alignment is the creation of a common mission. If people are working at cross purposes, going in different directions, chasing competing results and cancelling each other out, nothing particularly good will likely come of the morass. Mission alignment establishes the context for all work that happens in an organization.
Mission is the most abstract part of a venture. Mechanisms are the most practical: the systems and structures that establish the container and playing field in which this game plays out. If mission is the big picture, the bottom line, the transformative strategy and the reason for being, mechanisms are the physical manifestation, the nuts and bolts and plumbing and structural legacy that outlive the participants.
Every enterprise operates according to a mythology and methodology that support the mission and are supported with mechanisms. If the mission is the heart and mechanisms the body, the mythology is the magical unseen soul of a venture. If every organization has a kind of religion, this is it. And the religion decides who gets in the temple. The methodology is how a group of people do what they do, the collective genius and the essence of group creativity. This is where the brains of the operation exist.
Better relational alignment usually starts with one key factor.
Leadership, entrepreneurship, innovation, disruption and growth are all difficult pursuits at the heart of the human enterprise. Anything truly worthwhile is beyond what I can do alone. The quality of relationships in an organization and sheer luck are the two attributes of any mission accomplished. Pick one quadrant and start leading it.