When one section of a railroad track is out of alignment, the train derails. It’s the same with the organizational goals of a business. If just one team doesn’t understand the organizational mission, the positive momentum of the business can be at stake.

The dictionary defines alignment as, “a state of agreement or cooperation among persons or groups with a common cause or viewpoint.” When you achieve organizational alignment, all employees, from entry-level to your leadership team, share and act on the vision of the organization.

But defining your mission and spreading the message isn’t enough. In fact, studies suggest that although 65% of organizations have an agreed-upon strategy, only 14% of employees understand it, and less than 10% of all organizations successfully execute it.

So, how do you get individual employee engagement to enact the organizational strategy? Organizational alignment. Here are three time-tested methods for getting all team members to understand—and enact—the company’s mission.

There are three types of organizational alignment.  See which type best fits your team and organization to meet your alignment goals.

Kotter’s 8-Step Alignment Model

Dr. John Paul Kotter, Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School, author, and founder of the management consulting firm Kotter International, created this organizational change business strategy. It outlines eight steps for creating an aligned organization:

  1. Create Urgency: Talk about the need for change, so the urgency for it can build and feed on itself.
  2. Form a Powerful Coalition: Get key opinion leaders from within the organization to work together to commit to changes and champion them.
  3. Create a Vision for Change: As a leader, create and articulate a clear vision so individuals can see how it impacts the business—and them specifically.
  4. Communicate the Vision: Get the message out. Spread the word via talks from the leadership team, multimedia presentations, and individual managers.
  5. Remove Obstacles: Actively work to remove barriers to alignment and empower people to execute the vision.
  6. Create Short-Term Wins: Provide tangible evidence that things are moving in the right direction early on to create momentum.
  7. Build on the Change: Keep looking for improvements, so that the organization doesn’t slide back into old ways.
  8. Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture: Recognize key staff members that helped create alignment and keep the values and ideals of the organizational culture in mind when hiring new employees.

Companies it may work for: Kotter’s model works best for organizations that have a top-down management style. When top executives are motivated to create alignment and can share their view of where the organization needs to go, this is a good step-by-step process to enact over time.

Transformative Storytelling to Achieve Alignment

A compelling story can spark interest, build momentum, and create change. In today’s world, we often interact through email, texts, and instant messaging tools, but none of them have the impact a face-to-face conversation or a story can have on an individual or team. To use storytelling as a tool for organizational alignment process, the leadership team can communicate a clear and compelling narrative to manage changes, motivate team members, and grow commitment.

Although the leadership team may develop and convey the stories, it’s important that management listen to the stories their employees are telling, to see if the message is being internalized by them in the way leadership intended.

Companies it may work for: Organizations that use town hall meetings or have dynamic leaders that can speak passionately about their business may thrive using this method.

Starting with the Individual Organizational Performance Strategic Plan

A clear goal of organizational alignment is to get to a point where individual workers are performing at their full potential, as an individual and as a member of the organization at large. So, why not start with the employees? This method uses setting meaningful, employee-specific strategic goals as a driver of organizational alignment.

Strong leaders at the top clearly express their long term goals and expectations and give employees learning opportunities to expand their skill sets. Once these factors are put into place, the organization can benefit from an optimized workforce that operates cohesively to overcome challenges and achieve key objectives.

Companies it may work for: This method can be used by businesses that have a bottom-up approach to management where all levels of the organization feel like they are part of the process.

A Final Note on Aligning an Organizational Strategy

Effective leaders attempting to realign an organizational structure need to assess their entire team.  If you do not empower individual leaders to execute your strategic plan, including in decision making, you won’t achieve alignment success.