Simply put, team alignment is when everyone’s on the same page. You’re working together, with a common understanding of what you’re working towards and how you’re contributing to the larger vision of your organization.
Team alignment starts with your organization’s goals and ends with each individuals’ goals. Misalignment happens when there’s a missing link somewhere in between. Everyone at your company, no matter their role, should understand how they’re contributing to the larger vision.
It seems straightforward enough. But as organizations expand, and goals get bigger and bigger, what you’re working towards can get increasingly unclear. Even if you’re only growing your team from 3 to 4 people, complexity increases by 400%. As complexity grows, it becomes more and more important to prioritize team alignment.
In this article, we’ll walk through:
Why team alignment is important
How to tell the difference between an aligned vs. misaligned team
Common mistakes that cause team misalignment
Best practices for achieving team alignment
Tools for better team alignment
Why is team alignment important?
Making sure your team is aligned and, on a larger scale, that your entire company is aligned, increases productivity, engagement and loyalty.
When people have a clear idea of what they’re working towards, and how their purpose aligns with the company’s purpose, it creates a sense of belonging, resulting in increased engagement and productivity. It’s human nature to want to understand where we fit into the big picture.
But the benefits of team alignment don’t end there. When your team is aligned, you’ll likely experience:
- Higher motivation and morale
- Lower turnover rates
- Increased ability to adapt and be agile
- Greater trust
- Improved relationships with your co-workers
The difference between an aligned vs. misaligned team
Are you confused about what you should be doing day-to-day? Are your priorities constantly changing, causing confusion? Do you feel like what you’re doing isn’t an important part of what your company’s trying to achieve? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’re likely working on a misaligned team.
On the other hand, if you know how you should be allocating your time day-to-day, and have a clear sense of how your purpose is, your team is probably doing a good job staying aligned.
If you’re not sure if your team is aligned or not, here are some clear indicators:
|No one takes accountability||Accountability is a part of your team culture|
|Milestones are constantly missed||Milestones are hit and if not there’s a clear explanation why|
|A toxic work environment||A foundation of trust|
|Consistent miscommunication||Easy and effective communication|
Common mistakes that cause misalignment
Did any of those signs resonate with you? If so, you might be making one of the following mistakes.
These are some common problems that cause misalignment on teams and send them off-track.
Not setting goals
Setting goals is the single most important step in effective teamwork. If you don’t set goals, it doesn’t matter what else you do, it will be nearly impossible to achieve team alignment.
Goals provide direction. They help your whole team move forward in unison. If you haven’t set goals yet, none of the following mistakes will matter. Start by choosing a goal-setting framework that works for you — whether it be SMART goals or OKRs— and collaborate with your team to set realistic goals you can all work towards.
Not putting time into onboarding
Aligning your team starts on the very first day with onboarding.
Onboarding is an opportunity to set the stage, communicate your company’s mission and vision, and the individual employee’s purpose within that. When this connection is made clear from the start, your team will be able to execute their work with more ease and confidence.
Lack of communication
It doesn’t end at onboarding. To stay aligned as a team, you need to continuously communicate your goals and strategy.
As humans, we’re forgetful. According to the forgetting curve theory, within 24 hours of learning new information, we’ve already forgotten 70% of it.
That doesn’t bode well for team alignment if you’re not continuously communicating.
Unclear roles and responsibilities
Even if everyone understands the purpose of the company, it won’t do any good if they don’t understand how their individual purpose plays into that.
Using an accountability framework like RACI will help your team stay on the same page about who’s doing what. When everyone understands what their role is on the team, there’s a lot less room for miscommunication and error.
In the event that something does go wrong, it’s easy to know who’s responsible for fixing it and how to get back on track.
Best practices for achieving team alignment
Now that you know the don’ts, there are 3 foundational things you should be thinking about to help create and maintain alignment on your growing team: set goals, check-in consistently and document learnings.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.
Like we mentioned before, setting clear goals is your first (and most important) step to aligning your team. When everyone’s clear on the ultimate vision, it’s much easier to work together.
Setting goals helps your team in three main areas that contribute to alignment:
Focus- Goals allow you to define what activities are most important, helping you focus on what really matters. So in a sea of competing priorities, it’ll be much easier to agree on where everyone’s time will be best spent. Because everyone knows the end goal. Then you can spend less time going back and forth, and more time actually doing impactful work.
Accountability- Goals hold everyone accountable for achieving great results. Especially when everyone’s clear on their roles.
If you don’t reach your goals, that’s okay. But at least you know the ideal measure of success.
Motivation- Setting goals paints a clear picture of what success looks like and keeps everyone motivated to get there.
It’s important to keep in mind that setting goals is only half the battle. You also need to make sure they’re clearly communicated to your whole team. Try using a goal-setting software so everyone has access to the goals. Then keep coming back to them often to stay aligned by continuously checking in.
Check-in with your team
Every team has their own preferences in terms of how they communicate best. Make sure you establish what modes of communication will be most effective for your team — one-on-one meetings, team meetings, project management software, knowledge base platforms, instant messaging, etc.
Creating a space where you can touch base, review goals, address blockers, and build rapport is an essential part of staying aligned. That doesn’t necessarily need to look like a synchronous meeting either. But if you’re only meeting in real-time bi-weekly, how are you communicating in between? Perhaps it’s a Slack channel, or a project management tool.
No matter the platform, ensure constant and clear communication with your team to make sure everyone stays on the same page. In addition to helping everyone remember their ultimate purpose at work, constant communication will allow you to address any confusion sooner rather than later to avoid major frustration down the road.
One thing to note: continuously checking in with your team should not be confused with micromanaging! There’s a fine line between under and over communication and it looks different for every team — find what works for you and your team.
Document your learnings
This part is two-fold. Firstly, when you do meet with your team, document what was discussed in the meeting so you can confirm everyone’s on the same page each time you meet. (Watch this video for more information on this topic).
But, it goes beyond taking notes in individual meetings.
You know that feeling after a long period of trial and error and you finally find a process that’s easy to understand and follow? It’s an accomplishment that can make everyone’s lives so much easier. Make sure you write it down and share the learnings so your whole team (including future team members) can benefit.
This will also help you make continuous improvements to your process so you and your team can continue to find the most productive and effective ways to work together.
Especially now, as most offices have shifted to either a remote or hybrid work environment, having a central place to document and manage procedures will help keep everyone aligned.
Tools for better team alignment
When you’re trying to keep everyone on the same page, paper and pen isn’t going to do the trick. There are countless tools to help improve how your team works together — here are some of our favorites ⚒️:
- Hypercontext for staying aligned on goals- Hypercontext is an agenda app that allows you to create collaborative agendas for more effective team meetings and pin your goals to the top of each meeting— making them impossible to forget about.
- Slack for instant communication- Slack is a popular instant messaging tool that allows you to easily stay in touch with your colleagues throughout the day. It’s a lower-effort alternative (or complementary tool) to email.
- Yac for asynchronous communication- For when written communication won’t do the trick, Yac is a voice messaging platform that allows you to connect with coworkers asynchronously.
- Google Meet for face-to-face meetings- Use Google Meet or a video call platform of your choice to host your remote team meetings. To stay aligned, it’s important to sync up in real-time at the very least for team-building activities.
Achieving alignment on a remote team
Now that many of us are working on fully remote or hybrid teams, staying aligned is more important than ever before.
To help keep everyone on the same page, the first step is setting and communicating clear goals. From there, make sure you’re checking in with your team and creating a space where you can communicate with each other — whether in real-time or asynchronously. And, last but not least, document important knowledge so that it doesn’t only live in your head.
Whether you’ve never felt aligned with your team or if you’ve recently fallen out of steps, these tips will help everyone get on the same page to successfully work together as a team.
About the Author: Nicole Kahansky is the Content Marketing Manager at Hypercontext.
Hypercontext is a meeting software that empowers managers and their teams to be high-performing by streamlining meetings, goals and morale into one workflow. You can find her on twitter.