But as organizations get bigger and start doing things like splitting up into "divisions," "business units," or other business-speak fiefdoms, people begin to lose sight of the larger organization purpose. They often become confused or myopic, and the organizational as a whole suffers.
How to you ensure your organization is aligned and moving toward the achievement of your core purpose? For me, it starts by developing a strategic focus on internal communications, channeling the mindset of the conductor of an orchestra.
Yet most companies hire relatively junior people into internal communications roles. The result? Worthless emails about the newest snacks in the breakroom, reminders about the time of the next staff meeting, and whatever other junk these poor souls can pull together.
What can senior executives do to ensure they are making the right investments in organizational alignment? In my view, there is no better investment than bringing in a savvy and experienced communications professional who thinks of themselves as the conductor of an orchestra.
A savvy, emotionally-intelligent internal communications professional can do wonders to help align an organization. To do their best work, they may consider thinking of themselves as the conductor of an orchestra.
If you are in an internal communications, culture, or employee engagement role, you might be saying to yourself "But what can I do? I'm not an executive. No one wants to listen to me."
Remember, the conductor of an orchestra doesn't even have an instrument. He/she wields a tiny little baton. And with that little baton, the conductor can make Mozart, Tchaikovsky, or Beethoven come out.
Here are a couple of ideas that will help you think more like a conductor:
1) You don't have to play all the instruments yourself
A good conductor knows that he/she has an amazing group of musicians to work with and encourages them to play, while inspiring them to rise to the level of their talent. A savvy internal communications professional is often nearly invisible, playing the organizational tune through the instruments of the CEO, leading executives, and other influential voices within the organization.
They choose the pieces of music, bring together the orchestra, and tell everyone what parts to play, but they rarely play an instrument themselves.
2) An orchestra where everyone plays the exact same notes would sound like crap
In a symphony, the diversity of instruments-- woodwinds, percussion, strings, horns-- allows for the complex and beautiful expression of music. Yet in many organizations, internal communications professionals expect every executive or spokesperson to toe the company line, sticking to the rehearsed speech.
To me, this sort of expression comes off as canned corporate BS. To be effective, we must take advantage of the voice of each communicator, allowing them to utilize their own strengths, interests, and passions to tell the organizational story.
The key is not getting them to play the exact same notes as everyone else. It's to get them to play in the same key. Different people prefer the sound of different instruments. DIfferent people also find different communicators credible/authentic. When you have many people communicating the organizational mission in their own ways (while staying in key), you increase the chance that people will begin to hear, understand, and value that mission.
3) An orchestra will get better with practice
With a four person rock band, like in a small organization, it is fairly easy to pick up an instrument, find a key, and start jamming decently together.
But in a symphony orchestra with as many as 100 players, it takes some work to get everyone playing together. Jamming isn't as easy. Getting 100 or more people playing well together takes practice. And with practice, an internal communications conductor will begin identifying the wrong notes and can easily correct them before deep misalignment happens.
Alignment helps to lessen the pervasiveness of internal politics that can cripple large organizations. It helps people think of their role in context, as a piece of something bigger and more important than their daily experience might show them. It helps people understand why their work matters, which helps them become more deeply engaged in their work.
1) Identify the best musicians for your orchestra
Who are the people who have the clearest or loudest voices? The people who command the most respect? Those who others tend to like to listen to? What are you waiting for? Recruit them to help, already.
2) Practice a few pieces to see how you sound together
Sometimes the best group isn't necessarily the best musicians, but instead those who sound best when playing together. Tweak your group not just after hearing them play solo, but after hearing them play with others as well.
3) Continuously look for new talent
Bring in new energy as often as possible. Recognize emerging talents early, and turn them into stars.