Johnnie Moore

Alignment and aliveness in teams

Vibrant teams shouldn't be too restrictively aligned
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Too alignment can reduce the creativity of teams

Transcript of this video:

I was having a coffee the other day on the banks of the river Cam here in Cambridge with my friend Mark Bloomfield and he was talking about how he thought the idea of alignment was perhaps a bit overrated in organizations.

And just as he said this, a giant punt floated past us along the river with about a dozen people in it, some in front-facing others in rear-facing seats, mostly sitting in twos and threes, having independent conversations with one person propelling the punt along.

And we both laughed because it was quite a funny metaphor for what he was describing, because in what sense was that group of people aligned?

Yes, they were heading in the same direction in the boat but they’d probably got in with very different levels of enthusiasm or buy-in as organisations like to say.

Some very keen, others indifferent, one or two perhaps had started out being quite reluctant but they were all getting along perfectly well floating along as they were. And I think, you know, I think for example if you think of a giant supermarket chain the CEO at one end and the part-time checkout operator at the other might have completely different expectations of and attitudes towards the organisation.

And in what sense do they really need to pretend to be aligned? And when I say pretend I think that’s the problem with teams that say that they must have 100% buy-in to any statement of goals or values, because I think that that will just force people to put on a mask of conformity and that kind of alignment leads to things like what I call commitment ceremonies where we go through the motions of committing to things but we are leaving quite a bit of ourselves out of it.

And I think perhaps rather than looking for alignment in our meetings and organisations, I would rather be looking for aliveness. And aliveness would be partly about allowing people to differ and in allowing that difference to probably bring a great deal more energy and forms of commitment to the meeting or organization, then you’d get by trying to get everybody to conform and be aligned.

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

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