5 Questions to Gauge Your Team's Alignment

June 23, 2020 by Meghan McDonald

In our previous post, we gave a working explanation of what team alignment really is and why it’s so important. Here’s the recap: true team alignment involves a vital connection between individual, departmental, and organizational goals. It means that C-suite strategy and teams’ day-to-day tactics actively support each other.

Understanding how their teams align (or don’t) guides leaders in cultivating a shared perspective of both problems and opportunities. From that shared perspective come new solutions to increase efficiency, improve sales, and generate revenue-reaping innovations.

 

So, how do leaders chart their team’s alignment?

Specially designed surveys are the best place to start. We say “specially designed” because traditional surveys won’t serve you well in this effort.

A traditional survey asks, “What do we need to do to compete better?”

This direct, business-formal question typically results in answers like, “We must do all the above,” or the sales department says, “Give me a better product to sell!” while the product team says, “Get better people to sell our product!”

While you’ll certainly see that people aren’t aligned, it doesn’t guide you in improving alignment and thus improving your organization’s resilience. The key to gauging alignment more effectively is to use questions informed by behavior science.

You only need five – four questions for your team plus one for your customers. While the questions can be customized for your business model or specific initiatives, here’s the big picture of how they work.

 

First, learn how your team members define the problem

Question #1: What do you see as our overall market condition?

Question #2: In your experience, why do customers buy from us instead of our competitors?

Unlike the traditional survey question, this pair asks your team to sketch out organizational strengths and weaknesses from their own perspectives. It doesn’t assume everyone has defined the problem the same way you have. This isn’t about “who’s right” – it’s about giving you as a leader a better view into what each team member is working toward or trying to solve.

For the clearest picture, don’t stop at using a non-traditional set of questions – use a behavior-enabled survey platform to get multi-dimensional data. If you can see not only how they rate different answer options, but also how they prioritize the options, you will gain much deeper insights.

 

Now, learn where opportunities lie by talking with your customers

Question #3: How important are the following aspects of our organization to you?

Here’s where “who is right” comes into play – and it’s not the C-suite. The old adage “the customer is always right” doesn’t apply all the time, but it does in this situation.

Do a quick exploration with your most important customers as well as customers you’ve lost. A traditional survey might ask something along the lines of “How can I make you a loyal customer?” and receive answers shaped by current mood or past experience. Ask instead, “How important are the following to you?” and provide critical components, processes, and characteristics of your organization as the answer options.

Again, you’ll get the best data if you use a behavior-enabled survey platform that allows you to see what they say and how they say it.

This one question can reveal how well your strategies align with what your team encounters in the market. And that can illuminate new areas of opportunity.

 

Back with your team, it’s time to explore solutions

Question #4: How do you see our leading competitors win customers?

Question #5: What are your current priorities for helping our company compete?

It’s time to show your team the data you’ve collected so far and then ask them the last two questions. Sharing the internal view from the first two questions and the customer view from the third is a powerful tool in the alignment process. It works better when you and your team can see how closely aligned – or vastly different – their perspectives are on the same questions.

With these last two questions, you can chart the overall picture of how well your team aligns. You’ve now moved from defining the problem, to spotlighting opportunities, to exploring solutions.

Thanks to questions that are informed by behavior science – and with the depth of insight provided by behavior-enabled surveys – the data will show you both strong points and problem spots. You can see how individuals align with your priorities, how different departments align with each other, and even how you align with what’s going on in the market.

 

You’ve gauged alignment – now what?

Our last post in this three-part series will focus on the role behavior science plays in helping leaders mend the problem spots and reap the benefits. Stay tuned!

 

Meghan McDonald is a Knoxville-based freelance writer with a bent for science and a love for art. Meghan received her MA in creative writing from the University of Tennessee in 2012 and has been writing for organizations that serve people through science and/or art ever since. She’s pleased to be writing with Survature, a company that brings together data science and design. Read more of her work at meghanmcdonaldwriter.com.