People & Strategy Spring 2017 Vol. 40 Issue 2 - 10
principles and values. But for a company like ours, these things can't simply
be written and handed down by our
leadership team. When we set out to
create our mission statement in 2008,
for example, we wanted to be sure
that each and every Red Hatter truly
understood what we're here to do and
why each word was chosen. We wanted
them to see themselves in our mission.
We approached it in an open-source
way and invited all of our then-2,000plus Red Hatters to contribute and
offer feedback. Our approach to alignment involves more effort, transparent communication, and often times
spirited debate. But we're accustomed
to some tension and disagreement-
this kind of passion is what makes our
company unique and contributes to
our strategic competitive advantage.
More than eight years later, we've
grown to more than 10,000 associates,
and our mission statement continues
to resonate. Now we're faced with the
challenge of bringing more clarity to
the behaviors that support our mission
and values so that we can scale and
sustain our culture as we grow. Here
again, we're seeking alignment through
an open and inclusive approach.
For something as foundational as a
mission statement or your values, I believe that it's always worth the tremendous amount of time and investment it
takes to engage your organization and
reach full alignment.
To Align, or Not to Align?
On the other hand, in the fast-moving tech industry, we've also found
great value in putting our time and
energy into rapid prototyping, rather
than pursuing alignment. Having the
flexibility to spin up ideas quickly with
a few key groups enables us to see if
they resonate before applying them
Here's an example. We took this
approach when we noticed a gap in
how we enable our salesforce. As a
company, we historically worked in silos
to provide training and support our
customer-facing associates. But as our
products increase in complexity, so do
the skills needed to sell those products.
These days, it takes the expertise
and perspective of more than just
PEOPLE + STRATEGY
one function to transform our selling
motion. Our industry won't wait for us
to attempt to align the entire company
on a single approach or reorganize
everyone internally to support it. So instead, we focused on aligning a few key
groups and leaders, working together
to form a small (but mighty) sales enablement team. Rather than seeking to
align everyone at once, the team made
the strategic decision to work openly,
inviting the entire company to see and
contribute to their efforts.
This starting point helped us to
channel our efforts more efficiently
through the groups that work directly
with our sales professionals and partners. We didn't strive for perfection
or total clarity, we strived for focus.
Through a discovery process, we identified gaps in our training, messaging,
There are times when
complete alignment isn't
plausible-until a project
or idea reaches a certain
level of maturity.
and workstreams. By working openly
and collaboratively with anyone who
was interested in contributing, we saw
a groundswell of support. Alignment
began to build organically, from a basis
of trust and respect for our efforts.
As our strategy continues to mature,
we hope to see this transformation
filter through the entire company,
ultimately impacting Red Hat's success
in the market.
So while there are no clearly defined thresholds that will apply to every
organization, it is critical for leaders
to stay tuned into what matters to
their people and company culture. By
considering what level of alignment is
needed for different types of projects,
and at different points in a project's
life cycle, you can build a foundation of
trust that enables future success.
DeLisa Alexander is executive vice
president and chief people officer at Red
Hat. She can be reached on Twitter
By Melissa Howell
The pace and the scale of change in
business has reached new highs. The
need to align the top executive team
remains a priority, but we have to get
more creative and maybe a little more
tough-minded in how we go about it.
Time and calories are wasted when
we think we have aligned the executive
team around a complex transformation
agenda, only to find later-when the
changes become real-that we were
not as aligned as we may have thought.
It may be because we were working in
broad terms without enough specifics.
But often it's that we weren't really
being candid about the impact a change
in the operating model, or our organization structures, might have on individual executives.
Distorting investments and realigning resources to future growth opportunities often means someone wins
and someone else loses, at least in the
short term. Our goal is for customers
and shareholders to win, but it's better
to be candid about the internal impact
of change then to slide the hard stuff
under the carpet, or delay hard conversations in hope that it all goes away.
"Go slow to go fast" is right principle
here, and the time taken to have the
right conversations upfront pays off in
quick execution every time.
With today's pace of change it's more
important to get alignment at the top
on the critical few, as Kates and Kesler
point out in this article. It is also important to get alignment on the core principles that will guide the many initiatives
that most of us have on our plates. I'm
not talking about broad brush generalities, but clearly defined operating or
design principles that set up guardrails
for empowered teams to drive change
quickly, while staying aligned with our
growth strategies and the core operating
model of the company.
Major change requires a strong
leader who will say, "Ok, we have heard
enough, and now we are going to move
in this direction," especially when you
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