Every Good Project or Business Starts With Alignment
Have you ever spearheaded a major initiative at work, one that you knew to be rational and in line with company strategy, only to find your countless hours of effort unexpectedly derailed at a major precipice by an out-of-left-field dissenting opinion? Then you know first-hand the critical importance of internal alignment.
Absent internal alignment, the stakeholders invested in your project have nothing to go by except personal opinion. And when multiple stakeholders with competing interests and varying backgrounds, skill sets, and points of view are all operating from a place of personal opinion, you set a project up for failure—or at least serious delay.
An alignment phase culminates in a formal alignment document that all key players are required to sign off on before proceeding to strategy and tactics. This achieves two things. First, it gives all stakeholders a voice in the process, and if stakeholders feel heard and see their opinions reflected in the alignment document, they are more likely to stay in accordance down the road. Second, the alignment document itself serves as an irrefutable North Star to keep stakeholders on course and redirect them in cases of divergence.
Kick off with a no-holds-barred group conversation.
Before you even think about putting a project plan in place, make a point of getting key tactical players in one room for a lengthy conversation around goals, frustrations, opportunities, vision, resources, challenges, and opportunities as they relate to the project at hand. Go into the meeting with a well thought out, tailored line of open-ended questioning designed to get people talking about the information you need to deliver an actionable plan that meets objectives. Give people room to speak honestly, and you’ll walk away with a sense of where stakeholders’ mindsets converge and where they are potentially in conflict.
Loop in other stakeholders.
Whoever your project will ultimately need buy-in from, whether it be a corporate or nonprofit board, leadership team, staff, or member-consumers, be sure to include them in the information gathering process by asking them similar questions to those discussed during your kickoff meeting. In most cases, it is advantageous to conduct these either as independent online surveys or one-on-one interviews to give individuals the latitude to express themselves freely. Depending on the size of the stakeholder audience, a sample size set of interviews can be conducted for the sake of time and money.
Create an alignment document.
Once you have gathered the opinions of key players and stakeholders, you will be in a place to extract consensus, which you should capture in an alignment brief. The components of an alignment brief vary from project to project, but generally speaking, a branding project alignment brief should include:
- A description of the assignment or challenge
- Project objectives
- Brand positioning or single message to convey
- Audience profile and insights
- Desired response or call to action
- Key themes and values
- A definition of success
- Important dates
Developing an alignment document won’t positively guarantee perfect unanimity, but it is the single best way to mitigate our human impulse for discord. Because in the end, it’s hard to disagree with rational strategy.