How aligned are you?
How aligned are you with the people you love and work with? How aligned are you with your purpose and goals in life? How aligned are you in your head?
One of the critical success factors in life and work is your degree of alignment. Without alignment, things derail. When train tracks are not aligned, trains derail. Logic. A different example. When we go to a music concert, we expect the band we came to see to deliver the music perfectly.
That’s only possible when each band and crew member are perfectly aligned.
I love concerts. My first real concert was the ‘Tunnel of Love’ tour by Bruce Springsteen and the E-street band in Rotterdam in 1988. What a show. Far into the concert, the entire second ring started to jump in perfect alignment, and the whole construction moved up and down. While I managed to keep enjoying the show, I kept looking up at this steel construction, moving and shaking.
More recently, Coldplay concerts have been my favorite. They put on an amazing show, including dramatic audio-visual and light effects. And they know how to include and bring the audience along in perfect alignment.
As discussed earlier, we expect perfect alignment when we speak about events and activities where alignment is the only standard, like concerts, surgeries, and sports teams. One last example.
Formula One teams change four tyres within 2 to 3 seconds.
When you see the execution in the pit, you know the process has been finetuned to the last detail. You witness that each pit crew member knows exactly what to do. And you know they’ve practiced this, changing the tires, until perfection. Thousands of times.
The process needs to be perfect. Anything less than perfect creates potential disaster. The expectation is perfection. Process, roles, and practice have been aligned. It’s expected. It makes sense. It’s logic. Everything works perfectly in concert.
So why do we lower the standard in business?
Why don’t we finetune our processes? Why do we get bored when discussing the clarity of roles and responsibilities? Why don’t we invest time in practice? Why do we keep hearing about functions and teams working in silos?
Because we’re not willing to invest our precious time in alignment, we’re not willing to invest our time in learning to trust each other to the level that alignment becomes easier because we know each other’s intentions and capabilities.
Because good is often good enough.
A lot has been said and written about Steve Jobs’ leadership style. He was extremely hard to work with. He could yell at people, throw stuff through the room, and be notoriously stubborn. People loved him or hated him. He never really showed he cared except for those he trusted.
Good was never good enough for Steve. When everybody thought they had produced the final prototype of a product, he just destroyed it and demanded to start over again. Without any discussion. Not good enough.
When Steve prepared for one of his famous Apple product launch presentations, he rehearsed two full days on stage. Everything needed to be prepared to perfection. Every single word was rehearsed. Every single slide was reviewed a thousand times. Less was, is, and will always be more at Apple. Steve Jobs became famous for his one-word slides. Because the slides were in service of the story and the presenter and not the other way around.
Steve Jobs insisted on developing products where you can swipe a touchscreen with your finger. He applied this to the iPhones and iPads. The likes of Microsoft ridiculed him. The finger would never work. Microsoft designed products with a stylus. For Steve, using a stylus to operate your products was the same as cursing. Everything needed minimalization to the core essence, so a stylus was out of the question. Today, we use our fingers hundreds of times per day to control our lives. Just think about it the next time you type an address on your car navigation system with your finger.
Steve Jobs wanted to challenge the status quo in electronics.
That became the purpose of Apple. To Challenge the Status Quo. Apple did so, is doing so, and will be doing so by creating and producing beautifully designed products. The products, the design, and the status quo challenges are Apple’s what, Apple’s how, and Apple’s why. Simon Sinek delivered one of the most watched TED talks on the ‘golden circles’ of Apple’s Why, How, and What.
Let me ask you here: how well aligned is your workforce on your why, how, and what? Does everyone know the direction? Does everyone speak the same ‘language’? Is everyone engaged in the delivery of these three?
At Apple, even after Steve Jobs passed away many years ago, good is still not good enough. Tim Cook, the hand-picked successor of Steve Jobs, has continued Steve’s quest to build electronic products of superior design and quality. Tim, together with Chief Design Officer Jony Ive, was one of the few people Steve trusted. Tim could not be more different than Steve. Tim is more soft-spoken, inclusive as a leader, and not the brilliant mind that Steve was. Tim is the execution genius. He ensured Steve’s unreasonably high standards were met in operations and execution. Jony did the same for design.
Steve, Tim, and Jony were complimentary to each other.
They invested significant amounts of time in learning to trust each other. They probably knew each other better than their life partners at home. They understood that alignment and trust were critical in challenging the status quo and conquering the world with their Apple products. Apple has become the world standard of high-quality electronic products, and with that came explosive growth worldwide.
Apple is growing in concert. Based on a clear purpose, compelling strategy, relentless execution, and the speed that comes with trust and alignment.
Is your business growing, and are your teams growing in concert? Are your purpose and strategy clear? Are trust and alignment at the best possible levels? Why yes? Why not?
The answer to these questions? You! It all starts with you.
Your turn: How aligned are you?
Do more of what makes you happy!
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