ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

October 1998


Employees First, Customers Second

Adding Life To Learning

Knowledge Management: It's Really About People

Tricks Of The Trade From The Greatest Showman On Earth


Food For Thought
by Peter Block

Working With Alligators
by Michael Robinson


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review


Book Reviews With a Twist

“The Power of Alignment: How Great Companies Stay Centered and Accomplish Extraordinary Things” by George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky

“The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing!”

We’ve heard it before and it makes sense. But, in today’s busy world where the leader’s job looks more like a juggling act—it’s hard enough identifying the main thing, let alone keeping it the main thing.

Well, help is out there in the form of this insightful book. Its premise is based on the belief that for a business to be successful it must, “Align the four essential elements that together create growth and profits: strategy, customers, people and processes.” The authors layout the fundamentals of alignment; how it’s created and maintained, and creating a self-aligning organization.

Favorite new terms: Vertical alignment—Vertical alignment brings together the strategy of the organization and its people, allowing them to take effective action. The authors believe, “When strategy is created with the involvement of employees and customers and deployed rapidly and well, it releases the untapped energy of employees and aligns activities and intentions.”

Horizontal alignment—Horizontal alignment is about the connection between customers and the organization’s processes. To be a successful market driven company, it is critical to understand customer needs and expectations and align processes accordingly.

The message from this book I’ll remember 10 years from now: “The activities and behaviors of people at every level must be aligned with the main thing.” Organizations must understand what the main thing is that drives success and focus on it. Lack of focus creates an organization that wanders, employees that aren’t focused and ultimately unhappy customers.

Favorite quote from this book: “Strategy is often like desert rain. Before the raindrops hit the desert floor, they evaporate, creating little or no effect below.“ It’s not about creating a wonderfully worded strategy and assuming people will understand and embrace it—it’s about deployment and hard work.

Advice for Leaders: “Distributed leadership is the glue of alignment.” Leadership must be distributed throughout the organization and at every level. It is created when people are both empowered to act and have the knowledge to take the right actions. So, how do we create distributed leadership? Sure enough, the authors share the following handy guide:

- Keep people continually connected to the environment in which they operate.
- Help people think holistically.
- Keep people connected to the main thing of the larger
- Reward and recognize people for working toward the
main thing.
- Use the review process to carry the message to employees.
- Create opportunities to interact.

“The Power of Alignment,” is a must read. It’s well written and loaded with examples and tools that can be put to work immediately. Every leader should be armed with the information in this book.

“The Power of Alignment: How Great Companies Stay Centered and Accomplish Extraordinary Things,” George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky, 1997, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., NY, NY, ISBN 0-471-17790-3, $24.95, 242 pages. Reviewed by:
Steve Gibbons, assistant director, Principal Financial Group, Des Moines, Iowa

October '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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